Wednesday, October 22, 2008

RSS Feeds and Aggregators - Google and Netvibes

Week 4 of Work Literacy is about RSS feeds and aggregators. I decided to post about it here instead of writing a long comment on the forums. (It also makes up for my blog for the week.)
I’ve been using Google Reader and have been quite content with it. I can see the feeds like in an e-mail inbox, which works fine for me. I use several folders to sort the feeds and am able to track what’s new for a particular subject quite easily.
One of the aggregators recommended on Work Literacy is Netvibes. So, I created a Netvibes page today and found that it is quite good. You can add all sorts of feeds to it. I imported my feeds from Google Reader and each folder was added as a new tab very smoothly. I was impressed. I also added other feeds like news, Delicious, and Twitter to my private page. I realized that if I add these and my other social networking feeds to my public page, I'll be able to create a pretty decent online profile. Cool! I tried to do that and here’s the public profile I’ve created.
Btw, Mashable has this great piece on How to Manage Your Social Profiles and Create Virtual Business Cards. I think Netvibes is another tool you can possibly use to manage and share your multiple social profiles.
The only problem I faced is that I have to look through the entire page to find out what’s new on which feed. For example, I have one tab for e-learning that probably has about 20 blogs. So, there are 20 little modules on that tab and I need to search to see which ones have been updated. I found that somewhat cumbersome. If I break them into smaller groups, I’ll end up having too many tabs to scroll through. Is there an easier way to read through the feeds? Google Reader has read and unread posts and the feeds are added like new e-mails, which makes it easy to identify what has been updated. I can easily mark favorites with a star, edit tags, e-mail and share posts, etc. But, I’m just starting off with Netvibes. I’m sure it has features I don’t know about.
But, then again, as I’ve said before, I am a Google fan, and I think iGoogle works pretty much the same was as Netvibes does. It allows you to add all sorts of widgets, which includes direct RSS feeds. You can create tabs and arrange your widgets accordingly. I have widgets for news, reader, and e-mail on my iGoogle page. So, I only need to check that one Web page to get all updates. After I saw that Netvibes allows you to add Twitter, Delicious, etc., I looked at the Google gadgets more closely and sure enough, they too have a host of related gadgets I can add to my iGoogle page.
So, basically, apart from the public and private page feature of Netvibes (which I must say is a good thing to have), I don’t see anything that is radically different. I guess I’m going to continue using Reader for RSS and iGoogle as my aggregator till I find information that Netvibes has other better features I haven’t stumbled upon yet.

P.S. I've only had time to play with one new tool this week. If I can I'll try a couple more and post my views here.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

My Social Bookmarks: Delicious, Notebook, etc

I'm reproducing a blog post I posted at the Work Literacy Ning site as a part of the social bookmarking week.

This workshop has been very exciting for me so far, even with my limited participation. Last week I learned some good stuff about social networking sites I was already using, but not to their full potential.
This week is about social bookmarking. I haven’t been big on sharing my bookmarks. Apart from the browser bookmarks, I’ve been using Google Bookmarks and Notebook from the Google toolbar on my browser to clip and organize my bookmarks. I use only my browser bookmarks for personal sites, such as banks. I use Notebook to clip and add notes to articles and blogs I find interesting or useful, and have also published them as posts on my blogs. Notebook also allows you to add links, clippings and notes to your bookmarks. You can create a “notebook” with a group of related or daily links, add your comments, and then publish it as a post to your blog or share it as an individual Web page. So, it can work as a social bookmark but not exactly in the way delicious or diigo does.
Since Delicious is the focus of this course, I decided to set up an account and try using it. And I quite like it. It is similar and different to Notebook in quite a few ways. Both allow you to add tags and comments to links and share them with your network. The way you group and share the links is different.
While anything you add to delicious is instantly shared on the public domain unless you specifically select the option to not do so, with Notebook, you have to specifically share each Notebook by publishing it and then maybe invite people to see it. But, with Notebook, I can invite others to collaborate. Instead of me just putting up my views about a particular topic or link, I can ask others to share what they think as well. So, we can probably use this as a collaborative tool for maybe a research project, a study, a book review, and so on.
Paradoxically, I like the openness of Delicious and the privacy of Notebook. I’ll use Delicious to just quickly share links with the world in general and my network in particular (when I build one). I’ll use Notebook when I find stuff that I find interesting but may not necessarily want to share, or when I find an article I need time to reflect and comment upon in depth. Notebook won’t force me to think up my notes and reflections immediately. I can take my time to think, rite, and then post.
I also tried Diigo briefly, but it gave me so much trouble with IE (we use it at work) that I stopped almost as soon as I started using it. From Melanie’s forum, I can see how useful Diigo can be in a learning environment. Maybe, when I want to implement social bookmarking as a learning/teaching strategy, I’ll consider Diigo more seriously.

Friday, October 10, 2008

How To Get Started in E-learning- The Big Question

The ASTD Big Question this month is what advice would you give to someone new to the field. Where do you start?

Well, here are some of my ideas:

  • Create a “to-learn list” for yourself. What do you think you need to learn before you can confidently say you’re ready to enter the field as a practitioner? Prioritize the list. Go at it one by one. Trying to do too much at a time can lead to information overload and pretty much ineffective. If possible, get your list whetted by an expert to weed out stuff you don’t really need to know (like maybe the technology behind an LMS or high-end graphic editing) and emphasize the stuff you should know (like which tools should be used for what).

  • Learn to use at least 2 or 3 different tools on your own. Hands-on learning is the best. Use whatever tools you have to create a small module on any topic. Start with describing and storyboarding your design in Word, move on to PowerPoint, and then use trial versions of other rapid-authoring tools like Captivate and Articulate to develop the entire module including screencasts, audio, etc. Use different tools to design and create the same topic. This will help you explore their features and enhance your module as you go along.

  • Create modules for different subjects. It will help you develop a variety of skills.

  • Find resources on the Web. Look for articles, blogs, and videos that can help you with each tool. The Rapid e-learning blog is a good starting point with lots of good ideas and tips.
    Subscribe to bloggers who regularly blog about the items on your “to-learn” list. Contact the ones that inspire you most. Ask them questions, comment on their posts. You can learn a lot from just interacting with the experts.

  • Create a Linked-in profile. You can get in touch with other professionals in the field apart from opening up job opportunities. Several organizations now look at Linked-In for potential recruits.

  • Blog about your experiences. It helps you get things into perspective and invite thoughts and comments from others. Plus it’s a good addition to your online profile.

  • Join an online network or community for e-learning professionals. Share your work with them and get their feedback. It will help you establish your presence and enhance your skills at the same time. You can put up your work on sites like SlideShare and YouTube.

  • Attend online learning workshops and webinars. For example, a good online workshop that’s happening right now is Work Literacy. It has some great resources and activities that can help you develop some neat Web 2.0 skills. You can use these skills to build your network or just get a hang of the tools that you can later use in your courseware development.

There are some good lists out there with more things you can do to become a better e-learning professional. A few I particularly like are:
Ten Things You Can Do in Ten Minutes To Be a More Successful e-learning Professional
Ten Web 2.0 Things You Can Do in Ten Minutes to Be a More Successful E-learning Professional
12 Step Plan to getting started with Social Media

Finally, there’s only one thing that can really help you understand and apply all the theory you may have learned – a real, live project. That is the best way to learn. Get a job that will help you learn and grow at the same time. Easier said than done? Maybe. But, nothing works better than applying yourself to a real-world situation to actually understand how near or far you are from becoming an e-learning professional.