The Tin Can, Can


People don’t just connect to each other, they connect through a share object.” Jyri Engstrom

I just read a great post by Judie Dirksen on Three Reasons Instructional Designers Need to Know about Tin Can.  I’m fascinated by streams and am excited about what opportunities this will bring and look forward to following the project and learning more.

I think of Tin Can as “streaming what you’re learning” or learnstreaming.

Whatever learning framework you follow (e.g.,70/20/10), it’s clear than most learning takes place on the job and not through a course.  If you’re someone who is connected online during your workday, you’re probably connecting with people (nouns), performing actions (verbs) to create things (objects).

It sounds like Tin Can fits with how the web has changed from pages to streams and listens to activity streams to capture data.

Activity theory might help in understanding this better.  Activity theory is a framework (not a theory) to help describe human activity.  The basic unit of analysis in activity theory is human activity.


What Do You Think?

  • Should learning professionals learn about Tin Can?  Why or why not?
  • What are ways to learn more about Tin Can?
  • What practical examples do you see for Tin Can?

What if Social Learning Was Gone?


One of the ways to appreciate something is to think about its absence.  So, go ahead – try not being a social learner.  Think about something you need to learn or a challenge you’re facing and try coming up with a solution or make sense of this without involving others in your quest.

Was it difficult?  If you succeeded, was it the most effective method for overcoming your challenge?

As an Individual

  • No matter how much you know, you still need others in order to learn.
  • No matter how independent you are, you still need others in order to learn.
  • No matter how valuable you think your knowledge is inside your head, it’s more valuable when you share with others.

As a Learning Professional

  • How do you think it would feel for a someone who was a recipient of your learning solution if it didn’t involve social learning?
  • The social network provides far more learning than you ever could, how can you use this in your solutions?
  • If you learn more by involving others, consider that this is true for others too.

“Learning would be exceedingly laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people had to rely solely on the effects of their own actions to inform them what to do.  Albert Bandura

Opening Learning Pathways

Think about all the roadblocks or gaps that this exercise created in your learning.  Now, consider all of the people that you have in your life (personal, professional).  How can this network of people help you in your learning quest and how can you help them in their quest?

What Do you Think?

  • Was this exercise worth your time?
  • Did this make you think any different about social learning?
  • Did you come up with any good ideas for taking advantage of social learning?

Learnstreaming Presentation from Podcamp 5 Boston

Below is a copy of my presentation from podcamp 5 in Boston. Thanks to all who attended and participated in our discussion.

Resources to Become a Better Critical Thinker – Decision Making

Critical Thinking - decision making

This is part 3 in a series of 3 on critical thinking (Part 1 and Part 2).

It doesn’t matter which side of the fence you get off on sometimes. What matters most is getting off. You cannot make progress without making decisions. – Jim Rohn


5 Key Steps That Will Improve Your Decision Making – here are five techniques to help you make smarter decisions

Eight tools for streamlined decision-making – Merlin Mann’s thoughts on eight popular and reliable tools for decision making from Mind Tools

The Fine Art of Decision-Making – 7 tips for getting decisions made easier

The Essential Guide to Effective Decision Making – explanation of the PrOACT approach to decision making

Theories about decision errors – 23 theories about how we make errors when deciding

Preparing for Decision-Making Meetings – advice for making your decision making meeting more effective

More time does not create better decisions – quick and simple advice from Seth Godin on the relationship between time and decision making

Good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions.
 – Aristotle


How We Decide – in this book, Jonah Lehrer explains the current neuroscientific research into decision-making.  He draws from the real world experience of many deciders and shows how people are taking advantage of the new science to make better decisions.

Smart Choices: A Practical Guide To Making Better Life Decisions – this book presents a process to help you make better decisions in your personal and at work.

Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions -this book is based on observations of humans acting under such real-life constraints as time pressure, high stakes, personal responsibility, and shifting conditions.  It presents an overview of the research approach of naturalistic decision making and expands our knowledge of the strengths people bring to difficult tasks.

Ethics for the Real World: Creating a Personal Code to Guide Decisions in Work and Life this book explains how to master the art of ethical decision. It has many real-life examples giving you practical advice to respond skillfully to life’s inevitable ethical challenges.

Books on Irrational Decision-Making – 5 suggested books irrational decision making from the WSJ


Dan Gilbert On Our Mistaken Expectations

Dan Ariely asks, Are we in control of our own decisions?

In a moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.   Theodore Roosevelt

Start Participating by Using Small Steps


Not sure how to get started communicating with people on the web?  Try staring with small steps and gradually build with your comfort level or goals.

You can’t stop the web in order to properly place yourself in a discussion.  The web is like a river that is constantly flowing that may be faster or slower on any given day but it’s always moving

You just have to jump in.  If you’re too scared of getting hurt, you’ll probably never begin or you will get hurt.  If this is you – try stepping into the flow gently and then ramp up your speed as you feel more comfortable.  You’ll see that it’s not that scary.

Here are 3 communication categories to help you think about how to participate in flow of communication on the web:

3 Communication Categories for Participating on the web

Micro – this is a great place to start.  You can contribute in small ways to experience the flow.  Most of the people you find in the flow are friendly and want you to participate. It’s everyone web!  It doesn’t work without all of us.  You need to take the 1st step.

To get started, try this:

  • Sign up for Twitter
  • Find interesting people to follow
  • Contribute to the conversation

If you want a little more, try chatting.  There is less time delay in communicating and you can participate as much or little as you’re comfortable. I participate in Lrnchat (group that focuses on learning) and there are many other chat groups focused on different topics.  Here’s a list of chat groups with times: tweetchat schedule.

Middle – if you’re comfortable with the micro communications or want to stretch for more try communicating in the middle.  This is communication beyond 140 characters and usually less than a than a blog post. It requites that you think more critically and creatively about the topics you are reading and sharing helping you to learn more.

To get started, try this:

Macro – if you’re ready or want more than middle communications, then try blogging, writing an ebook or creating a presentation. This level of communication requires the most time commitment.  You may be able to leverage some of the content that you’ve used in other communication categories within your maco communications.

To get started, try this:

So, the key is to just start!  Once this happens, you’ll be able to see lots of possibilities and connect with many other great people like you.   What’s stopping you?

2 Time Dimensions for Learnstreams


Learnstream time is a linear chronological view of time.  Similar to how Eric Freeman and David Gelernter originally described lifestreaming ”…a time-ordered stream…”

However, when you are learnstreaming, your time is not linear.  I think about time similar to Richard Koch’s description in his popular The 80/20 Principle “time being the benign link between the past, present, and future.”  The image above is an adaptation of his time triad.

“Viewed in this way, the future is not a random movie that we are halfway through, aware of (and terrified by) time whizzing past.  Rather, the future is a dimension of the present and the past, giving us the opportunity to create something better.”

When you view the past as part of your present, it helps you to remember to bring the best part of your past with you into the present moment to help make a better future.

What about you?  What are your most valued learning experience that you bring with you into the future?  If you’re not sure, take some time to consider this questions as you may not be maximizing your learning time.


Lifestreaming vs Learnstreaming

Lifestreams are about your life and learnstreams are about the learning in your life.

lifestream is a chronological view of your online (and even offline) activities that you want to share online.  This includes a wide range of activities (e.g., shopping, concerts, sporting events, observations, photos, etc).  You can include any activity that is a part of your life…it’s your life!

A learnstream is similar to a lifestream except that it focuses on activities that are related to a topic or topics that you want to share for your learning and the learning of others. You can focus on a particular topic (e.g., photography, web design) or you can take a broader approach to include many items that you’re learning about…it’s your learning!

Reserve Learnstream Username For These Tool and Services

In addition to setting up the basic services for your learnstream, you should consider reserving your username for other tools and services you may add to your learnstream in the future.  This helps keep a consistent name across services (if possible).  You don’t need to use any of these services at this time in order to sign up.  If you plan on creating and maintaining a learnstream, you’ll want many of the services below.

Check your preferred user name for multiple services at once on either name.chk or knowem.  Not all services are listed here so you will have to visit the services separately.

Here are some suggested tools and services:

FunctionService/ToolPurpose is to...To Get Started...
share book recommendations and reviews with othersShelfari
Disqustrack your blog comments in 1 location (for sites using Disqus)Disqus
CommunityNingcreate your own online communityNing
DocumentationScribdcreate, share, store and view documentsScribd
PresentationSlidesharecreate, share, store and view presentationsSlideshare
Postingping.fmupdate many social services from 1
Stream Aggregatorfriendfeed
aggregates many social media services into 1 toolfriendfeed
Skypeskypecommunicate (voice, video, Instant Message)skype
upload, share and view videosvimeo
Wikipbworkscreate collaborative website

8 Services to Start Your Learnstream Flowing

Learnstream services flowing
There are many services that you could include in your learnstream.  Here are  some of the basic services to consider for your learnstream.  I listed a couple of options for most services (my primary is listed 1st)).

Note:  Try selecting a consistent name across services, if possible. You can check your username for many social services at once by using name.chk or knowem.

Basic Learnstream Services

FunctionService/ToolPurpose is to...To Get Started...
Bookmarkingdelicious diigosave and share bookmarksdelicious
easily create blog posts or share other web content on your sitePosterous
create and maintain business and industry relationshipsLinkedin
Social NetworkingFacebookconnect and share with friends and colleaguesFacebook
communicate and share using short messagesTwitter
Photo SharingFlickr
store and share photos or other items converted to an image
(e.g., diagrams, charts, visuals)
RSS ReaderGoogle Reader
read many sites and pages from 1 locationGoogle Reader
reduce the size of a url to make it easier to share and

If you’re not sure where to begin, here’s a suggested order:

1. LinkedIn
2. Delicious
3. Google Reader
4. Twitter
6. Flickr
7. Facebook
8. Posterous

Learnstreams Have 3 Major Actions




Harold Jarche has added another interesting piece to my learnstreaming idea.

Harold says that learnstreams are the water that allows learnscapes to grow.  I like this addition and have developed it a little further.

Learnstreams have 3 major actions that are required to keep the learnstream healthy for use within the learnscape.

Inputs (listening) – how we listen to the learnscape. We listen using multiple devices and have control over some of the content entering our stream.  Here are a few listening devices:

Filtered – content entering your stream where you have defined some form of criteria for entry:

  • RSS Type (e.g., Google Reader, Lazyfeed)
  • Alerts (e.g., Google Alerts, Backtype)
  • Social streams (e.g., Twitter, Facebook)
  • Off line – (e.g., Person to Person, books, TV)

Unfiltered – content entering your stream where you have less control and choice of entry (e.g., e-mail, voice mail)

Purifiers (thinking)- how we process, refine and create content.  This is where we apply thinking processes (e.g., critical and creative thinking, communication) to existing content or we create new content.

Outputs (speaking) – this is how we speak into the learnscape and is based on many factors including:

  • Responses to: conversations, blog posts, social streams
  • Releasing new content (e.g., blog posts, white papers, video, audio)

What Do You Think?

  • What other major actions do learnstreams have?
  • What do you think is required for a healthy learnstream?
  • Are you maintaining a healthy learnstream?  Why? Why not?