Sunday, October 3, 2010

My personal learning environment

There are countless web applications out there that you can use to network and collaborate. I've tried a lot of them but only a select few have made it into my daily life in a big way. Some I use now and then, some I simply can't find a use for, some I can't figure out at all and then there are those that I find invaluable. Here's a list of the tools I find essential for my work at the moment (in a year the list could be completely different).
My Netvibes page
This is top of my list because it allows me to follow hundreds of news sites, blogs, bookmarks and tweets from one page. My Netvibes page is my start page on all the computers I use and it even allows me to have three different sites; one for work, one for home and one public. It's basically an RSS aggregator and is extremely simple to set up and personalise. To see what's happening in the world of net-based education I just need to browse throuth the tabs on my Netvibes page and check any new items of interest. That way I can easily see what I might want to blog about later. Everything I find that seems interesting I share via Twitter. Have a look at my public Netvibes page to see what I mean.

It took a while before I realised the potential of this in my work but now it's one of my main sources of information. If you're going to use it in your work you have to spend time finding the right people to follow; those who supply you with useful information. I've built up a long list of people to follow and they supply me with an endless list of links to articles, reports and examples that I can use. I don't follow people who use Twitter to tell about their private lives or just social chat. I never do that either, it's purely a tool for work. To get a good overview of activity on Twitter I use Tweetdeck. Twitter's web site is far less versatile and attractive. Follow me at @alacre.

If everyone was on Skype we'd never use the phone. Better voice quality than most phone calls plus video and chat. My international contacts wouldn't get far without this.

Google Bookmarks
Simple tool but the ability to access my bookmarks from any computer is so helpful. I'm amazed at how few colleagues use this or even know about it.

My three blogs all use Blogger and I find it the simplest blogging tool of all. Maybe not as versatile as Wordpress and suchlike but simplicity is the key.

Google Docs
Sharing documents with colleagues from different organisations used to mean sending versions of a Word document backwards and forwards by e-mail and never knowing which version was the latest. Again I have many colleagues who still do this. Being able to edit a document with colleagues from different locations in real time makes work much easier. You can even use the in-built chat or link up via Skype.

Although I have all my bookmarks in Google bookmarks I also collect them in Delicious. Here I can tag them and see who else has used similar tags. I can build up a more finely grained collection of bookmarks here and share them with whoever may be interested. I can follow other educators and see what they're bookmarking and it's this ability to share bookmarks that makes a tool like Delicious so valuable. I've also started using Diigo which does the same sort of thing plus more but so far I haven't been able to get the two tools to integrate.You can follow my bookmarking at

1 comment:

  1. It's funny how you can so quickly forget about services. I'd completely blanked Google bookmarks since using Evernote. But the Lists feature looks worth picking up again. Totally agree with your take on Twitter.