November 21, 2013

Spreadsheets for Daily Content Development

I was struck by an item in Inside Higher Ed today about the value of daily quizzes (see below). I'm not a big fan of quizzes, and certainly not of daily quizzes (ugh, the thought makes my head hurt...) - but I am a big fan of DAILY in general. I think that's why I like blogging so much; it is a form of writing that thrives on a little bit of daily discipline. I don't have a lot of discipline as a writer, but I can muster a bit of daily discipline.

So, in terms of a digital tool, what I wanted to write about here today is how I use spreadsheets (Google Docs spreadsheets, to be specific) to support my various content development projects, most of which are daily content strategies, such as building content to use in my Class Announcements blog, my Bestiaria Latina blog, and my just-now-taking shape #foreignwordsinenglish project.

Spreadsheets are a great way to keep track of stuff because they are, in effect, a kind of mini-database. Not a relational database, admittedly - but they are a database which you can sort and filter in all kinds of ways.

So, for example, to support my class announcements blog, I have a spreadsheet with separate pages for each of the content items that I included each day in the blog: featured resource, featured Storybook, free Kindle book of the day, proverb of the day, Mahabharata image, and the calendar event of the day (details about the content here). For each category I need 105 items in order to be ready for the semester. First and foremost, spreadsheets are great for counting things!

So, here is a screenshot of the "proverbs" page of that spreadsheet which gives me what I need to include the proverb in the announcements: the date, the proverb, and the link to the blog post with all the other details. I color-code the rows as I move through the semester (yellow is past), and I also have color-coded the proverbs from India so that I can make sure to have at least one proverb from India every week.

That is just one example of how I use the different features of a spreadsheet to help me develop, use, and re-use my content. And in the spirit of growing things a little bit at a time, here's one of my proverb posters: Big oaks from little acorns grow.

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