VUE is a powerful concept mapping tool offered by Tufts University. It is both free and open source. I have been using it for years as a concept map builder. But thanks to my colleague Andrea Hodson's suggestion, I have started to experiment with how it can serve me as a personal learning environment, giving me quick access to important content, tools and resources.
Each node in the map can be a simple textual concept, as in most mapping tools.
Or each Nodes can contain hyperlinks to files on my computer, images on Flickr, blogs I frequent...
Clicking a node that contains a hyperlink (vue, web, jpg in the example above) will open the file/page.
While it doesn't pull together all the content and tools I use for learning, it is a step in the right direction. It has some important advantages over dashboard tools such as PageFlakes and iGoogle. It is completely under my control - which means to me that a) I can set and change the layout according to my way of understanding over time. b) The next time I open it, it will look as it did when I left it; design changes made by the company will not affect the appearance or cause me to relearn how to use my dashboard. c) It will not disappear if the company goes out of business. I also like the feature that I can link to files on my computer, giving me access to the things I am currently working on.
Cloud based dashboards have the advantage of being accessible from any computer. Because VUE is computer based software I am limited to using my dashboard on my own computers or those where VUE is installed. To do this I store my dashboard in my Dropbox folder, which is synced to each of my devices. When I open my VUE dashboard on any of my computers (work, home, laptop) it is up-to-date with my latest content.