the three purposes for rss

31 07 2007

This past spring I was working on a workshop to help learning professionals who were novices with web 2.0 technologies understand the basics of blogs, wikis and rss. obviously, i wanted to keep everything as simple as possible without watering he content down to a point that would render it useless. in addition, I wanted the 90 minute workshop to be as hands-on as possible.

I figured the best way for the participants to truly understand wikis was to just get in and use one. So much of the activities involved them editing a wiki I create for the workshop. i also shared jon udall’s heavy metal umlaut video. it never fails to help people grasp the concept of a wiki far more easily than i can explain it.

With blogs, I created a graphic heavy “anatomy of a blog” that I’ll share with you in the near fRSS 1-2-3 diagramuture.

When it came down to RSS, i, of course, pointed to stephanie quilio’s fabulous post on back in skinny jeans – how to explain rss the oprah way. but as wonderful as the oprah explanation is, it leaves much of the power of rss beyond the basic learner.

As i played with it, i came to realize that there are really only three quite simple purposes for rss: to publicize, organize, and guide. Simple as 1-2-3!

rss-1.gifTo publicize what you’ve written. Every blog publishing platform that i’m aware of includes at least an rss feed of the posts to the blog. some offer comments feeds or specific post and comment feeds. or you can create a feed in any number of tools like feedburner and then share it with your readers and other communities so that what you write can be seen easily by others.

rss-2.gifTo organize what you read. this is what quilio’s oprah definition covers. via feed aggregators, email feeds, or mobile feeds, you can decide exactly what you’d like to be presented with to read.

rss-3.gifTo tell others what they should read. you can use tools like grazr, mysyndicaat, or yahoo pipes to create a list of current readings from multiple blogs. you can then present that new list on your blog, wiki or website for your readers’ edification.

That pretty much covers the key purposes for the use of rss. at least as far as the very basic concepts of the technology. it seemed to satisfy the participants of the workshop as they gave me unanimous 5’s for the content of the workshop.

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Top Ten learning tools

30 07 2007

Jane Hart extended to me an invitation to join her Top 10 Learning Tools exercise.

My list of favorite tools is focused on web-based tools. While software-based tools in most cases have greater functionality, the baseline capability of their web-based counterparts is rising very quickly. These tools have baseline capability that will satisfy most users.

  1. Vyew – easy to use, collaborate, multi-functional, free for use, and accessible from any computer connected to the internet. You can’t beat that combination. Enables both formal and informal group learning activities.
  2. – At first I simply didn’t “get” it seemed to simple. But it’s simplicity is its secret. With the launch of the Firefox extension, I was won over. Enables easy storage of found resources by individuals or groups. Tagging opens all resources labeled as “not private” to any member.
  3. Zoho Creator – This application is very sophisticated for those who need the best but also modulates so that it is accessible for all customers. Creator takes away the hardest part of anecdotal data which is the establishment and maintenance the databases. Simply create your data collection files and then create any number of reports from that particular area. Forms and reports can be into websites and blogs to perform data collection and subsequent reporting.
  4. CoComment – Allows you to track comments to posts in blogs across the blogosphere to track the conversations – whether you comment or not. you can do this for your own reading purposes, or you can utilize a widget that will post comments you’ve made throughout the blogosphere in the sidebar of your blog.
  5. LinkedIn This social networking site for business minded folks has been compelling from its start and remains so today.
  6. Google Documents, Page Creator, Gmail – Why they don’t have the power and depth of Microsoft Office, these tool make up for it with their simultaneous editing capabilities, their easy of access to and from the web and their overall usability.
  7. Ning – a tool designed to enable anyone – regardless of their knowledge of programming and/or mark-up languages – can create their own online social network. Ning is intuitive and easy to use. The have begun to add all sorts of widgets and other add-on functionality to allow any community to customize the environment to make it uniquely their own. Enables instructors to create classroom communities, organizations to create viral interest groups, informal learning through communities of interest, etc.
  8. Firefox and its Extensions and Add-On – Firefox out-of-the-download is a great browser. Easy to use, good speed, few if any display issues for any type of content. But it is the extensions and add-ons that really put Firefox way ahead. Some of my favorites include bookmarks, MeasureIt, HyperWord, and Tag Editor.
  9. Trailfire– Simply the best web notation tool yet put out there. It can be used by individual and groups to make and organize notes about websites that appear as a callout when they visit that site. It can also be used to create a “tour” of websites around a particular topic. Each of the “trailmarks” has the ability to display text, audio, video and enables blog-like comments regarding each note. Trailfire enables the creation of pre-designed tours of the web for new employees, collaboration amongst team mates who contribute best practice sites and comment on each others contributions, or can serve as a mini-blog on competitors and market conditions for a sales force.
  10. Mind42 and Mindmeister – I’m currently torn between which of these tools I prefer. They are very similar in the capabilities and what they have that none of the other online tools has is simultaneous collaboration. Team decision making, project planning, strategic planning, and brainstorming are a few of the activities that can be enhanced through collaborative mind mapping.

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as if i needed proof

28 07 2007

if you have eelearning bookmarked or visit it regularly, you may have noticed that i haven’t posted to my blog in a while. unfortunately, the reason has been a real personal lesson on how true maslow’s hierarchy of motivation really is.maslow's pyramid of motivational hierarchy
a short refresher on maslow, if you’ve forgotten. maslow held that there are five levels of human fulfillment that drive our behaviors. each level can be identified by the motivations which drive us to fulfill that level. the chart on the left demonstates these levels and the motivations for each.
each successive level is dependent upon the fulfillment of the previous level. without the previous level being fulfilled, a person will not have the motivation to seek to fulfill the successive level. thus without fulfillment of safety and physiological needs, a person will find it very difficult to find the motivation to achieve self-esteem.

blogging, like i do with eelearning, fits in the realms of esteem and self-actualization. the true power of blogging has been identified as its role as an outlet of self-expression and the corresponding response by readers which allows for creativity and reflection of respect from those who read the blogger’s posts. it is a powerful means for building identity and spontaneously expressing one’s feelings and knowledge. in maslow’s hierarchy it is clearly a luxury for those who have met the needs of the more baser needs of human existence.

life over the past few months has demonstrated the truth of maslow’s hierarchy to me. as happens to just about everyone from time to time in their life, the foundations of my life have required my attention quite a bit recently. the struggles of a job search, my father’s imminent death, financial insecurity and related stresses have created demands that have had my motivations focused much more at the physiological and safety levels of the hierarchy than they have been in a very long time.

what i’m learning from this experience is another aspect that rises from maslow’s theory. it’s important to temporarily let go of the expectations of fulfilling the needs of the higher levels in order to focus our strength and efforts in shoring up the needs of the lower levels. pretending that i can fulfill my needs of esteem or self-actualization while I’m doing the work to make sure i keep a roof over my and my dog’s heads is foolhardy, incredibly frustrating, and, in the end, self-defeating.

why do i bring this up here in eelearning?

for a number of reasons. some selfish and others are motivated by those desires that drive any true educator. the selfish reasons include the need to explain my absence, the need to let my friends know that i’ve been struggling and also that i’m surviving. it is also, as bloggers have found over and over again, therapeutic to “put it out there.” there is nothing shameful about what i’ve been going through, but my ego sure wants to convince me otherwise sometimes.

but i’m also motivated to share because i’ve been working to make sense of what lessons i can draw from my experience. sometimes life just decides to take us in directions we aren’t expecting. but, i’ve found, it doesn’t take us anywhere we’re not prepared to go. whether we knew we were prepared or not is a totally different question. maslow’s insight is dead on regarding the need for our baser needs to be met before we are able to dedicate our efforts to higher order needs.

finally, as an learning professional, it is vital for me to understand that the learners i seek to help are subject to the same ability or inability to focus on higher order tasks depending on how stable their lives – both at work and home – are. if an employee is unsure of their employment status due to major organizational changes or performance issues, they are likely to be focused on whether or not they will have a job in a month. if it’s not clear to them that the learning i’m trying to drive is going to solidify their employment situation, then i’m never going to get their attention.

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