Tools I use for learning

Recently, as part of a survey of members of the Social Learning Centre, I put together a list of ten sites or apps I use a lot in my own learning activity. Actually, I thought ten was rather a lot, so to share it here, I thought I’d whittle it down to half that number.

I think it’s useful to always remind yourself of the tools you use regularly in your own activity, particularly if you spend time designing sites, systems and platforms for others to use.

What’s also interesting for me is that everything in this list is pretty old! It turns out I am not exactly on the cutting edge. Who knew?

Google Reader

The source of all knowledge! OK, maybe not, but I’m subscribed to over 500 blogs and sites in Reader and it’s the second place I go to every day, after my email inbox. Maybe 80% of everything I scan through on there is of no use, but that’s ok –  the 20% is what matters.

I do worry about the future of Reader – RSS is not the hippest of technologies and I’m concerned Google might switch it off some day… which would make me very sad.

Everything I find really useful gets starred in Reader, and thanks to IFTTT, gets pinged to Twitter as a link, and dumped into Evernote as an archive.


My portable archive of everything. Web pages get copied into Evernote, everything I star in Reader ends up in here, notes in meetings and during phone calls… pretty much everything that passes my eyes online ends up here in case I need it later.

What’s interesting about Evernote is that it has reached that stage of ubiquity in my way of working where I don’t even recognise that it’s there most of the time, I just perform various actions, look stuff up in it, type in notes, clip a web page, without even thinking. Evernote fits right into my workflow, which is a key thing for any technology.


I was thinking about putting Google search in here, but actually most of the time what Google produces is a link to a Wikipedia page, so I thought I’d disintermediate for you. No matter what I’m doing, I find myself looking stuff up on Wikipedia to find out more – reading a book, watching TV, whatever. It’s one of the things I use my Nexus 7 tablet for – just so handy a form factor for quickly looking stuff up.


Not just where I share stuff I found illuminating, but where I get to find things out too. Whether ‘overhearing’ interesting conversations or picking up on links and stories shared by others, Twitter is a hugely important part of my learning network.

Interestingly (perhaps) is that now I have been on Twitter for a little while, and built up a fairly substantial follower/following count, I find it less useful for asking questions myself and getting responses. Perhaps this is because the network is just that much more busy these days – who knows? – but the apparently logical idea that if you have more followers you get more responses doesn’t seem to be true.

Maybe I’m just asking the wrong questions.


Blogging is where all the stuff I’ve learned elsewhere gets written up and formulated into something that’s usually even less coherent than it was before. This has gotten increasingly difficult as the various stresses and strains of life, running a business, etc get in the way; but I do try to blog thoughts and ideas as often as I can.

Hopefully this helps others – but the primary benefit is my own. The process of writing for a public audience forces you to critically analyse your ideas and thinking and there is as much value in the countless posts that never get published because of their idiocy as there is in those that are seen and commented by others.

WordPress is a publishing platform that I feel I have grown up with since I started using it back in 2004 and it just gets out of the way for me.

Bookmarks for October 3rd through October 19th

I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.

You can find all my bookmarks on Delicious. There is also even more stuff on my shared Google Reader page.

You can also see all the videos I think are worth watching at my video scrapbook.

Organising yourself with Evernote

EvernoteEvernote is a nice little app that I have mentioned a couple of times before. It’s a note taking and organising tool, which exists in three main forms: a website, a desktop application for your computer, and an iPhone app.

This approach is becoming increasingly important for any service I use on a regular basis. It needs to be present in a usable form wherever I am and be accessible offline as well as off. It’s one of the reasons that Dropbox has become so invaluable too.

Evernote let you create pages on notes, using text, images, video or audio and to embed documents and even web pages as well. Notes can be collected into notebooks, enabling you to bundle things on similar topics together, and notebooks can even be published publicly, turning Evernote into a simple CMS.

For example, my default notebook, where note are stored if I don’t specificy another one, is simple ‘Stuff to sort’ and notes don’t stay in there for long. I have a notebook for blog posts ideas, one for  reports and documents to read, and another for project ideas.

I’ve recently started using it in another way – which I wouldn’t have really thought of before I found myself doing it! When I am at events, I pick up loads of business cards from people. Before, I would take them home in a big pile, then after a while I would go through them, trying to figure out who people are etc. Now, I photograph them on my iphone as soon as I get them, and send them into Evernote. I can then add notes to them, such as who they are, what they are interested in, where I met them etc all in one place. These all get synced up to a ‘business cards’ notebook so I can find them easily and it acts as a simple CRM.

I’m not the only fan of Evernote at Learning Pool – my good friend John Roughley uses it regularly too – here’s his take:

John RoughleyI found Evernote by chance when looking for a way to collect and organize the sheer amount of technical information I come across on a daily basis. I needed an easy way to collect text, images, and web pages. I looked at various options but found that Evernote offered the flexibility I needed. For me, one of the big advantages was the ability to tag information, making it easy to search for.

So what do I collect? In a word everything! Well, everything that is of use to me in my job at Learning Pool.  This mainly consists of information from, capturing text, sometimes long pieces or short posts on the forum. Anything that I think might be useful, it’s much easier than bookmarking every page that might (or might not) be useful in the future.  Plus you only capture what you need. Images are easily captured with a right-click, then tagged in the same way as you would with anything else.

Gathering all this information is great, but is of no use if you can’t share it with anyone. Another cool feature is that you can share the information with anyone, by simply entering their email address. They can then view the information through a web browser.

So there you have it. Evernote is dead handy.

Do you use Evernote in an interesting way you could share? Or do you use a different app? Would be great to know about it if so!