IT Teaching Resources

Going from Note to Knowledge

Panelists discuss digital tools to distill, manage, and disseminate information

Article Technology Tool

Moderator: Christina Fajardo, Academic Technology Specialist, GSE
Panel: Kimberly Hayworth, Director of Engagement and Outreach, Learning Technologies & Spaces, Stanford; Miroslav Suzara, PhD student, Learning Sciences & Design Technology, GSE; Josh Weiss, Director of Digital Learning Solutions, GSE IT
Recording of the session:

Presentation Slides

Central Questions:

  • What is Personal Knowledge Management (PKM)?
  • Which PKM tools optimize my information organization needs?
  • How can digital tools reduce friction and increase efficiency for knowledge management?

Key Quotes:

[PKM] is designed to create a digital or physical repository of knowledge that can be accessed and augmented over time. […] By externalizing and organizing one’s knowledge and ideas in a systematic way, like a digital brain, it ultimately frees up cognitive load from one’s actual brain. (04:22, Christina)

Think about [PKM] in terms of a trusted system. For example, if you wake up in the middle of the night and you have an idea and you just want to write it down, you could basically put it into this trusted system, so that you know you can find it later. (12:21, Kimberly)

One thing I noticed when I’m just using Safari or a browser and I’m saving content is that it lacks that context: I’ll bookmark something interesting, and then it’ll be added to this infinite list of things. I end up just having a lot of stuff, but it’s not really synthesized in a meaningful way. So when I use Apple notes, in this way, I’ll usually add some context about why this particular piece of information is worth saving or what I plan to do with it later, capturing the context of why in that moment. (25:42, Miroslav)

[PKM] is creating a pipeline for your future self to access this information that ideally doesn’t require a whole lot of effort on your part. If it’s going to be a lot of effort over time, it’s just going to feel like an onerous task and you’re not going to do it. (39:26, Josh)


Personal Knowledge Management (PKM)

  • Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) is an organization process and practice that includes capturing, categorizing, and organizing information so that it is retrievable and shareable when needed
    • Capture: Gather information from a variety of sources.
    • Categorize: Process and simplify complex information using personal curation and filtering.
    • Organize: Store the processed data in a personal knowledge database.
    • Retrieve: Search and pull information from one’s knowledge base as needed.
    • Share: Exchange curated knowledge with others as appropriate.

Getting Started Today

  • Identify your end goals
    • What is the ultimate purpose of your PKM system? Is it to share information with others or strictly for your own reference?
  • Choose a note-taking style (from Tiago Forte’s Building a Second Brain)
    • The Architect: Designs an overarching system with a clear hierarchy for their knowledge collection in order to create an elegant framework.
    • The Gardener: Cultivates ideas and connections to create something greater than the sum of its parts, requiring a nurturing, exploratory approach.
    • The Librarian: Curates and organizes information from various sources to create a practical relationship with knowledge.
    • The Student: Prefers a purpose-built approach to manage information for specific use cases such as studying, a class project, or job-hunting.
  • Explore easy-to-onboard note-taking tools to lay a foundation for your system
    • Evernote: A note-taking and archiving tool that allows users to store notes, web clippings, and other information in a searchable format.
    • Apple Notes: A note-taking app on Apple devices that allows users to create and organize notes, add images and attachments, and collaborate with others. 
    • Microsoft OneNote: A note-taking and organizing tool that allows users to create and organize notes in notebooks and sections.
    • Notion: A tool that combines note-taking, task management, and wikis in one app, allowing users to organize information and workflows in a variety of ways.
  • Structure your information buckets into labels, categories, and tags
    • Which labels will be part of your knowledge foundation?
    • Will you adapt an existing method, such as PARA or GTD?
  • Practice a daily habit of using your PKM system
    • Set aside a weekly or monthly ritual to review your information to ensure relevance. 

PKM Challenges and Suggestions to Overcome Them

  • Digital hoarding (e.g., no regular habit of purging outdated resources and information)
    • Dedicate regular time to review inventory and relabel or discard accordingly.
  • Information overload (e.g., saving everything you see)
    • Try to only save or clip information that could be of real value to your future learnings or thinking.
    • Begin the habit of adding tags or topic labels to notes, resources, and articles as you save them.