Tools to support research: part 2

Scrivener

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I never quite appreciated the phrase ‘lengthy document’ until I started trying to draft part of my thesis. I’ve always felt pretty confident
with academic writing and structuring but suddenly I was no longer
looking at putting together a long essay or dissertation but an 80,000
word beast! Scrivener has allowed me to bring some sort of organisation
into the chaos. My usual tact was to use multiple Google docs however
just one section of my thesis seemed too long to contain in one document
and I needed to be able to flit about, reorganise and edit as needed.

Scrivener
allows you to break your document into chunks, drag them around, put
them back together and break them apart again. You can move between your
notes, research papers and the document you’re writing with ease, with
all on display if required using the quick reference panes. You can
create outlines of your entire project which you can move around as well as labelling and
tracking parts of your work. There is also a live word count for the
document you’re working on, you can see the word count for
your draft as a whole and you can set targets for a sessions work or a particular
section.

When you reach the point that you want to export your
work into one document the options available are sure to cover your
needs!

Now usually I wouldn’t recommend a tool that costs however
I’ve included this for two reasons! (Other than the fact it’s awesome).
1) You can have a 30 day trial – which is 30 days of use not 30 days
from when you first download. This could be enough for you depending on
how much you have done so far and what you want to use Scrivener for. 2)
I only intended to go for the trial and have found it so useful I’ll be
purchasing … anything that can keep me sane whilst composing this
thesis is worth it!

Draw.io

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So
this has been around for a while now but still really good for quick,
easy diagramming. No need to register / log-in and your diagrams can be
saved to your machine, Google drive, OneDrive or Dropbox. The diagrams /
images you create can be exported. There are a large number of graphics
/ shapes to choose from in order to build your diagram / flow chart or
whatever it is you need and all for free!

Mendeley

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After
trying many different reference management tools I keep returning to
Mendeley. It syncs well between all my devices – essential seeing as I
flit between my PC, Mac, iPad and android phone. It’s easy to drag my
documents in allowing me to view them quickly if I need to and I can
annotate or highlight them as needed. I find my references are really
easy to organise, search, sort into folders and attach notes to.
Although I haven’t utilised the networking and social side to Mendeley
yet it does allow you to search for other articles, join public groups
in various subject areas and build your own online presence. Personally I
don’t currently want this from my reference management software however
I may go and play one day! My only disappointment currently is only
being able to have three people in a group to collaborate and work on
papers. To be fair this isn’t a situation I find myself in often but it
felt like an unnecessary restriction if you wanted to use this for group
reference management.

Student Recommended Study Apps

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Last week with help from The Compass we set out to gather some feedback from students on the apps they would most recommend to others to aid study at University.

Recent statistics reveal that educational apps are the second most downloaded category in Apple’s app store, but what constitutes as an educational app? Often apps that aren’t typically seen as educational can be assistive in University study, so using the speak-board on Penryn campus helped us gain further insight into the apps our students found useful and would recommend to others.

Referencing apps were the most recommended of all the apps posted on the board, RefME in particular received praise; the free app syncs to your RefME account and allows you to scan resources using your phone or device to create citations, reference lists and bibliographies. EasyBib was also noted as a good app with the pretty much the same functionality as RefME, however this doesn’t support Harvard referencing.

Video based apps were also those featuring high on recommendations, especially those which involved an element of learning; You Tube and Ted Talks were seen as good apps for watching content on the go, SciShow, VSauce, Crash Course were specific You Tube channels which were put forward as being particularly educational and interesting to watch. Khan Academy was also mentioned, this app features a host of educational materials available for free.

Needing some music to help with studying? Spotify is a music streaming service which puts millions of tracks at your finger tips. 8tracks was another recommended app which featured on our feedback board, described as the peoples playlister, users are able to create mixtapes of 8 tracks or more to share with the online community.

Of all the types of apps posted to help with studying, organisational tools were by far the most recommended. Document organisation tools such as Evernote and Google Drive were suggested, also note taking and list apps: Todolist, Keep Notes (which featured in our recent Tools to Support Research post) and Reminders. There are an abundance of these tools available for phone and tablet, it’s easy to see why they’re popular especially when it comes to University study. HabitRPG came highly recommended from a few individuals, the ‘gamified’ to do list app aims to ‘make habit building fun’ by rewarding points when you complete day-to-day tasks.

The University of the West of England also features in our list of recommended apps with SAM, a tool to help understand and manage anxiety. It’s free and allows you to visualise your anxiety profile and connect to with a wider community who use the app.

For those wanting to make apps for your device Aris was one tool mentioned last week, one student has used the platform to create a campus tour for fellow classmates, built as user-friendly and open source it has all the resources to get you started.

To accompany the feedback received from students we are holding an apps event for staff to come and share tools they find useful as part of their teaching at University (12:00, 11th February, Peter Lanyon, Seminar 7, Penryn Campus).

Thanks to all who took part in the speak-board, if you’d like any more information about any of the apps mentioned or you’d like to talk about using apps as part of Learning and Teaching at Falmouth University please get in touch – etsupport@falmouth.ac.uk

Here’s the full list of recommended apps from the speak-board:

Referencing:

RefME

EasyBib

Video:

You Tube

Ted Talks

Khan Academy

Music:

Spotify

8Tracks

Lumin

Organisation:

Evernote

Google Scan to Drive

Google Drive

Dragon Dictation

Calendar & Reminders

Todolist

HabitRPG

Google Keep Notes

Prezi

Thetrainline

Flashlight

Images

Snapseed

Social

Facebook

WordPress

Wellbeing

SAM App

Make your own app

Aris Games

University apps:

iExeter app

Games/Other:

Looney Tunes, Flappy Bird, Tetris, Candy Crush and Insta 3D

Jisc Digital Student Project

As a team we’re often asked to attend sessions and give an overview of Educational Technology and how it can be used to support teaching within higher education. Instead of diving straight in with gadgets and apps a good introduction to ed tech is to look at the learners themselves and their experiences. Students coming from FE and other educational pathways bring with them their own expectations of digital technologies; these need to be recognised if our institutions are to fully support the students who come to study at University level.  

Jisc is currently working on a project which focuses in this area; The Digital Student Project commenced in October 2013 and aims to explore and develop students digital journey through FE, HE and beyond. The project is due to be completed at the end of this year, although there are already some published outputs available, including a literature review and two reports; “Students’ expectations and experiences of the digital environment” and “Incoming expectations of the digital environment formed at school”. 

Compiled by Helen Beetham, David White and Joanna Wild the report “Students’ expectations and experiences of the digital environment” is one resource we’ve highlighted in introductory staff sessions. Taking into consideration expectations of connectivity, technical support and resource availability is something we encourage of teaching staff and so to have a national project addressing these themes is encouraging for future educational policy making. 

Further information about the Digital Student Project including upcoming FE consultation events can be found via the Jisc Website, Twitter (#digitalstudent) or the project blog

Learning Learning Space in Learning Space Space

Try saying that ten times really fast. 

As ludicrous as that sounds, that’s what we’ve been trying to achieve with the implementation of the orientation module. We’re subscribing all users to one module that teaches you the basic  information you need to know to find your way around.

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There are several benefits to introducing things this way.

  • We can connect with home based learners.You don’t have to have a face to face induction to be able to use Learning Space, you can learn this stuff wherever you are.
  • We’re using the system to teach the system. As useful as it is to have a Knowledge Base with help information and our 1-2-1 sessions and consultation with staff, a great way to get to grips with the Learning Space is by doing it yourself in your own time, which leads to the next point.
  • It’s always available anytime you want. A key benefit of any Virtual Learning Environment is the ability to setup courses that allow you to learn at your own pace in your own time.

We’ve set up the course as you would see any module you subscribe to, with the course links and example information laid out in the same way. The course shows you different ways in which you will see information presented and also how this might be utilised. It also shows you where to find information on other University services, something that is key for those familiar with the old Learning Space of yesteryear. Finally, it introduces us and shows you how to get in contact with us.

The orientation is a living course and is continually updated by the team. We’ve had some fantastic feedback from staff and students so far, the more we know about how people use Learning Space the more we can improve, so many thanks for those of you that have taken the time to speak to us.

Let us know how you get on Learning Learning Space!

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