Styrofoam sheets, chart paper, cutouts, glue, and lots of patience. That was a learning board when we were growing up. Learnist is a learning board for the digital age. The web application itself describes a “learn board” as a “set of learnings organized as a series of steps for people to learn.” You can also look at a learning board as a container for any content that helps you understand things you are interested in. On the web, there’s a glut of content that can add to your education.
Learnist is a Pinterest styled curation tool for educational content. Creative uses of Pinterest are always written about. Using Pinterest image boards as teaching aids is one of them. Learnist is an attempt to grab that niche and make it more focused with a dedicated social group behind it interested in learning and teaching. But does it make sense to have another social network? Is it just another find-and-horde tool that adds to our information overload?
A Brief Walkthrough
The smallest unit on Learnist is a “Learn board”. You can create learn boards by adding the URL of a webpage, uploading your own content, or using the Learnist bookmarklet to collect resources while browsing the web. Learn boards can be curated with images, videos, maps, Wikipedia articles or simple plain text. A sequence of content curated on a learn board and stepped in the right order takes a learner through any topic, just like the chapters of a book.
To demonstrate the working of learn boards, let me point you to Learnist’s own Help section which tells you all about how the web application works. The sequence of nine learn boards tell you everything you need to know to create learning capsules for yourself here.
Just like any other social community, you can comment, like, and share. In fact, the best way to start your learning on Learnist is to explore the boards created by other users on the topics of your choice. As you can see in the screenshot below, there are lots of pickings in the categories list. What’s yours?
How to Use Learnist Effectively
You can take two effective approaches with Learnist –
As a bookmarking and curation tool for sharing excellent online resources.
Using Learnist simply as a curation tool is the simplest way to collect learning resources in one place. A cursory browse through the learning boards does reveal most of them to be an amalgamation of great content without a structured flow from the first resources to the nth. A board like Beautiful Movie Scene benefits from this type of curation as each movie scene can be discussed and shared separately.
As an organized collection of knowledge to master a topic.
There is nothing wrong with the “discover and store” method of curating content. There are other tools like Pinterest, EduClipper, and even Flipboard that can also do that very well. To get the most out of Learnist as a teaching tool it helps to create a more organized flow that handholds the reader from the basic concepts to the more advanced ones by following a logical progression. It is one of the better ways to share what you as an expert know about a subject. For example: Modelling with Geometry is a nicely organized board. Also, take a look at this board – How to Solve a Rubik’s Cube.
An organized board also helps the learner to make connections with what he or she is learning and mark off what has been learnt.
The Ingredients of the Perfect Learnist Board?
Curating educational content on Learnist is not only about using what’s already there. The perfect Learnist board is also about producing content in the right way. Here are some ingredients you can think about when you create your learning boards…
Select the right learning material. A poorly selected learning can break the flow of comprehension. The Learnist bookmarklet is the handiest tool to research for content on the web and use the right ones.
Learnist allows a variety of media. To make an engaging board, use different multimedia elements to tap into the different learning styles. For instance, you can mix your teaching with fun elements like a humorous YouTube video.
Add your own commentary. Your own explanation that goes along with the curated content personalizes the learnings and helps you communicate what you want to teach.
Crowdsource learning. Social learning not only leads to better interchange of opinions, but it also enriches learning. A collaborative board benefits from the shared knowledge of everyone. A Learnist board allows multiple collaborators.
Clarity and comprehension. The test of comprehension is related to how the learning content is organized on the board. Do concepts flow from one to the other, or are they merely bunched together?
Blended learning. The purpose of Learnist is to drive active learning with participation as groups. If you have a class, offline group activities organized around Learnist could encourage more involvement.
Broadcast your learnings. Learnist allows you to share your boards on social media. If you have followers or a class, it helps them stay updated with the content.
The Guiding Lights for Learning?
Educators and DIY learners are making Learnist an attention grabber. You can dip into any topic you care to know more about. And if it’s not there – create your own. I just wish, knowledge creators would also use this more as a platform for creating compact courses instead of curating web content. There are some there, but Learnist has no way of telling us which the best boards on the website are. The “Featured” and “Popular” categories didn’t really tell me much. Badges and rankings would definitely help to recognize the standout boards and identify expert teachers.
As I mentioned before, learning (and also knowledge) needs a structured approach and mere curation of web content somehow defeats the purpose of Learnist. Learnist has all the tools for better collaborative learning, so it is us as the content creators who have to optimize it for our benefit.
Learnist Apps On iOS And Android
In the best spirit of mobile learning, Learnist also has apps for Android and iOS. My friend Erez reviewed the Learnist Android app thoroughly and you can try out the mobile experience as well. He remains unconvinced about its teaching potential and likens it to browsing through a multitude of RSS feeds.
He asks the questions — Will you be using Learnist to learn? Did it make you smarter? I guess I will too. Tell us what you feel about Learnist in the comments. Share your own Learnist learn boards with us if you have any there.