This year has been interesting because in some ways, I’ve reduced the number of tools and apps I use to increase efficiency and decrease the amount of time spent in front of a screen. This year for me is all about – FOCUS – so it means having to let go of the stuff that make me feel harried and unproductive and keep those that make me learn faster and work smarter.
So in some way, I have been revisiting a more ‘slow thinking’ approach because I felt that too many tools were actually making me unfocussed and distracted.
Things I’ve gone back to are:
- Hand written lists To Do lists in particularly, using the Bullet Journal method “The Analog System for the Digital Age”
- Reading non-fiction and reference books in their physical format (goodbye Kindle)
- Every reference book I read, I physically hand write notes into a specific note pad dedicated only for books I have read (if I physically write notes down with pen and pencil or if I blog about them can I remember the main themes of the book)
- Journal writing – I dedicate some time in the mornings to write down thoughts into a journal to claim some thinking time without distractions or electronics. This is a practice I had for over 20 years which stopped when I started blogging back in 2005. It was time to start it up again for a bit of time to just focus again.
The Only Learning “Tool” for Me is ….My Personal Learning Network (sorry to call them a tool)
Over the years of submitting the survey, I’ve noted that there are some tools that haven’t changed over the years but others have simply dropped off the radar. For example, Google+, ScoopIt and Yammer have drastically reduced.
There are reasons for this but in the case of Yammer, it’s simply been replaced with another social networking platform which is called SocialCast that the Change Agents Worldwide use of which I’m a member.
However, I’d like to also add that to me, the learning tool is not really about the platform. Personally, I don’t care if it’s Jive, Yammer, Google+, Facebook whatever – that’s irrelevant.
My main learning tool is my personal learning network (PLN) which I have taken substantial time to build across all sorts of different industries and subject areas: from auditing through health to entertainment and arts, learning, programming and government and small business – they can be residing anywhere, anytime, in any platform. So for me, it’s less about the platform and more about where my network happens to be hanging out so that I can find them and learn from them. So the tool is irrelevant to me. I just take it as a given that I need to know it if I want to get hold of them.
So I’m not exactly a platform vendor’s best customer….if you get my drift. However, thinking to the tools I use every day in some form of another, here they are.
Here are my Top 10 Tools (In Order)
It’s obvious. Google is the second choice to find anything I want. Can you guess what the first is?
Yes, it’s YouTube! YouTube is up there with Google. In fact, it’s my first choice when I need to find something. I’d much rather watch a video IF I need to follow a process that I’m unsure about. For example, my recent video was how to locate and edit the root.ini php file in File Manager for the cPanel of WordPress. Now that makes me sound like I know what I’m saying. In actual fact, my developer told me that he was doing this and I dumbly agreed. I had no idea what he was talking about so I wanted to see what he was actually doing.
The same can be said if I need to learn something new and need a demonstration. On the same day, I learned how to use a drop spindle to spin some wool fibre I had lying around.
This year I’ve been using Facebook A LOT to share to my friends, family and community. It’s the first place I go to and find out what is happening to my friends, family and network.
You may think, “Uh? Facebook?” Yes. Believe it.
I follow some fantastic public and closed Facebook and business communities where there is a lot of chatter and wonderful links and resources being shared. For example the Personal Knowledge Management #PKMChat and John Stepper’s Work Out Loud Facebook communities. Also in that is our great little local community called City Of Kingston Coworking Collective and the Film Making Summer School.
Although I do have a love and hate relationship with the tool, you can’t ignore that simply everyone seems to be on it and you have access to a wide, diverse network of people. Over the last year I have fixed up my privacy and security settings, hide posts and streamlined my newsfeed timeline so I see posts that are relevant to what I want to read from people who share great resources.
It was a case of ‘if you can’t win it then work out ways to make it work for you!” and this was the case with me and Facebook.
I’m glad I stuck with it because in all honesty, one of the best accounts I have followed this year is futurist and virtual reality fan Robert Scoble who’s Facebook Live accounts, by far, blitzed any educational forms I have seen to date by others. His live videos of his interviews with start ups, venture capitalists, new technology and virtual reality tools blew me away. His videos made me feel part of his community and he, as our teacher was instrumental in sharing what he was learning – all through real time Facebook videos.
So Facebook is now in my good books again.
What’s not to love about Twitter. For years, this has been my learning tool for choice to learn from my personal learning network (PLN). I use Twitter lists for creating collections based on themes I want to follow and then every day, look at these Twitter lists, favourite tweets and read them. Everything I share or retweet has been fully read by me but I may or may not comment on them.
This year, I’ve been doing lots of interviews with people as I “market test” my products and services and get feedback as to whether they “make sense” for people inside and outside my field. To do that, I used AppearIn.
Oh what’s not to love about this virtual meeting tool? I don’t Skype much anymore because I use this tool. It’s quick, instant and doesn’t require any plugins to download. In fact, I don’t even bother calling clients on the phone anymore. If they’re at their desk, I SMS them a URL to AppearIn and we can chat face to face online. Every single one of the people I met through this were amazed by its simplicity.
A few clients even contacted me months afterwards asking, “hey Helen, what was that tool we used to talk to each other?” so I can only assume they’re spruiking it internally in their organisations.
(6) Audio Podcasts on iTunes
Seriously, this is the BEST learning library. On my daily morning walks, I have a library of audio podcasts that I download and listen to. Makes my walk go much faster and it’s not only a health benefit but a mind benefit as well. I guess you can say I’m quite addicted to my daily podcasts.
This year, I have done so much work on my website at the back end (no you won’t see the front end has changed as much – all the magic is behind what you see) due to major technical issues and glitches supplemented with brute force spam attacks.
I’ve been hanging out in WordPress forums and Google and YouTube have been taking a battering while I figure out why my site is crashing and the data analytics behind the site aren’t stacking up.
I feel as if I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time in WordPress and learned so much about this tool despite it being the most attacked site of spammers. I need to fix this before I can even contemplate the front end. However, working on my website has given me an appreciation of what developers do and I can see that in the near future, a formal course in coding in on the cards. (Truth be told, I’m intrigued to learn more).
I have to add, please be patient with my website. You can be rest assured I’m doing every thing in my power to have it fixed as soon as possible.
(8) Email Newsletters
Say what? I know that there are people who are email naysayers. I’m not one of them. Once again, email is *shoulder shrug* another tool for me that get’s the job done. I don’t see it going any time soon. Besides, I am not willing to let this go or risk the majority of potential and existing customers try to figure out how to contact me.
So until the world all becomes digitally adept and competent and someone switches off email entirely, I’m sticking with it.
I’ve got an email account deliberately for particular newsletters. There are some bloggers who I follow and they send some fantastic resources through their email database that aren’t on their website. Every week I like to trawl through and scan these posts to see what gems are in there that I can use or learn from. From these, I’ve picked up some great ideas of how to do my own email newsletters so MailChimp is another tool I use to:
- Activate My Learning Newsletter on the 1st of every month
- Distribute my collated blog posts on the 15th of every month
This year I’ve been created short vlogs and I use iMovie to edit and create them. You can see the results on my YouTube Channel (please feel free to subscribe – the more I get, I can get myself a vanity URL which is what I’m working towards). iMovie has it’s own glitches and I’ve had my fair share of problems trying to understand why some videos don’t save as 1080p or trying to understand the difference between ‘library’, ‘event’ or ‘project’ but one step at a time.
This is the BEST tool for any graphic. It’s my ‘go to’ tool because let’s face it, I’m not a designer and it’s all there for you to just go wild and create something. True designers would be horrified with this but hey, it does the job when you don’t have time nor money to create very quick and simple graphics.
Any Other Tools in The Background?
There are still some more that I use every day such as Feedly and Evernote and the Office for Mac tools plus all the Google apps in particular, Google Drive and for my photos, Pexels. A very new one that I’m also lurking with is SnapChat following people who share fabulous advice through this medium.
So what are you waiting for? Be sure to add your learning tools too!
Here are my previous year entries:
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