Strategy for Personal Knowledge Management

This post is made in conjunction with Dr. Rick West’s Foundations of Instructional Design course at Brigham Young University.

This past week, I have been doing some reading from Rosenberg (2012) regarding knowledge management.  As I understand it, knowledge management is a process wherein individual knowledge from an environment is codified.  This can be through more formal information systems (such as Sharepoint) or through wikis, blogs, or websites.  In light of this reading about knowledge management, I would like to take some time to reflect on my own process of capturing knowledge.

Twitter as a PLN

Being in graduate school, I unfortunately don’t have a lot of time to engage in informal learning.  Between the projects and reading that I am doing for my classes and work, I often don’t have a lot of time to delve into supplemental material.  For this reason, I really rely on my personal learning network (PLN) in order to keep my pulse on what is going on the different areas of my academic and personal interest.  I would say that the primary hub for this learning is Twitter and Tweetdeck.  While I wouldn’t consider myself a power user of Twitter, I do find it invaluable for taking quick glances of the latest happenings in educational technology, open education, and video production.  Here’s a look at my dashboard in Tweetdeck:

Tweetdeck:  Another student asked me if this was mission control
Tweetdeck: Another student asked me if this was mission control

In Twitter, I have the ability to create custom lists to keep even more specific tabs on people who I’m interested in.  You can see above that I have columns dedicated to two groups: Open Ed Peoples (a list I created) and Seattle Video (a list that I subscribed to).  Twitter also acts as a surprisingly good way to get a hold of people.  Because it’s a bit less populated, I find that people respond to replies and direct messages pretty well.  Twitter can be a hard sell to others — there is often a perception that it’s a bunch of narcissistic navel gazers.  There’s certainly a lot of that, but I’ve found great value for my professional career.

There are other components to my PLN, but they don’t get used nearly as much as Twitter.  I used Vimeo regularly to keep up with innovative projects in the video world.  I have a blog roll that I occasionally read over on The Old Reader (RIP Google Reader), and bookmarks for tech, video, and educational websites that I visit occasionally.

What has become more important as I have started graduate school is the knowledge management component, how have I been codifying content from classes that I am taking, things that I am reading, and people who I am meeting.

Note taking with Google Docs

My primary method for capturing conversations and notes is through the use of Google Docs. I have not been a big Google Docs user in recent years, but I have started using it more for a few reasons: 1) I was getting tired of the bulkiness of Microsoft Word.  With my 5-year-old Macbook Pro it seemed to take a few years for the program to boot up each time.  Google docs is a little bit more no-nonsense.  I can get into the program faster and begin taking notes, plus it is always automatically saving. 2) I bought a Chromebook — this was an experiment.  I became cognizant of the fact that most of what I was doing on my Mac was using Chrome.  Chromebooks were on sale for $150 so I bought one.  Chromebook ecosystems are built around Google Docs, so naturally I had to adopt it.  So far, I’ve been happy with my use of Chromebook and Google Docs in my classes.  Not only has it allowed me to capture all of my class notes easily, I can then easily share those notes with others.  I also like the fact that Google Docs is searchable — I’m hoping that this will make efforts at finding specific content from the past really easily.

Mendeley

One of the biggest snags with my knowledge management process in graduate school has actually been Mendeley.  For those of you who aren’t aware, Mendelely allows you to organize, highlight, annotate, and share research papers.  We have been using it in Dr. West’s class to store all of our readings for the semester.  The big snag for me however, is that Mendeley is a stand-alone program and not a web app, thus it does not work on my Chromebook.  As a result, I have had to print off several readings and highlight them (which goes against one of my original goals to have a more paper-less workflow).

Using Diigo to capture web content

Another useful tool that I have found is Diigo.  Diigo is a really multifaceted tool.  I think that it initially started out as a social bookmarking tool (a website where you can store a list of public bookmarks), but has since evolved into a web highlighter.  For this reason, Diigo is a really awesome tool for a graduate student.  Diigo allows me to bookmark the content that I find, organize it by using lists and tags, and even highlight specific portions of the web-based text that I want to remember.  Another great thing about Diigo, is that you can also create shared pools of links, so if you are working on a research project with a group, all of the members of the groups can see the resources that you’ve found and tagged.

A collection of links in Diigo
A collection of links in Diigo
An highlighted web page using Diigo
An highlighted web page using Diigo

Todoist: Capturing all that stuff I need to do

As far as personal project/task management goes, I’ve been on an ongoing quest to find a perfect solution to keep myself on top of all the projects that I am working on.  I frequently visit Lifehacker and admire the elaborate systems that people use in order to keep themselves organize.  I have tried a lot of solutions including Astrid (now defunct), Asana, and Things, but all of them seemed to complicated for what I was trying to do.  The best and fastest solution that I’ve found is Todoist.  I love Todoist for one reason: it is fast.  It allows me to quickly capture to do items and assign a deadline to them.  I can do this because it recognizes shorthand code in the date field.  If I need to do something today, I can type “tod”, if i need to do it on Friday, I can type “fri” and it will automatically assign a date for me.  It may not be the perfect solution, but I’ve been using it for a few years and it works great for me — so maybe that is the perfect solution!

Easily creating a to-do item in Todoist using shortcut dates
Easily creating a to-do item in Todoist using shortcut dates

The status of my knowledge management

Overall, I would say that I’m pretty happy with my system for capture knowledge.   I feel that I can adequately capture notes, conversations, and things that I read through the various tools that I have described.  One of the tools that I do want to use more however, is the same tool by which you are reading these words — my blog.  I feel that the process of blogging would help me synthesize a lot of the concepts that I have been trying to capture, and help me on a path towards knowledge creation in this field.  I know that it’s something that I want to do, but it’s also something that I’m pretty self-conscious about at this point.  I worry that I will never be as good as some of the awesome bloggers out there, but I guess I shouldn’t get ahead of myself at this point.

How about you?  Do you have any knowledge management tools that you really love?  Any tips for sharing that knowledge with others?

References

Rosenberg, M. J. (2012). Knowledge management and learning: perfect together.  In Reiser, R. A. & Dempsey, J. V. (eds.) Trends and issues in instructional design and technology (p. 158 -168). Boston: Pearson.