There are five steps needed to build your own Mutant Learning Lab. Last week I introduced you to the first step, Connect – Join the Relevant Few.

Once you are connected, you need systems in place to help you capture all of the online chaos. This step in your Mutant Learning Lab helps you know how to access, aggregate and organize new information in an orderly fashion. There are three organizing systems that you will need to understand and master.

Push. This is automated information flow. With a push system, your selected information comes to you in the form you want it to. A typical push process involves you receiving RSS feeds in the form of an email that is pushed to you whenever a learning fragment is posted to one of your chosen sites. You could also have RSS feeds automatically streaming to your website. An excellent push tool is Smartbrief.com which actually aggregates relevant stories and information for you by topic and then emails you a summary of those fragments daily or weekly. Search your industry surrounding your topic of interest for topic specific reports, newsletters, articles, and blogs that you can sign up for to receive push notifications.

While automation and the apparent ease of a push system can seem like the best solution, be careful not to fill your inbox with so many push emails that you are back to information overload. Remember to capture and control the chaos, not contribute to it.

Pull. This is manual, self-initiated information acquisition. With a pull system you must go to where the information you are seeking is hosted. One example is Googling a topic and then searching and digging to uncover the answer to your questions—something at which we all are becoming very good. The secret of a useful and effective pull system is to use tools that aggregate relevant information from a lot of sources in one place—like FlipBoard, Netvibes and “smart” news sites like The New York Times.

Retrieve. Acquiring knowledge through push or pull systems is a good thing, but having a system where you can easily save, retrieve and share that information is even better. Think of a retrieval system as your learning home base, the one central location you can store all of the knowledge you acquire.

The most basic yet effective way you can create a retrieval system on your desktop is by utilizing your browser’s bookmarking folders. You already have easy access to bookmarking, but do you really know how to use this functionality? Try setting up a primary folder called “Learning Lab,” and then create sub-categories for each topic you need to learn about. When you come across a pertinent news site, blog article or research site, be sure to add it into your Learning Lab folders so that you can return to this learning fragment often.

You can create a similar retrieval system on your mobile phone. Most smart phones allow you the ability to create and organize apps into folders. Organization is key, so group similar apps together to make information retrieval easy.

In addition to the basic use of bookmarking and folders, refer to the list of possible Systematizing (and Mutant Learning Lab) Tools below – that also have the ability to push, pull and retrieve learning fragments.

Check-in next week for the next two steps in building your Mutant Learning Lab – Step 3: Plan. Schedule lab Time, and Step 4: Learn: Perform Your Ritual.

Systematizing Tools:

  • Evernote works with nearly every device. It functions as an extension of your brain, letting you keep notes, ideas, snapshots and recordings that instantly synchronizes to your desktop.
  • Hooeey.com will track your surfing history from any browser on any computer so if you surf from work and home, you will have a complete history.
  • Tweetedtimes.com – Tweeted Times aggregates news in your Twitter stream and ranks it by popularity among your friends. You can create a newspaper based on your Twitter stream, lists and Twitter search results.
  • Paper.li allows you to create a newspaper based on your Twitter account, any hashtag, list or your Facebook account. You can also add your editorial comments to any of the updates.
  • FlipBoard is a “social magazine” for iPad and iP- hone that makes social media updates from friends much more fun to read. It also pulls updates from connected sources, like magazine and research sites, and re-arranges them in an easy-to-navigate format in a mobile tablet touchscreen environment.
  • Trapit discovers topics that grab your interest through your online activity and automatically searches for other relevant information and saves it—or Trapit—when you’re ready.

(Adapted from the previously published white paper, “Mutant Learning: How to Develop a Social Learning Lab.”)

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