Wednesday, July 31, 2013

How I Organize this Vast World

Before going to TMC, the workshop that I was most looking forward to was on how other people organize the vast stream of information coming in.  And that was before I started to use Twitter.  Yikes!  Tina (@crstn85) and Anna (@Borschtwithanna) both had some great ideas with their DropBox and EverNote solutions.  I'm fortunate that I've used some of these tools already, so the learning curve isn't quite as steep as it is for some other folks.  My task now is to figure out HOW I will use these tools and incorporate them into a smooth work flow that helps to alleviate the overwhelm.  Even if I can't read everything and research everything and learn everything all at the same time, at least I can find ways to store some of the most interesting things so that I can find them when I'm ready to investigate them later.

There are so many options for organizing, which is amazing, but also overwhelming in its own right.  I think I've gotten it narrowed down to about eight apps/programs that I'm considering using/patching together in some way.  I want a system that flows for me, is not too complicated, and does not try to force an app or program to do something that it is not really designed for (like, you could use EverNote for everything, but it doesn't do everything well, sort of like trying to use inductive reasoning for every proof).

Here are the tools that are likely in my toolkit:
I have been using it for seven years, is super easy for me to just archive everything that comes through my box.  I work at a Google school, so my school e-mail has the same interface and I can toggle between them.  I have kept a "reading/watching" tag in gmail that I use to store things that I want to read or watch in the future.  I'm hoping to convert that to Pocket and not use Gmail for that purpose anymore.  Gmail is good at email and at storing correspondence in a searchable way; I want to use it for that

I have dabbled in Evernote over the past year or so.  I know that it's super powerful in its search capabilities and will work to store all different types of media.  I'm planning to use a web clipper to store things that I read that I want to access later (lesson ideas, really inspiring posts, etc).   I also plan to use Evernote to keep track of lists of future ideas that I have, not things that have active action items, but future ideas (like: explore formative assessment, read a book about symbolic logic, play with Blockly, etc), sort of like a list of things to play with when I have time.  Evernote is good at collecting web content and thoughts that I can access when I need them; I want to use it for that.

When I come across content that I want to read later (through Twitter or Feedly or e-mails or Facebook) I'll store it here.  Pocket can send full articles (with cabinets and tags selected) to Evernote, so items that I want to save after reading are easy to file. Pocket is good at saving things to read later; I want to use if for that.

I'm still learning about this medium as I've been using it for less than a week.  My sense is that I will use it to find content, to interact with people in real time in a public space, and I'll use it to participate more fully in the MTBoS.  So far I have starred tweets that seem clever to me.  I don't want to use the star system to store things that I want to read later as I want it all in one place (Pocket).  I don't know yet exactly what Twitter is good at, but I want to use it for that.  :-)
11/10/13 Update: I find that I use Twitter to crowdsource ideas and to share the small day to day things that happen in my classroom.

Remember the Milk
My boyfriend introduced me to this incredible task management software about a year ago.  I use it on my phone, iPad and on the computer.  I pay the $25/year to have automatic syncing; it's the only app that I pay for.  I loosely use David Allen's Getting Things Done philosophy to keep lists of things that I need/want to do.  I recently made a "Global Math Department" list to keep track of all of the ideas that I'm having of things that I want to explore.  Since many of these are not actionable yet (I don't know what the next thing that I'll do on them is), I think it would probably be better to store these lists of ideas in EverNote.  We'll see.  RTM is good at helping me remember to do things and to prioritize what I need to do; I want to use it for that.

Just signed up for an account.  After Tina presented her system, I think that this would be the best way for me to collect both my personal and my school files all in one place that's accessible from anywhere.  It will take a bit of work to organize everything, but I think it will be worth it.  Dropbox is good at storing files; I want to use it for that.

Started using when gReader quit on us.  I don't love it, but it seems to do the job alright.  I'm considering checking out the Newsify app as some folks seem to like that for other devices.  I hope to not use starring too much in Feedly as I'll feel fractured between different systems.  If I want to read something later, it should go in Pocket.  If I want to keep something because I think I'll use it later, I should clip it into EverNote.  Unfortunately you have to pay for Feedly to send directly to Evernote.  I send to Pocket and then to EverNote as a work-around.  Feedly is good at aggregating blog content; I want to use it for that.

I made a GoodReads account years ago for personal use, but mostly have not used it.  Several TMC folks are talking about using it for math-y books.  I'm considering using it, but at the moment I use Remember the Milk to keep track of my "books to read" list.  GoodReads is good at helping to connect people who want to share what they're reading and find other interesting things to read.  I need to decide if the interactive quality is worth the hassle of adding another app/program to the list here.  If I decide to do it, GoodReads is good for tracking lists of books to read and finding out what others are reading; I want to use it for that.

I really love thinking about this stuff and talking about it, so please ask questions and make suggestions in the comments!


  1. Boom!

    1. IFTTT (If this, then that) is possibly one of the coolest things that exists on the internet.

    2. Thank you for the tip, Mas! It's important to me that I not just put the URL into EverNote, but the entire text of the article or the blog post. Hollis looked last night, and didn't think that was possible with IFTTT. Do you know a workaround? See you next week!

  2. Wow! Looks like you have a very comprehensive plan. Glad to help contribute to your brainstorming and narrowing process.

    1. Thank you so much for presenting your ideas! They certainly contributed to this plan. I'll likely revise it as I start to use it, but it's a good start.

  3. I promise that I can make more substantive comments than this, but: "alleviate the overwhelm" is an excellent turn of phrase, and, man, am I ever a sucker for effective use of parallelism and repetition.
    "Parallelism and repetition are good at increasing readability, cadence, cohesion, and flourish in writing; I want to use them for that!"
    Two more posts tomorrow, please! :D

    1. Of course you can make more substantive comments! I often have suffered from not responding or writing until I feel like what I have to say is "good enough," so your commenting with a brief thought helps me to continue to have courage to write even when it doesn't feel polished. I hadn't really intended the repetition until I saw that I was ending each section with some similarly worded phrase. So, I went back through and adjusted them to be equivalent. Not so sure about the two more posts. I'm leaving this afternoon for a music and camping festival for the weekend. I have lots of ideas and they will keep coming. :-)

  4. I think we are organizing twins. My list is almost exactly the same. Both my wife and I also use RTM and somewhat try to subscribe to GTD. Another app we use is Lastpass to store passwords.

    I have been using pocket like the way we chatted about. So far I like the way I can throw everything in there I want to read or looks like a great idea or I want more time to digest without it cluttering up Evernote. So far it has been easy to use from my phone. The hard part is going to be getting myself to not want to then save most of it to Evernote.

    I still have not found a way to copy more than just the URL using Evernote on the phone. For now pocket will have to do as a temporary holding place until I can get home and clip it there. IFTTT sounds like a possibility but I don't want everything I put in pocket to automatically go to Evernote. The other IFTTT recipes look like you would still need to then open pocket anyway.

    Thank you for the chance to bounce around organizing ideas while hanging out in the lobby!

    1. Jamie, our conversation (coupled with the fellow sitting to my left) is what inspired me to really clarify my process. Thank you for sharing!

      I intend to pick my brother's brain more about IFTTT when I see him later this week to see if there is a recipe that can fit what I'm looking for. If I find anything useful, I'll certainly share it with you!