12 Ways To Learn In 2012

Here is this year’s review of new ways to expand your horizons by leveraging technology. For previous years, see 11 Ways to Learn in 2011 and 10 Ways to Learn in 2010.

1. Visit Digital Libraries and Collections

The collections of many national, state, university and regional libraries provide digital assets online. You can view astounding collections of full-text documents, images and videos as well as listen to audio recordings. Be Patient: it can take some drilling down to get to the actual items.

Start with the World Digital Library to browse collections around the world in seven languages. Use their timeline slider, which goes back to 8000 BC. Visit the British Library, to search through 60 million records to view their online collections. Another giant collection is housed at the Library of Congress. Also check out: the Danish Royal Library and the American Memory Project.

2. Track Your Health and Fitness Online

Learn what works for your body and your health. Connect with others who have similar goals. Tracking your personal health-related statistics online helps you see where you’ve been, how you’ve improved and how to modify your regimen accordingly. Enthusiasts claim this helps you make progress more quickly because it’s motivating, lets you see patterns and increases accountability.

Find the site or app that’s right for you. Some suggestions are: FitDay, DailyBurn Tracker, Fitocracy, iBurn and Sparkpeople. Taking another approach, you can track and graph your body shape at Graffed and over time, visualize how close you are to reaching your goal.

3. Get Futuristic

Expand your horizons, improve the planet and anticipate what’s coming with a better understanding of future trends and issues. Start with the World Future Society, a neutral clearinghouse of ideas on the future. They offer publications, resources, interviews and Future TV, their own YouTube channel. There’s also the Millennium Project, with a mission of improving humanity’s prospects through futures research.

If you are interested in the professional side of future studies, check out the Association of Professional Futurists. If your thing is technology, check out the Foresight Institute, which focuses on “transformative future technologies.” Finally, Wikipedia has a thorough explanation of Futures Studies and a list of additional resources.

3. Develop a Portfolio

Are you involved in a pursuit you’d like to share with others? Or do you enjoy looking at portfolios for inspiration? Either way it’s a learning experience.

For visually-oriented portfolios, check out the following sites. The Behance Network is a sophisticated multimedia platform for developing creative professional portfolios. It’s also a place to find creative talent. DeviantART is a free portfolio tool and Dribbble (that’s three b’s) asks the question, “What are you working on?” Carbonmade is another popular platform with a clean user interface and over 350,000 portfolios.

For knowledge-based portfolios, often called ePortfolios, check out Mahara, PebblePad and FolioSpaces. There are also specific electronic portfolio platforms for students, including: Epsilen and Digication.

4. Make Flash Cards and Study Guides

If you’re studying for a professional or entrance exam, learning a new language or getting an education, you often need aids to support rote memorization. Online flash cards and study guides may be your answer. StudyBlue lets you make flash cards with images and audio and has mobile apps for iPhone and Android phones. You can also turn your Evernote notes into StudyBlue flashcards, which is explained here in the Evernote blog.

Other online tools for creating flash cards include Flashcard Machine (you can share them); Quizlet (you can search for already made flash cards), and Cranberry. Younger generations may wonder why they are called “cards.”

5. Share Your Expertise in a Podcast

What’s your super power? What’s your expertise? Consider sharing it through podcasting and continue to learn through the wonderful experience of teaching others.

The Podcast Answer Man has eight free video tutorials (scroll down to see them) in his Learn How To Podcast series. These videos are packed with information. If this interests you, then check out my interview about microphones with an audio expert.

6. Learn Typography the Fun Way

Typography refers to the design and use of typefaces in visual communication. Anyone who generates visual content could benefit from learning about typography. There are a few interactive sites for learning about typefaces. In Kern Me game, users experiment with letter spacing or kerning and see how their skills compare to an idealized model. In Shape Type, users become typeface designers, learning how to manipulate bézier curves. You can then compare your design with the original.

If you’re curious about a typeface used on a particular web page, you can install WhatFont to your bookmarks toolbar and then click it to identify the font. Other font identification tools are: Identifont, WhatTheFont!, Bowfin Printworks and Flickr has a Typeface Identification Community built around this task.

7. Explore Mini-blogs

Explore mini-blogs to follow your passions and find new ones. These light blogging platforms are some of the best-kept secrets on the web. They provide spaces to post text, images, videos, links and quotes. Think of a scrapbook.

Tumblr and Posterous are short-form blogging platforms and here are some examples of how they are used: art history mini-blogs on Tumblr; photography from both sides of the Atlantic on Posterous. After you’ve explored for a while, start your own.

8. Connect Through Postcards

Learn about the world through postcards. You might remember back to a time when people sent postcards fashioned from sturdy paper through the mail. They usually came with a cool stamp from another country on the back. These objects were not digital. You can engage in that world once again—or for the first time—through the Postcard Crossing Project.

Sign up, mail a postcard to the address and receive a postcard from another postcrosser. So far, over 10,000,000 have been sent. Maybe this will be a path to making the world a more peaceful place. You never know.

9. Curate Content

The quantity of information available to us is increasing at a staggering rate. Someone needs to read it, organize it, filter it and annotate it. Is that you? If so, you can become a content curator—a go-to resource—expanding your knowledge of a topic or interest of your choosing as you help others.

Some of the tools for this are: Bundlr, scoop.it, Storify, and paper.li (magazine formats) and Pearltrees (mindmap format). If you want a simple and straightforward approach, curate content in blogging software with a list. Here’s an example of that: Curation of the Learning Technologies 2012 Conference. Also, check out the mind map of curation tools made by expert curator, Robin Good.

10. Use Bookmarklets to Support Learning

A bookmarklet is a small Javascript application that you can drag to the bookmarks toolbar of your browser. Bookmarklets trigger some type of functionality, like shortening URLs (see the bit.ly bookmarklet) or tagging web pages at social bookmarking sites (see the Delicious Bookmarklet). Bookmarklets are a way to build your Personal Learning Environment (PLE).

To use many of the following free bookmarklets, you need to sign-up for an account first (usually a very quick process). Here are a few that may be of interest to you.

Readability has several useful bookmarklets that: 1) scrub web pages for printing, 2) saves articles for later reading and 3) send articles to your Kindle. Use the Bloglines Bookmarklet to quickly add feeds into your reader. With the Connotea Bookmarklet, you can save and organize links to your references. It’s made for researchers. As you might expect, Google has several valuable bookmarklets. And with the LibraryLookup Bookmarklet, you can see if your local library has a book that you’re browsing at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other sites.

 11. Create Your Own Infographics and Visualizations

Visualizing information and data helps you see the information in unique ways. It’s a great way to communicate ideas, share insights and even to persuade with statistics.

Here are some tools for you to start exploring how to create infographics. Try Cacoo and Exploratree to create all kinds of flow diagrams, charts, network diagrams and more. Use Statsilk for creating interactive maps. Need data? Check out Many Eyes, which provides data, tools for a wide variety of visualizations and tutorials or Google’s Public Data.

12. Get Alerted

Information changes quickly in Internet time. You can use tools to monitor the web and get notified about anything you care to learn about. This is a great way to keep up with information that’s changing, such as new research, articles, blog posts and news items about your selected topic.

The big momma of automated alerts is Google Alerts, with settings for how frequently you’d like to be notified. Giga Alert is a similar service based on Yahoo! Search. HyperAlerts is a tool for providing email reports of posts and comments on a Facebook Page.

You can use some alert tools in real time by doing a direct search throughout the social media universe. Some tools for this are: Social Mention, Twazzup and 48ers. And just for fun, try out Peronas from MIT, to learn how the web sees you. You need a unique name for this or other people’s data will interfere with yours.

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  1. luis says

    Computers and tablets are only assistants and a good teacher’s will always be needed.
    However social networks such as facebook and YouTube as well as great resources including Wikipedia and Wolfram-Alpha are here to stay so that educators must use them in the teaching process.

    Some time ago YouTube moved a lot of their educational content to a separate domain giving people access a broad set of educational videos.

    However, some complaints include the variety of the content found there as well as the need for schools to register on YouTube under the academic section in order to show their videos, leaving out many academics, professionals and students not formally associated with mainstream schools which contribute with great videos.

    Many academics are posting great educational videos and materials online. The only problem is to sort the good ones from the rest and present them in an organized manner.

    This effort is being done by: http://utubersity.com which presents the best educational videos available on YouTube in an organized, easy to find way to watch and learn. It also links the videos to related content in Wikipedia or associated websites.

    They are classified and tagged in a way that enables people to find these materials more easily and efficiently and not waste time browsing through pages of irrelevant search results.

    The website also enhances the experience using other means such as recommending related videos, Wikipedia content and so on. There’s also a Spanish version called http://utubersidad.com


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