5 Web Tools to Organize Your Resources
When I started in social services we had file cabinets stacked upon file cabinets, overflowing with papers and mislabeled file folders. My bookshelf was filed with binders so full that you had to be careful not to turn too many pages at time as the clips would pop open and papers would come loose. Precious time would be lost searching for that one particular handout you thought you filed under anger, but turns out was filed under groups. Handouts became less and less legible as people took the original documents and they were replaced with copies of copies of copies. What a nightmare!
Several years ago I began to scan those important documents into PDF’s. I was able to organize all my files into folders and I was reasonably content. Handouts stayed fresh and I was able to decrease the time spent searching through the file cabinets.
While definitely a step in the right direction, the move to digital files was not a magic bullet for my organization woes. The major problem was that I was only able to access those resources when using my computer. We shared offices at my agency so I could not access the files I needed while the other counselor was in session. Bummer.
As more and more resources became available on the web another problem arose–bookmark overload! My internet bookmarks became as effective as those old file cabinets and, like my digital copies, could only be accessed from my computer.
Things have changed dramatically in the last few years in the worlds of cloud-based storage and digital organization tools. Fortunately, there a number of excellent free solutions to organizing and improving access to your resources. Here are my favorites:
5. Google Chrome
I know that a web browser is quite different from the other tools listed here, but Google Chrome has an important feature that can help you in keeping your resources organized–synchronization! All of my computers and mobile devices have Chrome installed and thus all of my bookmarks are synced. This eliminates the problem of finding a great web resource, bookmarking it, and not being able to use it from your other devices. You can organize your bookmarks into folders and I recommend renaming the default bookmark names to something that will help you find the content in the future.
I recently discovered Pinterest and its active community of school social workers. Pinterest is great for discovering new resources and can be used to organize your own resources through creating “boards”. You can create boards with names of your choosing, such as ADHD resources, group resources, etc. Pinning a resource you find on Pinterest is done with a few clicks. You can also install the bookmarlet application which allows you to “pin” almost any page you find on the web if you are using Google’s web browser (Chrome). Pinterest also has mobile applications for Android and Apple. Be sure to follow SchoolSocialWork.net on Pinterest!
Pinterest has a few limitations that make it unsuitable for my organization. First, when pinning resources you find on the web, Pinterest needs an image to associate with the link. You aren’t able to pin a site without one. Secondly, while you can search your own pins when looking for a resource, the search relies on the information you wrote in the description. Unless you write descriptions with keywords (groups, anxiety, etc.) it will be difficult to find what you’re looking for. Lastly, Pinterest is limited to organizing web resources. You cannot upload your forms or printables from your desktop to Pinterest.
3. Live Binders
Live Binders is a web application that acts like a virtual 3-ring binder. Live binders impressed me with the ability to store web content AND documents that you can upload. Like Pinterest, Live Binders has a bookmark extension for your browser that allows for easy collection of resources you find around the web. I feel that Live Binders does a better job than Pinterest with organizing your resources. You can create binders for different topics and have different pages within each binder–meaning that Live Binders allows for more hierarchy in its organization.
You can get an educator account for free, but the limitations of the free account make it a difficult for my organization solution. First, your binders are PUBLIC. Meaning you would not be able to store reproducibles that are copyrighted. Also, the free Live Binders account limits your storage to 100mb. That might not be a deal breaker for some, but it wouldn’t work for me. That being said, I do believe Live Binders would be an excellent way to collect and organize web resources for parents and students to use. I’m definitely going to look further into this application of Live Binders and write a post on the topic in the near future.
Evernote is perhaps the most robust organization tool. You can clip webpages and text from the internet, attach documents from your computer, or write your own notes. Evernote syncs with online servers so you can use the files from any computer regardless of whether you have the Evernote application installed. Evernote has a powerful search feature and allows you to create tags for your notes.
Evernote has a few limitations which make it less than ideal for some users. First, the free version of Evernote limits your monthly uploads to 60mb. Not a big deal if you don’t have a lot of stuff, but it would take me several months just to get all of my documents uploaded. Secondly, Evernote has a bit of a learning curve. It can be difficult to navigate and keep things organized for those that are not very technologically inclined. Lastly, Evernote stores your files into its own file system. This means you will need to use the file through Evernote to make changes. For example, if you attach a Word document to a note for a curriculum you are working on you now need to open the word document through Evernote to make changes and save the document. If you edit your original Word file, the change will not sync with the document attached in your note.
There are dozens if not hundreds of articles written on how you can use Evernote.
1. Google Drive
This is my absolute favorite web tool for organizing my digital content. Google Drive will store all of your content into the cloud–allowing for access to those resources from anywhere you have an internet connection. Setting up and upload files was a breeze. Installing the desktop application made a Google Drive folder on my computer. I simply dragged and dropped all of my folders containing existing resources into the Google Drive folder and the application uploaded them to Google’s cloud based storage system.
Google Drive has a number of features that make it a great storage solution.
- Any edits you make to the original files are automatically synced with the cloud versions (Google will create its own version of a word doc file to make this happen)
- Any computer you install Google Drive on will have offline access to the hard copies of the documents
- You can open, preview, and edit most documents types inside of your web browser through Google Docs
- You can share access to particular folders, quickly email a form/handout, or create a shared folder with colleagues
- You can also add editing rights to shared documents for working collaboratively on a document or presentation
- There are mobile apps to access your files from a cellphone or tablet
- Integrates nicely with the Google ecosystem (android, gmail, etc.)
- Google offers 15GB of space for FREE!
- Documents are searched by their contents in addition to the names you give them. This is a great feature and essential to people, like me, who aren’t great at giving files a distinct name (I have multiple files with the name “anger group handout”).
What tools are you using to organize your resources? Leave a reply below.
What to read more about using technology tools in social work? Visit these sites:
Drop box is also a handy tool. I have it on my I-pad, two laptops, desl top and phone.