Sunday, 22 February 2009

Digital tools for online learning

One of the fascinating aspects of the Web 2.0 read/write web is the speed at which solutions appear.

Here are two that have grabbed my eye over the last week.

The first is an online Learning Management System (LMS) called Studeous. There are lots of LMS options around, most of them costing thousands of pounds to instal and administer. Studeous has taken a rather different business model and is very much focused on harnessing Web 2.0 tools (like blogs, wikis, secure email) into one interface that any teacher can use, without training.

The other innovative aspect to Studeous is that it's free for teachers to use. I've set up an account and will aim to play with it ove the next few weeks. I imagine that the aim is to get individual teachers who are interested in this personalised LMS approach to become pathfinders, and then use them as the marketeers within their schools. 

Should a school wish to purchase a whole-school system it runs at an afforable $2,995 a year. So far, I like the look of its design and think it offers some useful features. Sadly, I don't think the free text to all your students facility is available in the UK yet. Nonetheless, Studeous gives us a glimpse into how radically the transfer of information and knowledge is likely to be, and how the production of multimedia based learning resources and responses might possibly evolve.

The other tool that I found fascinating is aimed more at business training users, but again, shows how learning could develop in the near future. Chalk allows multimedia learning content to be produced easily and sent to Blackberry smartphones. Again, it's a pointer to the way in which many teachers and students now carry powerful computers in their pockets, whose use for learning has barely been explored. Expect that to change dramatically over the next couple of years.

There's no doubting that the ways in which teachers and students communicate and collaborate is on the cusp of great change. The trick will be in navigating both parties to the right solutions for the most appropriate of tasks.

Digital lives captured in a myriad of pictures

I've just come across the work of Jonathan Jarvis, a Master of Fine Arts student at the Art Center College of Design in California.

His work and thoughts are insightful and powerful. Jarvis is looking and thinking deeply about what the world of the digital native is going to look like. He has a specific interest in the spaces between humans and objects, as well as human to human interactions. How can these be captured? What do they tell us that we don't already know, and how might that be put to good use?

I'll give you three quick examples of where his skill in art, design, interaction, and communication are leading him. The first is a posting about how digital natives will be able to view their lives pictorially, thanks to the power of social networks and tagging. Read all about it here. The second is his observations on the act of drawing. Jarvis decided to set himself the task of drawing a sketch, on his computer, for thirty minutes, each day. He captured this process and turned the activity itself into a meaningful text. See more here.

Finally, Jarvis has produced an exquisite visual representation of how the credit crunch was created. It's both a stunning animation, and a fine example of how complex ideas can be represented in a moving image format. Watch it below. And watch out for Jonathan Jarvis. It's a name I think we'll be seeing more of in the near future.