Landing : Athabascau University

How do you manage your information?

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By George Siemens August 21, 2010 - 1:01pm Comments (1)

imageThis past week, AU welcomed its third cohort in the CDE doctoral program. I spoke to the group about TEKRI's role within AU as a research catalyst and innovative knowledge generation institute. During one of the sessions, I walked into a conversation where various AU faculty were providing students different systems for managing research papers, literature, and information. 

Managing resources is one of the most important skills for students (people!) to master. I started blogging in 2000 and have spent a significant amount of time trying to devise an information management system that I can use to make sense of a topic or discipline. I've attached an image below that highlights the process and tools that I use.



This system has a few weaknesses (that I find in every tool I use):

1. It fails to account for trend development and dissipation. Which patterns are evident in the information? Is location-based computing growing in popularity? If I think it is, what am I basing this on - increased number of articles that I'm reading? Or empirical data that shows a adoption rates? Information management systems can mistake impressions (which are important indicators of possible trends) for actual data (dare I call them facts?).

2. Too many aspects of my sensemaking system are manual - I have to tag resources, I have to recall them, I have to try and form coherence between entities, I have to encounter each information source on my own (i.e. the system is not intelligent enough to observe my patterns of behaviour, in relation to my profile, to provide relevant resources or people to connect with). In a sense, my sensemaking system is to prominent - it requires effort on my part, rather than a system that functions in the background and provides me with what I need in different contexts. Systems like Hunch may be an early indication of what systems will look like in the long run, but unfortunately, they still heavily rely on learner self-identification. 

Information is not something that has value in itself. We use it to do something - write a paper, a dissertation, launch a company, plan investments, and so on. As such, it should be as inconspicuous as possible in our daily interactions. 

TEKRI will be hosting an event this next year (Feb 27-Mar 1, 2011) on Learning Analytics. One of the outcomes I would like to see from this event is a rethinking of what humans need to do in sensemaking through information management and what technology can do better that humans ever could. With so much of my data explicitly available in Mendeley, Delicious, blogs, and the Landing, information needs to be far more intelligent than it is. I still have to struggle to find information. Today, information should be able to find me. I've left enough trails (social and informational) for this to be a fairly simple task...

Over to you - how do you manage your information? What tools do you use?


  • I have moved to fewer tools with the intention of increasing the depth of data held in those tools while reducing duplication. For example, I had used a wiki and Personal Brain, however I no longer use these in favor of an internal instance of the Elgg framework (used on the Landing). Using this approach to a certain extent I can support the "Store", "Share & Collaborate", "Reflect & Create" and "Revisit & Integrate" functions with a single tool. Because the framework is flexible, I am hoping additional plug-ins can be built for increased personalization, visualization and analytics. Once demonstrated within a smaller network, the concepts can be transferred to more general implementations for use on the web in general (understanding the code will be different)


    Eric von Stackelberg August 21, 2010 - 2:45pm

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