Art of e-learning

My top ten research utilities this week

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This is Week 1 of my PhD in Higher Education: Research, Evaluation & Enhancement through Lancaster University, and to get us started, Paul Trowler has asked us to share the top ten research utilities we’ve used in the past week. Paul’s list is great – I didn’t know about Research into Higher Education Abstracts, ABBYY TextGrabber which apparently takes photos, scans and converts to editable text (really looking forward to trying that out!) or Fastscanner, which enables you to take photos on your phone and store them as PDFs.  So those three go at the top of my list of new tools to try.

Things I’ve used this week include:

Trello – I use this app every day for all my to-do lists, and also for lists of articles to read or videos to view. I can update it on my laptop or my mobile phone, so it enables me to do a lot of work planning while on buses and trains. I find it very comforting having lots of lists… (I’m just waiting for the app that carries out all the actions on those lists!)

Google Docs (and Spreadsheets) – brilliant for collaborating with colleagues on research and writing projects

Google Hangouts for meeting with people in other places (This morning I met with Brenda Padilla who was in Copenhagen, and colleagues from the Open University of Catalonia in Barcelona. While we were online together, we collaboratively edited a number of Google Docs.)

Google Forms – a useful survey tool which lives in Google Drive, along with Google Docs and spreadsheets

Twitter – for finding and sharing links to interesting articles, blog posts and thoughts (I’m @twitthaus – when I got my twitter name I totally entered into the spirit of it…)

Paul mentions Academia.edu, which I also find hugely useful. In addition, I am also on ResearchGate. These have become essential literature search tools for me, along with Google Scholar and Mendeley (an alternative to Zotero, which enables me to store bibliographic data about everything I find, as well to upload the articles in one place and to highlight and annotate them online – and to share “libraries” with colleagues).

Finally, one more thing I would have used this week if it only existed… is an A4-sized e-book reader for PDFs. It would need to link to Mendeley in order to be really useful. (There are promising signs that Onyx is developing such a device so I’m watching this space…)

That’s it for now. Thanks, Paul, for getting me thinking, and I’m looking forward to hearing from others about their top ten research utilities.

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