A range of tools.

For a long time now I have been accumulating links to “useful” pages, sites etc., Some are in Pocket (I’ve had an account there since it was ReadItLater), some in Diigo (moved to that after Delicious was taken over by Yahoo! and lost some functionality [now largely regained]); and some in Evernote  (generally personal links – I started using Springpad, till they closed). Yet more are simply favourited (or, now, liked) tweets.

In an attempt to actually start to use some of these, I’m aiming to update my blog with some of them. Today’s is a Timeline of Research tools created by Jeroen Bosman and
Bianca Kramer at the University of Utrecht.

The interactive is a bit fiddly to use; though to look at particular tools there’s also a Google spreadsheet (best to copy it if you want to sort; I didn’t see the warning not to sort till after I had … managed to unsort I hope). What I found fascinating was the tools that I remembered I’d forgotten all about. That’s one of the dangers of encouraging the use of tools; is it going to be here today, gone tomorrow? [Though it’s generally possible to create backups – whereas with paper notes, I wonder how many people duplicated them, in case the dog ate them…] I’d not realised till I looked at it that PubMed was only launched in 1997. In the summer of 1999, I was doing my MSc in Information Systems – which involved creating a tutorial for Health Visitors to learn to search both generic websites (I realised then the power of Google over my coursemates’ favourite – AltaVista); but also specialist ones – including PubMed (and the rather efficient NorthernLight).

The conference poster they have created on Figshare covers currently popular tools, as well as some example workflows.

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Creating a shared bibliography.

Recently, 4 of us have been working on a shared bibilography – using a number of different tools.
For the actual referencing, we considered Mendeley, Zotero and EndNote Web for the shared area. Mendeley was the first one we tried, but it didn’t play as well with the multiple machines we had (Linux, Windows XP/7, iPad) – Zotero appeared to behave better. EndNote Web, while we could get accounts via the University, could have been difficult for sharing with others outside the uni at a later date; so it’s Zotero. As it is, we’re using it in different ways; some preferring the online version, others the browser plugin, while I like the standalone version.
We’d started putting the papers we’d found on a shared directory at work, though that was a little difficult due to the fact it’s possible, but not always easy to get to work directories off campus (especially on the multiple devices we have!) Dropbox has solved that problem; again, we can all use it in ways that suit us best, whether it’s a synchronised folder on the computer, via the website, or via a handheld device.
Now we have a work flow – Timothy is locating the papers, (and generating some nice mind maps of search terms, graphs of numbers of hits etc), while Jane, Jon and I are then reading, evaluating – and, if worth including returning to the original paper to add to the database. Two reasons for that – firstly It’s easier to add all the data automatically; zotero does the hard work, and secondly, the library databases recognise the extra hits & count them

We’re beginning to realise, though, the difficulties of a shared bibliography – and the need to agree on tags, rather than just select our own!

We’ve been doing this work at our secret hideout!
Day 19

Changing another unit!

Having posted some of my ideas about updating Edcom and wanting it to be more “Web2.0” oriented, I’m also thinking about another unit – Research Methods for the Level 2 students. (warning; may take some time to appear).

This was originally developed by Terry King, for a small group of students – all of whom were intending to do a study project. In October, I inherited the unit, plus a much bigger group of students – many of whom are intending to take the Engineering project option.
There have also been a couple of other minor changes – in the last run, the community was based in Eduspaces. Due to the frequent outages on that site, and the fact that it wasn’t running the latest version of Elgg in September (still isn’t), I decided to use Edublogs.

I spent quite a lot of time discussing the value of having an online presence – beyond that of Facebook etc. Getting students to register and to set up a blog was time consuming; at least, it was for those 10% of students who didn’t, or who did, but forgot to tell me the URL, etc.

The marking has been quite time consuming – trying to find their blogs, their comments on each others’ blogs etc – and then to link that into the essay they have to write. (They were told to refer back to their blogs in their essays, but so far, only 1 has).

So, reluctantly, I’m thinking of removing the external blogging element for next year. I know that the able students liked the flexibility that WordPress gives them over WebCT “blogs”, but I’ve also got to think of the practicalities.

I’ll call them “learning journals”, rather than “blogs”; but more importantly, mark the posts they put in it. Each week there is an activity, which is designed to feed into a blog post. I’ll scrap the final essay, which should, had they actually done all the activities, be quite easy. They were encouraged to refer back to their blog posts / comments from others, to show how their ideas developed. (But, as I already said, of the 20 or so I’ve marked so far, only 1 has). I’ll keep in, though, the marks for commenting on each others journals.

The tool in WebCT Vista will allow me to very easily see who’s posted – and, more importantly, who hasn’t. (RSS is great – and I’d added a Grazr on the home page, drawing on Google reader – but I had to add them manually – and I only knew who’d updated their blog, not who hadn’t…)

I still think that the external presence is important – so I’ll include a “bonus” up to 10 marks for those who create a good PLE – using whatever tools (so long as they’re RSS enabled) and send me the details. I think I’ll make it so that they have to have things in it that are related to this unit (research methods) – but, if they also want to include material that supports other units, so much the better. I won’t nag them to do it though … just give them pointers at the start – and point out that there are bonus marks riding on it.

Horizon Report – 2008

The annual Horizon Report (pdf) has been published. They’ve produced a rather nice “Megatrends” diagram – looking at the main predictions from all the earlier reports (2004 – 2008).ng
I’ve skim read the current report – I think that the idea of “Social Operating Systems” will be worth watching; it seems to me to be a logical extension of where we currently are with things like Facebook; but data will be portable between systems, rather than tied to a system. They suggest that more professional information will come in, though I’d like to think that it will be possible to separate the two! I’d not really like it all tied together. I wonder how Sugar will tie into this…

Jude O’Connell has a link to a rather neat depiction of the technologies involved (and some of the people) created by Information Architects of Japan.

2020? Your vision

Pew Internet have launched their third Future of the Internet Survey. Unlike most Pew Reports, it’s open to anyone (who has computer access), rather than other Pew surveys which generally cover Americans (with phones).
Some interesting scenarios, and what I like is that it’s possible to comment on all the answers that you give (allow yourself a bit longer to complete it than I did!), allowing for clarification. You can be anonymous if you wish, or add your name. It’s up to you.

Via: Rowin’s blog – where there are also links to some previous surveys, which make for interesting reading.

Journal of Computer Mediated Communication.

JULY 2007 This is the first time I’ve seen this particular Journal, which is based at Indiana University, but has a range of papers.

Gender Differences in British Blogging
Sarah Pedersen & Caroline Macafee

A useful study looking at characteristics of female & male bloggers (over 18) in the UK. They have generally similar findings to others who’ve done similar studies in the US (e.g. that women are more likely to have outgoing links to other blogs, men to have them to news sites / “funnies”; that women (& gay bloggers) are more likely to be concerned about privacy than heterosexual men.
One point they raise is that British bloggers in general are less visible internationally than US (male) bloggers. One finding that Pedersen and Macafee noted, which previous studies had not picked up on, was the creative writing element that many women identified as being important in their blogging.

Collating References etc!

I’m just starting to work on a shared project with other members of staff, and am therefore looking quite carefully at the way in which we (and I in future) can store references.
A bit of history!

When I first started working at the University, I used ProCite. I didn’t have any choice, but I discovered that I quite liked it – the fact that it had the ability to import data from a Webpage (as long as the browser was Netscape 4) was useful. Autoprinting Inter Library Loan requests was handy too!
Over the years, my use of it has varied; the pile of papers to be added varies from minimal to a rather large box.
However, I’ve also started using Web 2.0 tools far more; I’ve been using iKeepbookmarks for some time now, as a way of having access to all my bookmarks regardless of machine/ browser I’m using. When del.icio.us started becoming more popular, I was not particularly enthusiastic, I’d got used to iKeepbookmarks, and I wasn’t sure about the benefits of tagging. While I can see that it can be useful to see others’ bookmark lists, I was more worried that I’d mistype a tag I’d previously used, so be unable to relate them (a problem I’d had in the past with ProCite). Putting things into folders (as in iKeepbookmarks) was more me, (though I often ended up wondering why on earth I’d classified a particular reference in the way that I had!)
On other fronts, the University started moving towards EndNote.
Current Choices

  • Del.icio.us Pros: Many users; can find related information. Cons: A lot of users aren’t academic – so a lot of references that aren’t going to be immediately useful.
  • CiteULike Pros: Designed for use by academics; thus has links to journals, assorted options for export (including to EndNote)etc. Cons. Haven’t used it enough to know – other than the fact that it’s online – so have to be online to use it.
  • EndNote Web Only found it today – so don’t really know, but it has links to a great many resources (not Portsmouth University Library, unfortunately), compatibility with EndNote etc. Very fussy about the password that you use though, has to have at least 8 characters, of which one is a number & one something that’s not a letter or a number. It’s not exactly a bank account!
  • Zotero. Not quite the same as the others, as it is a Firefox 2.0 extension. Saves information (including screenshots of Webpages, which can be handy). Can export to Endnote (It also seems to be possible to import from Endnote, though I’ve not tried). Can be used off line.
  • Academic Live. Again, not quite the same as the other tools, but can export references in a format for import to EndNote -and also links to the “Full Text @ Portsmouth” service.

I’ve definitely decided to make the move from Procite to EndNote – and also to start using Zotero more. However, it’s the online aspects that I’m still not sure about; I think though I have many references in iKeepbookmarks – and will maintain it – especially for non-work related sites. However, for work & shared projects, I’m definitely in two minds as to whether CiteUlike or MyEndNoteWeb is the better of the two…

"Banning" Wikipedia.

The Guardian has an article about the fact that the History Department at Middlebury have “banned” wikipedia. Cyberspace reacted as one might expect, with a full range of views. InsideHigherEd’s report is worth reading, as they stress, (as does the Guardian), that the real objection comes when students see wikipedia as the sole source of information, not a springboard for further research.
This debate naturally enters the whole arena of the Internet for research – an Australian student in the slashdot article adds:

At the La Trobe University History department [latrobe.edu.au] (where I study), websites (including Wikipedia) can only be ‘freely’ cited in first year, first semester units.

From second semester of first year, all History students are required to get permission from the unit lecturer and/or tutor to use a specific online source (journals and books published online don’t need to go through this) and to also attach a copy of the webpage(s) used to the essay.

That seems like a very sensible solution! I would be interested to know, however, how they treat online journals? Are all online journals exempt from the rule? Or just those that the University also subscribes to the paper version? What about those (increasingly common in Educational Technology) that only have an electronic version – and/ or the University only gets the electronic version? What about eBooks through ebrary?