Archive for the ‘Tools’ Category

Integrated PLEs?

Friday, March 11th, 2011

The first time I read about PLEs and talked about them with Steve Wheeler, I was intrigued about the simplicity of PLEs. It’s so easy, take the tools you are already using and use them for learning. In order to improve, just mix and match. But why aren’t more people doing it? Don’t get me wrong, a lot of people are using those tools, just not for learning.

Inspired by the #elearning2020 discussion of Steve, I started thinking of the future of PLEs. What happens in other domains and areas? How are people improving and changing their tools?

Steve Wheeler once said to me: “You can create a tool and maybe suggest what the user is doing with it. But you can’t control what the user is actually going to do with it”. People will always use the tools for what they need it for. But does that mean it is optimized for it? I don’t think so.

Potato printingEven if you can print with potatoes, which is quite popular within elementary school in Germany, the process of printing has been improved over time. People, that had to handle with the technique on a daily basis, thought about the process and tried to eliminate drawbacks while improving the advantages.

Couldn’t that happen to learning tools? Isn’t there potential to improve some angles of learning tools?

I mean there will definitely be some downsides, like the freedom of using whatever the heck you want. But in my opinion a combined “building-block-kind-of-system” could offer the upside of integration. The system could be able to “know” what you did in all these tools and help you to find connections. You could easily add people you know from Facebook within your blog, point out the connections you have with a fellow blogger on and so on. There would also be the chance of using computing power to personalize certain things for the current user, which is just not possible in a class room and which current tools don’t have the features for. Even suggestions, based on your behaviour or your learning history could be useful.

For the current generation it is easy to use what they already know but the digital natives and the upcoming generation will probably use different or at least modified tools anyway. Think about MySpace it was quite popular some years ago and is now languishing away as a special place for musicians to upload their music.

We just have the chance to contribute to this modification at an early stage and try to push it into the right direction. What is you opinion on integrated systems for learning? What does outweigh, upsides or downsides?

Plymouth E-Learning Conference 2011

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

The Plymouth E-Learning Conference 2011 is coming soon. From April 6th to April 8th, Plymouth will be crowded with E-Learning researchers from all over the world. Within the University of Plymouth at Drake Circus, researchers will be talking about web 2.0, social media and technologies within the process of teaching and learning. Key note speakers this year include Jane Seale, Stephen Heppell, John Davitt and Inge De Waard. The motto this year is: “Digital Futures: Learning in a Connected World”.

As a regular attendee I’m really looking forward to interesting dialogs, presentations and meeting the community, following the call of Steve Wheeler every year. Hope to see you there.

Visualize your network

Sunday, June 7th, 2009
The friend graph

The friend graph

It’s been a while since my last post. I’ve been reading a lot of papers and still do, to acquire a broad knowledge about social software and how it can be used within learning management systems.

Reading this ACM article I came across a awesome piece of software. The Nexus friend grapher is able not only to visualize the network of all your friends within, it can find out similarities between your friends. Once you marked a friend, you can see who of your friends are friend with him and with who of your friends he has similarities like in music or hobbies.

Interesting to see is also the form. In clouds you can easily determine your “circle of friends”. There is a bunch of people i know from a specific company, which all are in the same cloud. People I know from the university are in a different cloud.

If you want to take a look at it without installing the facebook application or if you don’t have a facebook account, there is an anonymized demo you can play around with.

The Nexus friend grapher is definitly worth a look and a must-have for everyone researching in this field. A fine piece of software to visualize and explore your friends in a different way.

A Managed project

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

basecamp_teamworkpmIn order to keep track of my upcoming project, my master thesis, and to get all involved parties up to date, I thought about a collaboration platform. During my diploma thesis I had to work with offices in Germany, New York and Florida which worked fine despite the distance. One success factor was a web application called Basecamp . Since I made good experience with basecamp I decided to use it in order to keep track of milestones, to-dos and manage contact details of involved people. There is even a collaborative writeboard inside allowing you to write a text together with a bunch of people, able to compare versions and keeping track of the changes.
I know there are different or similar solutions like Teamwork which offer the same functionality and even some file space for free, but when I noticed, the account was already set up. But for the next project I will check it out.

What are you working with? Any other good experiences or hints?

Tidy papers this time

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009


Facing my master thesis in the field of eLearning and social networks and with my experience from my diploma thesis two years ago, I defenetly want to be more organized than during my diploma thesis.

The most difficult thing in my experience was and will be, to get hold of the huge amount of information, notes, papers and links. I decided to be better prepared and willing to get help by a tool this time.

Since I am a dedicated Mac User, hints and suggestions from other students weren’t very helpful because most students still use Windows systems. So I started to look around and poking some websites offering different tools.  I got a first clue on this website talking about a paperless office.

Tools of different flavors came along my search, like note-taking tools, citation tools and personal knowledge management. I want to present some tools I found very interessting and that I use now.

Sente is a free tool to collect and sort all your papers documents and notes. It also offers a way to export to BibTeX, which is kind of important if you are writing a document like a master thesis.


This browser plugin offers you a nice and easy way to keep track of links and notes while browsing the web.


This extensive collection of tools enables you to take notes and keep every thought in almost every situation. It offers services like browser plugins, an iPhone application and a standalone tool. Evernote comes for Macs and Windows.


This tool is actually my favorite! Similar to Sente, Papers is able to manage and order your papers and documents. Additionally it is able to connect to a bunch of online libraries such as ACM, PubMED, Google Books, Google Scholar .. , and automatically gets information about the paper like author, journal and so on. Papers even offers you an iPhone application to take your paper database on the road. The downside is a price of about 30 Euro, but I think It is totally worth it.


Let me know what tools you use or know. Mac or Win doesn’t matter. I guess a lot of people will appreciate a nice collection of tools they can use or check out.