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In my previous blog post, I explained one of the ways that you can get started building your personal learning environment (PLE). If you haven’t already, also take a look at the Building the Future: Considerations For  YOUR Personal Learning Environment when it comes to PLEs.

I see PLEs as operating in three distinct ways:

  • Gathering information and knowledge (this is part 1)
  • Filtering and process this data
  • Acting on the knowledge that we have acquired

Once you have registered with the various websites and begun collating your information, it’s time to filter and process the data. But don’t worry, this is not about doing it on your own! Once you set this up the right way, your social network and online tools will not only help you filter content, but also lead you to quality, recommended sources of learning material.

Now we need to do a few things:

  • Create your own PLE repository
  • Make your bookmarks tasty (ok, Delicious)
  • Begin consuming knowledge

Creating Your Own PLE Repository

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/$gettingstarted3.gif One of the first things you want to do to begin processing and filtering data is to create a space where you can store your personal learning resources. One of the easiest ways of doing this is to use a site such as Posterous. Here is one I created earlier. To get started, all you need to do is send an email to post [at] posterous [dot] com. Easy!

You will receive an email from Posterous recommending that you set a password for your Posterous site. You most definitely SHOULD do this – not just for security – but to unleash a whole range of other benefits.

The bookmarklet

After you have set your password, you will be given the chance to install the Posterous bookmarklet. Using the bookmarklet you can easily select text, video, music or photos from any web page and post it to your new PLE. Simply drag it to your browser’s toolbar and you are set.

The importance of tagging

Once you have started collecting data, the first step in processing and filtering the material is to tag it. Once you have published an item to your PLE, login and check your post. You will notice that you when you scroll over the title of your published item that the Tag option appears. Click this and type a relevant tag into the space provided. Press Enter to create the tag.

It is important to establish this as a discipline for each post that you create. After all, you want to get the maximum value from your PLE – and tagging helps you identify all the different sources for your emerging learning themes and topics.

Making your bookmarks tasty

By now, you should have started using Delicious (or some other social bookmarking service). If you have not, simply head over to Delicious and sign up for an account. Make sure that you install the Delicious bookmarklet as well – for ease of use you may want to create a PLE folder in your toolbar so that you can keep your PLE tools together.

Once you have your Delicious account setup:

  • Import your existing bookmarks
  • Put a public domain or creative commons license on your bookmark collection to make it easier for others to share in your knowledge (you are going to be receiving help from others, be sure to reciprocate!)
  • Review your bookmarks
  • Create a new category called SAPLearningWishlist – using this tag will allow others to share their wishlist with you

Now, as you begin to review your bookmarks, quickly run your eye over the categories. Make sure that they make sense to you from a LEARNING point of view. Step through your bookmarks one tag at a time (I know this is time consuming but it will be worthwhile).

For each tag:

  • Check that bookmarked items are correctly placed
  • Make sure there are additional tags that provide context for the particular item (for example my SAPLearningWishlist shows not just those courses or webinars I would like to attend, but also the main domain in which that knowledge sits – such as CRM)
  • Check how many other people have bookmarked the same page as you – you will notice a small square with a number inside it: this is the number of other people who have also bookmarked this piece of information. This is useful because:
    • People who are interested in the same topic as you may have a different and useful perspective
    • They may have other links that will be useful to your personal learning
    • You can subscribe to their Bookmark RSS feed so that you can learn more without having to SOURCE that learning

Putting some discipline into your knowledge surfing

Now that you have a way to remember and highlight good sources of content (bookmarks) as well as a way of providing context (through Posterous), now you need to start to be disciplined with the way that you source interesting and useful learning content. As you identify new pieces of useful knowledge:

  1. Bookmark and tag the information using Delicious
  2. Write a short note on why it is useful to you and post it to your PLE (ie Posterous)
  3. Tag your Posterous article so that it is easy to return to

Next Step: Consuming knowledge

The next step is where you begin channelling all your learning sources into a framework that is focused towards your career ambitions. This will be covered in my next blog post – on consuming knowledge.

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