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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Research Update – February

Better late than never, right?

I am feeling a little stalled with my Masters Research and upcoming Literature Review.

My activity:

  • I’ve downloaded about 15 articles
  • I’ve read a few articles and skimmed many others
  • I selected a citation tool! (That’s one for the “WIN” column!) Mendeley: free, easy, friendly, and shareable.

My inactivity:

  • I am not even sure which articles have any value for my project or my Literature Review
  • I have not been excited or inspired by any of the articles so far, except for a Lit Review from Great Britain from 2009. Too old.
  • I feel like I am reading FOR something, but I am not sure exactly what it is
  • Leftover from the summer sessions where I felt blindsided when I learned that the articles I had specifically selected from the University Library were not actually Peer Reviewed – although the Library had listed them as Peer Reviewed. I learned about this bizarre grey area where peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed articles cohabitate.
  • I struggle with formulaic writing. I know that I can do it, no one my age can make it through high school without learning how to slap together an essay, but I need a formula that works for me. I don’t know what I am doing or how to start.
  • My topic is still fuzzy. How can I start writing without a topic?

I’ve done everything to kick-start my process: web my ideas, journal informally, list ideas, re-list ideas, web my listed ideas, talk with people, read for more information, etc. I met with our professor earlier this month and she gave me great advice about telling my own story as part of this Masters project, and then looking for research to substantiate the actions or decisions that I made. Narrative writing makes me happy, and seems like a nice place to start. The most difficult thing about this is that I lost my “journals” about my process of initiating BYOD in my classroom last year when our blogs hosted at UVic were lost. Some of my most authentic reflections are gone. Those “in the moment” reflections are difficult to recreate.

I am excited about using Mendeley as a citation tool. A few of us got together to learn about it and will be blogging about it soon.

I’m not sure what to do next. Do I continue to read and hope something sparks? Do I continue to write sweet nothings on my so-called Lit Review? I know that I need to refine my keywords and pick a clear direction for selecting more articles to add to the pile. I also think that it is time to contact the UVic Research Librarian for help.

I also need to organize the articles I have printed. How much information do I need to keep with these articles? I believe that I need to have the location they were retrieved from and the search terms used. Anything else?

Taking some advice from Tracey Thorne means that my next step is to read, read, read and look for themes. It’s nice to have a plan.

 

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!

Research Focus #3 November

Photo Credit: DennisCallahan via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: DennisCallahan via Compfight cc

A shared post by Jarod Fong and Heidi James

For the November update, Jarod and Heidi shared a GoogleDoc to co-craft this post. We have been meeting digitally to share our ideas and have shared Documents and Folders to hold our thoughts and our research and would like to use this post as an opportunity to share our process with our #tiegrad friends.

Our initial steps in this BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) journey began last year when we realized that we were at opposite ends of the BYOD spectrum: Jarod was 3 years into using BYOD and experiencing a plateau and Heidi was hoping to launch it in her school. We connected and shared ideas. We recognized the need for ongoing conversations around the use of personal devices in an educational classroom. We would like to create a resource of some kind to transform how BYOD is being used by our students.

Our initial view was very expansive: we were looking at creating a curriculum for Middle School Digital Literacy or Citizenship with a focus on the implementation of BYOD.

We met recently to refine our work. Some of our new thoughts include creating a scope and sequence for Middle School Teachers and Learners. We like the idea of using the Core Competencies language from the new BC Curriculum Draft. Our project will include a resource section for teachers. Our original steps included locating resources that we have personally used for teaching digital literacy skills in our own classrooms and we planned to share out those lessons with the resources attached. Instead, we believe that a more flexible, personalized approach may be to curate dynamic and effective resources and tag them to specific competencies. This will encourage teachers to use the resources in innovative ways, and hopefully share their ideas!

What the Resource Needs to Include:

  • must be adaptable, flexible and a living document – something that can grow and change over time: as technology changes, as opportunities arise
  • a framework for supporting digital literacies province-wide
  • language around creating a globally connected, digitally literate classroom culture

Jarod’s Next Steps:

  • searching for research around digital citizenship
  • finding resources and examples of digital citizenship appropriate for Middle School grades
  • exploring citizenship vs. digital citizenship with regards to the curricular competencies
  • curating resources for digital citizenship
  • exploring different resources and vehicles for that will evolve with time in an area that changes rapidly

Heidi’s Next Steps:

  • finding research around BYOD in Middle School Classrooms
  • finding examples of how BYOD is being used in classrooms
  • curating resources for digital literacies
  • learning more about content creation versus content consumption and how to create that climate in a classroom setting

One of many challenges that we are looking at is how to create a resource that will continue to evolve with not only technology, but the social changes that are created as new platforms for connecting with people come and go. Technology and social media have become a vehicle for global awareness and change. How do we create a resource that will continue to evolve and stay current as an unknown future evolves; a resource that will help to integrate BYOD and digital citizenship effectively for our students today and in the future when new technology and new forms of media have emerged? With a focus on new curricular competencies, our project will be about people as much as it is about technology as a tool and social media as a platform.

Book Club #tiebc Chapter 2

Photo credit: Photo Credit: deeplifequotes via Compfight cc

Photo credit: Photo Credit: deeplifequotes via Compfight cc

I am really enjoying Clive Thompson’s book Smarter Than You Think. This read is serving a huge purpose in my Master’s journey. As part of this learning, I am reading many articles and sorting through conflicting research, and who knew that research papers might be a little on the dry side!?! Smarter Than You Think provides the story of the research, it draws me in to the lives of REAL people using technology in innovative ways and provides me with ideas and understandings that I am struggling to unearth in the data provided by articles. Don’t misunderstand me; this book is brimming with clearly referenced facts and data! However, the data is artfully woven into story, it emerges as a relevant, supporting detail, but the characters and their actions are the main players holding my interest and engaging me with information in a lively way.

I’ve also enjoyed our #tiebc book club meetings on alternating Wednesday evenings. Thank you to everyone involved – your stories and connections help me to expand my thinking and learn in novel ways.

Chapter 2: We, The Memorious

This chapter describes the phenomena of “lifelogging” – capturing every moment of life digitally, through cameras, voice recorders, etc. I connected with the author’s description of the “quintessential modern dilemma” of experiencing a moment in time versus capturing that moment digitally. All too often I can recall being filled with regret that I didn’t record a moment in time, or take more pictures of a person or a beloved pet. But, I also wonder if pausing to take out a recording device to capture that moment; to separate myself from the moment by allowing technology to be the medium through which I experienced that moment would diminish the magic, the power, or the emotion of that particular time? I am lucky to have had so many moments that I value, and I worry about losing these memories over time. And we know that humans lose those fine details, or we re-write our memories unintentionally.

The author explains that memory is an active entity – it requires work. Our new approach to memory is far more passive, we record things quickly, jot digital notes, voice memo our grocery lists, and take pictures everywhere. We also share these memories expansively, assuring ourselves that everyone will want to remember this amazing meal that we enjoyed at a particular restaurant!

How do we catalogue and sort these memories? If we begin archiving everything (text messages, pictures, emails, contact information, medical histories, facts about everyone in our lives and the important dates around them, our conversations, the minutiae of each day), how do we store and retrieve this information? Or do we even try? And, what about the things that we want to forget? I am grateful that my awkward adolescence was captured primarily by photos and faulty human memory, as our current youth will grow up in a time where their most embarrassing moments will be Google-able. My peers will (hopefully) forget that time that I…, but my students may end up with their mistakes on an endless loop on Vine.

Memories are precious to each person, and sharing these memories is how we tell the stories of our lives. A more common occurrence now is our experiences showing up in another person’s digital feed. We appear in the background of others’ stories. By venturing out in public, we seem to enter into an understanding that our movements are for public consumption. Cameras are everywhere!

I don’t think that there is an easy answer to our new reality of memory in a digital age. There are clearly pros and cons; it depends on your situation, your needs at the time and the content being curated. The final quote from this chapter resonated with me: “Our ancestors learned how to remember; we’ll learn how to forget.”

 

 

Research Focus #2

Our Masters cohort #tiegrad has been asked to nail down a research focus for our Research project. This has been keeping me up at night, working in circles! I have a rough idea of WHAT I want to research, and why, but determining the actual problem has been a bit of an existential crisis. Does my research interest area actually have a problem to solve, or is it only a perceived problem by me?

In my desperation to move forward (this blog post was due in October), I turned to my recent readings. Our Creswell text has been described as “Masters Writing for Dummies”, and I needed specific help, so I re-read the section about “Research Problems”. Success and joy ensued. I don’t have a specific problem statement yet, but I have a process. As I tell my students, the process is often more valuable than the product. (Yes, I know that I must eventually find a product, but patience is a virtue… I’m just getting started here!!!)

Creswell suggests a fairly simple strategy for identifying your research problem. He clarifies that a research problem can be an educational issue, controversy, or concern that affects teachers, administration, or policy makers. He provides four questions to answer to help researchers identify their focus.

I began by drafting a quick web about my general thoughts about my overarching topic: BYOD – Bring Your Own Device. I included every type of issue or problem that I could identify as a possible problem, controversy, or issue for teachers, administration or policy-makers. I began with things that were obvious to me as I explored my own experiences launching BYOD in my own classroom last year, and then branched out in more general terms. I still kept a focus on the initial steps of BYOD: looking at the first users of BYOD in a middle school, or the beginning steps of launching BYOD.

After broadly drafting possible “problems”, I turned to Creswell’s four questions to answer for finding a research problem. Please understand that this is a think-on-paper, and does not contain “research-friendly” language. I did not censor my thinking, and some ideas are too vague, too specific, biased, or unclear. I look forward to your comments and suggestions in supporting me to find my way through this process.

1. What is the specific problem/issue/controversy that I need to address?

  • a need for clear strategies or support for teachers who are implementing BYOD in their classrooms
  • a need for guidance in the first steps in launching BYOD
  • a need for mentoring or the sharing of stories from schools who have successfully created a culture of student use of personal devices for learning
  • a lack of consistency in how technology is used by students for learning
  • teacher/parent/administrator fear around student use of personal devices in classroom settings
  • gaps in communication between parents/teachers/administration/IT departments around the use of personal technology in schools
  • determining the rationale for student use of devices for learning
  • a need to move from AUP (Acceptable Use Policies) and BYOD policies to a single, clear, culturally embedded plan for the use of technology as a learning tool (like paper and pens)

2. Why is this problem important?

  • curating stories or resources to support the successful launch of BYOD will provide guidance, support, clarity and suggestions for classrooms/schools/districts who are taking initial steps in BYOD
  • alleviating fear may support teachers in trialling BYOD in their practice
  • alleviating fear may allow administration to establish a protocol for supporting students in using their own devices
  • wifi has become a reality in our schools, creating a culture of digitally literate citizens should be a priority
  • the devices are already travelling with the students to class, leveraging them for learning seems like a natural progression
  • there is pressure from Middle Grades students to allow the use of their own devices
  • we need to connect people with the wealth of resources for BYOD learning environments
  • creating a digitally engaged culture can be an overwhelming task

3. How will my study add to what we already know about this problem?

  • examining the shared characteristics of schools who have successfully launched BYOD, finding and sharing the common elements
  • collecting resources for initial steps in BYOD
  • finding common language, lessons, and steps for welcoming student device use
  • analyzing the characteristics of successful school cultures actively using  BYOD
  • determine examples of good pedagogy involving personal device
  • examples of frameworks for launching and continuing to support student use of devices
  • providing other groups with a voice on this topic: have we heard enough from parents and students?

4. Who will benefit from what I learn about this problem?

  • teachers
  • administration
  • policy-makers
  • parents
  • students
  • school/parent/district/student Technology Committees

Distilling the central issue around BYOD must include the following words and ideas: culture, successful implementation, support or strategies, and possibly rationale. I am still playing with how to word my research problem. But, a rough draft might be: There is a need for an authentic, adaptive plan for supporting the use of personal technology by our learning community.

Thoughts?

References:

Creswell, J. W. (2012). Educational research: Planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research. Boston: Pearson.