Making Meaning of Mendeley

This is a collaborative blog post written through the use of Google Docs by the #tiegrad Mendeley team including: JarodJason, Tanya, Melody, myself, Liane, Harprit, Angela, and Mardelle

Recently a group of us from #tiegrad logged into a Google Hangout session together (after a less than successful attempt to meet via Bluejeans) so that Jason Kemp could school us on Mendeley as a reference tool.  In the past, we had each used a variety of reference tools with success, including EasyBib, Refworks through UVIC, EndNote, and Zotero, but many people were recommending other tools this fall and exploring some of them seemed like a good idea. A number of us found ourselves overwhelmed when looking at each of the options, however, and similar requests for help and information began to surface.  Believing that Mendeley might be The One, a group of us emerged from the #tiegrad pool, all wanting to learn about this tool; we all boarded the collaboration train. If there is one thing we have learned about ourselves in this last year and a half, it’s the benefit of sharing the load and hashing things out together.

After posting a request out on Twitter from the group, Jason agreed to host a Mendeley sharing session. He admitted to being a bit nervous (as any of us would have been), as he had only recently made the switch to Mendeley himself. He explained that he was looking for a reference management software that was user-friendly and had obtained a copy of Endnote from a friend, but had difficulties using the program. Jason had used Mendeley briefly for another course, but this was only to create a bibliography.

We initially decided to meet up on Bluejeans for our Mendeley session, but soon after we logged on, we began experiencing major issues. As Jason was sharing his screen with the group, it became unresponsive. Unfortunately, Jason didn’t realize the participants could not see his screen and continued to proceed with the presentation while the audience, similarly, remained unaware for several minutes. This is a problem when presenting using a program such as Bluejeans to screenshare; it’s not always immediately apparent to either side that there is a problem. After several attempts to rectify the situation, we decided to switch over to Google Hangout (GHO). For many, it was their first time using GHO to present and we found it to be very slick and easy to use. After the presentation was finished, a few other members were able to share some of the features they had discovered (such as the chat window, screen captures, using accessories to dress each other up and other useful and entertaining tools). This was an awesome way to learn about GHO’s capabilities.

As many of us do when learning a new program, Jason had viewed a quick tutorial on YouTube and then began to play around and learn a few of the components of Mendeley. Jason noted that it was very intuitive and had an easy help option; these were features that many of us were looking for in a reference tool. Mendeley easily imports .pdfs, cites as you write in Microsoft Word, creates a bibliography for you, and allows sharing libraries between users. Check out the short, user friendly tutorials that can walk you through the basic functionality of Mendeley.  Mendeley Minutes cover such topics as: importing topics, organizing your library, and how to use the group feature.

It is easy to get started on Mendeley. Simply sign up for an account, download the appropriate software, and then download the tool bar plug-in for Word.  Mendeley trumps many other citation tools with its built-in Literature Search. As articles are curated, Mendeley suggests related articles based on key terms, authors, and tags. Mendeley will indicate whether the articles are available through its library, or directs you to where they can be found. Logging into your UVic Library account while searching makes it easy to copy and paste titles suggested by Mendeley into Google Scholar to acquire a found article. Your library builds quite quickly! Each article suggested by Mendeley comes with an additional list of suggested related articles to explore. The program then auto populated the information for referencing. There is also a Chrome extension tool that will allows for clipping articles directly into Mendeley which is very convenient.

Another Mendeley advantage is the fact that there are apps available so you can access the program on other devices and it syncs easily. Once an article is added on your computer, you can see it from any of your devices. Annotating articles using an iPad, for example, will update the article in your library, making all changes visible from any platform you choose to use. One #tiegrad lit review team has been using the group feature in Mendeley to successfully share articles. This feature works well for small groups, as it automatically syncs the articles to each member but, unfortunately, the group limit is 3 participants; adding more members requires paying a substantial membership fee.

In the end, our fabulous Mendeley Guide, Mr. Jason Kemp had us comfortably navigating our way through the world of online resource curation and citation. Mendeley has proven to be an efficient and effective tool that allows us to search, read, make notes, curate and cite our sources. It organizes our sources however we need, offers collaboration amongst colleagues (three maximum),  and integrates beautifully into Microsoft Word making it easier to insert citations and create bibliographies as we progress through our lit reviews.

Our Google Hangout session was a success. It is nice to know that with so many of us using Mendeley, support and new ideas are only a tweet away. While the business end of our session was very productive, we also laughed and enjoyed our #tiegrad community. There is nothing better than dressing as a pirate or mixing and matching props and backgrounds online. The collaborative nature of Google Hangout offers a wonderful mix of business and play. Just remember, that only three microphones can be active at once. Perhaps this is something that Google can increase in the future. Are you listening Google?

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#openeducationwk

I virtually attended the Open Education Week session hosted by TIELab this afternoon. I felt lucky to have another opportunity to hear Alan Levine speak again! This was an introduction to Brian Lamb for me (love the identity of Re-Director of Innovation), and now I am a follower. I enjoyed their interplay and camaraderie; it was easy to see how they would challenge each other’s thinking to work some serious magic.

They cut right to the heart of the matter right away questioning why hundreds of thousands of dollars are not allocated for our students in educational technology. They shared how some view open web services as a frill and not something we can afford. Some platforms and providers shutter their services claiming concerns with privacy. There are some that see safety and increased security in more managed services (LMS). They shared a blog post by D’Arcy Norman that speaks to the False Binary of LMS vs. Open. What stood out for me in reading this post was that both Open and LMS tools could still be used, but they serve very different purposes. It does not have to be one or the other. There are clear challenges with jumping right into the open web. The biggest concern (privacy) seems even more pressing here in BC with FOIPPA.

But, being aware of the concerns and going forward with intention and purpose is possible. And should be better supported. Brian went on to share Alan’s blog, which is filled with ideas, process and information. Brian was not the first to celebrate Alan’s blog as an incredible resource, and Clint Lalonde quickly shared that he believes Alan to be the “best sharer/documenter of process in edtech”.

The first creation shared by Alan and Brian was something called SPLOT – an acronym with multiple meanings: Smallest/Simplest Possible/Probable Learning/Latest/Lucid Online/Opportunistic Tools/Techniques/Technology. What was amazing about this resource is that there were plenty of open tools that you can use without ever disclosing your identity or creating yet another account. This has become so routine – in order to continue reading a website, or engaging with/interacting with/creating content online, you must first register for your (*free*) account. I have wanted to create a Gmail account just for all of my random logins. It seems like it may save a lot of time/energy/mental health if that account would just quietly manage all of my notifications and random invitations from places requiring my log-in.

Alan knows his technology. He can build websites, write codes and build things of shiny brilliance. But, he also knows his people. He began excitedly talking about downloading a simple jQuery code to work one of his creations “Comparator” and knew immediately that as soon as he arrived at the word “jQuery” he would have lost some people. So, they created a simple web form with drag and drop features for people who are not comfortable with HTML/Javascript. Brilliant!

SPLOT is crafted as an inclusive learning space/community, for all levels and interests. Alan spoke of the importance to create a space where people can choose their level of identity disclosure. I love this and use this in my own class with our classroom Twitter feed, but it also makes me a little sad. The argument that I have used with stakeholders who are concerned about publishing student work with full attribution publically is that I believe that our students should be getting full credit for the works that they author.

Another resource/collection tool on SPLOT was TRU Sounder and Collector. I liked how one biology teacher was uploading images for shared use on Collector, and I thought about how that would actually make a neat assignment: students create a small image collection to share on Collector. It would teach so much about licensing, sharing, authorship, and mindful sharing.

One of the last resources shared by Alan and Brian was The You Show where the hosts were “learning” publicly and encouraging others to push through their fears. Sharing vulnerability makes it easier for others to ask questions, to feel a part of the process, and to reach out.

An hour with these guys is simply not enough. Thank you for allowing me to attend!

Research Update: January

It is thanks to Liane’s brave post about Clarity and Confusion that I feel brave enough to admit that I am still feeling murky about my Lit Review and project altogether.

This is my January Research update, such as it is:

What have I done?

  • My one pager based on Creswell: Topic, problem, rationale, possible questions, theoretical frameworks and search terms.
  • Read a few articles and wrote (yes, wrote – with pen and paper. This is how I think best, sketching, messy, page filled, satisfying crinkled notebook pages) notes.
  • Began planning an outline for the Lit Review
  • Read a few other sample Lit Reviews for ideas
  • Met with my new reading group: Keith, Jarod, and Bryan – I am loving our team name: #bryansbrainiacs
  • Stressed non-stop about my topic, resources, the process of writing and due dates

What needs to be done?

  • Firm up my topic – see my muddled thinking below
  • Ensure that I have adequately documented where I am finding my resources – I rushed a few.
  • Read up on theoretical frameworks so that I can settle on one or two – not keep trying to make ALL of them work.
  • Meet with the UVic research librarians – they have the experience, the clarity and I am sure that I am not the first with an unclear direction
  • Find out if we can use professional literature reviews as part of our own Lit Review, or if we need to seek out each document mentioned and write our own connections, summaries and understandings. The most helpful article I found is a literature review – unfortunately a few years older than I would prefer, but amazing insights.
  • Meet with my team more frequently.

My Confusion: I love the idea behind my topic, but I am realizing that the problem I am trying to solve is far larger and more systemic than I am currently addressing. My general idea for my research and resulting project is to look at the initial steps required to effectively leverage the use of student-owned devices as learning tools and what a “BYOD” program could look like for grade 6 students. My project is meant to be a part of larger scope and sequence with Jarod’s digital literacies for Grade 7/8 Middle School students.

Initially, I think that I was focusing with a very narrow view of teacher and student needs. Taking a step back and reading more literature – including teacher blogs – I am realizing that the problem that I need to address is much larger than creating a “program”. The shifts that need to occur for effective digital literacy development are HUGE! The two areas that I have identified as needing a seismic shift are school (or district) cultural and curricular. It is not enough to embed technology into pre-existing lessons or create a series of one-offs. The use of technology has to be seamless and personalized. As I stated above, I prefer to write my notes on paper, where other grad students enjoy a digital format.

So where am I now? Addressing these questions as part of my research has overwhelmed me. What cultural and curricular shifts need to occur in order to effectively leverage the learning potential of personally-owned devices?

Feeling slightly lost in the research and reading makes me feel like I am constantly starting over. But, I guess it is important to just keep going forward. The pieces that don’t fit with the final product can be cut out. Evolution happens.

Critical Reflection: A Visit with Scott Johnston

note: Our visit occurred in November 2014, but it has taken time to practice and apply what I learned from that visit in order to compose a critical reflection…

Our #tiegrad group enjoyed a visit with Scott Johnston, a University of Victoria Graduate Studies Librarian. He was very calm and detailed in his approach as he shared the methods we could use to face this daunting task of researching and writing our Lit Reviews for the 2015 Spring Term. However, one particular quote from Scott has been rattling around in my brain ever since:

“organization is one of the key indicators of a successful project”.

Scott was speaking of the importance of staying on top of your research, and detailing each keyword used, each database accessed, and each step taken as we compile our data for our Literature Review. This was the moment my anxiety kicked into overdrive. Our summer course of accessing, reading, reviewing and discussing academic articles taught me that finding suitable articles and compiling the information into a proper Lit Review is already a monumental task, but documenting your steps, tangents and the rabbit holes of active research seems near impossible! I can’t really claim “organization” has ever been one of my personal strengths. So, yet another area in which to grow as I pursue my Masters!

I was quite pleased to learn even more information about effective search techniques from Scott. During the early days of our Summer Term, I re-watched a video shared with us by Dr. Valerie Irvine authored by Pia Russell, a Research Help Desk Librarian. She taught us about searching the various databases, using our temporary folders and citing our articles using Refworks. Scott extended my understanding (which, I admit, is quite limited) of Boolean language in searching. I knew about using quotation marks to search for phrases and to include “and” to refine my search. I did not know about the power of “or” to help find synonymous terms. I have also now learned to employ “not” to help me limit my own search. Every time I search for BYOD in academic research, the most common returns are related to employee use of their personal devices as part of their work. Using Google Scholar, I searched for BYOD, and received a return of 4760 academic articles written in the last 4 years. By entering “not workplace” my search became a more manageable 1150 articles!

One of the most important things I learned from Scott is about ALWAYS logging into the UVic Library first before accessing any other database. This summer, I had set up my account on Google Scholar and I have been receiving numerous alerts on articles of interest related to my possible Masters topic. However, many of these alerts have been useless to me as they are behind a paywall, making them cost-prohibitive to preview. By logging into the UVic library first, Google Scholar (and all other databases) recognizes me as a registered University student, and the results of my searches are tailored more deliberately for my needs. An additional column also appears, showing me how to retrieve some articles that may otherwise require payment before viewing. This has been a wallet-saver recently!

We were left with a list of databases on which to focus our energies:

ERIC

PsychINFO

EdITLib

Web of Science

To develop my own organizational strategies, I will need to set up alerts for topics of interest, document the keywords that I am using, and set up a research schedule. I can access other Lit Reviews to get a better idea of what will be required. I must also finally make a decision about purchasing a citation manager or continue to make use of the free services. I am most curious about using Endnote.

Thank you for your time, Scott Johnston. It was nice to learn that we can book an individual consult with our University Graduate Librarians. The pressure is on to now apply these skills!