Wednesday, 16 December 2015

PicCollage - the twelfth app of Christmas

What a great app to finish with! PicCollage is really easy to use and does what it says on the tin - it makes collages.

Merry Christmas from UEA Library!

Flipboard - the eleventh app of Christmas

Well the penultimate app is Flipboard, which I am predisposed to dislike as it is one of the apps that came pre-loaded on my phone and which I cannot delete. This annoys me. 

Flipboard is yet another curation tool, and one I don't like very much. As far as curation goes, I think I prefer the idea of Pocket, where you collect as you go. Flipboard pulls everything into one place, which I can see the benefit of, but I quite like going into individual apps like Twitter and Facebook, both for a sense of orientation - being in a particular app for a particular purpose - but also because if I then want to do something more all the functionality of that app is available to me. Maybe I'm a dinosaur in this respect. I don't know! 

#12appsDIT consider Flipboard to be useful for it's sharing and collaborative functions. You can share articles with people in your network, and you can create public 'magazines', so you can see what other people have curated. I can see how this might work, although setting up Flipboard takes a little while, and it has a very personal feel about it. It also seems very similar to Pinterest...and indeed there are plenty of articles like this one comparing the two. Ultimately, getting people to follow each other and set up magazines might be great fun, but will it be a learning experience? 

I'm also conscious that I now have app fatigue after going through the 12 apps of Christmas, and am tired of setting up new accounts, linking together services that want access to all my data, finding that they don't quite work in the way I would like to use them, and falling back into my old ways because I preferred them. How much of this is because the new tools don't beat the old ones, or because I'm stuck in my ways I don't know. Maybe I will give Flipboard another go someday, but for now, it's back to ignoring it's continual presence on my phone. 

Monday, 14 December 2015

Photomath - the tenth app of Christmas

Oh maths...I'm not useless at maths, but I really don't have any need of complex equations in my job. As long as I know which equations are in which excel boxes I'm pretty much ok, which means I am not in need of any of today's apps, either for teaching or my own learning.

However, I think they all sound pretty cool and useful, so here they are in case you'd like to use them!
PhotoMath will use your phone's camera to give you the answer to any printed problem (well, they are still working on the really complex ones). It also shows you the working out, which is neat.
MyScript Calculator lets you write equations on the screen and will then solve them.
Desmos is a graphing tool which I in no way understand but I can make it create fairly pretty patterns. Desmos is available using a browser as well so you just need to go to the site to get started.

Enjoy your mathematics my friends!

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Cogi (and Pinterest) - the ninth app(s) of Christmas

Yes, I have failed again and this post is a day late. Partly this is because the ninth app of Christmas is actually two apps - Cogi and Pinterest.

Cogi is a voice recorder. I can understand why being able to record audio would be extremely useful for teaching and learning, and a good app to do this would be invaluable. I'm not sure about Cogi's passive recording function though - this enables you to press record and capture up to 45 seconds of audio you just missed. My instant thoughts are - 'how would you make this work ethically? I don't really want to be passively recorded!' I then go to download the app and this is another that requires access to pretty much all my phone information, so I don't download it. If I need a voice recorder I will remember it and maybe give it a try then.

Pinterest on the other hand, that's something of a little more interest to me. You can use it to discover, 'pin' and share images from within Pinterest and around the web. I signed up to Pinterest years ago when I first discovered it, made a lovely board about librarians, and then promptly forgot about it completely. Like most social media things (mainly Facebook) I'm actually not that good at saving and sharing things of interest, so Pinterest probably isn't for me personally. On the other hand, it is a great way of sharing ideas in a 'mood board' style and I think it could be a great deal of fun in a teaching environment. It has also been used effectively
in other ways like these gorgeous boards from the British Library:

My conclusion? I should probably give it more of a go, find a few friends on there and see what other people are sharing. I expect I'll find it more useful if I actually engage with the sharing functions rather than just using it quite literally as my own personal pinboard...

Thursday, 10 December 2015

StudyBlue - the eighth app of Christmas

I don't know what to make of StudyBlue. My initial impressions are that most apps feel a lot more subtle about trying to sell you the upgraded version. StudyBlue is making me feel like I can't access anything useful without paying from the word go. This is because I am browsing around trying to figure out how this thing works.
I give up and start making some cards as I guess I was expected to do first. It wants me to suggest a term, so I pick 'database', and then StudyBlue shows me how other people have defined database on their cards. Suddenly this is fascinating! Quite a lot of answers are fairly accurate, but some aren't, which is a bit worrying.
Next I try 'academic journal' - again levels of granularity in the responses are quite varied.
So I decide to be brave and try 'librarian', who is apparently a 'person who can help you find books or another source of information'...well, that's not so bad I suppose!
Ok, my library obsession aside, this is starting to make some more sense to me. I can see some people have used these cards to note how to reference different types of information which seems like a sensible idea.
I wonder if this could be used for some library matching card games as well.
However, for my personal learning style I don't like it at all, this is not the way I study! But this in itself is useful to contemplate, as this obviously does work well for many people, so at the very least knowing the app exists to be able to signpost people to it is pretty useful. Here are my cards so far...

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

RefMe - the seventh app of Christmas

 RefMEToday's app is really easy to write about, as it's one I already know and love. RefME is simply fantastic for collecting references. It's so very easy - you can use a web clipper in your browser, you can search by title, author, or ISBN from within the service quickly and easily, or you can scan the barcode on the book! For undergraduates, this is so much easier than exporting references in RIS format from whichever database they are in (and they're not usually in a database, they're usually on Amazon...or Wikipedia...) It's even easier than having to change your settings in Google Scholar to the correct reference management software.

In short, I love it, and I use it myself.

The only issue with RefME is that is doesn't currently have a cite-while-you-write component, although you can generate a perfect reference list and the layout of your citations is shown for you as well. To my mind this makes this more of an undergraduate resource, where you might not be handling too many references per assignment. On the other hand, you can export out to Mendeley, Endnote etc. so you could then use these services for cite-while-you-write if you so wished.

One final really cool thing about RefME is that they accept individual institution referencing styles and include them in their service. So if your institution has an agreement with RefME, you may very well find the correct style is already pre-loaded and ready for you to use.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

IF, DO and MindMeister - the fifth and sixth apps of Christmas

Friday, 4 December 2015

Trello and Pocket - the third and fourth apps of Christmas

Yes, you caught me, I did fail to post yesterday, so it's time for a double whammy today.

Yesterday's app was Trello, which has been introduced to me before as we used it for our Discovery Service implementation project here at UEA. I really quite liked it! I think it's probably an excellent way for teams to work together, divide up tasks and measure progress. As a personal tool it's probably very useful as well, although perhaps could also lead to a lot of procrastination trying to organise your work rather than actually getting on and doing it (as shown by the below where I've organised today's to do list into a Trello board...this was entirely unnecessary, but fun!) Trello certainly isn't going to replace Wunderlist for me, which I use to manage my life pretty much, but then I've always been very fond of lists.

Pocket is something brand new to me and initially sounds fantastic. I am the kind of person who emails links to myself to look at later, and then never get around to it. I'm also very good at downloading PDFs, convinced that this time I WILL find time to read them, and yep, you've guessed it, years later they're still sitting there, unread and lonely.
So I download Pocket onto my phone, and quickly and easily I Pocket a tweet. Then it gets a bit harder - I have to remember that the share function is in the menu settings rather than via the site/s itself. This take a while to figure out. I give up on my phone and install the extension into my browser and try and bookmark a journal article. This is fine, but because of the need to authenticate to access full text I'm not seeing that on Pocket. I'm starting to think this is a bit more trouble that it's worth.
But there are features of Pocket I really like the sound of - offline reading for some items, instant access across all devices, sharing functions, read out loud - they all sound fantastic. I'm just not sure this is really for me (see above, I'm a list person, I'm happy with a list!)
The premise of Pocket I rather like: instead of having email links here and there, PDFs saved in multiple locations, oodles of bookmarks, I can instead keep all these exciting things in one place...but that really doesn't resolve the whole 'then read them' issue. In fact, Pocket is highly likely to increase my sense of satisfaction that I've collected together a good and valuable reading list, thereby decreasing my actual desire to get on with the reading itself. I wonder if many students would experience the same?
The other thing about Pocket is that for my students, gathering isn't enough, they also want the software to spit out references as well. And do I quite frankly. So something like RefME with it's webclipper is actually my preferred way of 'pocketing' my reading. That way I'm saving my reading all in one list as I browse around the web AND I'm creating my reference list at the same time. Of course RefMe doesn't contain the actual documents, so it doesn't have and sharing features but for academic learning it seems more appropriate to me.
Pocket's use of the 'share' function to Pocket from apps is new to me and clever. But ultimately the browser extension for web clipping is something a whole host of other apps can do, and really this is just another one. Might be perfect for some people I guess. But I think I'm happy with the way I do things. After all, I don't need MORE articles stored up to read at some point...honest...

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

OfficeLens - the second app of Christmas

 Hummm, but do I love OfficeLens? Today's app is essentially a capture service that lets you use your camera to send pictures straight to OneNote, OneDrive or your phone gallery.
I've never actually been big on using my phone to take pictures of slides/whiteboards etc. although I've given many presentations where students were continually taking pictures of the screen. I even showed someone how to look up a book on the library catalogue the other day, and his way of making a note of the shelfmark was to photograph it. This is all very alien to me, except of course last week we made a list of things to do on the whiteboard during a meeting and I took a picture of it afterwards! So whether I like it or not this certainly is a useful service.
Do I love it though? Well, I certainly like the fact that you can send the picture instantly to your OneNote. This definitely increases the chances of someone actually remembering they had taken a picture and of looking at it again in the future. I do often wonder about all those students taking photo after photo of my slides - are they really going to look at them again? Will they remember how or why they were useful?
But ultimately the camera on my phone is probably good enough for my needs...and also the amount of information Microsoft want from you when you install this app is massive. Why exactly does OfficeLens need to know my caller ID and phone information? If this is for texting photos, then I think I'd prefer to use the camera on my phone thank you. 
Will I use OfficeLens for teaching....probably not. Getting students to use Microsoft 365 is hard enough but when they've all got a camera and are used to snapping away, why would they want another app? 

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

OneNote - the first app of Christmas

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I have posted the picture above so you can see what this blog is going to be all about for the next 12 days. You can join in too!

I'll be blogging (briefly) on each app as a way of a) remembering them all and b) reflecting on how they could be used in my teaching practice.

So, OneNote.
I've actually been using OneNote since 2008; you know, back when things were called 'programs' rather than 'apps'. At that point I didn't use it for any of the collaborative features or any of that jazz. I used it for one reason only - you can write anywhere on the page! You just click and start writing, and if you get bored you click the cursor somewhere else and write something else (this was pretty exciting in 2008, well, to me, erm...I can't make this any better. I liked it, alright!) The other cool thing about it was the autosave. No more forgetting to save your work and losing it when the computer froze. It just saved automatically.

The flexibility of being able to jump around the page so easily I found really useful primarily for writing fiction and poetry. Somehow, this helped free up my creativity and I enjoyed writing on the computer a lot more than I had previously. As I worked on my novel (a yet unpublished document, although sure to be a posthumous masterpiece) I found the ability to create pages really helpful, and I made a page for each chapter. Eventually I had a tab for each new story I wanted to write, and now I have a whole notebook for poetry, one for fiction, one for life stuff (notes, pictures, to do lists etc) and one for non-fiction writing.

The best thing about it now is the cloud element, and the fact you can download it for free. It's so useful to be able to jump on any device and find all my crazy writing just there. Even if the PC I'm on doesn't have it installed I can login online. Perfect.

I can completely see how many learners, frustrated with using traditional word processors but needing to capture their thoughts electronically, would find OneNote much more freeing and useful. And the fact you can share notebooks really opens up collaborative possibilities both for students working in groups and for me thinking about ways to get students to work together and engage more flexibly with a task. As we have it here at UEA as part of Office 365 I shall have to give this some serious thought!

And just for fun, here is a poem I wrote very many years ago now, courtesy of OneNote:

Tide clock

Time passes in the wave of grass, the sweep of rain across the bay, the meticulous chewing of the cows in the field. I watch the shifting clouds, feeling the wind whipping over my skin and blowing holes in my lungs.
The flecks of air flick sand and salt into my face, into my eyes.  I hear the endless waves. For them time is a monotony of breaths drawn in and out, never ceasing, ever.
I breathe in sympathy with the long ravaged sea, and feel myself melt into the earthy wildness, an insignificant second rhythm tapping lightly along with the rest, unheard by most, and short-lived.

Lying here  in outward harmony, I count time, crash by crash.

12 apps for 12 days during the 12 days of library Christmas....ahhh!

Well hello everyone!

After completing CPD23 and bravely announcing I would carry on blogging, I then completely failed to ever post again...until now that is.

Why am I reviving this blog? Well, there are many reasons actually:

  1. I feel out of touch with the librarian community and that I'm working in a vacuum. This is not a good feeling. Blogging forces me to take time out for reflection, and for learning new things. Also, some nice library folk might turn out to be a bit interested in my blog, maybe.
  2. I am going to do the 12 apps of Christmas this year! Having not really thought about my digital presence for a while (hence the vacuum) I realise I am now completely out of touch and have been missing things. Maybe the 12 apps of Christmas will help me rectify that.
  3. Finally, I am slightly lying when I say I haven't blogged at all in recent times - in fact I've just set up a new blog for UEA Library called 'The 12 days of library Christmas', in which we are going to showcase one of our resources each day for the next 12 days. Fun, right? Well, if I can manage that, then I can jolly well write my own blog as well. Here's hoping anyway.
So, the first app of Christmas is Onenote, and it just so happens that I've used that extensively for many years now. I shall post about that later today I think. 
For now, for anyone contemplating their own connected-ness with the other members of their profession, here are my CPD promises for 2016:
  • Tweet more - and reply to people's tweets. Lurking is all very well and good but it's much better to actually be involved.
  • Blog - my thoughts, what I'm up to, my research, essentially keeping a record of things I achieve so I remember it all.
  • Go to conferences and talk to real people. It's extremely refreshing to get out of my own silo and go and bother some other folks who turn out to have exactly the same problems, and maybe some creative solutions I haven't thought of before.
  • Read - probably not much as there simply isn't time, but perhaps, rather than just bookmarking articles of interest and never looking at them again, I might take two minutes to skim the contents instead.
Wish me luck!