6 rules for using free services

With the withdrawal of the free version of Ning being announced on their blog, I’ve witnessed some interesting responses. One colleague was rather dismayed as he was just about to use Ning for a new social community he was setting up. This simply emphasised to me the differences people have towards the philosophies underpinning current technology and innovation. For me it’s not about a service being withdrawn and then going into panic mode, but perhaps we do need something like this to remind us of modern working practices.

Here’s some comments:

  1. A service can be withdrawn anytime. It seems obvious, but many become lulled into a false sense of security.
  2. Treat such events as opportunities. When this happens it allows you to examine what you are doing, how you are working, and revise your practices. Update and improve your practice. After using Ning for a few years perhaps it’s time for a change.
  3. Always be on the lookout for alternatives. New and better services are springing up all the time. Keep experimenting.
  4. Always have a backup plan. If a particular service is vital to your activities, back up the data you hold with that service using another similar service. E.g. back up your social bookmarking by using Diigo and Delicious, store copies of your blog posts elsewhere.
  5. Don’t be too precious about you stuff. Consider if it really matters if some things are lost. I recently cleared out the garage and found a right load of rubbish I’d been clinging on to; research from nigh-on 20 years ago, I’m not actually going to miss it now it’s gone into recycling.
  6. Keep moving, things change (it’s the only sure thing), just deal with it.

It also emphasised to me the importance of the PLN. After starting a discussion about the loss of the free Ning service, there was a flurry of alternative solutions offered.

Kahn Academy – DIY OER to Educate the World

Last Friday was an interesting day. I was tipped off by a colleague, Paul Leman, about the Kahn Academy when he sent me a link to Glen Moody’s blog post. At first sight the Kahn Academy looked like a fantastic resource, with 1000+ videos on various topic for students of all ages. But being one who never takes things on face value, I wanted to check things out and see what others were saying about this resource. That’s when I found David Wiley’s post which explained how there was no Creative Commons license attached to the content. I had a look and he seemed to be right. David had written to Sal Kahn the creator of the Kahn Academy previously, but he decided to drop him a further email. Then, as is evident from the comments David received on his post, everyone was immensely pleased to see that by the end of that day Sal had acted on David’s call and prominently displayed the CC license on the Kahn Academy homepage making it an OER for reuse, remixing, sharing, etc. I immediately embedded this video in my Daily Interests blog under the title Education for the World until I had time to write in more detail.

Now I have to take my hat off to Sal Kahn for a truly immense resource. What he has achieved with the Kahn Academy is nothing short of incredible. Single handedly generating instructional videos covering subjects including:

What a wealth of information. This has to be place in the category alongside Academic Earth and Udemy.

This story excites me on a number of levels. Perhaps one of the most significant is the difference anyone can make by openly publishing knowledge online to freely educate others. It’s an approach I’m trying to take myself to make a difference, however small; it is something that I passionately believe in. More power to anyone and everyone doing the same.

Block Posters

I was immediately impressed with Block Posters.

You can take any of your images and then decide how you’d like it sliced up. Download the pdf file and each of these slices can now be printed out and put together to create a great big poster.

This can be used to create artworks around your home, blow ups of your favourite photos at a fraction of the price, etc. Also, it can be used in the classroom for displaying material to students, or by students to display their ideas and emphasis their points. Extending that idea, when university students have to produce posters this could be an alternative to expensive production via professional printers; I’m all for reducing the cost of education. But for an alternative approach remember Glogster.

Udemy – Academy of You

I’ve posted previously about accessing lectures from prestigious universities via the Academic Earth site. Today I found Udemy – Academy of You. This too is a site that has videos of courses from several well know universities, including Stanford, UCLA, and Yale. With a whole range of subjects covered. At a glance, there doesn’t seem to be as many available here as on Academic Earth, but the significant thing is that anyone can register and create courses on Udemy, in “less than 5 minutes” is the claim.

You can use video and presentations, and there is the option for tutors and students to interact live using chatrooms and whiteboards. There is also integration with video hosting sites and Slideshare the presentation hosting site to make things easier if you already have content online you want to use.

Tutors can charge a fee for their courses and Udemy charges for this.

This video explains:

To me this is an interesting and exciting concept.