Tag Archives: Google

Digital tools for study – updated

Not long after I arrived I write a post about the digital tools I was thinking about using for my studies. I thought it would be interesting to look back 8 months on and see which I found useful, which were replaced by something else, which didn’t deliver and which new ones I picked up along the way.

First I’ll look at the ones I mentioned in the original post.

1. Evernote

I’m still using it, but not as much as I thought. But it’s really useful to have a note-taking service, and I do use the widget on my desktop to clip links, or take little notes while I”m working on my laptop.

2. Flipboard

Dear me, I love this tool. Not only does it make reading social content so much more pleasurable than most interfaces, but it is a fantastic content curation tool. I’ve been using it to curate content for the company where I am working, as well as putting together magazines on several issues of  interest to me.

3. Mendeley/Zotero

I mentioned Mendeley as a reference management tool, but in the end I went with Zotero. It has a Firefox add-on so that when you download the pdf of an article, you download it directly into the service. Then you can search all articles by title, content and author, read the articles and generate references. It’s difficult to over-estimate the importance of generating references, in terms of what a time-saver it is for essays, and I have found that Google Scholar’s references just aren’t reliable.

4. Wunderlist/Trello

I do love Wunderlist, but I haven’t used it as much as I have been using Trello, and actually good old pen and paper. But as an online tool, Trello has helped me in all sorts of ways. It’s great for keeping a note of what you need to do and with the upgrade you get for inviting new people and tweeting about the serivce, you can add calendar reminders and various other useful enhancements. Trello really comes into its own for project work: we used it for our (winning!) team at start-up weekend and in our final project management class it was a great way for us to keep in touch as a team when the group was physically broken up. I’ve had a go at other management tools like Asana and Knotable, but Trello seems to have got a great balance of simple and effective.

5. Dropbox

Dropbox has remained a staple for me. It integrates into my Finder window so it’s a seamless part of my set up, and it also makes it easy to share content with others. Definitely a gold star service.

6. Scrivener

I haven’t really had call to use this yet, though it may come into its own with my research project next semester.

So those were the ones I thought I would use a lot. I was right about some, not about others. So which were the ones I hadn’t thought of that I use?

7. Google

Another set of services that in spite of myself I really couldn’t have got here without. Google Docs, Sheets and Slides have all been invaluable for the various group projects we have had to do across a number of subjects, plus presentations in Google Slides seem to avoid incompatability problems. They are not full versions of their equivalents in Office or the Mac Suite, but for collaborative working, there really isn’t anything like them.

8. GoodReader

One more to add to the ‘indispensable’ list. Goodreader is a document reader which I have on my iPad, allowing me to make notes, either free-hand or typed, highlight sections and generally read the many many articles that are part and parcel of a social science Masters. It links to Dropbox, so I can access whatever I save in there.

9. Meetup

Not really a digital tool, but something that has been pretty central to my life in Melbourne, Meetup has been a wonderful way to connect with a range of interesting events and people, from startups to music fans to my favourites, the monthly French-speaking meetup. Chouette!

The Social Network/Travelling Light

This weekend I saw a play about film and a film about social networks, which seemed to fit together nicely.

Travelling Light is a new play by Nicholas Wright, directed by Nicholas Hytner. As this is the team behind His Dark Materials, my feeling was that it couldn’t really go wrong. And it didn’t. There’s something quite intellectually satisfying about examining one medium through another, requiring you as it does to think about the characteristics of each in relation to the other. The set was, once again at the National, absolutely stunning: its 3D representation of the shtetl in which the play was set only seemed to exaggerate the 2D nature of the films that we saw. The presence of live actors reacting with joy and wonder to what were very old fashioned cinemactic images reminded us just how exciting and magical cinema must have been to its early viewers. The friend I went with commented at the end that there didn’t seem to be much energy emanating from the audience to the actors – not words you would ever utter exiting a film theatre. My (well-documented!) love of theatre does come from that immediacy – a performance once given is lost forever, and each is unique, depending on the mix on the night of the cast, crew and audience. This was all made very much more obvious by watching a depiction of early pioneers of film producing such a staged (haha) experience.

And then on Sunday I watched The Social Network, about the creation of Facebook, which was a lot better than a) I thought it would be and b) it could have been. Again, a strong script and strong director at the helm are fundamental, and a film by the writer of the West Wing and the director of Seven is likely to be a good bet. I have seen other films about computing or in which computing is a main element that handle much less well the fact that watching people type things on a screen doesn’t make great cinema. Music seems to matter a lot in film, more than in theatre, maybe because there are fewer ways to create an atmosphere in film – lighting, set etc are going to be less immediate for a film audience, who might be watching it at home with all the lights on, in a film theatre in the dark, or nowadays, on their phone on a train. So music becomes a much more important tool. And Trent Reznor’s soundtrack was amazing – atmospheric but not intrusive (I only just realised it got an Oscar, so clearly it’s not just me that thinks so). A central point for me about the film was Zuckerberg’s certainty that what he had was going to change the way we thought about a whole range of things. Eduardo trawling Madison Avenue for a few hundred thousand of old-style ad money while Mark was signing venture capital deals for half a billion chimes with the truism that Facebook isn’t free, we just don’t pay money for it. Coming as it does in a week when Google do seem to have jumped the privacy shark, it was useful to have that message reinforced.