Posts Tagged ‘Web 2.0’

Sowing the Seeds

March 26, 2009

seedlingIsn’t it good to chat to someone who knows what they’re talking about?  There’s something really satisfying about talking to people who are the experts in their chosen fields.  It’s almost as if their wisdom might somehow magically rub off on to you.

This thought struck me recently after I’d had a lovely phone conversation with one of our customers, Phil, who just happens to be a very keen vegetable gardener.  I’d called him up to talk about something to do with work and got into chatting about what seeds and bulbs he’s sown recently and what lovely dishes he was going to cook up with all the produce from his allotment. 

After a good fifteen minutes of chat talking about everything from using seaweed as a fertiliser to growing tomatoes in hanging baskets we realised the time and got back to the work in hand.

This is a bit like the conversations I also have with my father-in-law, Seamus.  There’s another very lovely man who is an undertaker, musician, Web 2. 0 enthusiast, author, songwriter and, in his spare time, a fiddle repair man.  It’s fair to say that he has many strings to his bow. 

Seamus has many visitors from all over Ireland and the UK who bring their precious fiddles and violins to him for repair and he’s often to be found surfing eBay, on the lookout for a broken instrument in need of some tlc or major overhaul.  The irony is that he doesn’t play the fiddle very well himself, he’s a guitar man, but however he does it, he manages to make even the sorriest instrument sing high and sweet again.   His next project is to build a full size harp from scratch, when he gets a moment.

I also met a true craftsman recently, Joe from Alpha Stained Glass windows in Derry.  Joe and his team create the most beautiful windows in a whole rainbow of colours from all sizes of what is just, essentially, pieces of coloured glass.  But the skill that goes into making the windows, large or small, traditional or contemporary, is something else. 

We’re very lucky to have one of their creations here at Pool Heights.  And the way the staircase lights up on a sunny afternoon as the sun streams through the window that Joe and his team created for us is truly uplifting.

Not only is it soul enhancing to listen to someone talk with a passion about their ‘thing’ but it’s amazing what you can learn.  When you hear the enthusiasm in their voice or pick up the knowledge from their written words you get your own little ‘can do’ bean to sow yourself.

So thank you to the Joe’s, Seamus’ and Phil’s out there – you’re an inspiration.



Mind the gap

December 5, 2008

mind-the-gapL&D managers will have heard the interesting training news this week with the announcement, in the Queen’s speech, of the right to request time off for training to be given to British workers.  Employees can use this right to develop their capacity and skills, not just for their current day job but also for their future career development too.

But another, equally interesting announcement was also made this week. 

In a report published two days before the Queen (such manners!) the Chartered Management Institute says that the use of the internet is heavily policed in the workplace and a technology ‘generation gap’ is holding the UK back.  

On the one hand highly enthusiastic under 35’s are citing professional development and research as key reasons for wanting to use the internet at work while, on the other, suspicious employers say that the internet is a time waster.  Such employers actively monitor (cyber snoop) the surfing habits of their employees and block access to ‘inappropriate’ sites, while some even impose internet curfews.

The data, published in association with Ordnance Survey, also reveals different usage patterns according to age group.  For example, 67 per cent of those under 25 have ‘read a forum’ in the past 3 months, compared to just 51 per cent of those aged over 30.  Two-thirds (69 per cent) of those aged 25 or under have watched videos online (work or otherwise), compared to 54 per cent of individuals aged 30 plus.  With evidence also suggesting respondents want to use business networking sites (6 per cent for both managers and students), the implication is that employers must change their attitude towards technology, or risk alienating their future managers and leaders.

So, with this in mind, who is most likely to use their new right to request training?  Cynics may say that it’s unlikely to be those older, longer serving employees who do not embrace the internet, let alone Web 2.0 technology, and that perhaps it’s this group of managers who need training the most.

However, all is not doom and gloom.  The CMI’s report was published in the wake of wider research showing how ‘new media’ learning is growing in popularity.  A report called ‘Learning at Work: evolution or revolution‘ revealed that 51 per cent of directors now say they use online videos to develop new skills (up from 21 per cent 12 months ago) and one-third (34 per cent) also use social networking sites to boost their knowledge, compared to just 12 per cent, last year.

Part of the answer?  A social networking community you can take part in at your desk.  A discussion forum where you ask questions from your peers in similar organisations and get answers that help you do your job better.  A collaborative community where you share you work and they share theirs and re-purposing is the name of the game.

 Wonder where you’d find an organisation like that?


Get on my cloud

November 7, 2008

word-cloudThe last few blog’s I’ve written all seem to have a railway theme choo-chooing through them, which is worrying.  I promise this is the last time I’ll mention them, in this article anyway.

I have a love/hate relationship with PowerPoint.  On the one hand it’s an amazing piece of software for creating (or should I say supporting) a presentation.  But, on the otherhand …. we’ve all sat through too much death by PowerPoint!

I’m always looking for ways to make my own Powerpoint slides more interesting and try to do that by having decent imagery or graphics.  Just repeating what’s written on the slides isn’t for me.

Recently I was producing some slides on Instructional Design and wanted to do something different which would catch peoples imagination.  By chance I found Wordle,  which is a great site that allows you to produce word clouds, like the one in this blog. 

It’s easy enought to get started.  Just click on create, paste in the text you want in your cloud and hey presto!  Words that appear more than once in your text are more prominent in the cloud.  You can then play around with the colours, capitalisation, fonts and layout to your heart’s content. 

To capture your cloud you can print it out or do a screen capture, or you can add it to the online gallery for others to admire.

Why not give it a try and experiment with the different layouts and colours too?  It’s good fun!


The first Web2.0 President

November 5, 2008

obama-progressI stayed awake all night waiting on an election result on the other side of the world and I was struck by one thing.
It wasn’t that the new President is the youngest since JFK or that he is the first black president.  Nor also that his grandfather is from County Offaly (the Irish have, of course, claimed him – it had to happen!). Nor that acceptance speech that completely blew me away.

The thing that struck me more than anything was that Obama would have had no chance of getting anywhere close to the Big House without the internet.

Barack Obama refused federal funding for his campaign and so was left to ‘rough it’ with the world of small donations.  This unchartered territory would have been pretty fruitless without the internet but with it, he raised $150 million in September and roughly the same again in October.  Quite a bit more than Senator McCain who fought his whole campaign for less than $100 million.

But if all the internet did was raise money for Obama he still wouldn’t have made it and here’s the real trick.

The internet gave Obama a community, a family of people who all want to be part of the party.  Obama and his team used this community to rally support, get people working together behind a common purpose and to get what was, let’s face it, the unlikely candidate into the most powerful position on the planet.

Even more than that, the new President Elect has now created a community tied to that common purpose. You could argue about what the purpose is but let’s say is about changing the world.

That’s a community of hundreds of thousands of people who all want to change things and their community doesn’t just end because they’ve achieved their first objectives.  In many respects, they are probably just getting started.

President Obama now has a communication channel to a captive audience of people to help him deliver against what he said he’d do.  And it’s two way.  That audience gets to feedback to him on what else needs doing and how to go about doing it – in some respects that’s scary, but in others, it could just help him pull it off!

I love this proof of the power of the internet and Web 2.0. Tim Berners Lee, Robert Cailliau, Al Gore and anyone else who claims to have invented the web – you must be very proud

So the lesson learned is that communities that start from the grass roots are always the best ones and always stand the test of time.  Reminds me of an e-learning community I heard of once.

Now I wonder what we could get Mary elected to?  Suggestions on a donation email please!


Birmingham gets a Second Life

October 24, 2008

Birmingham canalBirmingham is now well and truly on the digital map via the creation of it’s new virtual world, ‘Birmingham Island’.

Virtual Birmingham will promote the use of virtual technologies such as 2D/3D mapping, web 2.0 and virtual worlds for the benefit of visitors and businesses alike. 

Visitors will be able to browse Birmingham’s tourist atrractions, transport links, hotels and car parks before physically visiting while residents will be able to access local services. 

Businesses will be able to promote their services and organise events online (just imagine never having to walk the miles of corridors within the NEC ever again…)

It’s early days but very exciting and full of potential.  But just one question – will the virtual residents still have that wonderful Birmingham accent?


Thank goodness we’re still here!

September 10, 2008

black holeWorking at Learning Pool I never thought I would be sat writing an article that mentioned particle physics, but two days are never the same so here goes …


Well, we all survived the switch on of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN today, despite the scaremongering that the world would end and a black hole would open in the earth. Although the long tunnel coming out of Birmingham New Street station could almost be classed as a black hole, sort of.


I’m not able to explain the full details of the research that CERN is carrying out, but I’m sure that it will be ground breaking.


We do have to thank them for the invention of the World Wide Web By Tim Berners-Lee back in 1989. The way we use the web has changed radically over the years, to the point that it’s hard to imagine life without it.


So here we are in 2008 and there’s much talk about Web 2.0 or Web 2 technologies. So what exactly does that mean?


I found this explanation from Wikipedia useful, “Web 2.0 is a living term describing changing trends in the use of World Wide Web technology and web design that aims to enhance creativity, information sharing, collaboration and functionality of the web.”


For the elearning community there are some challenges ahead to make the best use of these. Engaging learners and allowing collaboration are just two ways of making use Web 2 technologies.


If you are subscribing to the Learning Pool DLE you already have these tools at your disposal, at no extra cost. So you can make use of the forums, wikis, blogs and other functionality in your DLE.


If you need more help contact you account manager or ring our customer support desk on  0845 174 1101 or email


Now, where did I put those super conducting magnets?



Theme for a MASH

June 23, 2008

Paul and I were at a Web 2.0 conference in Belfast recently and came away buzzing about all the new things we learnt. It was really energizing to learn about the difference Web 2.0 can make to what we’re doing here at Learning Pool.

On the surface Web 2.0 technology ticks all our boxes – it’s about facilitating information sharing, creativity and (ding! ding!) collaboration. Sound like anyone you know?

But, as a none techy marketing person, I have to admit to sometimes being a bit bedazzled by the seemingly endless possibilities that technology can offer. I’m still referring back to the manual to find out what else I can do with my playing card sized digital camera, 6 months after purchase. I’ve just found out I can record videos with it…

And that’s why I love Web 2.0 . I can understand it, I can see how the technology is relevant to me and my work, and I can see what fun we can have with it.

We learnt that the technology is not just for the MySpace generation but how it could also be used whenever anyone, be it in a personal or business context, wants to interact with others. It’s about the world wide web allowing interactivity and, in true LP styley, creating a virtuous circle of uploading, downloading and general collaboration and networking.

So we’ve got a few ideas of things we could do. Online collaborative authoring, anyone? How about an online picture library where you upload your images, we upload ours and we do a deal with a reputable picture library to give you access to hundreds of fab images, all as part of your subscription price? (Actually we’re already doing that one – we’ll be launching it in a few weeks).

We’re going to create more podcasts by filming and recording you at our events and account meetings (you have been warned) and we’ll be featuring more of what you’re doing Web 2.0 wise too, using your Learning Pool DLE.

So thank you to Jeff at Quadriga consulting and all the other speakers for a fab conference. Check out Jeff’s blog for more on Web 2.0 and social networking.

Oh, and I also learnt what a MASH is. Take a whole load of different Web 2.0 elements and mix and mash them together to create something that’s bigger and better than the individual parts (sounds a bit like blended learning to me). Brilliant.