RSS It's about online training

Selected elearning Tweets feed

Have you seen the embedded Tweets on the home page here? I handpick them, every other day or so, selecting from elearning thought leaders and little-known smart folks sharing good links. Occasionally I throw in a student’s Tweet, often some impulsive blurt betraying boredom or frustration—or dishonesty (“I’ll pay someone to do this stupid online class”), you know, just to keep it real. You can get lost up there in that lofty idealistic ivory cloud tower. 

You are welcome to use the RSS feed, but be warned I may make it more programmatic at some point rather than merely copying and pasting Twitter’s standard embed code into entries in my CMS and generating a special feed for their category. So, let me know in the comments if you are using it, and I’ll let you know when/if I change it. 

Typing into an outliner while speaking

OPML editorWriting into an outliner while lecturing would be a nice lightweight replacement for an online whiteboard, wouldn’t it? (You may have to wait for the screencast at that page to load; it’s just an .mov file.)

When Dave Winer, developer of the OPML Editor and the format, answers me in his comment thread, saying it’s nothing new, I don’t believe he’s saying the technique has been used in online courses, but maybe. Probably he refers to tech biz workgroups and blogger meetings. It’s been used in at least one BloggerCon to display a notetaker’s (or technographer’s) outline of the presentation for the room, and to make a record of what has been discussed.

Student notetaking

It seems to me live outlining would be not only a great replacement for whiteboards or Powerpoints in lectures, but as a byproduct, it would show students how to take notes. You’d change it as you speak, unlike a Powerpoint which is meant to be static. I think it’s discouraging for any instructor or presenter—online or off—to know that many students’ notes consist of nothing but every word copied from every slide.

It would be mildly sadistic fun to watch students dutifully copying a section of an outline, only to hear the lecturer say, “Oops, no—the hierarchy would really be more like this,” and bloop, change the whole shape of the node in a stroke. Then the erasers would come out and you can imagine a flurry of wagging elbows and frowns as the notetakers scramble to accommodate the new form of the concept under discussion.

In some situations you could assign students to handle the lecture notetaking and display it in real time. Rotate the responsibility, and pause to invite other students to suggest changes before moving on to the next topic. It’s challenging work to listen, understand, summarize on the fly and to know the output is right there for all to see; takes every available neuron. I’ve done it in brainstorming meetings, and don’t care for the chore since it means I won’t be able to spare a bit of my attention to adding my own ideas to the storm!

A close cousin

Of course many educators love and already use mindmapping tools, and if you’re adept with your tool of choice, you could use it to illustrate a lecture on the fly. I don’t know if any of the tools output to OPML, but they should, since they are nothing if they’re not outlines. Notice when you export a sheet to the webpage outline type, darned if it isn’t an extra-pretty text outline, not so different from the OPML Editor’s HTML output without the nice expand/collapse feature.

Made for each other

Beyond the utility of the editor software as a tool for providing a live, thinking visual, the OPML format itself has inherent ties to elearning, I’ve always thought—probably in all kinds of ways I can’t exactly put my finger on. For one thing, a SCORM manifest is XML using a hierarchical structure, just as OPML is.

Update (6/6): Dave’s recorded another one: Outliner Screencast #2, talking about history, uses and users of outlines, and introducing an alpha mashup of outlines published to the web with Disqus comments. I’m in awe of a brain that can write a scripting language. I should be embarrassed to even try to talk to him about his work, but I do anyway.