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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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:




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!

Reflective Teaching – Day 26

Te@chThought‘s Day 26 Challenge is: “What are your three favorite go-to sites for help/tips/resources in your teaching?

Two years ago, this would be an harder question to answer! My go-to sites included SMARTTechnologies SMARTExchange, Youtube, and just general Googling!

Now, I am primarily using Twitter. I curate great ideas by favouriting tweets, or reaching out to the author for more information. I post questions with hashtags and seek out answers, tagging in people I think that may be able to help me.

I am filled with gratitude to be teaching in a time where global connection and collaboration are celebrated and invited. Ideas and resources are shared freely and conversations spark innovation. It’s exciting!

Go-to sites are shared quickly. Teachers also create and share their own resources. It is no longer a matter of bookmarking key sites to return to repeatedly, social bookmarking has become more important for the flow of ideas. There is a growth mindset about teaching and a desire to support others in their own learning and efforts.

What a great time to be teaching!

Reflective Teaching – Day 20

Te@chThought‘s Day 20 Challenge is: “How do you curate student work–or help them do it themselves?

Ah, this is the dream! The unfortunate answer is that I don’t curate student work. Our province has very strict rules about student privacy and we don’t yet have a plan for storage. I dream of eportfolios in my future!

We curate in limited ways. Before parent conferences, or reporting periods, I have my students identify works showing improvement, showing areas of strength, showing change. I have students self-select items for assessment. We use Social Media carefully in our class, and sometimes we share out moments or artifacts of learning that are meaningful.

I think that Middle School aged learners should be encouraged to curate their own personal learning artifacts. They can select items for their own purposes, and we should be listening to their reasoning about why they selected particular pieces. Curation can be on a large scale, such as eportfolios or on a smaller scale, such as scrap-booking or archiving. Sharing can be global through Twitter or blogs, or can be private between students/families/teacher.