Year for Productivity: Session 1: What is PKM?


Welcome to the very first session in our year-long look at Productivity for Academic Librarians and Researchers!  We are excited you are checking us out and hope that you stick around and participate throughout the year.  You are welcome to post insights or questions to any of the information we provide here, and you are still very welcome if you prefer to be a silent participant.  The “exercises” that we suggest at the end of each session offer each of you the opportunity to spend some active time with the topic of the day. We hope they might spark ideas, changes or goals to implement in your own lives and suggest to your students, coworkers and faculty.

One housekeeping point.  Several people have reported difficulties subscribing to our blog via email.  Feedburner has some glitches when it comes to accepting email addresses that contain special characters other than @ or a period.  Using a different email address may resolve any problems.  I have heard from several individuals that gmail accounts seem to be working well.

We begin the discussion of productivity by introducing of a concept that may be new to some of you. Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) is a field of study, an amalgamation of skills and tools to aid in knowledge creation, growth, storage and dissemination.  It is also a label that is used by many to describe how they manage their lives more effectively and productively.  I wrote a blog entry on the definition of PKM back in November of last year which you can review here.

PKM is a personal tool, and personal choice and personal learning are fundamental to its practice.  Knowledge management (KM) without the modifier is assumed to be an organizational practice; it is often seen as yet another way for management to try to squeeze still more out of us workers.  While management may reap some of the benefits from increases in productivity that result from effective use of PKM skills and tools, that is incidental to our focus here.  It is by stepping back and examining the process of learning and its dissemination that we can better understand how to help our faculty, coworkers and students to become more effective as well.

When productivity is discussed, there are a lot of different kinds of terms used.  We hear experts arguing over the concept of information overload; librarians are widely discussing the ever growing field of data management; business and computer specialists are talking at length about the importance of an organization internally implementing efficient KM systems; and philosophers and historians discuss the wisdom of past visionaries.

Perhaps it would help us focus on PKM a little better if we considered the flow of these different terms:

The collection of data is necessary in order to prime the rest of the process. Once that data is analyzed, related and organized, we can consider the resulting product “information.”  Knowledge takes a body of information to a new level by synthesizing and relating information and one’s own experience and learning to create new or clarified meaning of value that can be disseminated to others. Wisdom results when both ethical and “higher good” thinking is applied to a person’s growing knowledge and experience base. Acquiring true wisdom is generally a process that evolves over time.


Considering this flow (also called by some the DIKW Pyramid), it seems to me that our opportunity as academic librarians is vast.  We have traditionally been involved in helping others find the information produced by others, and even in finding data.  NIH and NSF mandates for public access to data as well as the open access movement in recent years have also caused an explosion in the library fields of data management and overseeing newly created data repositories.  Librarians have seemed less active in the right hand side of the mix.  Granted, we do not have the in depth knowledge of our researchers’ fields of expertise, but we do have many skills to offer them in terms of easing their progress through the stages of DIKW.  Throughout this year, we hope to offer participants ideas and tools that librarians and researchers can implement in their own lives and also offer to their faculty and students to help achieve their goals more efficiently and with reduced stress in the process.

 Selected Readings:

Bedford, Denise A.D., “Enabling Personal Knowledge Management with Collaborative and Semantic Technologies”, ASIS&T Bulletin, Dec/Jan 2012.

Cheong, R. K. F. and Tsui, E. (2011), From Skills and Competencies to Outcome-based Collaborative Work: Tracking a Decade’s Development of Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) Models. Knowl. Process Mgmt., 18: 175–193.

Frand, J., & Hixon, C. (December 1999). Personal knowledge management: Who, what, why, where, when, and how [Working paper]. Retrieved November 9, 2011, from

Liew, Anthony (June 2007). “Understanding Data, Information, Knowledge And Their Inter-Relationships”. Journal of Knowledge Management Practice 8 (2).


For Further Exploration and Insights:

  1. Brainstorm for a few minutes regarding your work situation.  How do you interact with the various levels of the DIKW Pyramid? What opportunities might there be to offer further value to your faculty, coworkers and students? Are there new classes you could create? Other services you can offer?  What creative things are you already doing in this regard?
  2. Jason Frand and Carol Hixon’s paper in your selected readings is an often quoted source on PKM.  Frand & Hixon ask a series of questions which are still pertinent over 12 years later:

“If students and teachers continue to approach the educational experience using the same old approaches and techniques, will investing in information technologies make any difference? What, if anything, do faculty and students need to do differently in order to get value from our investment in information technologies “

How would you answer this question?

Calendar Image courtesy of ammer/

Year For Productivity: Introduction

New Class for the New Year

New Class for the New Year

Mary Axford and Crystal Renfro, two of the three authors of the Academic PKM blog (, are pleased to announce a new, FREE online course called “A Year to Improved Productivity for Librarians and Academic Researchers”. The course will consist of 26 lessons; one lesson will be posted every two weeks on our blog. Inspired by Helene Blowers’ 23 Things and created from an idea by Crystal Renfro, each lesson will consist of background on the topic, suggested readings, and exercises. Each lesson should not take more than an hour or two to complete.

What will be covered?

The lessons fall into one of three sections: (1) How to Improve Productivity, with lessons including What is PKM, Attention and Focus, Calendars, Productivity Apps, and Notebook software; (2) How to Create an Efficient Academic Workflow, with lessons including the Concept of Academic Workflow, Citation Software, Alerting Services, and Mindmaps; and (3) How to Develop a Learning Network, which includes lessons What is a Learning Network, Which Social Network Tool is for You, Effective Online Professional Image; and Tools Facilitating Further Training to name only a few of the topics planned.

What do I have to do?

The exercises will vary with the topic of the post. For posts that emphasize definitions of a topic, exercises might include writing a journal explaining your own ideas or current productivity regime. We find that the process of writing something down has a great effect in clarifying one’s thoughts. Mind maps have a similar ability to clarify and will be another option for exercises. Some exercises will encourage the reader to explore a particular productivity tool, or to write a list of goals.

While we will not collect and grade the exercises, we do want the experience to be an interactive one, and we encourage all participants to share your thoughts/exercises as comments on the blog posts. We expect to learn as much as you do.

Where do I sign up?

Interested individuals may sign up to get our blog by email or RSS feed at any time. As a bonus, there will be other posts on personal knowledge management topics (as well as the lessons) which we hope will enlighten and/or entertain.

The first lesson will be up on the blog Monday, January 7th, 2013, and new lessons will be posted biweekly thereafter. We hope the experience will be challenging, engaging, useful, interactive, and fun. All participation is welcome.

Link Roundup #3

western saddle with a lasso on it


Mobile Outlook 2013: $99 Tablets and ‘Digital Natives’ Take Charge – It is that time of year when we see year-end wrap-ups and predictions for the coming year. A $99 tablet that is light and could perform work tasks would be really nice.

Office for iPad Mentioned on Microsoft’s Support Website – also mentions Office for Android and iOs. This is likely to really increase tablet sales.

InvestInTech has a product Able2Extract PDF Converter 8 that can convert PDF files to MS Office formats including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. The licensing cost seems pretty reasonable. Have not used this product and do not know how well it works, but could be very useful to academics.

Undergraduate Students and Technology is an infographic found through Stephen Abram’s blog, with info on the technologies students use, how they use it for study, what technologies they wish their professors would use more, etc.

Docear, the academic research management suite, has added automatic data extraction from PDFs. This is a big addition for their beta version. Docear is loosely descended from SciPlore. We hope to have a full review of it in 2013. For now, here is their description: “Docear is the complete solution for searching, organizing and creating academic literature such as assignments, theses, books and research papers. Just as an office suite bundles the applications essential to the professional environment, Docear integrates the essential applications of a researcher. These include an academic search engine, file manager, PDF reader*, mind mapping and note taking tool, reference manager, paper drafting, and word processor*. While the components are integrated, they are still replaceable so that if you don’t like Docear’s reference manager, you can simply use another one.”

New York Times Set to Launch Mini-books for Tablets. Interesting development, as this could allow them to sell extended analyses of news events that professors might use in courses.

How to Buy The Best Tablet. Good common sense advice from PC Magazine, with links to their Tablet Product Guide and article on 10 Best Tablets.

8 Ways Evernote Can Help You Get More From Your Research in 2013. The Evernote blog has some useful items, and it has “ambassadors” – blog contributors who blog about using Evernote in their profession and/or areas of interest. Alexandra Samuel, the author of this blog post, might be a good person to follow, as her ideas about managing research using Evernote in this blog post are worthwhile. As a bonus, at the bottom of this article are links to PDFs for using Evernote in different contexts, including 10 Ways to Use Evernote for a Productivity Boost.

Bitcasa and Its Unlimited Cloud Storage Come to Android, Windows 8/RT. Bitcasa is one of the newer cloud storage apps, offers 6 GB free, but the $10/month plan offers virtually unlimited storage. Useful for academics, because, ya know, we’re all broke!

christmas-kiss-decorated-tree And finally, we here at Academic PKM wish you a wonderful holiday season, whatever holiday, or none, that you celebrate. Among our favorite blogs are Profhacker and Gradhacker, and Gradhacker has had a couple of posts about gifts for graduate students. One is on technology gifts.

Link Roundup #2

western saddle with a lasso on it


Microsoft Office Coming to iPad and Android Devices Early Next Year. From TabTimes, an excellent website and newsletter for all tablet news.

50 Great Apps for Librarians – Website built around a presentation by Richard Le and Tom Duffy. Includes info about the two librarians, the presentation, handouts, a form to suggest apps, and more apps (i.e., apps suggested by other users. The presentation divides apps into Android and iOS, with categories for specific topics and for reference apps.

Delicious Bookmarks Get Redesign – Many people moved away from Delicious when there was a scare it would be going away, but it survives and has a team that seems working on improvements, including a soon-to-be-announced iPhone and iPad app.

20 iPad Apps for Productivity. While I don’t use an iPad, not all of these apps are iPad-specific. and if they are now may get ported in the future. Aimed primarily at business users, but many will also be of use to academics.

Livescribe Sky WiFi Smartpen Review. Smartpens may be of particular interest to students and to faculty who have to attend a lot of meetings. Livescribe has a large percentage of the U.S. market for digital pens, and generally users give the company good reviews. The new Sky pen adds wireless syncing of notes using Evernote. This review gives detailed information on the product’s pros and cons.

Windows 8 – Disappointing Usability for Both Novice and Power Users
. Recent article from Jakob Nielsen, THE usability guru. When he talks, people listen. On the other hand, Windows 8 is new and will likely be improved. Overall, it sounds like one of the most innovative products from Windows in years, and such innovation should be encouraged.

Which is part of what the C|Net critique of Nielsen’s usability studies says in “Why Jakob Nielsen’s Windows 8 Critique is Old-School Thinking“.

Devices and desires redux

Two hours before I left for two weeks in France, I acquired a new Android tablet.  Unbeknownst to me, my husband had purchased his first iPod the day before and decided to take neither his old Android nor his laptop with him.  So it wasn’t until we got to the airport that we each learned that the other was traveling with an entirely new device, and I didn’t realize until we got to Paris that he didn’t have his familiar Android with him. Of course, the reason I didn’t take mine was because I had trouble downloading new books the morning we left, couldn’t update the very old device, and went out and bought the cheapest and most appealing thing I found at the nearest office supply store, which luckily for me was the Google Nexus, which I like a lot.

But there we were, in another country with completely unfamiliar devices.  Not only that, but Google got too smart for us, sensed our location, and connected us to, which wouldn’t  let either of us into our existing Yahoo email accounts for 3 days.  It also decided that the apartment we rented in Paris was my home address and the one we rented in Nice was my work address – though I didn’t find this out until I got home and opened my traffic-monitoring app.

Oh what fun, to be sitting on the terrace of the Pompidou Center staring at a screen instead of the view.  I was trying to appreciate the view, but I was drawn to the screen again and again, deeply anxious, unable to let folks know we had arrived (something I never worried about before ubiquitous connectivity – they  just had to assume I had), cut off from news from home, such as confirmation from the catsitter that she could operate the locks, find the food, that Scarlatti hadn’t escaped, etc. (humans can take care of themselves, the cats have become dependent) . . . . Neither of us could make our device, or Google, see reason.

For some reason, Google relented two days later, for both of us on different devices almost simultaneously, and neither of us had done anything to which we can attribute the change.  We can’t even draw a lesson from this.  Was it the new devices?  Was it the all-powerful, leave-it-to-us Google?  (I won’t go into the rest of the awful Google story, and for the record, I am still excited, in a good way, about the Google sensor-driven car.)

I love the Google Nexus tablet, if I don’t love Google’s mysterious machinations.  It’s light, slim, elegant, a good size to read from (still hard to type on, though much better than a phone).  It survived two weeks without even a screen protector, much less a case.  One of the essential books I downloaded was a detailed guide to the history of the buildings and streets of Paris (Thirza Vallois, Around and About Paris, v.1) so that I could stumble on the streets better even as I learned who had fought over Marguerite de Valois (no relations to Thirza that I know of) in which house.

Of course I had saved restaurant suggestions in Evernote, which is also where I put my own daily notes and photos.  Having Evernote on the phone is great, because after I take a picture, the “share” function on the camera offers two suggestions: email and Evernote. The tablet is a much better workplace for annotating photos in Evernote before I forget what they are, though I did that in the evening, not on the street.  I can type well enough on the phone to add a few clumsy notes in Evernote.

That was a vacation use, but it suggests that the same use of Evernote could be made in photo-based research.  I find that these days, I resent carrying even a laptop, with the extra weight of battery and case, which probably amounts to 10 lbs all told.  The difference between the 3 lbs. total (absolute maximum) of the Google Nexus and the 10 lbs. of the laptop is just astonishing. ( I am astonished at my querulousness, considering that the first machine I ever carried into the field weighed around 40 lbs.  – this was in the late 1980s, when I worked for the World Bank and dragged this monster to several West African countries – but I am nearly 25 years older now.)  Of course, the difference in bulk is a big consideration these days as well – a laptop counts as a whole piece of carry on luggage, while the phone and tablet go in my purse, and the cords go in the carry-on.

I didn’t mean to invest in another Android at this point; I was going to wait and get a Windows 8 tablet and a Windows 8 laptop, since I need a new laptop desperately.  But I am glad I did.  The Nexus allows me to do a certain amount of work-related reading and writing.  I think that the developers of some of the programs I use for PKM will produce Android versions in the not-too-distant future.  I have hopes for Webspiration, for example, which I have just signed up for.  Various kinds of information mapping are key PKM functions for me, and I have high hopes for Webspiration, the corporate and higher-ed version of Inspiration, which has long been around in the education market.  I’ll report on my adventures with this program shortly.

Oh, and I have added a protective cover to the Nexus, which takes away a bit of the fun but none of the function.

Link Roundup #1

western saddle with a lasso on it


   We’re testing out having an occasional link roundup blog post that points to useful articles about productivity tools for academics or pkm in general.

(1) Adobe adds cloud access to Reader app for Android

(2) Microsoft Training Staff to Explain Windows 8 vs. RT Crucial difference, as 8 is backwards compatible with older Windows software and RT is NOT.

(3) 50 Apps That Can Make You More Productive – Author Jill Duffy writes a weekly “Get Organized” column for PC Mag. She has an interesting discussion and then definition of productivity tools:

I review a lot of productivity software, and there are days when I’m not even sure what that classification means anymore. It used to refer primarily to office suites, apps like PowerPoint and Outlook, but now can mean anything from a contact management app to a social networking service. If you can find answers to hard questions quickly from the people who know, hey, that counts as having increased your productivity.

At the heart of all great productivity tools is a solution to a specific problem. Some look toward efficiency, aiming to take an existing product, such as email, and make it easier to use so we waste less time futzing with it. Others seek to silence the noise of the net, bolster collaboration, or unite disparate data.

The 50 programs, mobile apps, plugins, and services in this list are among my favorites for helping anyone be more productive.”

The quote above may not look like it belongs in a link roundup article, but the definition of productivity tools is interesting and may be used for starting a conversation in a later blog post.

(4) DotEPUB allows conversion of web pages to EPUB or MOBI format. The toolbar extension is currently available for Chrome and Firefox.

(5) Technology Speed Dating: Internet Librarian Program Program summary from Sarah Houghton, aka Librarian in Black. Introduces a number of apps, etc. that might be of interest to librarians.

(6) And another program summary from Sarah Houghton – 50 Great Mobile Apps for Libraries, which covers both iOS and Android apps. All the apps are available from the authors’ site.

(7) TabTimes Windows pageTabTimes covers the tablet world with a focus on business use of tablet computers. Lots of news and reviews, and the Windows page has considerable coverage of upcoming Windows 8/RT tablets.

Ilaro app for iPhones “brings research project management, note taking, timeline management, and subject tracking to mobile computing.”

Papers is Now Officially Part of Springer Science + Business Media. Includes a nice description of Papers’ functionality: “Papers radically improved the way researchers handle their scientific literature by centralising search, downloads and organising references and documents in one tool, functioning as a personal library for research. The literature can be cited in the word processing software of choice, and can be shared with colleagues.” It started as a Mac product, and there are now Windows and iOS versions.