Here’s my recipe for starting an argument on Twitter:
1. Include the following hashtag: #tincanapi
2. Have an opinion about said hashtag
You could be enthusiastic, suspicious or apathetic, it really doesn’t matter. For some reason project TinCan has become a divisive bi-partisan issue. You’re either with us or against us.
I wasn’t especially interested in TinCan until a few weeks ago. I was somewhere between apathetic and suspicious. The over-zealous marketing probably accounts for this. Late last year Jane Hart voiced her reservations on Twitter about the value of trying to manage learning through SCORM or TinCan. This resulted in a rather patronising blog post on the Tincan blog titled “Helping Jane Hart Understand TinCan” Not cool.
But I was asked to help cover the TinCan API session via Twitter at this year’s Learning Technologies Conference. So I had a reason to learn more. To prepare I attended an excellent webinar with Neil Lasher on the Monday before the conference. Neil explained the nuts and bolts and demonstrated how you can use TinCan to track learning interactions without using the LMS. We tried a SMS text quiz using Neil’s PhonetoKnow platform and the answers were recorded in the Wax Saltbox LRS (which you can try for free btw).
I then read some of the articles on Tim Drewitt’s handy Scoop.it Topic. On the Wednesday I attended the Tincan session with Tim Martin from Rustici software. By this point my mind was buzzing with ideas and questions.
Still Not Loving LMS
I am not an advocate of the LMS. I avoid using our LMS whenever possible, which frankly is most of the time. The Love Learning campaign I’m involved in at the moment makes zero use of our LMS.
So why am I interested in TinCan?
I think TinCan could be the end of the LMS as we know it.
Do you have an internal business networking platform? No matter which platform you use, everyone has a profile page. Most of the sections on your profile will probably be completed by the user. So John in marketing can claim to be good at PowerPoint, but you only have his word for it.
What if John had his Learning Record Store linked up to his profile page?
What if this could talk to some sort of rating app? People could rate John’s performance or slide design from their phone as they sat through one of his presentations.
Could that generate a TinCan statement?
What if, when he gets to 10 positive ratings on his presentation skills it triggers a “Presentation Pro” badge using Open Badges, which then gets displayed on his profile page and his LinkedIn profile?
He gets instant feedback and recognition. People in the company know that he’s the man to talk to about presentations (or he gets exposed as the fraud he really is!)
What if you ditch your LMS all together like Stefaan van Hooydonk at the Philips Lighting academy? Instead of a LMS they have a web portal containing learning resources for employees to use in any way they see fit. They rely on web analytics to monitor what is being used and certification quizzes to monitor what people are learning.
They’re doing this successfully without TinCan. So can TinCan add value here?
Instead of just tracking the most popular resources on the portal, by number of hits, they could see which learning paths or sequence led to the best results on the certification test. They can then use the data they collect to suggest the best paths for people to follow.
Before I go any further I need to make absolutely clear, if I haven’t already, that I am in no way a TinCan expert. One of the reasons for writing this blog is to check my understanding is correct.
So, rightly or wrongly, I’m starting to look at TinCan as Google analytics for learning. Only instead of tracking who does what on an individual site, it flips that and follows the person, recording what they do on multiple sites. That throws up lots of valid privacy concerns. But what if it was a bookmarklet, like the ones I use to record bookmarks on Diigo and curate content on Scoop.it? I’m in control of what goes into both those sites. Tappestry already offers this service using TinCan.
So it’s not a big leap to think I could start recording my learning in a similar way. That’s practically what I’m doing already with diigo isn’t it? But it’s a hassle, am I really going to do that for everything I learn. How could it be more user-friendly?
What if diigo generated a Tincan statement? “Sam read an article, annotated it, saved it”. This auto-generates a statement which shows up on my internal business networking profile page, containing the metadata I added to the post making it instantly available to anyone on my company network. That would be quite cool. And because it’s not locked in the LMS I can display the same information on my LinkedIn profile. Perhaps after I’ve shared 10 items, that people rated as useful, I might get a “Super Sharer” badge to go on my profile?
TinCan is exciting because of the possibilities it offers. We could use it to reward and recognise people who take control of their learning, which in turn can motivate people who still need to acquire this habit. We could integrate it with tools we already use. Or we could just use it to collect lots of irrelevant data.
I don’t know how realistic any of this is and I suspect we are some way off any of these ideas being feasible. That’s why I wrote this post, that’s why I remain TinCan curious and open to the possible.
(Ryan Tracy just wrote an excellent post on TinCan too. He comes at it as a LMS advocate, which makes an interesting comparison.)