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Overwhelmed 2.0 February 14, 2008

Posted by cjescribano in social networking, tools, Web 2.0.
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Overwhelmed 1.0
During Overwhelmed 1.0, I was bogged down writing storyboards for converting hundreds of hours of instructor-led training to e-learning. Then, when learners couldn’t stand taking that much e-learning all at once, I was busy combining e-learning with classroom sessions and job aids to create a “blended solution.”

Too Many Possibilities
With Web 2.0, I’m overwhelmed all over again, but in a different way. Now, I’m overwhelmed with all the possibilities for blending–so many tools and technologies to deliver content, training, and information to my target audience. Just when I’m starting to figure out to use a blog or a wiki in my training solutions, I discover that perhaps I should find out about Twittr. Then suddenly, all my friends are inviting me to join their social networks on LinkedIn, Facebook, and ning. Oh, and I can’t forget the whole new world that text-messaging opens up.

Learning Takes Time
I love these tools. Their potential excites me. But to really use a tool well, you need time to play with it and get to know it. My colleague, Rob, is a genius with Adobe Presenter (formerly Breeze). We’ve worked on several projects together, and he never ceases to amaze me with the clever ways he works around the “walls” of the tool. If someone says, “Presenter doesn’t do that,” Rob takes it as a challenge to figure out how. He refuses to take “no” for an answer. And because he works with, and more importantly, plays with Presenter almost everyday, he knows its rules well enough to break them.

But There Is No Time
You can’t know a tool that well if you’re trying to learn 12 different tools at once–at least I can’t. I get overwhelmed. And yet, it’s my  job to know enough about these tools to help my clients use them to meet their needs.

So, what’s an overwhelmed person to do?
Well, my answer to that question is to use my network. I don’t have to know all about every tool because I have colleagues who do. I can specialize in one or two, learn their rules (so I can break them). Then when I need help with LiveWriter, I can turn to Dennis. Or I can ask Cindy about wikis, Laura for Facebook, Joe for Flash, and of course, Rob for Presenter.

That’s the beauty of a social network, right? It’s like a zone defense. If we each cover a couple of tools, we’ll have the whole field covered. And we can still sleep at night.

So, what’s your answer?
How do you keep up with all the new tools?

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Too Many Tools? July 30, 2007

Posted by cjescribano in e-learning, information management, tools.
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Big Question 2

This month’s ASTD Learning Circuit’s Big Question is about choosing tools for e-learning. This year, I’ve been experimenting a lot with blogs, wikis, and personal knowledge management tools. Here’s what I’ve discovered so far.

 My quest for tools began with a promise to myself that this year I would master the glut of information that pours into my office and computer every day. It was clear to me that all those unread books and magazines, emails, blogs, newsletters, etc. weren’t doing me any good. What could I do to better harness and use all the information available to me?

That question led me to tools–lots and lots of tools, including blogs, wikis, a post-it note tool called stikkit, PersonlBrain, as well as Google and all its gadgets. So, now my problem was compounded. With all the choices, how could I find the tools that would help me solve my original problem?

That led me to my professional network of colleagues. It was clear that I couldn’t know everything about every tool, but there are plenty of people I can ask and learn from.

So, here’s my 3-step process for staying current on tools:

1. Clearly define a purpose. With all the choices available today, it’s more important than ever to know where you’re going. Otherwise, you’re bound to get lost and overwhelmed. Having a clear purpose, and criteria for what the tool must do, is a quick way to eliminate a bunch of choices.

2. Draw on your networks. Once you know what you’re looking for, use your networks to get as much targeted information as possible. Read what other people are saying on blogs and wikis. See what tools are mentioned most frequently. Ask questions: “Hey, do you know of a good tool I can use to…”

3. Get to know a tool. Reading about a tool is no substitute for using it. I read a lot about blogs before starting my own, but I didn’t really know how to use them and couldn’t see their potential as a learning tool until I’d played around with them for a while. I’m still learning. You have to use a tool and make it your own before you can get the most out of it. Recently, I worked with a graphic artist, Rob, who uses Adobe Presenter a lot. When I was certain that something couldn’t be done, he would find some way to make the tool do exactly what we wanted.

I think that the number of tools is just going to continue to grow. All we can hope is that at least one of those tools will help us find, learn about, integrate, and better manage tools.