The past few weeks have seen a lot of discussion over computerized essay-grading. Some people admire its labor-saving potential (because who really likes grading a huge pile of student essays?) while the louder crowd argues that, among other things, a computer can’t read. I see this discussion as part of a broader trend that stretches back into the early days of the modern computer.
I have recently started to revisit some of the research I’ve collected over the last few years in preparation for the doctoral comprehensive exams, and have realized what a lifesaver the reference organizer and note-taking application Mendeley has been. Back in 2008, I had files across multiple locations and devices — some on a laptop, some on a desktop, some on a collection of flash drives. I hadn’t gotten the hang of this new thing called cloud-based storage. But then I found Mendeley, and my virtual research space has been much tidier ever since.
This post will be a departure from my usual spotlight on tech tools. I seem to be having a lot of conversations lately about academic freedom, intellectual property, and access to academic resources. In a way, this does tie into our discussion about technology because technology — especially Internet databases — is supposed to make more things accessible to more people. The Internet is supposed to be the great equalizer.
Part of my dissertation research involves images, and in writing my last chapter, I wanted to share the images I was using with my committee co-chairs. In the past, I’ve put images into Word documents, and never really liked the results. So, I’ve investigated other ways to share images with them, and thought to share my testing with you.
Over the past week or so, I’ve been working with a couple of colleagues to put together a panel for a conference we’re applying to. We worked on our rough ideas for the panel via a group email, but when it came time to write our panel summary, I suggested that we could try using a shared Google Drive document. My fellow panelists were game, and it ended up working really well!
This semester I’ve been working on a technology project with Dr. Pam Eddy, Associate Professor of Higher Education. She decided to use Mendeley, a reference management application, to allow students in her graduate-level Educational Policy class to interact with the assigned readings collaboratively while gaining experience with a useful online research tool. The social dimensionof Mendeley allows users to create interest groups where members may exchange documents, usually in PDF format, and highlight or annotate with comments. The beauty of the application is that it operates with both a desktop version and online repository, so that group members can keep the documents they are discussing on their own computers, but sync with the online version to update annotations.
Last spring I used a wiki in a course for the first time. It had its ups and downs, but for the most part it went well and it was a useful tool. However, as these things go, it of course had some pitfalls (caused by me, not the wiki itself) — the most surprising to me was the way that student collaborative writing went. The ease of collaborative writing was the aspect of using a wiki I was most sold on, and it did not work out at all the way I’d expected.
While writing my post on how I use Evernote, I thought a lot about why I chose to use it over keeping my dissertation notes organized in Zotero or DEVONthink Pro Office, the two other research managers that we’ve written about on the blog. So, the following is a brief overview of each application and reasons why you might want to use one over the other. So, if you’re trying to decide what application you might want to try out this may help you out!
Using DropBox to share drafts of his dissertation chapters helped Evan streamline his writing and revision process. Working on a piece of academic writing that requires multiple readers and commenters can get logistically complicated, especially when working on a multi-chapter dissertation project. DropBox can alleviate some of the frustration when keeping drafts organized, as well as keep your committee members up-to-date on your progress.
How do you go about editing and commenting on the same document while in an online writing group or working on other collaborative projects? In this post, I test out two different methods for sharing and commenting on text documents — a Microsoft Word and Dropbox combination and Google Drive. As a bonus, I also test out Scrivener’s ability to convert comments to a Word document.