Digital tools for study

With O-week starting tomorrow, and several sessions programmed about returning to study, I’m getting really excited about embarking on my academic adventure the following week. But there’s one area that’s going to be really different for me this time and that’s the use of digital tools for studying. Last time I was at university we didn’t even have email, and you could handwrite assignments. I remember writing what I thought was a satirical article about the LSE in 2020, when lectures would be delivered straight into students’ rooms and essays submitted electronically. Well, that all happened a lot earlier than 2020!

But of course, it’s me, so I have done some thinking about and digging around for digital tools that will help me organise my study. Here are the ones I’ve lined up for the new semester. It’ll be interesting to look back in a few weeks and see how they’re going.

1. Evernote

I was slow getting into Evernote. Well, I set up an account ages ago but never used it much. But the development of IFTTT transformed my use of the service. I have IFTTT set up so that when I favourite a tweet, it gets saved to Evernote. This is a really easy way to mark things for later reading that I come across on Twitter. I can then later organise them into my various Evernote notebooks, one of which is for the EMA. I went the whole hog and bought premium – only about £30 for a whole year. It means you can use the notebooks offline and search them better, though I haven’t yet got it to search the photos I take from real-life notebooks, which it said it could do.

2. Flipboard

Flipboard is a very attractive way of reading social content, slurping your feeds from Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google+ and whatever else you use into a magazine-style interface that you can leaf through. It used to work with Google Reader, but since that was closed, you need to feed from individual sites. It’s not great for the interaction element of these sites (it’s driving me mad that you can’t read Twitter bios) but is a great way of curating content and sorting it into categories through their magazine function. I now have a magazine called EMA Times, into which I can flip any content from across my feeds that I think will be relevant to the course.

3. Mendeley

I’ve just signed up for this tonight. It describes itself as a referencing tool and academic social network. The idea is that you load your PDFs of articles and it slurps the citation information. It also allows you to connect with academic colleagues. I can’t remember where I came across it (it was in Evernote, so maybe on Twitter?) but I’m willing to give it a go.

4. Wunderlist

Assignments, research activities, parties, club meetings: uni is going to be about time management. There are thousands of to-do list apps out there, but Wunderlist is the best one I’ve come across. Partly it’s the attractive interface, partly the flexibility in nesting activities, setting due dates and prioritising. Also it syncs seamlessly across the desktop, iPad and iPhone.

5. Dropbox

I bought a MacBook Air to come to uni, and it’s great that it’s so light, when I have to walk to campus in the morning, or lug it on the tram. But it doesn’t have much storage space. So Dropbox is a saviour. It’ll also mean that my research, drafts etc are accessible whether I have my laptop with me or not.

6. Scrivener

I bought this software at the suggestion of a friend who said it was extremely helpful for preparing drafts of academic papers and other manuscripts. It’ll be a while till I need this, but as it is linked to Index Card, which I already use a lot, I thought it was worth giving it a go.

I’m sure I’ll also be using a lot of the tools I found useful when working, such as Prezi, Yammer (there is a unimelb network), and Pearltrees. Though at the moment the best ones are those keeping me in touch with family and friends, and helping me make new friends here!

Settling in and making Aussie contacts

So, I have made it to Melbourne! The trip was fine, if long, and I was lucky enough to be met at the airport by a family friend, Deborah, who drove me to my temporary accommodation and handed me a very welcome care package of fruit and stuff. Helped when the jet-lag munchies hit in the middle of the night. Since then, the focus has been on sorting everything out at the university and finding somewhere to live. I’m enrolled in my courses for this semester and already have the assignments for the Critical and Creative Thinking course. My timetable will mean I am in seminars all day Tuesday and half of Friday. It’s going to be an adjustment after more than 20 years of getting up and going to work 5 days a week! At the moment it feels a bit like a holiday, but once the university stuff kicks in next week (Freshers Week! known as O-week here) I’m sure I’ll start getting my head round the fact that I am here for 18 months.

Twitter has proved its usefulness here as much as in the UK in connecting with interesting people. There seems to be a strong social media scene here, with people doing some real thinking about the issues around its use, including in a public sector context. Craig Thomler of Delib (whose UK arm managed our online debate for the Citizens’ Dialogue, as it happens) did this presentation on record-keeping of social media, an issue which I think generally needs more consideration in the digital age. What are future historians going to use as material for understanding the 21st century if everything is either locked away in defunct technology or lost in the ether? This image from Craig’s presentation says it all.

Retention of recordsThey also have a project where they highlight best practice from public bodies on Twitter: GreatOzGovTweet. Wonder what would get picked up if we did that in Europe?

By the way, if you’re interested in the more personal aspects of my time in Melbourne, then take a look at Euonym’s bits and pieces on Tumblr.

Thanks to matt.davis on Flickr for the feature photo, which is used under a Creative Commons license.

Moving to Melbourne

Well, the day is just about here when I load as much as I can into two suitcases and head to the airport to fly to Melbourne. It simultaneously feels like I’ve been planning this for ages and that it has come round very quickly.

I will try to blog a bit more than I have been doing recently, not least because things will be so different and interesting. And I will, for the first time in years, have time to really think about things and I can’t tell you how exciting that is.

The course I am doing is the Executive Master of Arts and one of the reasons I chose it was for the strong focus on communication. One of the core courses is Professional Communication and many of the possible electives have a communication focus, such as Mobility, Culture and Communication. So who knows where this will take me.

I also thought the move and change of emphasis (from a work blog to something more academic) justified a new look!