We love social… or is it collaborative learning?

dialog.fwIn our daily practice, we often have to switch back and forth between the words collaborative and social. We see collaborative learning as those active moments of learning together in groups versus social learning as ongoing learning in an organization through ‘social’ connections.

In general we prefer the word collaboration or perhaps even cooperation above social as we find that the social media connotation sometime scares people away, though social learning is so much more than exchanging information through Facebook and Twitter.

Since we went live with LearningStone, training providers have been adding groups of people collaborating on courses on a national and international level. The social… eh… collaborative aspect that is supported by LearningStone is more important than just sharing personal knowledge. We see people collaborating on mutual learning goals that have been prepared by a trainer or creating learning moments for others by actively asking questions. Trainees work on group assignments, share experiences or simply exchange practicalities so that the (expensive but important) face-to-face learning time can be as efficient as possible. It is obviously not just the instructor who shares his or her knowledge. A teacher can even be a bottleneck for learning if he or she doesn’t stimulate learning.

Quotes & resources
If you’re interested in the background of collaborative learning, here are some interesting quotes and resources, but before you take off, remember one thing: Collaboration through technology provides great opportunities for learning, but at LearningStone we always stress that professional development also requires face to face learning as people need to leave their workspace and be inspired by other people.

Collaboration is the act of joining together to make possible that which cannot be accomplished alone. http://www.wikihow.com/Collaborate

Collaborative learning teams are said to attain higher level thinking and preserve information longer than students working individually.

Technology makes collaborative learning easier. Collaboration had the same results via technology as in person, increased learning opportunities.


Collaborative learning can be viewed as the gradual construction and accumulation of increasingly refined and complex cognitive and linguistic artefacts. This takes place primarily in collaborative interaction.


Collaborative learning is a situation in which two or more people learn or attempt to learn something together. Unlike individual learning, people engaged in collaborative learning capitalize on one another’s resources and skills (asking one another for information, evaluating one another’s ideas, monitoring one another’s work, etc.). More specifically, collaborative learning is based on the model that knowledge can be created within a population where members actively interact by sharing experiences and take on asymmetry roles. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collaborative_learning

Facilitating Collaborative Learning: 20 Things You Need to Know From the Pros. Best practices for collaborative learning in our classroom


Collaborative Learning for the Digital Age

Attention blindness is the fundamental structuring principle of the brain, and I believe that it presents us with a tremendous opportunity. …. It’s not easy to acknowledge that everything we’ve learned about how to pay attention means that we’ve been missing everything else. …. Collaboration by difference respects and rewards different forms and levels of expertise, perspective, culture, age, ability, and insight, treating difference not as a deficit but as a point of distinction.


Computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL)
CSCL is a relatively new educational paradigm within collaborative learning which uses technology in a learning environment to help mediate and support group interactions in a collaborative learning context.
CSCL is a pedagogical approach wherein learning takes place via social interaction using a computer or through the Internet. This kind of learning is characterized by the sharing and construction of knowledge among participants using technology as their primary means of communication or as a common resource. CSCL can be implemented in online and classroom learning environments and can take place synchronously or asynchronously.

Michiel Klønhammer and Sjoerd Boersma

LearningStone is an online learning and collaboration platform for groups. Try it out for free (for ever free!): www.learningstone.com




So you’re in EdTech and want to go to the ATD or Learning Solutions conference?  

Recently LearningStone – the new online learning, communication and collaboration tool – went to the ASTD international conference and expo. It was hard work, fun, rewarding… so I thought I would share this.

If you’re interested to know what we were doing there, just check this.

The ASTD convention is focused on professional development and just in case you can’t find them anymore– the ASTD was renamed and rebranded during the conference to ATD – Association for Talent Development (what’s in a name… but the design of the logo improved a lot :-). Whatever you do, don’t try presenting K-18 educational products here. People just won’t be interested. This is for internal and external training providers… eh talent developers, HR people etc.

SmothsoonianThe convention is huge, this year about 11.500 visitors, quite expensive (though it’s not hard to get into the expo part for free) but they threw a great party (networking night) in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum which is pretty spectacular. There are hundreds of presentations, hundreds of nationalities, hundreds of booths… it’s big, really big, so visitors should come prepared, though walking into a random keynote will probably always be worth your while.

If you’re a start-up or any type of company in the EdTech / professional development field you might wonder if you should go. It’s important to know that only roughly 2000 people might be interested in you unless your product is on something like leadership, then it might be a few thousand more. If you are only going to present your startup at one expo, you might also consider Learning Solutions next year (both ATD and Learning Solutions are in Orlando, Florida – the convention heaven for the US).

There are two possibilities: pay money for a booth at the expo and/or try and get selected for a presentation.  The expo is a bit more expensive than you might think as you’ll need furniture, brochures, banners etc. – all things you might now have yet if you’re a startup. A starting budget about 10.00 USD including some furniture, travel etc. is your starting point and the kind sales people at the ATD will try and sell you all sorts of sponsor packages too.

If you have something interesting to say: presenting combined with the expo is always the best solution so people can visit you. And about the booth: LearningStone was one of the latest companies registering and we were lucky with a great location (thank you ATD for warning us). Don’t choose a spot in the far corners of the expo – you might end up pretty lonely.

So once you’re there, the one thing you need to know about the expo is that people will visit you in bursts of thousands as the schedule has breaks to give people time to visit you but at other times it can be really quiet. In this case, the third day was nearly pointless for most companies at the expo. In general the best thing you can do is have more people on day one, than day two, than day three. But no worries, a visit to the convention is a great reward after a day or two at the expo.

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So ATD 2015 (May 17-20)  or Learning Solutions 2015 (March 25-27)? Probably the most important consideration is if you want people from outside the EdTech field to be able to bump into you or not (if so choose ATD). If you want most people you talk to, to be interested in learning and tech to start of with, choose Learning Solutions by the Elearning Guild. I just wonder who will have the best party location.


Michiel Klønhammer





Elearning is just a too lonely

For a guest lecture at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences in the beautiful Tropics Institute in Amsterdam, I was asked to talk about my start-up LearningStone. It’s always a good moment to reconsider the proposition one has. For insiders, LearningStone is all about supporting instructor led training with an online platform. In a word, it’s about blended learning and the practicalities of offering training in a classroom setting with all the benefits of the online world.

But why? Why not just use elearning. It’s cheaper, faster, more adaptive, avoids travel… I could go on as I’ve been enthusiastic about self paced elearning for such a long time. So why build a platform that supports so called instructor led training? It was actually just after my lecture that I realized I should of said the one essential thing: Elearning of the self pace type is simply to lonely. People need other people. They need inspiration from experienced mentors who show them the way ahead. These people don’t actually have to be physically in the same room . Our platform will soon be used in combination with webinars, but in essense it’s the same thing: people inspire us to to think, to act, to read…. and yes to learn with the help of self paced learning.


I found a great image that shows how lonely self paced elearning can be. Thank you Roger Reuver (see his Flickr site for some great images) for the perfect timing of the picture. 


When not to use Moodle or LearningStone?

In the past half year, while we were working towards going live with LearningStone we often got the question why not use Moodle for professional training. Some of our first clients actually used Moodle in the past and have chosen LearningStone. You probably want to know why.


Moodle is a famous Learning Management System that was developed from 1999 onwards. It can do a lot that LearningStone can’t do so there are certainly situations where we would recommend it.Moodle-scales-small

If you need to upload scorm objects (e-learning packages) and track performance data, Moodle is a great platform. If you need to build custom modules, custom integrations, want to be able to change the HTML, if you want to host it yourself, use it as a student administration or do grading: you should go with Moodle. If you need an e-learning environment (so everything is virtual), then go with Moodle.

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If you need a nearly instant way to combine communication, learning material and integrate with external media and don’t want to do the development yourself, LearningStone is a better choice. If you need to be up and running without talking about: hosting, versions, databases, domain registration etc, use LearningStone. If you are a face-to-face trainer and your primary need is to support the training you are providing with easy to use digital tools, go for LearningStone.


Moodle is open source and totally free. At LearningStone we also use and contribute to open source projects so that’s a good thing. But fact is: open source only means the application is free, not the use of it. Installing and maintaining a system like Moodle might be easy if you’re into server software but to get it working perfectly it’s complicated. In some cases when you’re serious about it, it becomes really hard. This doesn’t always matter: if you have an ICT department and some basic server infrastructure, it’s really doable and then the other advantages of Moodle might outweigh the operational costs.


A big difference between Moodle and LearningStone is that Moodle needs hosting and LearningStone is a so called cloud application (the hosting is part of the service and all things like backups are taken care of). If you do want to host Moodle, have a look for specialized hosters but make sure they can help you with versions of PHP and MySQL as well. Our focus at LearningStone has been to take all those subjects off the table and let a training professional focus on getting started with a course.

Our experience with Moodle in the corporate learning arena is that it works for large organizations and multinationals centralizing their learning. This makes it worthwhile to invest the time in Moodle. But many training agencies, don’t have the focus to work on such a long project and benefit from a cloud based system that offers what they need now.

See for more info:



LearningStone and the color blue

Just a short note on progress: LearningStone has been officially launched… no not fully but softly… it’s a soft launch! We are being used by our first client, the Training agency Driestar (thank you for your confidence!) and all is going well. Very well. We’re now looking for more training agencies so please get in touch if you want use LearningStone. It could be free!

Let’s do some adjectives: LearningStone is a private, secure, easy to use, cloud-based, instant, and flexible, beautifully designed… learning and communication tool for trainers and training agencies. More about that here: www.learningStone.com

The color of LearningStone is blue. It’s a purplish blue (actually the exact same color used in the background of Windows 8) but still blue. Why? Well… we will be serving training companies that we don’t want to out-design so we thought going for the most conservative color would solve that.

My working life has been defined by colors starting with a lighter IBM-style blue at the start of ICATT. The first thing my partner Hanneke van der Horst and I did when we officially launched the company (it had been a foundation at the University of Amsterdam) was to move to orange which – back in 1993 – was a pretty radical move. NO company used orange back then. As the years progressed, just about every online-agency thought it necessary to use orange for its house style, so by the time we needed a redesign of our house style we worked together with Visual Space and switched to bright red. When I then started Maximonster Interactive Things, I thought it fun to move to a dark purple (which had been considered together with orange before).

And now I’m back full circle!

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Zwarte Piet

A year ago I was having a video conference with a client in the US. He asked me, a Dutchman, what this was with this Sinterklaas guy, or Sint Nicolas – our version of Santa Clause. He had heard that there were black helpers called Zwarte Piet or Black Peter who were like servants… or perhaps like slaves owned by Sinterklaas. I carefully explained (he was a client after all) that this was a tradition not very different from the elves who help Santa Clause but that I agreed that it had a strong racist undertone. I explained that few… very few Dutch people agree with me that it had anything with racism. No… Zwarte Piet was black because he had to climb down the chimney (so he’s not black but just plain stupid). But what about those big red lips? Eh… well he scrapes his lips along the chimneys…

My client was totally shocked when I showed him images of the streets of Amsterdam with Zwarte Piets (lots of them) running around giving children candy (he’s a nice black guy). And now it turns out that UN investigator Verene Shepherd has started an investigation into the Sinterklaas tradition and is already against it, saying that we should stick to Santa Clause…. Now that’s the worst approach you can take if you want to deal with the Dutch. Now we’ll probably keep Peter black just to show the UN that we have our own mind…
There are people (most Dutch people) that argue that Piet’s blackness is a tradition that we shouldn’t spoil but the time has come for us to accept that the racist undertones are offensive to many people and that – as history has shown – it’s really not such a problem to adapt a historical character. All you have to do is consider which part of the history, of the story we can easily change without changing the plot. I discussed this with a black friend and we agreed that changing Sinterklaas into a black guy (on a black horse!) would be hard to explain away and would be just plain silly but that many details of the whole tradition could easily be changed. The solution would be to not only add colored Piets* to the celebration but also white ones. And then we can leave the tradition alone for a while as we love Sinterklaas and Zwarte… eh… colored Piet. We certainly refuse to give up Sinterklaas all together which would be giving in to American pressure as we all know that Santa Clause is actually Sinterklaas after he got a full make over last century, sponsored by Coca-cola.