The traditional paradigm for learning is structured education only while we are young. But, life expectancies are rising, we are cognitively fit longer, and the world is more complex. Accordingly, the ways we learn are starting to evolve…
There are two major learning platform types online: for content creation (e.g. Wikipedia, YouTube’s education channel, the growth of MOOCs) and content curation (e.g. Facebook, Pinterest, Scoop.it, etc.). Blogs commonly span both, making them a potentially ideal mix. However, the ruling metaphor of blogs is the newspaper, where content ages, and older content is less relevant than newer–how many times have you looked for more additional posts by a blogger, but to do so had to click through the ‘Archives–by month’?
A relatively new site that is better geared towards knowledge curation is Learnist, often described as a ‘Pinterest for Education‘. Early on it was targeted towards educators, but it’s for anyone who wants to learn and/or curate content online. In this post, I will walk through the features of Learnist, and give my opinion on the pros and cons.
First, you see that the content is organized in the form of small visual learning boards, similar to Pinterest, which are the he cover pages for a specific topic.
There are robust like/follow/share features. In addition to following users and learning boards, you can also share or comment on learning boards or individual learnings, which are numbered sections in a learning board. Unfortunately, these features are not all widely used yet, as I often found myself to be the first to comment on a board or learning.
When you click on a board, you see the list of numbered learnings (a board can have any number of learnings), scrolling vertically down. Each learning usually includes some text and an embedded web page. As an example, here is a popular board, ‘How to pack a Suitcase Like a Flight Attendant‘, where you see the board information on the right and the first learning on the left numbered ’01’. It has a text paragraph and a link to a website, in this case everydayminimalist.com:
When you click on an embedded web page, it opens that page in a frame in the same browser window. This follows the curation metaphor quite closely as the board stays on as ‘chaperon’ in the top frame while you browse the content in the frame below. When you are finished browsing the content, you click on an icon to return to the learning board.
Creating boards on Learnist is very easy. I created my own board on the novels of Kazuo Ishiguro, and set up the structure with seven boards (You can’t control the numbering, I would have preferred not to number the intro so the numbers matched the six novels). The first learning is a picture of the author (you can have a website, link, or picture for each learning), and a short introduction, and then each novel has a separate learning. For these, I added an image of the book cover (you can browse Google images quite conveniently), added my own comment, and then linked to the best review article or blog post on that novel I could find. Overall, it was a fun experience, and I’m glad I created this board, even just to keep as a reference for myself, let alone to share it with others who may be interested. It really does help capture what you’ve learned.
Overall Pros & Cons of Learnist:
- Simple, intuitive interface for organizing content–copying the best part of Pinterest
- Embedded frames in browser window allows for an almost literal curation experience, versus jumping to another site and having to keep track of where you were
- Robust sharing, liking, and following at multiple levels allowing for flexible expression of interests
- A linear vertical scroll for the learnings can be burdensome to navigate when there are numerous learnings. In the board pictured above, there are 27 learnings you can scroll through.
- A flat numbered list for learnings. Ideally, you could structure learnings on at least two levels so that you can group similar concepts (analogous to an outline where you have a 1.1, 1.2, 1.3 second-level). Thus, the 27 boards above might be grouped into categories: what to bring, how to pack, types of trips, etc. It would be easier to find what you are interested in and would reduce scroll clutter.
- The social sharing, liking, and following features are not used very much yet at this time
Overall, I highly recommend Learnist as a unique and easy way to curate knowledge…it is a good arrow in our learning quiver.