Managing Information Overload

rss3How much information do you process every day? For the typical educator, it’s a lot.

Take a look at your bookmark/favorites list. If you’re like most people, it’s much longer than your screen and is probably not very well organized. It would also take you far more time than you have in a day to check each page to see if there is new information.

Now take a look at your desktop and documents folder. They’re probably full of notes, files, pictures, clippings and more. And it takes time to find exactly what you want in that collection.

Sticky notes (analog or digital)? Forget it!

This workshop is all about the tools available to help you manage that incredible overload of information.

Overview

Let’s start with your bookmarks, and then we’ll move on to taming those files and notes of yours.

When you look at your bookmarks/favorites (which we’ll simply call bookmarks for simplicity sake), you probably have two types:

  1. ones for sites you return to because the information changes regularly (think a newspaper, sports scores, etc.)
  2. ones that you return to irregularly to use for reference or teaching but which usually don’t change (think articles, instructional sites, etc.)
  3. ones that you interact with, mostly for personal information (think your bank, credit card, etc.)

We won’t bother with number three. Leave them in your bookmark list.

Numbers one and two, however are very different types of web pages that require two different, but overlapping, tools.

RSS

What is RSS and why is it important?

  • It’s a technology that can provide a summary of the data on almost any web page.
  • RSS allows you to “subscribe” to the information on a page so that you can know when it has been updated.
  • Many, if not most, pages on the web have an RSS feed of some kind, even some you wouldn’t expect
  • Email is “push” information – someone else decides when it will be sent to you
  • RSS on the other hand is “pull” information – you decide when it will be delivered

To make the best use of RSS, you need an RSS aggregator.

This video is a good overview of what RSS is and how it can be used with Google Reader, a very popular web-based aggregator.

Visit this page for more details on using Google Reader, including a step-by-step for getting started.

Google also has a few short video tutorials to help you learn how to use Reader.

Social Bookmarking

There are a lot of problems with your bookmarks:

  • they’re locked to one computer.
  • they’re difficult to move, and pretty much gone if your hard drive crashes.
  • it’s difficult to manage them and to locate specific resources, especially if the list is long.
  • they’re difficult to share with others.

This video will give you a good overview of social bookmarking using Delicious and why you should be doing it.

.Visit this page for more details in writing, including a step-by-step for getting started with Delicious.

Delicious also has some good tutorials in their help section on their site. At the very least read the quick tour for the Firefox Add-On or Internet Explorer Add-On, depending on which browser you normally use.

Incidentally, I highly recommend using Firefox as your primary browser. Download it here.

Feel free to visit and rummage through Tim’s Delicious page.

Notebook Sharing and Collaboration

Files on your computer also have a big problem: they’re on your computer and you may not be.

You could save your files to a server, but then you also need constant access to that server. Plus you need to remember to save those files to the server.

And then come the problem of sharing those files with others… and not fill up everyone’s mailbox.

The solution is an online notebook sharing application like Evernote.

You can use Evernote from their web site, using a client on your computer, or using your cell phone. With a free account you can add text, pictures, audio, pdf files, web links, and more to any number of notebooks you want.

By paying the $45 annual fee, your notebook can store almost any other kinds of files that can be created on your computer.

Information can also be sent to your notebook by email, from Twitter, or by SMS.

Here’s a short video is a good overview showing what Evernote is and what it can do for you.

Once the information is stored in your Evernote site, the material can be shared with anyone. This video shows just how simple it is to do that.

In this session, we’ve really only scratched the surface. Evernote is one of those services that’s very simple to start, but as you use it you start discovering all the wonderful little features that make it even more valuable.

Check out the additional videos on the Evernote web site to see some of those great features in action.