San Diego State University • Spring 2012

Personal Learning System Assignment

Lincoln pennyOf all the assignments in this class, this one might well be the one that will affect you the most. The philosophy behind this assignment was summarized beautifully by Abraham Lincoln when he said

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.

What you are learning is how to sharpen your axe. What kind of axe? This year, while you're simultaneously taking classes and beginning to learn how to teach, is one that you will remember the rest of your life. You will often feel overwhelmed by multiple demands pulling you in multiple directions. You will be exposed to a flood of new information and will have lessons to design, papers to write, insights to capture from each new experience you have. And, unless you do something about it, you're going to lose information before you can make use of it. Unless you do something proactively to prevent it, much of this amazing year is going to be lost.

Having a personal learning system is the best way to fight information overload. It allows you to acquire new ideas and information from a wider circle of minds than you see day to day, to capture ideas and insights as you get them, and to stay current on the things that matter to you. Instead of being battered by all that's hitting you at once, you're going to sharpen your information management tools and become master of your domain.

There are five parts to your Personal Learning System.

Google Reader
iGoogle serves as a place to store links you use frequently, your top feeds, and gadgets showing information imporant to you. You might want to make it your start page. Google Reader keeps you on top of changes in sites that are important to you. Most appropriate for news sites and blogs, but you can also store an ongoing search as an RSS feed. Interesting things you read could be stored away in an Evernote note, and useful links should go into Delicious. Twitter's role is to help you tune in to individuals who are sharing useful information. It allows almost instant access to their tweets. The key is to find the right people to pay attention to. Keep a special eye out for useful links that you could store in Delicious or ideas to put away into Evernote. Delicious is a way to store bookmarks to useful online resources and to quickly find other resources using the same tags. You'll use it to keep links that you get via Twitter and Google Reader. Evernote allows you to capture bits of web sites, sounds or voice notes, images, and text and to retrieve it again when needed. Use it selectively to distill what you glean from Google Reader and Twitter. It's also a great place to draft ideas for lessons and presentations, or preliminary responses for school assignments.

Each of these is described in a separate module. To document that you've begun to learn and use these tools, you'll create a page on your professional web site that includes the following:

1. iGoogle: Capture a screen image of one of your pages. Choose a page (a tab) that contains resources that are professionally relevant.

2. Google Reader: A screen capture of the main page of your Google Reader showing the feeds you're following and the categories you've put them in.

3. Twitter: Provide a link to your Twitter page. E.g.,

4. Delicious: Provide a link to the public bookmarks. E.g. If you'd rather show just the links you've made with specific tags, then provide at least three such links. E.g.,

5. Evernote: Include a screen dump of your Evernote Mac or Windows client software.

Important: For each of these five tools, write a short reflection of how you've used them, the extent to which you think they'll be useful to you in the future. Complete your page with a short comparative reflection describing the two or three that you have found most useful and why.

page thumbnailExample

Here's an example of what your final PLS page might look like. For each of the tools, the example shows more use than you will have had time to accumulate. The descriptions and overall reflection, though, are approximately what we'd expect.


Each of the above 5 components is worth 20 points. You will receive points based on the following considerations;

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