Monday, June 15, 2009

Keeping Track of Your Examples for Teaching II

Behold, I have decided upon a method for keeping track of potentially useful resources for teaching sociology!

First, I want to thank all of you who have provided excellent advice on this topic. If you, dear reader, are seeking a method but are not inspired by the one I shall outline below, it may behoove you to check out the comments on this post.

Social bookmarking sites are great, as I've mentioned. But I don't stick with them. Partly this is because I can't rely on browser plug-ins, add-ons, desktop applications, or whatever. I do not use the same computer religiously. It just doesn't work for me. And that extra step of saving things to Evernote, Delicious, Diigo, or whatever the fad of the moment is just gets to be too much. And I could just carry a flash drive or external hard drive or something and always plug it into computers not my own, thereby bringing my desktop and personalized browser with me. But I don't.

Here's what I've settled on.

I get most of my incoming from Google Reader. Google Reader, for the uninitiated, is an excellent platform for keeping track of your subscriptions to blogs and websites and whatnot. Now, if you're reading this and thinking "whoa - you can subscribe to blogs?!?", you might want to look into that first then get back to this.

Most people who use Google Reader are well aware that they can organize their subscriptions by folder. In addition to this, you can tag items in your feed. The option is at the bottom of each item - just click "edit tags." I have created special tags for various topics that I teach (race, gender, class, environment, identity, etc). Whenever I come across something that I think is useful for teaching, I tag it with something specific about the content. If I had my syllabi put together with all my lectures labeled, I might even tag it with the lecture title. But I don't. So I don't.

In addition to these tags, I have also tagged all teaching-related items with "sociology." This is where the "social" aspect of bookmarking comes in. You see, if I were just interested in collecting, I could just stop with my content-specific tags. Google Reader organizes everything by tag, and I can search only within a certain tag, in addition to searching all items. As a matter of fact, I've gotten to the point where if I want to find something to use as a sociological example, I'll search my reader instead of Google. It searches every blog and site I'm subscribed to, and nothing else.

But I digress.

I have added the "sociology" tag so that all teaching examples can be together under one feed. Then, I went into my settings and shared that feed. You can find it here. Subscribe to this, and you'll have instant and easy access to everything I find. Kinda like having an unpaid TA doing the legwork for you, eh?

In addition, I have put a widget of the feed on the sidebar of this blog. If you're reading this remotely, go look. I'll wait.

Why yes, it does look a bit like an AdSense block! Alas, there weren't many style options, and I'm not quite savvy enough to spiff it up. But I'll share the code with you if you want to put a widget on your blog. Just email me (it also takes a lot of legwork and tech savvy to post code on Blogger, which just tries to read it rather than post it as-is).

I'll let you know how this system works out. But right now I'm feeling pretty good about it.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention the limitations. Of course, I don't get EVERYTHING from Google Reader. And this is where the add-on comes into play (there's no escape!). Google Reader offers a bookmarklet, "Note in Reader," which allows you to save, share, tag, star, or note anything you come across on the web. It's rather handy. And if I'm away from my computer, I can email myself the link. I always have Gmail up, after all.