Think-Know Tools with Howard Rheingold

I’m pretty excited to learn that Howard Rheingold is offering a new course. I participated in his earlier courses about Introduction to Mind Amplifiers and Toward a Literacy of Cooperation, and of course there is the ongoing Peeragogy Handbook project.

The new course runs for six weeks using asynchronous forums, blogs, wikis, mindmaps, social bookmarks, concept maps, Personal Brain,  and synchronous audio, video, chat, and Twitter.

More about the course:

Think-know Tools dives into both the theoretical-historical background of intellect augmentation and the practical skills of personal knowledge management. Now that we have access to powerful mind-amplifying devices and self-evolving collective intelligence networks, we can benefit ourselves and improve the commons by learning how knowledge technologies work and how to work them:

Modules on Roots & Visions of Augmentation and The Extended Mind establish a basis for understanding and discussing both the origin and future of tools specifically devised to magnify thinking capabilities and group problem-solving capacity.
Modules on Social Bookmarking, Concept Mapping, and Personal Knowledge Management introduce tools and practices for finding, storing, refining, sharing, exploring knowledge.
Learning activities include group bookmarking as focused collective intelligence, concept map-making for understanding systems, construction of knowledge-plexes with Personal Brain.

I do like mindmapping (I use MindMeister) but I’m not familiar with Personal Brain, which seems to be very promising (‘it may be the closest thing to an extra brain’, PCWorld says). We’ll also use Cmap for concept maps and VUE, which I guess is a ‘a flexible visual environment for structuring, presenting, and sharing digital information.’ Other crucial tools are about social bookmarks (Delicious, Diigo…).

However, Howard does not limit the course to some practical tools, but we’ll discuss the first visionaries who initiated the creation of intellect-augmenting technologies (think Engelbart, Licklider, Bush… see also the New Media Reader book) and we’ll look at mind-amplification in a broader and future-looking context.

This course is not free. In contrast to courses at Coursera and Udacity for instance, this kind of course has a limited number of participants, and there’s a lot of direct interaction with the facilitator (Howard). More information about the course (which runs from October 17 till November 30) can be found at the social media classroom.

Here you see Howard during a Massive Open Online Course-session, talking about Net Smart:

Howard Rheingold on 'Net Smart' for Change11 MOOC

How concept maps can be immersive

In this post I’ll talk about some rather simple immersive tools. They have to do with what knowledge is about, with visualization and non-linear thinking and presenting. Do not fear: there’s no need for high-end graphics. The elements on which this simple immersiveness is based are non-linearity, interactivity and visualization.

In the personal learning environments course #PLENK2010 you can find a discussion thread about concept mapping, with George Siemens providing a link to a paper about The Theory Underlying Concept Maps and How to Construct and Use Them by Joseph D. Novak and Alberto J. Cañas (Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition).

Siemens explains: “Concept mapping assumes relatedness of knowledge – i.e. the information you connect is what produces your knowledge.” The course uses Cmap but personally I love using MindMeister (which allows for open wiki mindmaps), for instance I made this map about real-time web and news media for a seminar in Moscow:

Please note that I only provided a basic structure for the map – others added many nodes, provided Russian translations etc in a pure wiki-style. The reason I like those maps is that they allow for non-linear thinking and discussion. The enhance a more organic, associative way of reflecting on things. Compare having a group discussion with a linear powerpoint presentation versus a more brainstorming type of session, or at least a meeting where people are allowed to really interact and to go back and forth the points discussed – eventually adding or eliminating discussion nodes.

Actually, you can use non-linear presentations derived directly from concept maps for larger audiences. A colleague of mine introduced me to an interesting tool, Prezi, which helps you to do just that.

Here is an example of such a Prezi presentation about teaching mathematics by Guy Murphy:

There are other examples at the Prezi site. The big advantage of a Prezi presentation, when used for an actual living audience, is that it’s very flexible and incites the group to connect ideas in ways which may even surprise the presenter.