Table of contents for Personal Learning Environments
Once you have your discovery streams set up, you have to be able to save the more interesting and useful bits. Otherwise, what’s the point of fishing in that information stream, right?
What’s really nice in this Web 2.0 world (we’re still in 2.0, right?) is that there are as many ways to capture information as there are states in this country. If your brain or workflow functions in a certain way, you’re likely going to be able to find a tool that works with that way. While having a good system for holding on to those information “fish” is a key to a good PLE, having a good system that you actually organize and review is just as important. Saved information without any further thought is like that pile of pages ripped from the magazine that sits in a binder for years – clutter that just reminds you of everything you meant to do, but haven’t. (What? No. Of course I don’t have any of those. And I certainly don’t have three or four of them.)
When you set up your recording process for your PLE you need to address a certain question: How am I going to mark web pages I want to look at more closely when I have more time? I used to save pages willy-nilly in LiveJournal and delicious (back when it was del.ico.us), and then would forget to go back and re-read them. I eventually set up a “check this out” tag in delicious that made me slightly more successful in going back through those links, but it still didn’t work out. Pro tip: If you aren’t looking back over what you’ve saved, you’ve wasted your time.
These days, I use Instapaper, which for whatever reason works for my brain. I have the Read Later bookmarklet installed in my browser so I can quickly grab an interesting or long page, and I’ve set up Google Reader to allow me to send posts straight into Instapaper. If it’s a social media post I want to save, I’ll often just Like or Favorite it so I can find it later (although I have recently started saving those to Instapaper as well because I’ve found I’m more likely to go back to them). Although it’s offline and requires the extra step of typing in notes later, I also mark up books I’m reading. I have these awesome tiny paper clips (that I can’t find anywhere or I would link them) that I use to mark the line on the page where the good information is. Finally, I keep a notebook and a camera on me to record things I see or overhear while running around, and then type those notes or upload those photos so they’ll be part of my total body of notes. (I use Evernote at the moment to manage my notes, but I’m always looking for a more flexible solution.)
Regardless of where you pull your information from, it’s always important to note where you took it from. First, you want to be able to credit your source (both to be a nice person and to not get hit by a copyright claim). Second, sometimes you won’t pull down enough information and you’ll need to look back, or you’ll want more information so you’ll want to look at a source you already trust. It can be as simple as making sure you have the link, or as formal as creating a bibliography citation. (Some online notebooks make this really simple, often creating the link or citation for you when you save the link or clip.)
So, you created an information stream in the Discovery phase. In the Recording phase, you funnel bits of that stream into a quieter creak that you can peruse later at your leisure.