Resources for learning professionals
In tough economic times, finding money for professional development of your learning and development staff can be a challenge. But it doesn’t have to be, given the proliferation of free Web applications for personal and workplace learning.
It is sometimes assumed that learning tools means tools specifically dedicated to learning, and often we overlook the value in ordinary tools. This duality is what makes these tools so powerful — because they are not separate tools you have to use but ones that are familiar to you. Here are five easy-to-use e-learning tools for professional development of your staff at little or no cost.
1. Twitter is a microblogging service that allows users to post updates of their activities, follow others’ updates and tag content and resources. Users post short messages — up to 140 characters — and other users read and respond.
LearnTel CEO Carol Skyring said Twitter is an important part of her professional learning network. “It connects me to educators worldwide who share thoughts, ideas and resources. I have a direct line to some of the world’s experts. Value exists in being able to ask or answer a quick question without having to e-mail a group or instant message an individual. Microblogging can also be used to provide status on a problem or project.”
2. Ning is an online platform for people to create their own social networks around a specific interest. Already available are hundreds of learning-related social networks, including a Chief Learning Officer Network.
Naomi Harm, an educational technology consultant, uses Ning as an interactive social networking communication and collaboration tool. “It enables like minds to share creative ideas, best practices and to extend meaningful and rich teaching and learning discussions on a global level.
“Ning also offers many opportunities to exchange ideas within a professional online learning environment, where each member feels safe and their point of view of expertise is respected, adding to the authenticity of the knowledge base of the Ning community.”
3. Second Life is an online virtual world for meeting, socializing and participating in activities in which users inhabit and interact via avatars.
Anne Paterson of Technical and Further Education (TAFE) for New South Wales, Australia, uses a virtual-world environment as a personal learning strategy.
“Working in virtual worlds like Second Life with colleagues from all over the country is a low-cost, everyday strategy that develops workplace relationships, synergies and efficiencies. A Second Life lunch room and watercooler are great ideas for creating cohesion of staff in dispersed geographical areas.”
4. LinkedIn is a business-oriented social networking service for maintaining a list of trusted businesspeople. Adding a contact requires either a pre-existing relationship or an introduction from an existing contact.
Karl Kapp at the Institute for Interactive Technologies and professor of instructional technology at Bloomsburg University finds LinkedIn useful for tracking trends and ideas in the learning space.
“One interesting feature of LinkedIn is the question-and-answer area. I read the questions to see what people are thinking about and to see what kinds of answers are generated. Since many people can respond, it gives a great perspective on what is happening in the industry.”
5. Google Reader is a Web-based aggregator used for reading news feeds. Feeds provide users with frequently updated content and can be read online or off-line.
Charles Jennings, former global head of learning at Thomson Reuters, thinks easy access to information and knowledge is vital to any 21st-century professional. “Blogs, wikis and other social networking resources provide me with much of the raw material I need. Google Reader is the glue that allows me to get to everything easily through a single interface.”
We all know how important it is to stay current and gain expertise. With thousands of free tools available, learning professionals can easily find ways to direct their personal and professional development without straining their budgets.Filed under: Technology