It was a pleasure meeting you all last night. I thought I might toss this out there for anyone who’s interested. It’s a decent overview of a couple tools (including Diigo). It’s nothing required, just thought it might be a useful resource for those of you with interest and with the time/energy to take a look. If not, no worries, it’ll be here if you ever need it.
1. Search can be for either things or people.
- Things– The best known search approach is to simply use Google or some other search engine to find material that might be useful. Below, we’ll examine some simple strategies to find better things, faster.
- People– While searching for things can be helpful, it can also be time consuming and ineffective. Sometimes excellent relevant material won’t show up, given the terms you are using and the things you can think to search for. Instead of finding things to include in a course, finding people related to your courses is often much more useful in the long run. These people feed you a steady flow of resources, some of which you might never have thought of searching for.
Once you find the right streams, tasty resources come right to you.
2. Curation. Once you find interesting content and people, you’ll soon face a new challenge: a surplus of awesome material. (It’s a nice “problem” to have!) So you need to manage these web-based resources, culling them and making sure they are accessible when you need them. That’s what curation is all about and, as you’ve already begun to see, social bookmarking tools like Diigo can help.
A simple search for resources relying on Google’s generic algorithms can generate tens of millions of results. Since we rarely look beyond the first few pages of results, we often miss finding interesting things. By being proactive, we can use Google’s powerful options to limit search results and improve our odds of finding something useful that would otherwise be lost among the millions of results.
The options work by limiting your search to particular types of results. You probably already know about the basic Google interface elements (highlighted below) that enable you to limit your search to categories such as news, images, books, videos, and limit by time published.
Google’s powerful advanced features allow for much more efficient searching. We could use two advanced options to search for syllabi, restricting the search to only PDF files found on .edu sites. We can use the same approach to limit our search in other ways. Spend some time getting familiar with Google’s advanced search page, or as an alternative route, explore the examples below.
- search for PowerPoint files
- search for data associated with geography
- search specific sites
- search for images by copyright license
If you’d like additional guidance on your advanced search options try these resources:
- Google’s search tips for those of you who like text
- A video walk through for those who prefer video explanations.
- An “unofficial” guide to Google’s advanced features.
Searching can also be improved by using pedagogical and technological terms to improve the chances of getting what you want, such as:
- “data visualization”
- “explorable explanation”
Searching well is a mix of technique and vocabulary. Keep refining your technique and adding words to your arsenal and you’ll become both happier and more efficient. It sounds simple but it’s not often that people focus on improving their search skills.
When you try to find things, you only can find what you have the vocabulary and imagination to search for. You’re further confined by the limits of time and energy in your life. That’s where finding people to add to your network comes in. It’s like having many assistants, all working to find good content and inspiring ideas just for you. (These “people” can be organizations, think tanks, advocacy groups–anyone who is a source of good content.)
But where do you find people with similar interests who will share resources with you? The internet is full of them if you invest a little time looking. The nice thing is once you get started those people inevitably lead to more good people . . . then you get to start voting people off the island and making your team of people better and better.
- Following people/organizations on Twitter, Facebook or other social media sites is one way to get resources flowing to you.
- Subscribing to blogs by individuals and organizations who share your interests is another way. We highly recommend that you set up your subscriptions through an RSS reader such as Feedly. Rather than going to many different sites that interest you–a time consuming process–an RSS reader brings content from those sites to one place that you can easily organize the way you want. (A quick Google search will turn up many guides–text and video–on how to use Feedly, including this one.)
- Diigo can also be used to find people. Since you’re already using it for bookmarks, we’ll focus on this tool.
Diigo is really two tools wrapped into one.
- You can use Diigo to save, tag, and easily access your own bookmarks, as well as highlight, and make notes on the web content you find. (Refresher, here’s our quick video intro overview.)
- You can also use the social features of Diigo to:
- share your bookmarks with specific groups (like ALT Lab or your colleagues).
- find and save the links found by others.
Diigo’s social layer of human vetting (that Google doesn’t give you) is often really important in terms of saving time and increasing the quality of your results. Search algorithms can be powerful, but you can’t beat an expert in the field who shares your interests and tastes.
If you don’t use Diigo already (and want to give it a fair shot), commit to using it to save all of your bookmarks for at least a few weeks. (It’s easy to import your existing bookmarks into Diigo no matter where you keep them.) If you make only a partial commitment to “try it,” you’ll likely get frustrated as some of your bookmarks will be in one place and some in another. Trust us. After just a couple of weeks with Diigo, you won’t go back to traditional bookmarking. You’ll find many uses for Diigo. For example, David Croteau shares Diigo links on his website, organized by topics, for instructors and students who use his textbook. There are many other interesting ways you can use the same energy you’d spend bookmarking something just for yourself and have it do so much more.
Now, find some people on Diigo who share some of your interests by using the technique demonstrated in the video below. (Click the little square icon in the lower right corner to watch it full-screen.) It’s important to stress that this isn’t a “one hour and done” type of engagement. Instead, try spending ten or fifteen minutes every couple of days for the next week or two. Add some people. Then look through your network links and remove people who aren’t providing what you want. Add and remove people until you get a steady stream of useful content. Committing a little time and energy to building this sort of network now will pay great dividends in the future.