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Take it, pack it and tag it…

I’m moving house next week, so the notion of getting organised is near and dear to my heart right now. We’ve already moved quite a few times–twelve to be exact–and it occurred to me pretty early on how important it is to keep things organised and labelled. There’s nothing worse than the feeling of, “I know I put it somewhere!”

As I thought about the second aspect of this PLN course – organising information – it struck me that my current process of de-cluttering, organising, packing and labelling boxes, is a fairly good mirror of how we need to organise the mountain of information that we are asked to climb each and every day. I use a number of tools in an effort to work smarter not harder, but like anything, if I don’t keep up the maintenance it can soon get out of hand.

Here’s how I currently try to arrange my daily professional workflow…

Over a quick brekkie I usually start preparing for my work day with some electronic de-cluttering. I check my email, deleting anything that isn’t of interest, and give Twitter a quick look through to identify items of interest that have been posted overnight. I re-tweet anything I think might be of interest to my followers. Here’s a couple of posts on Twitter that I’ve saved to Evernote – I’m going to use these screenshots in an upcoming PD session on Twitter.

Most days I get to work early and use the quiet time before the hordes arrive to start organising what I’ve earmarked at home.  I reply to emails, and check out the flagged links that have come through on Twitter. I  use Evernote to save clips of useful/interesting web pages into various notebooks (the equivalent of my packing boxes), and tag them. If I happen to be accessing the Net on my phone, which seems to be happening more and more, I’ll either use the Evernote app or email the page URL to my Evernote inbox.

I’ve also managed to train myself to write notes in Evernote so I can access them from anywhere, and I try to store and read documents electronically rather than print off everything – good for the environment and good for my desk!  Other ways I occasionally use Evernote include uploading a photo of whiteboard notes or PPT slides. I found Evernote so incredibly versatile and useful, that I upgraded to the Premium account, which, amongst other things gives me more storage space and offline access to my notes.

I’m currently also running a Dropbox account for online storage and sharing. I’ve been wondering whether I could do in Evernote what I do in Dropbox, but this article  convinced me it’s worth keeping both. Just as the article’s author keeps his music in Dropbox, I have my photos backed up there. Also, there are some apps on my ipad where I can send to Dropbox, but not Evernote. So for the time being I’ll keep the two.

Before Evernote, I used Diigo to store my bookmarks, but now tend to see that as double-handling. I appreciate that I’ve lost the community facet of Diigo, but to a certain extent the ability to share through Twitter and Evernote  makes up for that. And where I formerly created pathfinders for students in Diigo, I now direct them to Scoop.it, which I think has a more engaging interface.

I use Twitter as my primary means of professional development and have the Yoonoo sidebar browser that gives me access to my Twitterstream. As well, my iGoogle homepage curates my RSS feeds and the blogs that I follow. I know it looks horribly crowded, but it’s a one-stop shop that saves me an enormous amount of time.

IGoogle

To share resources with my teaching colleagues, and others “out there,” I curate two Scoop.its  and follow quite a few. I’m the teacher librarian for the Geography Department and they just love Geography in the Classroom. I also guide Geography students to this Scoop.it and show them how to filter the posts using a tag search.

Last, but certainly not least, we use Libguides to host the Barker College Library website, where each teacher librarian has certain areas of responsibility. We have deliberately made this a public site so that we can share our resources beyond the immediate school community.

So to answer the question, “How have digital technologies and internet access changed the way we organise ourselves?” I guess my answer would be that they have helped me [us] work smarter not harder. The work that we do is more accessible and more easily shared; it’s more quickly achieved and more visually engaging; and there’s more time to spend on higher-order activities such as creating.There is, however, a danger that we feel compelled to keep up with the myriad tools that flood the “market,” and soon we can actually be working less smart and harder. I’m happy to test drive most things that come my way, but if the benefits don’t kick in early, and if it’s not user-friendly, I’ll let it go and move on.

It concerns me that many students don’t seem to appreciate the benefits of organising and improving their workflow. We seem to have a constant stream of students looking for a lost USB that has the only copy of their assignment on it — backing up in the cloud hasn’t come onto their radar. They also seem happy enough to spend considerable time re-searching for the website they used a week ago, rather than have access to an online bookmark in seconds. As for the idea of  being able to share work and create together online – it just doesn’t seem to be high on their agenda (or perhaps, their teachers’ agendas).

I suspect to date a large part of the above problem has arisen from the the hassle of  students having to work on shared computers,  which means they’re always having to sign in to services such as Evernote and Diigo. This year, however, we’ve introduced BYOD, so hopefully students will start to see how 24/7 online services and being able to personalize their devices can work to their advantage. We can’t assume, however, that they know these services exist and how they work, so it’s up to teachers and teacher librarians to be fluent in their use and show the students some real-life examples of what can be done.

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