Teaching PKM in library research sessions

This is my first fall semester as an academic librarian (I was a special librarian for about fifteen years, though I worked mainly in institutes in universities).  Therefore it’s my first time meeting and teaching large numbers of beginning graduate students and putting my convictions about personal knowledge management to use in the graduate library instruction classroom.

I have been fortunate that most faculty who have invited me into their classes have accepted my proposals about  how to work with students.  Since I am the librarian who works with graduate students in humanities and social sciences, my first goal is to ensure that they recognize me as their personal contact in the library, and that they know how to get in touch and what I can do for them

If I have an hour and a half or two one hour sessions with them, I divide it into two parts, with the first emphasizing preparation: the personal knowledge management ecosystem and defining a  search strategy.  The second part consists of looking at databases and sample searches. ( If I have three hours, it’s usually because the department has asked me to talk about how to incorporate source material properly – which they often have labeled plagiarism).

In the first part, I have time (though barely) to talk about the chaos of thinking about research – how our brains don’t neatly wall off time for thinking about intellectual projects from the grocery shopping from getting ready for a conference with little Veronica’s teacher or trying to remember everything you have to discuss with the doctor this morning.  (I have often sold this to the professor as citation management program, but at this point I am usually getting new interest).  Once we’re searching a database, we often find material that is of general interest to us, or might be useful for another project, though not necessarily for this one.  So we need a way to save that, possibly with some attached reflections we will want to remember later – but without disturbing our current workflow too much (ah, now I’ve really got the professor’s attention; there’s no one who hasn’t had this happen).

I ask people how they manage their workflow.  With some, it’s color-coded note cards and highlighters – but sometimes, like earlier this week, someone is using Evernote and RefWorks or another citation manager.  It’s very effective if there’s a student available to talk about how to use EverNote or OneNote to organize their research, and to describe how to use a citation manager!

When I introduce the subject of mapping, I can show them mapping subject terms, but I can also use a mind map to help them plot out a research project.  This one uses space on the left for their library research plan, and space on the right for an outline of the paper:

Generally, I stop this session at this point.  We have covered the general idea of the messiness of research, some tools for taming the chaos, and the steps that constitute a strategy.  In the next part, we will actually look at library databases and how to use them.

So far, the reaction has been positive.  However, I will follow these students, especially those in cohort programs, and hope to have the chance to assess the effectiveness in some more concrete way later in their programs.

Push vs Pull Learning

paranoia I’ve been catching up on some of my blog reading this weekend.  One of the bloggers I like to follow is Harold Jarche. His blog, Life in Perpetual Beta, focuses on learning in the socially networked world, both from the perspective of business organizations and from the perspective of academic and personal learning. His June 4th post, Pulling Informal Learning, refocused my thoughts on conversations we have been having in a tutorials committee at work. Conversations with graduate students have assured us that we are offering the kinds of topics in our workshops and training sessions in the library that the students want.  Yet attendance, while growing, is still low.  Students want the knowledge, but they want it when THEY want it.. not usually when our classes happen to offer it.  And the answers of when to offer the classes varies by individual.  They want the Pull learning that Jarche discusses in his post.

We’ve started creating short tutorials.. both screenshot instruction sheets and some 5 minutes or less video clips for short topics. We have also been using our research guides (we use LibGuides) to expand our class outreach.. most of our library classes have companion research guides with numerous resources on the topic of the class, as well as our PowerPoint presentation that they can download. But I feel like our grasp is still falling short.  We have so much to offer students to help make their passage through the university easier and more rewarding.. how to match up our knowledge and their attention is the challenge.

How have others been addressing these challenges?

Tuesday Tool Tip: Hojoki

Hojoki is another integrative web service. It isn’t like ifttt (see a previous Tuesday Tool Tip) but it does give you reminders of what you have done using specified cloud services. You get a daily and weekly roundup of what you’ve done using services including Evernote, Dropbox, Delicious, Twitter, Box, Basecamp, Mendeley, To Do Lists, Google Calendar, Google Contacts, Google Drive, Github, Yammer, and more. At first I gave it a try on a whim, not thinking it would be terribly useful, but find I really like having something I can go back to to see when I posted a certain link on Facebook (I see this because links I post to facebook are saved to Evernote through an ifttt recipe), or what links I’ve recently saved in Delicious. If I were doing a lot of academic research, it would be more valuable in keeping track of actions in Mendeley.

Hojoki is, to no one’s surprise, another social site. You can create a workspace, configure it, and invite other people to work on it with you. This increases its value for academic workflow by allowing researchers at a distance to share information on their collaborative work. It doesn’t take much time to set up and then it runs automatically, sending you emails plus gives you a personalized web site with your timeline. It is to be hoped they will add more services, such as Facebook (your status posts only), WordPress, and LinkedIn.

Hajoki is simple. Sometimes simplicity is a beautiful thing.

The morning after I wrote the above post, I had an email from Hojoki saying my connection to Dropbox was broken, as Dropbox had recently made some security enhancements and changed URLs. It gave brief instructions on how to fix the problem, and had a link to a guide with detailed instructions including screen shots. At first I was irritated at the need for such a change, but later thought about what great customer service it was to notify me of the problem and give quality help on how to fix it. For a free web service, it is particularly nice to be so valued as a user.

Tuesday Tool Tip: ifttt

We are planning to offer a re-occurring feature on our blog called Tuesday Tool Tips. While not offered every week, these posts will describe tools that we find most useful or recommended by other trusted bloggers/sites.

Today’s tip is on ifft, which stands for If This, Then That.  If you use a number of social media tools, then you often spend too much time in repetitive tasks.  For example, you add a post to your blog, you then link to the post with a tweet.  ifttt wants to automate as many of those tasks as it can by providing you with snippets of code to accomplish a task without your intervention.  It does this by creating channels – that is, web services such as Facebook, Twitter, Evernote, and many more.  “Recipes” trigger actions from one channel to another.  For example, every time a post goes up on my WordPress blog, add it as a note to Evernote, or send it to Twitter or Facebook.  Another recipe might be every time you update your Facebook picture, update the Twitter one as well.  ifttt has even created a couple of its own channels for a calendar and weather.  So, for example, one recipe sends email whenever the forecast for the next day is for rain.  Others send emails when new books or albums hit Amazon’s top 100 list.  Other recipes include such actions as add photos from Flickr or Instagram to a Dropbox folder.  As of this date, there are 48 channels available.

ifttt used well can save you time.  Used poorly, it can add more time wasters to your email or other media.  It is all in how you use the tool.

This kind of tool is so new that there is no name for the category.  I’ve considered web service synchronization tools and web services interoperability, then settled on integrative services. Let me know in the comments if you have a better name.

Integrative Services: Time Savers Extraordinaire

The internet is full of silos – web sites or services that don’t play well with others.  Whether you’re retrieving or disseminating information, this requires a lot of duplication of effort.  Librarians and researchers are especially aware of this problem, simply due to the number of databases that must be searched to get a comprehensive view of the literature on a topic.  First federated searching and then web-scale discovery services were attempts to get around the problem and provide a simple interface to information scattered across many silos that require subscriptions.

But the open web has its silos too.  Both work and personal life may require using various social media such as twitter or facebook.  To get the same information on different sites required multiple data entry.  This is beginning to change in ways that will become more and more useful as time goes on.

My first real awareness of this phenomena was the blogging platform Posterous.  It allowed you to make the same information available on numerous web services.  For example, I had my personal blog set up to post simultaneously to Posterous, Blogger, facebook, twitter, and Live Journal.

So I was very impressed when I found iffft, the service that allows integration of many services through the use of recipes that trigger actions.  For example, photos you send to facebook can be sent automatically to Dropbox or Evernote, as can a WordPress blog post.  An upcoming Tuesday tool tip will focus on iffft and include more on using it to perform some tasks more efficiently.

Other products that I haven’t used are doing something similar. Hootsuite integrates social media and more, while there are products similar to iffft that are aimed at business users. Hojoki integrates cloud apps, and sends an a daily and weekly email summarizing your recent uses of these. on{x} (I hate that name) is similar to ifttt and allows you to remotely program an Android phone using a JavaScript API.

I’m the type of person who is more likely to notice the big picture rather than the details – just call me Meta Mary – so I find this an exciting trend that augers much for the future.  Being able to automate yet control how one interacts with the flood of information available (and constantly growing) will be helpful in dealing with information overload.  If anyone has come up with a name for such services I’m not aware of it, so I’m calling them integrative web services.  Corning has made compelling videos about such a future with their “A Day Made of Glass” and “Day Made of Glass 2” videos – while it focuses on devices, notice how smoothly simple the interfaces they use are:

Day Made of Glass [YouTube videos have not been working for me in Firefox, but are working in IE]:

Day Made of Glass 2:

Tuesday Tool Tip: Create Your Own WordPress blog in 20 minutes

For today’s Tuesday Tool Tip, I’d like to recommend a July 16th blog posting by Michael Hyatt at his site michaelhyatt.com entitled: “How to Launch a Self-Hosted WordPress Blog in 20 Minutes or Less.”  He includes a very nice video tutorial that steps you through each part of the process, using BlueHost as the sample hosting service.

I wish I had Michael’s post when I was creating our site here at academicpkm.org. He does a wonderful job of letting you see exactly  how to proceed and lets you view the entire process before you ever start so that you won’t be surprised by any information or decisions that have to be made along the way.  Don’t expect him to show you how to alter the default WordPress theme or how to handle the backend beyond typing your first post, but if all you want to do is create a place to blog, he takes the mystery out of the process.

I’ve been following Michael Hyatt’s Intentional Leadership blog for several months now.  He is best selling author of the book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World and is the former Chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers. His blog covers topics that range from personal development and  leadership to productivity and utilizing social media just to name a few.  I really enjoy his straightforward, easy style. I’ve listed his blog in our PKM Related Blog Roll if you are interested in exploring more.