Saturday, October 26, 2013

3 tools to help remember and find information

We are inundated with information.  While some would call it information overload, the word "overload" has a negative connotation.  Is it not better to have so much information rather than not have any?  A better term is information abundance.

The challenge is to use tools that will help make the most of this information abundance.  Here are 3 simple tools to help get started:

1.  Diigo

This is one of many excellent social bookmarking tools.  Get the Diigo extension for the Chrome browser and start bookmarking and adding notes and highlights to web pages that you want to find again.  When you search for information using Google Search, it will automatically display results from Diigo that you might have bookmarked earlier.  Make sure you check the box under settings to "Search your Diigo library when searching Google.

Thus when I search for the famous study by Drs. Sparrow and Wegner on how using Google changes our memory, it brings up results both from my Diigo library and from the Web.
Searching Diigo when doing a Google Web search

2.  Google Search for Drive and Gmail

Another tool to use is the ability to search through your email and Google Drive from the Google search.  While this is still in trial, anyone can sign up to be part of this.

Seach Google Drive and Gmail from Google search

3.  Memobutton 

This is another extension for Chrome and is based on the Spaced Learning theory.  It allows you to create flashcards for yourself as you surf the web and come across critical bits of information that you want to remember.  Just click the memobutton in the extension toolbar, and paste the text into the pop-up.  Double click the key word you want to remember and it makes a flashcard.  It then reminds you to review these flash cards periodically.  

Creating flashcards while surfing the web - get periodic reminders till you master the content

There are many other tools but if you use Chrome as your default browser these will meet most of your needs for storing and searching and remembering information that you find.

The search for that elusive single device - Tablet and/or Laptop

A lot of people own multiple devices - a desktop, a laptop, a tablet and a smartphone. They carry the latter 3 around when they travel. While the smart phone is not a big issue, I have often wondered about eliminating either the laptop or the tablet when traveling.

Is it possible to get rid of one or the other? Laptops have traditionally been heavier, take longer to boot up, generally have not had a touchscreen human computer interface. Tablets while being great consumption devices are often a compromise when creating content.

Recently I blogged about the HP Revolve. I took it, along with an iPad and an Android tablet to course that is was giving for medical educators. On the last day of the 5 day course I realized that I had not taken out the tablets out of my bag during the entire course except to do a couple of demos. I also used one of them to read in bed and one to play a game on the plane trip back.
The laptop is light, boots up in a few seconds, is rock stable, has a touchscreen so I can draw and write with my finger, runs full versions of all the creative software, has an excellent keyboard and is thus becoming my go to device. What drove the point home was that I was able to do a demo of Educreations on it - normally I have to use an iPad for this to draw on the screen as I speak.

We keep talking about the tablets replacing the laptop but it is very possible that with the right form factor and features, the reverse could be the truth. Imagine if the MacBook air had a touchscreen and all the iPad apps? Or if the Chromebooks had touchscreens and android apps? Or if the windows apps store got all the key apps you used? If Apple made the move, it might cannibalize the sale of its iPads, Google might very well be poised to do this, and Windows is clearly well on the way with Surface Pro.