Looking for My Personal Learning Library

Rebecca Hatherley, photo taken by Kim Cofino during a similar meeting at a different time.

A few weeks ago, I was teaching a workshop to a large group of tech-savvy educators here in Wake County (Raleigh) North Carolina.  During the workshop, I was surprised to learn that Skype was available to me, so I invited in a number of educators to speak with my audience about how they were using blogs and wikis professionally and with their students.

One of the more impressive entries into our workshop was Rebecca Hatherley, an educator in Doha, Qatar.  I’d met her earlier this year during the 21st Century Learners meeting with Julie Lindsay at the Qatar Academy and knew that she was a tech enthusiast and practicing teacher.  But she threw in a bit of a different angle on wikis, one that I really hadn’t considered before.

Hatherley is working on her masters degree via distance learning.  She has set up a wiki that she uses across her courses to organize her learning into a grand central station point, bringing it all together.  I’ve often suggested that as we move further into digital teaching and learning, and especially as we start to give our students more responsibility in selecting, compiling, and organizing their own learning resources, that one result might be a growing digital library that students graduate with — and continue to use and grow.  Hatherley’s wiki was the first example of such a thing that I have seen — a learner grown and maintained library of content that will extend beyond her formal learning experiences.  Rebecca mentioned that her wiki is being visited by other learners, world-wide, and that they are commenting on her contributions.  Her library takes on some social aspects, which might play an even more prominent roll as her work continues.

Now this is not new.  We are all building our personal learning libraries.  They include our bookmarks (local and/or social), our blogs, our RSS feeds, the Twitter hash tags we follow, etc.  But what Hatherley is accomplishing is something that hadn’t even reached my dreams yet — a central point of reference for all of it.

I was thinking about it this morning as I was weighing the benefits of getting up early against those of staying in bed and maybe getting another three hours of sleep.  The digital library won.  But just as I started sifting through stuff that had come in over night, I ran across a pearl — Peartrees to be more precise.  According to the site:

Pearltrees is a collaborative network that let users create, enrich and share the world of their interests. We call it a human-powered interest network because its content is made and organized by its community.

What nagged at me about using a wiki as a central entry point to my library is that it would be predominantly text — relying on me to do a lot of scanning, reading, and rely on a bit more recall about where things are than I’m willing to commit to.  Memory is a diminishing commodity for me.

Peartrees provides a rather slick intuitive graphical interface to web content of any type — as long as it has a URL.  It’s basically folders, called Pearltrees, and they can be nested in a number of ways.  In the image to the right, I’ve opened up my Learning Pearltree which houses another PT for Data Visualization.  Within that Pearltree are others for articles about the subject, tools, web examples, and one for my own work, from which is revealed a pearl for the Earthquake plot I finished yesterday.

The site says that “..its content is made and organized by its community.”  But in a way, the reverse is actually what is going on.  If I click the little miniature black pearl that exudes from a select pearl or pearltree, then trees of other users related in some way, swosh in, becoming available for my exploration.  So, in a way, the community forms around my content.

The jury’s still out on this most impressive tool.  I can’t tell, at this point, whether it will become a daily and indespensable part of my work, or if it will become just another bookmark in my Delicious cloud tagged Web20Tool.

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Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.