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Rob Hubbard's free tool tips

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DateDecember 16, 2008 Posted by: Rob Hubbard   Keywords: free stuff, learner engagement, opensource, rapid development, Social Media

Twitter 

How often do you tweet each day? Not at all? Once or twice? Do you tweet habitually? If you think this is perhaps what happens when ornithologists spend too much time with their feathered friends you’ve probably not heard of Twitter.   Twitter is a ‘micro-blogging’ application where you post updates in 140 characters or less. By default, your responses or ‘tweets’ are public, that is, anyone can see them and choose to ‘follow’ you. This means they will receive all your future tweets.

Originally intended as a way for friends and family to keep in touch, Twitter’s simple functionality belies the powerful ways in which it can be used. For example, in the immediate aftermath of the recent terrorist attacks in India, Twitter was used to summon blood donors to the specific hospitals that needed them.

You can search Twitter posts for keywords  for example your company name, product name or even your own name. There are 1 million + Twitter users, so it’s a great way to gauge the ‘buzz’ about a particular product or discover the difficulties people are having with that product. You can message people directly too, so companies are using Twitter to provide customer support.

So how can Twitter be used for learning? It is an excellent networking and communications tool and could be used for follow-up after a training intervention, or a way for people to ask questions of a subject matter expert. As with many of these Web 2.0 applications, the main limiting factor will be your organisation’s culture and whether it is acceptable to use third-party software to communicate about company business. Twitter can’t be moderated. Once a tweet has been published it’s in the public domain for keeps.

User Generated Video

Another technology that shows huge potential for training purposes is user-created video. Video as a training medium has been around for decades, however now, as never before, nearly all of us have the technology to record, edit and share our own video content. This could be best-practice recommendations from a leading light within your organisation, sales tips for a particular product, or video scenarios illustrating key points from a training programme.

Most mobile phones will now shoot video, and digital stills cameras are capable of some impressive results. You can of course go the whole hog and use your camcorder – it really depends on what you’re shooting, the shelf-life of the content, and whom it’s for. If you want to share a few quick tips with colleagues, your mobile phone may well be good enough. If you need to shoot something longer made up of a number of shots then a digital stills camera and a tripod may be your best bet. If you need to show detail, perhaps the particular parts of a product, then a domestic camcorder, tripod and decent lighting will be required.

You can achieve great results cheaply and quickly with a few pointers, and here they are:
1. Use a tripod. These don’t cost much and will save making your audience feel sick through a handheld camera bouncing about
2. Make sure whatever you are filming is well and evenly lit. For the best results digital cameras need good lighting, without it you will get visual artefacts (blocking) on the image. Ideally shoot outside in bright daylight. If you can’t, get a set of continuous studio lights. These can be bought online for as little as £130.
3. If you need to record sound, first check the quality of the cameras built in microphone. I bought a ‘prosumer’ hi-definition digital camcorder and was shocked at how bad the sound quality was, even with an external microphone. Get yourself a tie-clip microphone and minidisk or mp3 recorder instead. The sound quality will be far superior though it will mean a little extra work in the editing.

Video Editing and publishing 

Speaking of editing, having shot your video how do you edit it together into something meaningful? My editor of choice is iMovie for the Mac. It’s really simple to use and came free on my Mac. If you are a PC user there are many options available including online editing. I’m not going to recommend a specific PC based editor here since I don’t have much experience of them. My advice would be; search delicious  and see which editors other people rate. There are lots of decent free ones about.

When it comes to publishing your video take your pick of the online video sharing web sites. But do consider the commercial sensitivity of the material in the video – you may need to host the video within your firewall for information security purposes.

I hope this has given you some encouragement to try out these new technologies. The best thing is – they’re free! So the only investment you need to make is your time. Have fun!

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