June 11, 2012
social networking

My Views on Learnist, the latest ‘social learning’ venture

There are those who can’t avoid the temptation of beer, salt and sugary snacks at night and there are people like me who treat new learning and collaboration platforms infectiously.

I wish I could turn my eyes away from these calorie-induced sites or applications, but I just can’t.

Perhaps at the core I yearn to learn, but that’s another post for another day.

Let me introduce you to my latest microbrewery friend, Learnist.

Brought to you by the makers of Grockit – an online social learning test prep service for items such as GMAT, SAT, ACT and GRE – Learnist is an attempt to crowd-source knowledge, information and content into a manner that is a cross between Web 2.0 sites like Pinterest, YouTube, Wikipedia and Facebook.

How It Works

Do you remember the science fair when you were a kid? Well, I would grab articles from newspapers, images from the encyclopedia and magazines, facts from books and if I was really keen, I’d grab the Beta machine (dating myself, I know) and record a clip of some sort to showcase video brilliance via the “TV on wheels” I borrowed from the library.

Quite elaborate if I do say so myself.

Learnist is the electronic version of the science fair. An individual can electronically grab photos, videos, articles, blogs and facts from all sorts of Web 2.0 sites and collate them into a learning lesson of sorts (the board). The tactile version of an exploding volcano is going to have to wait, however.

Users who scour content and couple it together can annotate their science fair with their own thoughts and opinions, and, as with anything social these days, there is user commenting and rating of each science fair project. Tagging content and the Twitter/Pinterest/Facebook/Google+/Quora follower mechanism is also prevalent.

What Works

The process of adding Learnist boards (the science fair analogy) is relatively straightforward. Picking and choosing content to place inside your learning area does require that you know what you’re talking about, but that’s part of the beauty. Learnist provides the opportunity for all of us to become educators, instructional designers or passionate pedagogists.

It is attempting to mash up the user experience of current Web 2.0 darlings so for those who are savvy enough, the Learnist experience will be very comfortable. It allows for creativity and expression; it certainly is tearing down the walls of a classroom.

What Doesn’t Work

I’m not certain if this is about learning (as the term Learnist implies) or if it’s merely a crowd-sourced way for users to pretend they’re educators or as a place to shock and awe.

For example, would I want an elementary school or high school class coming across a Learnist board on cannibalism? I was shocked to find it under the Society category, so Farbood Nivi (founder) and team might want to decide whether Learnist is in fact about learning or if it’s the means for knuckleheads on the Internet to pretend they know what they’re doing in the education space.

Next Steps

I’ll be watching to see where Learnist heads next. It has potential, but filtering, approvals or some form of content taxonomy might have to be implemented if it actually is going to gain traction with serious educators out there. If there are more Learnist boards like cannibalism, it won’t stand a chance with professionals.

There are a few other opinions about Learnist from Audrey Watters, Mashable (Sarah Kessler) and Brent Schlenker you might be interested in too.

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