This post originally appeared on Information Space, the blog of the iSchool at Syracuse University, on 26 March 2012.
This semester, I (and about 30 of my colleagues) enrolled in IST613:
Library Planning, Marketing, and Assessment . This is a course in which
balance is key–student teams work with host libraries to write project
plans, marketing plans, assessment plans, and literature reviews in
relatively short succession, and we’re constantly looking ahead and
revising older work. It’s something akin to standing on a roof on a
windy day, singing at the top of your lungs in an unfamiliar language
while trying to control pitch, tone, and tempo within a hairsbreadth of
perfection. Needless to say, it’s a bit of a challenge, and
exhilarating. One of the biggest challenges is simply organizing
projects with your team, as there’s certainly enough work to go around!
My group has found that our collaboration is greatly helped with a
number of tools, and I thought I would share a few of the best with you
The Google Suite
We started with Google Docs,
which forms a practical workspace for us to record our ideas and
wrestle with content for each of our plans. The four of us share the
documents, and the ability for simultaneous work afforded by the system
comes in handy on a few levels. First off, it’s great to host each
document in the cloud so that we can all work on it from any terminal we
please, at any time. I’ve signed in through the computer labs, edited
from a netbook, written from my laptop, and referenced it from my
smartphone. Also useful is the ability to collaborate in real-time,
virtually. Getting four people with radically different schedules
together in person is a challenge, but working virtually is a great
alternative, and Google Docs makes it easy. Also, working within the
Googleverse allows for Google Chat, which is one of the most streamlined, sleek IM applications I’ve seen. (Also, don’t forget email! For non-timely or lengthy communication, email still reigns, as far as I’m concerned.)
Once documents are closer to finished, we pull them off the cloud into a Word or Open Office document, and share them via Dropbox.
I’ve known a lot of people who love Dropbox to keep their files
synchronized across multiple devices, but I think the ability to share a
single folder among multiple people is even more useful. Once we have
our final document in a relatively finished format, it’s super-handy to
be able to access it from anywhere, and Dropbox feels a lot more stable
than Google Docs–it doesn’t allow for simultaneous collaboration, but
that’s a good thing once we’ve all agreed on a final draft.
Finally, it’s impossible for me to write a productivity post without mentioning Evernote.
Though we’re not using it to share thoughts and notes as a group, I use
it almost daily to keep track of research, class notes, post ideas for
my blogs, things I need to check out at the library or across the web,
and more! Specifically, I love that I can grab quick notes or snapshots
on my phone, and have them waiting for me when I get back to my laptop.
Or vice-versa: I’ve even used it for grocery lists–I can write them
item-by-item when I think of things, and it’s all waiting on my phone
when I get to the store!
The semester’s getting hectic, but Google Docs, Evernote, and Dropbox
are helping me and my team stay on top of things. What are your
favorite collaborative (or personal) apps and tools? Let us know in the
comments–I’d love to hear what other people are using!