Jane Hart who, among other things, runs Jane's E-Learning Pick of the Day, asked me to share my Top 10 List of Learning Tools. This will be a bit of a re-hash of my Personal Learning Environment post from a few months ago, but will be a good update, as I've added and lost various tools in my arsenal since then. Note that these are the top 10--the ones I use most often. I could actually put together a top 20 list, though because I have many more that I don't have room to put in here.
In no particular order, really:
1. Firefox Browser-- I've been using Firefox for close to a year now and the few times I've had to use Explorer on someone else's machine have made me CRAZY! I love the tabbed browsing and I love the fact that there are a bazillion extensions I can use to be more effective. It's also less buggy than Explorer and I like the fact that it's open source. With all that it has going for it, I don't understand why everyone doesn't use it.
2. Netvibes --Once I use Firefox to get online, then Netvibes is my portal to just about everything else. I use it as a feed reader to keep tabs on my favorite blogs and searches that I've set up for Technorati and de.licio.us tags. I've also used widgets to set up links to some key websites that I need to visit frequently, my email accounts, my calendar and my To-Do lists. I see Netvibes as sort of my online dashboard from which I can access virtually everything I need. Very helpful when you're traveling and need to use someone else's machine, too.
3. Typepad--Blogging is a key way I've been making sense of my world. I started with Blogger a few years ago, but fell in love with Typepad's greater range of options and my ability to customize, and I much prefer the look I can get with it. I have the premium version which lets me create unlimited blogs because I also use it to create website prototypes for clients and to play around with some ideas I have for using blogs in other ways.
4. De.licio.us--I use de.licio.us a LOT. The tagging function helps me organize the info that I find online in ways that make sense to me, although I need to clean out my tags--I think they're a little out of control right now. Even better, though, is my ability to find new things based on other people's work. I do this two ways--First, I have a feed in my Netvibes to my network tag. These are the people whose bookmarking I follow because they always seem to find good stuff. I also have feeds to tags I'm following, like "nptech" or "PLE." This way I can see what other people think is worthwhile without having to do the searches myself. More often than not, I'll end up adding many items to my own bookmarks. By the way--good article here on using de.licio.us to take "over the world."
5 and 6. Wikispaces and PBWiki--I wrote awhile ago about how I've been using wikis to organize my own projects and learning, so I won't go into a lot of detail here. I also use wikis as "handouts" for any training I do--usually much more useful than paper versions. Anyway, this one is a tie for me, as which tool I use seems to depend on my mood and what functionality I'm looking for. I like that PBWiki has some cool features, like being able to embed YackPack into your wiki and the Portfolio feature. But for whatever reason, I find Wikispaces easier for some of my more down and dirty projects, so I tend to pick that tool when I want to do something really fast.
7. Journals--This may shock some of you, but I'm NOT always on line. Sometimes inspiration strikes in other places and I need a journal to get it down. I've also been trying to do Morning Pages and more free-form writing because while some people may need to talk themselves to solutions, I find that I write myself to the answers I need. I used to use Moleskines, but lately I've been buying the $7.99 Sketch pads. I like the feel of the paper, which is important to me for some reason.
8 . Slideshare --Although I've been using Slideshare for months to upload some of my own presentations for conferences and trainings, I've just started to use it for learning. Sometimes I go with a particular topic in mind and sometimes I just browse. Usually I find really great stuff, or at least some intriguing ideas.
9 . Stumbleupon--Doug Johnson had a great post the other day about how it's harder to find things serendipitously on-line than it is in the physical world. Like once Amazon knows your preferences, then you tend to only see books in the genres you've bought from. That's one of the reasons I like Stumble. When you first start using it you indicate the categories that interest you so that it can find sites for you that fall into those categories. I've basically checked off that I'm interested in everything, so when I click the "Stumble" button in Firefox, it will take me to some random new site I've never seen before. It's actually very addictive once you get started--and I've found some very cool stuff this way. It's also an excellent stimulus to creativity--the juxtaposition of different information can give you some good ideas.
10. All things Google--OK, first I'm probably cheating here by lumping so many tools into one. But frankly, Google does a pretty good job of integrating things so to use one is often to use many. At any rate I, of course, use Google search quite a bit. That should go without saying. I'm also a big fan of Google Alerts, which gives me email updates anytime a search term I've set up is being used somewhere on the Web. Google Calendar is also useful, both for keeping me on track, as well as for keeping track of activities in various projects I'm managing. And yes, friends, despite my many posts about social networks, I still make extensive use of email. I guess this puts me in the "old fogey" category, but so be it. At any rate, Gmail has become my tool of choice for managing my email because it's so versatile. I LOVE the tagging feature--makes it far easier for me to find emails I need. And there are so many hacks that make me more productive. Frankly, I haven't been able to explore them all. Plus, I can check email anywhere. Also good.
So that's my list of my Top 10 Tools for Learning. If you want to see more Top 10 Tools Lists, Jane is keeping track of them here. What's your Top 10 List of Tools?