I’m taking a break from the Social Networking as LMS discussion to revisit some ideas about what tools I use for my own learning and productivity. I’ve been thinking about this since I did my list of Top Ten Tools for Jane Hart’s top 100 list. Or maybe this is still related to the previous topic, although very loosely; this is part of my Personal Learning Environment. Maybe what a course would look like using a social networking tool as the central technology would be more of a PLE than an LMS. I’m not sure though; I think it would be something else in the middle of those two, not a PLE and not an LMS.
Firefox was my #1 tool on the top ten list, and it was the most popular of the tools on Jane’s list as well. One of the great things about Firefox is the ability to customize it with various extensions. Lifehacker did a great series with screenshot tours of numerous Firefox displays, so if you’re looking for more inspiration, check those out. After you finish reading my post, of course.
I use 10 extensions for Firefox on my personal computer, plus 2 others on my work laptop. The screenshots below are from my personal computer.
Adblock (with the Filterset shown) is one of the first extensions I added. I don’t actually block everything, but any obnoxious ads I block so I don’t see. It’s like fastforwarding over commercials; you get to the good stuff faster.
This is a collection of useful enhancements for Gmail, like forcing it to log in using https:// instead of http:// (do you ever check Gmail from an unsecure wireless connection?) and hiding the number of new spam messages (do you really care?). There’s also some visual changes available through themes. “Pretty is a feature” too.
I just reinstalled the coComment add-on this week, and disabled it again after only being able to successfully use it once. I’m hoping once it’s out of beta next month that it will work reliably again because I miss it. When it works, it automatically tracks comments for any post where you comment. You can automatically be notified when anyone comments after you.
I often have a half dozen or more tabs open in Firefox, and having different colors on my tabs makes it easier to keep them all straight. Besides, it’s pretty.
This has been my replacement for coComment. It is reliable, and it does notify me when new comments are made. Unfortunately, Commentful’s RSS feed only tells me the number of comments on a page and doesn’t provide the text, and it requires me to remember to mark every page after I comment. It’s better than trying to remember what blogs to go back and check on my own, but it could still use some improvement.
My social bookmarking tool of choice is Diigo. I’ve had my problems with Diigo in the past, but it seems to be much more stable now than it was several months ago. (Knocking furiously on wood as I type…) The blog posts are nicer, and I like the ability to highlight and add quotes to my link posts.
I only use this on my work laptop (so it isn’t pictured above), but Fangs is great for doing a quick and dirty screenreader accessibility check. It’s much faster to look visually at how a screenreader would approach a page than to listen to it all narrated.
Showcase is a cool extension that most of the time I forget to use. When you have multiple tabs open, you can see thumbnails of the tabs to make it easier to switch to the right one. When I remember it’s there, I appreciate it.
I’m composing this post in Scribefire, which I just started experimenting with this week. It’s a blog post editor with some additional tools. I’ll have to use it more before I decide whether I’m really happy with it or not.
This just calls home to Mozilla to let them know when I crash the program.
If you’re doing a lot of research and need to create a full bibliography, Zotero is a tool you might want to check out. I’m not using it much right now, but I still have it on my work laptop because it made my life much easier during an extensive research project several months ago. The citations still need some tweaking to fully meet all the APA requirements, but it still saved me time and helped me organize my sources and notes.
I’m sure there are some great extensions out there that I’m missing. Please share in the comments, or post your own list and link back so I’m sure to see it.