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In this Free Tools Challenge, you will learn a little bit about the following:

  1. What Is Learni.st?
  2. How Can You Use It In The Classroom?
  3. How Does Learni.st Work?
  4. The Challenge!
  5. Extending The Discussion

What Is Learni.st?

Learni.st is an application that aims to make it simple for users to present and share information in an attractive and easily digestible format.  In their terminology, the author creates a “Board”, or permalink-ed webpage, on which they share “Learnings”, posts which contain the knowledge they want to share.  Those “Learnings” can be made up of either the author’s own content or content that the author has snipped from around the internet.

Learni.st’s most interesting and most promoted features are centered around making this content easy to share and collect.  In addition to the sharing buttons you would expect (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and Linkedin), they have created their own Learni.st specific buttons to “follow” or “like” a Board.  Readers are also able to interact with the content by commenting on individual Learnings and Boards or even suggesting Learnings to the authors of the Board.  To make it easier to share in the creation of a Board, they have made it possible for author(s) to select “Collaborators” who can help to put the Board together

Possible Educational Uses

Here are some ways that you, as an educator, can put Learni.st to good use:

  1. Aggregating a useful feed.  If there is a website or author that you think regularly puts out good stuff, you can collect and curate that material in one place (like an interactive RSS feed).  This author has collected videos from the NYTimes ‘s Education section.
  2. Tips for teachers.   Share your experience and hard-won lessons with other educators, as in this Board on using Learni.st in the high school classroom.
  3. Staying on the cutting edge.   Use a Board to keep you and your fellow teachers abreast of innovations in the field and what others are doing.
  4. Putting together multimedia resources.   Want to have a single place where you can aggregate videos, articles, factoids, and images on a single subject?  Use a Board to put it all in one place in an easily digestible format, as with this Board on the  Origins of Basketball.
  5. Collect resources for future use.  Sometimes you find something cool that you can’t use right now, but might need in the future.  With Learni.st you can collect those nuggets in one place and use them as and when you need them (and share them with others) as with this cool Board of Infographics for the Writing Classroom.
  6. Create tutorials. Use your Learni.st board to create step-by-step tutorials on how to do just about anything.  Want to learn how to make delicious pour over coffee?

How To Use Learni.st

To give you an idea of how Learni.st works and what it can do for you, I am going to go through the steps here of creating a Board.  The first step, naturally enough, is to sign up for the service.   Since they insist that they are still in the beta testing phase, you do not technically sign up for the service, but instead “Request an Invite”:

Click Here To Sign Up.
Click Here To Sign Up.

They will then prompt you to create an account.  To do so, you can either (1) connect your Facebook account to Learni.st or (2) create an account with your email address and password:

A Screenshot Of The Learni.st Sign Up.
A Screenshot Of The Learni.st Sign Up.

After you have entered your information, signed up, and confirmed your email address, Learni.st will run you through the process of creating your profile.  Feel free to press the “Skip This Step” buttons in each window of the profile creation, as the information is not strictly required to use the service.

Now it’s time to create your first board.  Click on the “+ Add” button at the top of the page, next to the search field, and the following will pop-up:

Create A Learning Or A Board.
Create A Learning Or A Board.

In this case, pick the option on the right to “Create A New Board“.  The other two options are solely for adding Learnings to your existing board(s).   After clicking on “Create A New Board” the following screen will pop up:

Describe Your Board.
Describe Your Board.

Enter the name of the Board you are creating, the category it would fall under, and a description of the Board.  They also invite you to put down any collaborators who might be willing to work with you on the creation of the Board.  Once you press the Save button, your Board is created.  Congrats!

Not so fast.  Although you have created a Board, you now need to add some content to it in the form of Learnings.  Click again on the +Add button we referenced above.  Now we’re interested in those two other options: Add From A URL and Upload Your Own.  To try out the first, Add From A URL, click on that option and you will see a field which prompts you to enter a URL (in this case, we will enter the URL for Wikipedia’s article on lemurs):

A Screenshot Of The "Add From URL" Function.
A Screenshot Of The “Add From URL” Function.

Learni.st will then insert the content from that webpage into your Learning (it takes out some of the website styling, while retaining the page content).  When you press Next, they will display images taken from that page:

Select A Picture To Be Associated With Your Learning.
Select A Picture To Be Associated With Your Learning.

Pick an image to appear with your Learning and proceed to the next step where you will title your Learning, give it a category, and add text:

Add A Title, Category, and Description To Your Learning.
Add A Title, Category, and Description To Your Learning.

Press Save And Add to publish your Learning.  The second option for publishing a learning, Upload Your Own, follows a slightly different path.  Instead of adding a URL and then choosing an image, you skip directly to uploading your own image:

Add An Image To Your Learning.
Add An Image To Your Learning.

To add content to the Learning, you will be taken to the same form that you used the last time to title, categorize, and describe your Learning.  In this case, though, rather than using the text field to add comments on the page’s content, you will add the page’s content there itself.

To see what these Learnings actually look like in the end, check out a sample learning board I created about Lemurs.   In this Board I used each method available for creating a Learning, including one Learning made with Learni.st’s bookmarklet.

The Challenge!

Create a Learni.st Board that deals with a subject you are going to be covering in your class in the next couple of weeks.  Make sure that the Board includes three types of Learnings:

  • A Wikipedia article
  • A Youtube video
  • An original text with a picture

Extending The Discussion

  1. How valuable are online tutorials?  Do you think students retain information from online tutorials as well as they do with more traditional means of instruction?  Do you think your students give too much or too little credence to what people say on the internet?
  2. Learni.st works especially well with Wikipedia and does a great job of working with that site’s content.  How valuable do you think Wikipedia is as a classroom tool?  What do you say to students about its use?  What are its strengths and what are its limitations?

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