How do you evaluate over time how online social tools impact on or compare with other knowledge building and PD strategies?

This is a very big question, but let's give it a go - with your help, we just might be able to come up with a few ideas! You can follow the prompts below or create your own. Link to your blogs, wiki, podcast etc or share your thoughts below.
  • What evaluation strategy/ies do you find the most useful in relation to PD?
  • What benefits are there in using these evaluation strategies?
  • What evaluation strategy/ies do you believe might be best to track the:
    i Uptake of use of 'online social tools' in VTE?
    ii Contexts of use?
    iii Perceived worth (benefit to organisation, group, individual)?
  • Don't forget to leave your name and contact details for acknowledgement.

Use the social networking tools to 'speak' for themselves!

The most useful strategy I have found so far is the anecdotal interview. This often takes on different forms requiring the interviewee to write something, say something or record something in either voice or writing. When you watch a group of enthusiast people taking on a new skill (such as learning how to create a personal learning page) then you ask them a question like: "Will you be using this tool often?" The results are usually most positive and enthusiastic. If you then ask them to record something in a blog to let others know about their experiences and make it public - there is often a reticence. However, there is a growing acceptance of blogging for educational purposes and may yet be embedded practice for many of our practitioners.

My favourite strategy is to use story. If you ask social networking enthusiasts to create a short report using photos and narration to illustrate their experiences, then you may get more enthusiasm. Digital Storytelling works.

Another useful strategy is the online discussion forum. This often requires the topic to be set up by the interviewee and then some agreement about what will be discussed; the questions to be asked and the type of audience there will be. This can be done as one off activities or as continuing tasks (the National Networks Community is a prime example of this). This technique will capture anecdotal feedback from the readers of the forum and generate stimulating discussions - often taking the readers off on tangential journeys. There are difficulties with the discussion forum in collating and aggregating the comments as this is like 'pre-organising a conversation' - it doesn't happen that way.

Perhaps as more relevant evaluation tool would be the wiki. Inviting people to contribute to this form of online sharing of opinions can have a different appeal to those who like to see their words on a web page. This is a prime example of its worth to the community. (well done Val)

If you invite your practitioners to share their experiences in one-off online live events in online conferences spanning several days then you'll get the most amazing results and usually the most delegates registering to listen and participate in them. A fantastic example of this has been our National Live Events (June and September) with another coming up in November. A new one to broach the environment is happening in the Knowledge Bank Networks (secondary and primary school teachers) their recent 3 day online conference drew in over 600 participants. Now is the best form of evaluation or not?
Finally, I believe that the worth of any of the evaluation strategies used lies in their accessibility to others and the use of voice, and/or images along with personal testimonials. I venture to say that as more and more practitioners learn the simple art of recording a podcast they will have a very valuable tool for evaluation that is instant, engaging, thought provoking and accessible.

.... use the social networking tools to 'speak' for themselves .....

Coach Carole