I took a look back at my Personal Learning Environment posts the other day and realized how complicated it must all seem to someone who's new to using social media to enhance their learning. Lately I've been consumed with wanting to understand the newbie experience of social media for learning and how to facilitate the process of adopting tools like RSS and blogging to enhance learning. So I started thinking about the need for a "PLE Starter Pack" that I think needs the following characteristics:
- Must be simple for newbies to use--the simpler the better. And it has to reflect some of what I learned from bursting my Web 2.0 bubble, like how 75% of the world is still using Internet Explorer. It needs to be dead simple, virtually idiot-proof.
- At a minimum, I think a PLE Starter pack needs tools that help people get good quality information, can serve as a virtual memory for that information and provide some way for people to process what they're learning. Yes, I'd like it to do a lot more, but I see these as the minimal things to look for.
- Can be effectively integrated into people's daily work lives without a huge change in habits. People resist change. It's human nature. For a PLE Starter Pack to work, it needs to be something that can easily fit into someone's regular work day. Ideally it piggy-backs onto tools and processes already happening.
- Can serve as gateways or scaffolding for more enhanced tools and learning processes for those people who want that. It's a pain to have to start all over with things, so my ideal tools would be something that people could build upon to expand their PLE if and when it becomes necessary.
With those criteria in mind, here's where I'm at now as far as the fundamental tools:
- Internet Explorer 7 or My Yahoo for Feed Reading--This builds on tools people are already using and is the simplest possible way for reading feeds. As I mentioned in a previous post, these tools lack a lot of the functionality of more advanced options, but for the vast majority of people, they'll work just fine. I see feeds as absolutely fundamental to a good PLE--without them, there's not a lot happening in terms of content and information to interact with.
- Tumblr as a Virtual Memory and Reflection/Processing Tool--I've been playing around with Tumblr again after several months of not posting and I can see that it might be a good "gateway" to blogging. It allows you to bookmark things in a way that's less complicated than del.icio.us (at least to a newbie, I think) and it also provides the ability for text-posting. A MAJOR drawback is that you can't comment, so it definitely doesn't provide the same social networking opportunities as a blog or social bookmarking site. But at the beginning, people may be more comfortable with that anyway.
One more that I think is a good "add-on" tool (if you can call it that)--Google Alerts. It adds to the information-gathering process and is pretty simple to set up.
What do you think? Keeping in mind the "next generation" users of Web 2.0 tools, what do you think would be the fundamental, "must have tools for learning"? I'd love to hear more from newbies, too. Feel free to share this with people and then have them either comment or send me an email. I want to know what would engage people in using social media technology for daily learning and what they're looking for in the technology.