Cool Tools for Managing Knowledge

Last night I gave a short presentation to one of the Educational Technology classes at SDSU. I described the tools I use to try and organize the vast amounts of information I seem to so desperately need to survive. This post is going to quickly summarize the sites I shared and the role they play in my constant search for some sort of digital order in my professional life.

Educational Technology Personal Knowledge Management Project

I created this as one of the final projects for the SDSU masters program. It is essentially a catalog of all of the resources I acquired while earning the MA degree. I used a blog (Movable Type) as the engine for this project because I like the ability to categorize and tag each post (for easy searching), include a full citation if I wanted, and write a detailed abstact if necessary. I know that if I had not done this project at the time, I would not have an real listing of my ed tech resources. I would like to migrate this blog from Movable Type over to WordPress at some point. WordPress is free and growing as a blog engine.

Scuttle – Social Bookmarking

I initially included some key web sites in the KM blog mentioned above, but when I started going through all of my bookmarks I realized that would be too much of an undertaking and something that I would not continuous update. I decided that I wanted to use online social bookmarking site. I initially used, but then I came across Scuttle. It works similarly to, but you can install it on your own server. I opted for this because while I think the social part is cool, I was more interested in the tagging of links for easy searching. By having it on my own server, I can control who (if anybody) contributes and what links are included. I am starting to use this service with my students and having that control can be important.

If you do use Scuttle, make sure to delete the registration.php file so spammers don’t set up their own accounts and fill your database with undesireable stuff.


While I like the blog solution for my Educational Technology resources because I had a variety of types of resources (journals, web sites, and books), I found I also had 150+ books on various historical periods that I use for research (and for interest) when developing my lesson plans. The insertion of those on the KM blog seemed too cumbersome. That’s when I came across LibraryThing. Just type in the ISBN of the book and it magically finds the book (actually it searches through several databases, including You can tag the books and add comments (something I still need to do), plus you can see who else owns the same books and check out their collections.


I track about 120 different RSS feeds, mostly from blogs, through Bloglines. This site allows you to subscribe to an page with an RSS feed and see when it has been update – all in one place so you don’t have to visit each site to see what is new. I know a lot of people have moved away from Bloglines for newer clients and different online applications, but I still like its simplicity. Google Reader might get better as time goes on, but for now I’m sticking with Bloglines. One site I did recommend for anyone wanting to stay on top of new developments in the Web 2.0 world was TechCrunch. This blog tracks start up companies and developments at established giants.


I’ve done a number of wiki-based projects with my students, but this school year the world history teachers at my site have begun using a wiki to outline course expectations, objectives, and lessons that meet those objectives. We keep it private so I can’t link to it. The five of us all have the ability to edit. I love this idea of a living document that can evolve as we do. Originally I used two different wiki engines (TikiWiki and MediaWiki) installed on my server, but I’ve found that WikiSpaces (and other free wikis like PBwiki) are equal in quality and are probably easier to use.

If you have any questions please e-mail (danmcdowell at gmail dot com) or comment.


More Teacher Organization

Reason #321 I will probably not pursue a PhD in my lifetime. I struggle with academic writing. I spend hours writing paragraphs. I come up with what I think are great ideas, but then fight to clearly articulate them. In the end I am usually satisfied, but for me that process is deadly.

Anyway, I have been slaving over the article I am writing with one of my former MA professors on knowledge management for teachers. After looking at everyone’s comments from a couple posts ago (Thanks, they were very helpful!) and reading some of the popular and academic literature available, I have developed the following criteria for a knowledge management system. (Numbers 1-6 are for a personal system and 7-10 are necessary for a collaborative system).

A KMS must have

  1. The ability to store multiple types of resources.
  2. The ability to easily revise descriptions and artifacts in addition to storing multiple versions of a specific artifact.
  3. The ability to add annotations and comments beyond the descriptions.
  4. The ability to categorize and tag all entries.
  5. A simple interface to input and upload information.
  6. A simple interface to search by category and tag.
  7. Individual logins for each participant.
  8. Safeguards so artifacts aren’t mistakenly deleted by another user.
  9. The ability for participants to comment and annotate artifacts from different users.
  10. The ability for participants to track recent additions and changes.

I’m feeling pretty good about this (and have spent way too much time on it), but, if you are a teacher and you have a suggestion or comment, please leave it. We are working on a final draft this week.

Unfortunately this article is only a discussion of ideas with a couple possible solutions. There is no silver bullet for teachers out there. I’ve looked at the most popular content management systems and it doesn’t seem like they could be easily adapted. The best solution I can come up with is a blog. WordPress or Moveable Type (personal license is free, but if you want more then one author you have to pay) fit the list of criteria nicely. I would love to build my own system from scratch, but, unfortunately, I am only a geek – not a supergeek programming guy. Anybody know a guy (or gal) who is and has extra time on their hands? It could be a great project, there is probably demand, from what I understand, there are a few teachers out there.

Once this article is done, I can start working again on my NECC presentation. They placed me in an insanely big room. So please come if interested, there will no doubt be seats!

What’s in Your File Cabinet?

A few months ago I talked about exploring knowledge management for teachers. Essentially, how we personally capture our resources, lessons, and reflections. I have used a variety of methods over the years, none of them too effective. The last two methods (binders and then file folders for unit master copies, readings, etc.) were completely paper-based. I also have directories/folders on my hard drive labeled by class and unit that are filled with files I have found or created over the years. When I create a test or quiz, I usually add the year, but other then that, I have years of documents all together. I occasionally add some notes or reflections to a lesson for the following year, but often times I just try and remember. As you can imagine, I have had mixed success with this.

Teaching AP World History this year has complicated my limited organizational capacity. I have bought numerous resources, but the real overload has come from files I have downloaded from other teachers with web pages (thanks by the way). PowerPoints, worksheets, DBQs, etc. Hundreds of files. Actually, probably a couple thousand. Now what?

So here’s my question to all the teachers who read this blog, how do you organize your educational resources? From books to lesson plans to worksheets to digital files? Did you purchase a program, print everything out, or use a file cabinet? How do you keep track of lessons from year-to-year, noting what went well, what didn’t? If it is complicated or simple please explain by commenting (or e-mail me at

I am writing an article with one of my former Educational Technology professors about this and want some “real life” examples beyond myself and the teachers at my school. I will also summarize the results later.

Thanks and I appreciate your help!