Friday, October 25, 2013

toggl.com - Time tracking without taking up time to track it

www.toggl.com

Have you ever looked back on your day, having so many items on your to-do list still not completed, and wondered where all your time went? Or do you feel that you might be giving more time to a project than it needs? Or do you have a job where you want to easily complete your timesheet and export it to your boss or client? Then Toggl might just be the tool you need!


Toggl helps you keep track of your time with a simple click of a button. You can access your account across platforms (e.g., on your computer desktop, on your mobile phone, on your tablet, on any browser with an internet connection). It's available for Android, iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Windows.


You can export your tracked time in a spreadsheet format, or you can have it e-mailed. You can even e-mail it to yourself once a week!


How much does this cost? Nothing! You can even make your account via your Google account. There is an option to get more features for $5/month. You can even track your time as "billable" or "non-billable".

Finally, be sure to watch these two videos, which are about 1 minute long each, to get the hang of how to use it.
http://youtu.be/xc_Z19pWllQ
http://youtu.be/8hdCOnW6oH0

Then, download it on your devices, and get ready to open the black box containing the information about where all your time went! For instance, I just spent about 5 minutes researching and downloading Toggl, then about 10 minutes writing this blog post. Easy as pie!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Coffitivity - Just the right sounds to spark your creativity

http://www.coffitivity.com

This is an innovative - and scientifically supported - app/website that gives you just enough ambient sound to spark your creativity! It is a steady stream of just the right volume and type of sound to replicate a coffee shop atmosphere. The science behind it suggests that creative, abstract processing occurs most often in a moderate sound atmosphere (around 70 decibels) versus low (50 db) or high (85 db).



You can download the app for Mac, iPad, or iPhone, or just stream it right from their website. The iPhone/iPad app is $1.99, but the stream from their website is free.

Here's the link to the journal article that supports their product: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/665048

So if you can't make it to your favorite coffee shop, or you just want the right amount of sound to ease you into some productive working time, check it out!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Gradhacker.org - Writing your academic biographical sketch

http://www.gradhacker.org/2011/09/23/narrating-your-professional-life-writing-the-academic-bio/

Hello dear reader(s)! I have written a few biographical sketches for myself, but I decided to find out what Google had to offer for advice on how to write one. I found this lovely article at www.gradhacker.org. It offers advice on:

  • The three most important points to consider when writing your bio.
  • What to include for a short, medium, and long bio.
  • Organizing your bio.
It's a great read for its helpful advice, and might give you some clarity on what should go into your biographical sketch.

Happy sketching!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Teachingwithdata.org - "Pathway to Quantitative Literacy in Social Sciences"

http://teachingwithdata.org/

I found this website via the Resources for Instructors section of the ICPSR website. It has many useful resources and features that a research instructor would find very practical in lesson planning! Some of the features include:

  • Data In The News: useful for talking about ethical use of data, whether its represented correctly, etc.
  • Charts & Tables: visual aids to enhance learning (e.g., use of census data).
  • Lectures and Lessons: on a variety of topics.
  • Activities & Assignments: for use in class or out of class.
  • And lots more!
Even if you are not teaching a research methods course, this is a great way to integrate research into other class content, in order to help students better understand the link between research and practice.

Screen shot of their homepage.
So don't delay, check it out today!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Have your iPad read out loud to you

http://lifehacker.com/kindle-for-ios-can-make-siri-read-your-books-aloud-sor-486241369

Have you ever been traveling by car, and wished that you could get your iPad (or iPhone) to read books aloud to you? I was in that situation the other day, and came across this useful article on a "life hack" to do just that. But it's not the article that provided the key information, it was a comment below the article!

Here's the steps (in case you can't/don't want to click on the link):

It's this simple.

  1. Go to "Settings", and in the "General" tab, scroll down to "Accessibility" and select it.
  2. Scroll to the bottom of that page and find the section that says "Triple-click". Press it, and select "VoiceOver" from the list of options.
  3. Now, all you have to do in order to have a page read aloud to you is to triple-click on your home button, and VoiceOver is turned on.
  4. In order to have an entire page read aloud, you must simply swipe down with two fingers.
  5. Ta-da! You can now hear your ebook read aloud! You can tweak the rate of speech, among other options, in that same settings menu that you were at when you did the Triple-click thing.
Next, go to Kindle or iBooks, open one of your ebooks, triple-click the home button, swipe down with two fingers, and you are good to go! To turn off VoiceOver, simply triple-click the home button again.

I am going to be listening to a textbook as I drive 3.5 hours each way to teach! Shameless plug, here's the blog for the class: http://LGBTQsocialwork.blogspot.com.

Cheers!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Evernote - organizing with Table of Contents

http://evernote.com/video/#D7oSS4i57MY|1|1

I know I already posted about the Evernote app, but here's some additional information for those of you who use the desktop version (PC or Mac). You can create a "table of contents" for a notebook, which will link directly to each note that you wish to include!

An example of what a table of contents in Evernote could look like.

This seems like a great idea for those of us who keep a compilation of ideas or documents for future use. I'm definitely going to start using it to keep track of notes, so I can organize them into ideas without having to create new notebooks just for one "subtheme" (e.g., LGBT Research is the notebook, but LGBT Youth could be the sub-theme, and I could list all the notes related to LGBT Youth in the Table of Contents).

A quick reference on how to create a table of contents.
You can watch the video (see link at top, or click here) for more details on how it works.

And if you haven't downloaded the desktop version of Evernote, do it now! Click here to download it from Evernote.

Monday, July 22, 2013

CloudOn - The best app for Microsoft Office on iPad


http://site.cloudon.com/

It seems that my technology time has been mostly spent fiddling with my new iPad mini. Of course, with that comes the need to open, edit, and save Microsoft Office documents. So, here's another app - and it is a cross-platform app, meaning that you can use it whether you have Android or iOS. As a newbie iPad user, I figured that the Apple developers would surely be able to make a decent Microsoft Office app with decent compatibility with the Windows Microsoft Office. So I opened and edited a document using the "Pages" app. Much to my chagrin, the compatibility was horrible, and it ruined the formatting on a table I was editing. This caused me to have to re-write the entire document, because of course it saved over my original, unscathed document.



Unsatisfied with all of the "top 10 apps for Microsoft Office on iPad" lists, I decided to go for the more direct approach. Through a lucky search, I found an app called CloudOn. It is WONDERFUL and I will tell you why. First, I was able to open, edit, and save that same document mentioned previously, but this time with NO compatibility issues. And it was effortless to save back to my DropBox account, unlike the Pages app which required a few un-intuitive, manual steps.

One of the best things about the CloudOn app is that it looks and feels just like Microsoft Word. Here's a screen shot to prove it:
As you can see, it has the familiar "ribbon" navigation at the top. Plus, it improves your keyboard selections to include alternate keys such as CTR, ALT, and all the F-keys!
Also, CloudOn automatically saves your file as you modify it, and you can see an ongoing list of when you made revisions. Plus, you can "track changes" and make in-document annotations, just like you would in Microsoft Office on Windows.

On the left, you see the ongoing list of revisions and annotations. On the right, you see where you can annotate and track changes using the "Review" ribbon.
Also, you can easily access any file in your cloud storage, including popular ones like DropBox and Google Drive.

A screen shot of what it would look like if you were browsing your DropBox through the CloudOn app. No need to hit "save", as CloudOn automatically saves and syncs back to your cloud!
Last, but certainly not least, a great thing about this app is that it is FREE! It does have additional features available if you buy the Pro version. I've only used the app once, so I can't say whether the Pro upgrade is necessary, but I had no problems opening and editing my document in the free version.

This post is just about the Microsoft Office option in the app because that's all that I've used so far. But it was so good that it inspired me to hop on here and write you a blog post about it! It also works with Microsoft Excel and Powerpoint, plus other document types like PDF's. If the rest of the document types are anything like Word, then I guarantee that you will not need any other app for your Microsoft Office document management needs!!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Papership - An iPad app for Mendeley

http://www.papershipapp.com/

Okay, so just as soon as I said I wouldn't provide support to iPhone users, I bought an iPad mini. So, never say never, I guess :) .

Anyway, many of you have told me that your favorite resource that you learned about from my blog is Mendeley. Well, Mendeley does have their own iPad app, but it crashes and is relatively useless. But thankfully, another developer picked up on the need for such an app, and here it is! Papership is a free app that allows you to download and sync all of your Mendeley library back and forth from your iPad to your computer (and other devices).

Papership logo
This free app allows you to open, re-organize, and highlight files for your references. And it keeps your files in the folders that you have them in your library, or you can re-organize them to your liking.

Read your PDF's using the in-app viewer!
You can pay for additional annotation tools such as notes and drawings (they offer the tools separately for different price points, or as a package for $9.99). And the best part is, the annotations are compliant with the PDF standard, so you should be able to view them in other places as well! I haven't downloaded these yet, so I can't give you a report on whether or not they were compliant for my documents.

Additional annotation tools are available for purchase through the in-app store.

I should note that this app is also available for the iPhone. Click here to go to the App Store and download it today!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Scholarly Communications @ Duke - Your guide to copyright and publication issues

http://blogs.library.duke.edu/scholcomm/

This is a great resource for the grad student, new academic, or seasoned scholar alike. There are many times when we come across puzzling situations regarding copyright law and permissions to post information, especially in the new digital age. This resource at Duke offers a good place to start seeking guidance when a copyright question comes up. They offer a "Scholarly Communications Toolkit" which has a flow-chart for decision-making when it comes to teaching materials. They also have templates for letters of permission for things such as: releasing a student's work, letter requesting copyright permission, and guest speaker release form.

Screenshot of the home page.

For those seasoned faculty members, you may think that you don't need such a resource. However, this website has a page dedicated solely to faculty authors.

The page is technically a blog, so you can subscribe to future posts.

Happy publishing!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Evernote - There's an app to keep your brain together

Evernote.com - "Remember everything!"

Let me tell you a story of a first-year doctoral student who, when researching for papers and presentations, would go to the library for 1 book and come back with 12. You know how it is, when a title grabs your attention, and you're craving new knowledge, you want as many sources as possible! So, this book collecting started to get overwhelming. Plus, that student didn't have enough time to read all the books that she grabbed. She wanted to keep track of the books that caught her attention so that she could go back to them later. But, her arms were full whenever she went to the library, or perhaps all she had with her was her smartphone, so it was hard to create a reliable list of these books of interest. Enter: the app called Evernote! She began using Evernote to keep track of the books that caught her eye but wasn't yet ready to pick up. She could take a picture of the book and the table of contents so she could remember what interested her, then save the picture in a note in her Evernote notebook called "Books to Read". She could even tag the note with its relevant topic. The organization of this new method was wonderful! It was life-changing, because a new doctoral student has a lot of things to keep track of, and new sources of information is important but sometimes unwieldy. This method of organization was great because no matter if she had her hands full or if she just had her phone with her, she could still keep track of what was important.

A photo I captured of a book I found interesting but was not yet ready to check-out from the library.

My on-going list of sources to look into in the future.
Once I started using Evernote for this type of organization, I started seeing other uses for it. I could take notes in class and attach relevant documents as I typed. I could easily access those notes later no matter if I had my own computer with me, or if I was just using my phone, or at a hotel conference using a public computer.

Ta-da!

The best way to keep track of all your random notes to yourself, notes from meetings/classes, to-do lists, and more, is to use Evernote. It is a web-based platform that allows you to create notes, organize them into notebooks and stacks of notebooks, and share them with other people. Not only can you save notes that you write, but you can also attach documents, images, and links, too.

Evernote also has a desktop program that runs just like its web-based platform does, except you can use it when you are offline, and it will sync back to your online account when you're back on the internet.

Desktop version.
Evernote also has an app for smartphones (Android and iPhone) and tablets (Android and iPad). You can do everything in that app that you can in the web-based platform and the desktop software.


Screen-shots from the mobile version.

All-in-all, whether you are a student or a professor or a clinician, this app can be a life-saver for your organizational woes. It is free to use, but you can also pay for the premium version which gives you full access to all your notes when you are offline.

Evernote has tons of other cool add-ons, such as a foodie app:
Screen-shots from the mobile version of Evernote Food.

It also has a web-browser add-on that I use a lot, called Web clipper. It "clips" information from websites and stores that information in an easy to read format in your notebook. I use it whenever I want to remember a website, but not just the URL - I also want to remember why I wanted to remember that website, so I include content as well. It's also helpful to clip user guides or tutorials so you can have them on-hand later without having to navigate back to the same page over and over again.
Screen-shot of the webclipper add-on.

So, the final word on this Evernote thing is that its free, its easy to use, and it has so many useful applications that you can't go wrong to at least try it out.

Monday, June 10, 2013

StudyDroid - Flashcards on your Android phone


www.StudyDroid.com

Its about time I published a post about a smartphone app. I just so happen to be studying for comprehensive exams for my program. I have never been one to use flash cards, but I'm going to try it out for this exam. Anyway, I didn't want to bother with keeping up with a set of index cards, so I decided to try out an app for my Android phone. I looked at a few apps, namely StudyDroid, FREE Flashcards Helper, and AnkiDroid Flashcards.

I first tried AnkiDroid, but it would freeze on my phone. I liked its features, especially the way that it is responsive to what cards you need to study more or less. You can rate each card as you answer them, and decide whether you know that card, need to see it more, or less. It also has a desktop interface, so entering new cards seems relatively painless. The problem with the app, as I said above, is that it kept freezing on my phone (Android version 2.3.7), so I moved on.

I tried this app but it kept freezing on my phone.
I looked at the FREE Flashcards Helper, but it didn't have the same cool features, and the design seemed a bit too simple for what I wanted.

Then I tried StudyDroid. It works great on my phone, has a simple to use interface, but still has the kinds of features I was looking for.

StudyDroid - Screen shots
It has a browser based account, so you can create cards from your computer and sync them with your phone. Also, you can upload a CSV file (aka, an Excel file) to create your flashcards. This app also has the feature to mark whether or not you know a card. It doesn't have as many options as AnkiDroid, but still gives you the option to mark "known" so it puts that card at the back of the pile. You can also shuffle your cards, or turn them all over. I downloaded the free version, but might buy the paid version because it offers a quiz feature.

This is the app I decided to keep.
So, if you are studying for comprehensive exams, or just need an easy to use flashcards app, I suggest this one! If you are an iPhone user, sorry I can't offer any advice!

Monday, May 27, 2013

www.phd2published.com - Academic publishing advice for first timers

http://www.phd2published.com/ - Academic publishing advice for first timers.

This website offers a friendly and nonthreatening way to gain insight into the world of academic publishing. It is unique in that it offers useful advice in areas that are otherwise left with vague instructions. For instance, how to write a peer review:


They also offer "top tips" on pitching and publishing, and the title of all these posts start with "how to be a hackademic." Their advice ranges from "be adaptable" to "don't eat junk food", "write in moderation", "drink more alcohol", and "hack your time".



Of course this advice is to be taken with a grain of salt, since it's hard to judge the quality of the advice with it being self-published blogging. But it does offer insight into the background of the editors, so you can judge for yourself whether or not it's trustworthy! 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

www.ats.ucla.edu/stat/ - UCLA Statistical Computing

http://www.ats.ucla.edu/stat/

I know that many of my student readers are beginning to utilize statistical software packages more as they enter into higher levels of their research process. One website that has been priceless for me as I learned how to use Stata was UCLA's Statistical Computing website. They offer so much detailed and useful information on a range of software packages, it would be hard to capture all of what they offer in this blog post. Here's an example of what they offer for SPSS:


When I was learning Stata, I found it extremely helpful to go to their Stata page and search for the command I was trying to learn. Here's an example. If you search for the Stata command "egen", here's what you'll find:

The site also offers educational resources for the classroom, including textbook examples. They also have links to prior workshops now available online: 

This resource is not to be overlooked even for the seasoned researcher, as it provides an easy to navigate refresher of common and not-so-common commands and analyses. Put it on your bookmarks list!



Monday, April 8, 2013

Text2mindmap.com - a quick and easy way to throw your ideas together

http://www.text2mindmap.com/

You know when you have a sudden brainstorming session, and you just need to map out your ideas quickly? Don't bother fumbling around with Power Point, use www.text2mindmap.com! This happened to me the other day. I went through several iterations of outlining, concept mapping, returning to outlining, staring at the page, and then it hit me. I needed to map out how my brain was conceptualizing the issue I was working on. I had a meeting in 15 minutes to discuss the issue, so I didn't have much time to work it out and make it all pretty in Power Point. After a quick Google search, I found this website!

It's very easy to use. Simply input your text to create main "nodes". Press tab to create sub-nodes. It only gives you different colors for three tiers deep, but it's at least useful for getting started on mapping out your brainstorm.

Simply type your text in the box on the left. Press tab to create sub-nodes.


Once you input your text, you can use your mouse to move the nodes around to create a visually appealing layout.


Drag and drop to move the nodes around.



It has lots of nice features like printing or saving as a PDF, saving for later, and plenty of font & color combinations to change the look and feel of the map.


Use options on the left to change colors and fonts.
Also use the save button or download option to make it printable.



One problem I encountered was that it was not taking my hierarchy properly, thus creating a mess of my nodes and sub-nodes. Through  my trouble-shooting efforts, I switched from using the Google Chrome browser to the Microsoft Internet Explorer browser, and the problem went away. So, if you encounter this problem, just use Internet Explorer.

Also, if you aren't familiar with mind mapping, check out www.mindmapping.com for examples, the theory behind mind mapping, and links to other related topics.

Monday, April 1, 2013

ICPSR - summer learning programs

http://www.icpsr.umich.edu/icpsrweb/sumprog/index.jsp

I attended a webinar hosted by the folks at ICPSR (the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research) on their educational opportunities. The part I found most interesting, and applicable to my readers, was their summer learning series. They have seminars on almost every topic of quantitative data analysis you can imagine. So if you are a doc student who needs to learn (for example) about group-based modeling (or, "latent class growth analysis") you can attend a workshop by Daniel Nagin on that very topic! The workshops are pricey if you are a poor graduate student, but if you can find a way to pay for it, then you should definitely consider attending one of these specialized training opportunities for your dissertation analysis strategy. They also have workshops geared towards undergraduate and graduate students, so be sure to share this with your students. Head on over and check out the summer programs!

Monday, March 25, 2013

ICPSR - teaching & educational resources

http://www.icpsr.umich.edu/icpsrweb/instructors/index.jsp

Last month I attended a webinar hosted by ICPSR (the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research) which highlighted and explained the resources available to educators and students. As a social worker who loves research and education, I was excited to learn more about these resources! (You can watch the whole webinar on YouTube! Click here.)

The first exciting tool is the Data-driven Learning Guides (aka Short Exercises). These are meant for use in non-research-methods courses, usually for undergraduates. They will be helpful for introducing students to the utility and purpose of data. ICPSR advocates for introducing data earlier in the life of a college student rather than waiting until substantive years such as junior or senior year, because if students learn earlier on that data is a useful/meaningful tool, then perhaps fewer of them will abandon research knowledge in the future. All of the modules are standardized. ICPSR has made it so easy for any educator to use this resource: they have the following sections of information on each guide: goal and concept of that particular guide, the dataset, variables contained in the dataset, and ideas for application (which help students think about certain research questions, and has links to pre-made tables for the purpose of analysis).

The next tool is the Exercise Sets. These are more suited for students in research-focused classes. They provide a series of modules designed as a sequence to follow throughout a class rather than just for one assignment. One module uses Robert Putnam's book on social capital, Bowling Alone, which is very applicable to social work education.

The last tool is the Crosstab Assignment Builder (which is in beta-level development). According to the website, "The instructor selects an appropriate dataset and identifies relevant variables. The students can be given varying degrees of autonomy; instructors can designate placement of specific variables (row, column, control) or they can leave the choice up to students."

In addition to these great tools, the website also contains pages on: resources for students, videos on teaching, and external links. Be sure to browse through the full site so you can discover the full range of the wonderful resources available here!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Academia.edu - like Linked In


http://www.academia.edu

This website is becoming more and more popular as more folks embrace social media as a means of professional networking. On the site, you can create a profile with your current affiliation and position, post your publications, identify what areas of research you are interested in, and "follow" any other Academia.edu member (similar to "friend-ing" someone on Facebook or following someone on Twitter).

On your profile, you can add your CV. But that's not all! You can add specific sections to highlight your experience, such as talks/lectures, paper drafts, conference presentations, book reviews, and more. So, this seems like a similar features to Linked In, because you can specify your qualifications and experiences for colleagues and employers to see.

You can also use analytic tools (similar to Google Analytics) in order to find out how many times your page has been visited, how many unique visitors you've had, how many times your papers have been uploaded, and some other generic website stats. This could be useful during a job search, or if you are just curious about how many people in the Academia.edu world have clicked on your work! It's easy to start following your Facebook friends and Gmail contacts who also have profiles on Academia.edu. You simply import them during your account creation process.

I know that many of my readers don't have time to upload a profile or start a new social networking venture. But consider making a profile on this site... it literally only takes 5 minutes to set up, and then you can get e-mail notifications whenever someone interacts with your page, follows you, or wants to contact you. As a doctoral student, I know that networking is key in this stage of my career, and I'm sure many of you can relate!

So, create a profile. Then, follow me! :) Just click on this link:

Follow me on Academia.edu



Monday, March 11, 2013

Google analytics - Stalk in secrecy

http://www.google.com/analytics/

Thanks to the paid subscription provided to me by the VCU library system, I get access to subscription content of The Chronicle of Higher Education, which is an online periodical about topics related to higher education.  I signed up for weekly e-mails that pertain to my interests. One of the recently highlighted articles discussed how an academic job candidate created a website with his contact information, CV, and links to his publications, then started using Google Analytics to gain detailed information about who visited his website (Dunn, 2013).

Google analytics is yet another nifty tool provided by the Google universe that tracks information about visitors to your website. You can find out what seems like an endless amount of data about your site visitors, such as how they found your website, how much time they spent on your website, and what pages within your website they visited. The job candidate used it to track when visitors from a geographic location also matched up with schools at which he applied. So, once he submitted an application to a potential employer, he could watch out for when he got 17 visitors from the same locality, and assume that it was a department or school reviewing his application materials.

I'm not on the job market yet, but I can imagine how stress-inducing the process is when you don't even know if your application has been reviewed. Of course, not every potential employer will look at your website, and also you never know why they might be visiting, but at least you have an idea of what's going on behind the scenes.

So, to test it out for you, my readers, I added Google Analytics tracking to my blog. It's pretty interesting! (Says the quantoid.) One of my posts had visitors from Richmond, Charlotte, and Davidson. I can tell you that it is not extremely user friendly for a novice webmaster. But if you are savvy enough to create a website, you can  figure out how to use this tool. Even if you can't create your own website, you certainly don't need to know HTML or other coding languages in order to use this, but the part that was difficult for me was navigating through the website itself. It was difficult for me to find even the simplest features. But when I did, it was easy to add the tracking code to my blog. But, proceed with caution.

As a note, for those at VCU, if you want to view the original article, you must either access it from a university computer (or your computer that is connected to the VCU wifi), or you  must log in remotely and use the proxy connection from home, because it's subscription-only access.




Dunn, S. (2013, Feb 18). Some job candidates watch a potential employers' every click. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://chronicle.com.proxy.library.vcu.edu/article/Some-Job-Candidates-Watch-a/137355/

Monday, March 4, 2013

BookFinder4u.com - No really, that's all there is to it

http://www.bookfinder4u.com/

For those of us who want to buy really expensive books about concepts and theories and propositions and prepositions... and who also happen to be poor doctoral students, this website is a wonderful time-saver and penny-saver! It searches multiple book seller websites and finds the best price. That isn't my favorite feature of the website, though. If you are anything like me, you know that there are books out there that you'd like to buy, but can't right now. It will save your wishlist, and you can set a price alert so that when the price (total + shipping) is lower than a price you set you will get an e-mail notification. Another feature I like is that the website is clean and has no ad's or filler material. I also find it helpful to look at user reviews of booksellers that I'm not familiar with so that I can start to get an idea of whether it's a trustworthy seller. It also searches for out of print books for you history buffs out there :).

So, head on over www.bookfinder4u.com and create a free account so you can find and save money on the books of your dreams!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Moodle.org - a web-based platform to replace Blackboard

www.moodle.org
I don't want to make it sound like I don't like Blackboard, but I can say that there are a lot of alternatives out there, and this one is free and is full of an active user-base so it is constantly improving and updating. It is "open source" so that means that anyone can design an "add-on" (aka, "app" or tool) to use with Moodle. I came across Moodle while I was doing research for a project on transformative learning. Moodle is designed to support a social constructivist approach to education.

Moodle is an acronym for Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment. The creator defines it as an online learning management system, designed to create opportunities for rich interaction between teachers and learners. The creator also uses it as a verb: the process of enjoyable tinkering that often leads to  growing knowledge, insight, and creativity.

What can you do with it? I found this fantastic link that gives a quick overview (you can click through it in about a minute!) that uses Lego bricks. I can't think of a better way to explain it myself, so here's the link: http://www.slideshare.net/moodlefan/what-is-moodle-explained-with-lego-presentation. (Also, note the use of the page Slideshare.net, which I blogged about a few days ago, here.)

Here is a link to their Frequently Asked Questions: http://docs.moodle.org/24/en/About_Moodle_FAQ.

Have fun moodle-ing! :)

P.S., many of its features are free!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Humor and fun in statistics - Because life is too short to take everything so seriously!




I recently came across this website, which is for the organization called CAUSE (Consortium for the Advancing Undergraduate Statistics Education). It has several resources that educators would find useful in teaching statistics... to undergrads.... (Yeah, I know... that was a really original description.) One of the best parts of the website is a collection entirely devoted to humor, fun, and silliness related to statistics. 


Most of the resources are cartoons, but there are also poems, word puzzles, songs, and videos. If any of you know me personally or professionally, you know that I am silly and love to include humor in any conversation. So, of course, the "fun" section of this website was particularly enticing for me. 

Upon browsing through some of the poems, I came across a poem titled "Hiawatha Designs an Experiment". Because I love Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, I had to read it. And now, I just have to share it with you readers! It's worth reading (if you appreciate poetry, irony, and statistics). :) And in case you aren't familiar with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, or his poem called The Song of Hiawatha, here's a link to the original poem: http://www.hwlongfellow.org/poems_poem.php?pid=283.

Hiawatha Designs an Experiment
by Sir Maurice G. Kendall (1907 - 1983)
Hiawatha, mighty hunter
He could shoot ten arrows upwards
Shoot them with such strength and swiftness
That the last had left the bowstring
Ere the first to earth descended.
This was commonly regarded
As a feat of skill and cunning.

One or two sarcastic spirits
Pointed out to him, however,
That it might be much more useful
If he sometimes hit the target.
Why not shoot a little straighter
And employ a smaller sample?

Hiawatha, who at college,
Majored in applied statistics
Consequently felt entitled
To instruct his fellow men on
Any subject whatsoever,
Waxed exceedingly indignant
Talked about the law of error,
Talked about truncated normals
Talked of loss of information,
Talked about his lack of bias
Pointed out that in the long run
Independent observations
Even though they missed the target
Had an average point of impact
Very near the spot he aimed at
(With the possible exception
Of a set of measure zero.)

This, they said, was rather doubtful.
Anyway, it didn't matter
What resulted in the long run;
Either he must hit the target
Much more often than at present
Or himself would have to pay for
All the arrows that he wasted.

Hiawatha, in a temper,
Quoted parts of R. A. Fisher
Quoted Yates and quoted Finney
Quoted yards of Oscar Kempthorne
Quoted reams of Cox and Cochran
Quoted Anderson and Bancroft
Practically in extenso
Trying to impress upon them
That what actually mattered
Was to estimate the error.

One or two of them admitted
Such a thing might have its uses
Still, they said, he might do better
If he shot a little straighter.

Hiawatha, to convince them,
Organized a shooting contest
Laid out in the proper manner
Of designs experimental
Recommended in the textbooks
(mainly used for tasting tea, but
Sometimes used in other cases)
Randomized his shooting order
In factorial arrangements
Used in the theory of Galois
Fields if ideal polynomials
Got a nicely balanced layout
And successfully confounded
Second-order interactions.

All the other tribal marksmen
Ignorant, benighted creatures,
Of experimental setups
Spent their time of preparation
Putting in a lot of practice
Merely shooting at the target.

Thus it happened in the contest
That their scores were most impressive
With one solitary exception
This (I hate to have to say it)
Was the score of Hiawatha,
Who, as usual, shot his arrows
Shot them with great strength and swiftness
Managing to be unbiased
Not, however, with his salvo
Managing to hit the target.
There, they said to Hiawatha,
That is what we all expected.

Hiawatha, nothing daunted,
Called for pen and called for paper
Did analyses of variance
Finally produced the figures
Showing beyond all peradventure
Everybody else was biased
And the variance components
Did not differ from each other's
Or from Hiawatha's
(This last point, one should acknowledge
Might have been much more convincing
If he hadn't been compelled to
Estimate his own component
From experimental plots in
Which the values all were missing.
Still, they couldn't understand it
So they couldn't raise objections
This is what so often happens
With analyses of variance.)

All the same, his fellow tribesmen
Ignorant, benighted heathens,
Took away his bow and arrows,
Said that though our Hiawatha
Was a brilliant statistician
He was useless as a bowman,
As for variance components
Several of the more outspoken
Made primeval observations
Hurtful to the finer feelings
Even of a statistician.

In a corner of the forest
Dwells alone my Hiawatha
Permanently cogitating
On the normal law of error
Wondering in idle moments
Whether an increased precision
Might perhaps be rather better
Even at the risk of bias
If thereby one, now and then, could
Register upon the target.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) - not just for your students!

http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/752/1/
Many of you probably already know about Purdue's OWL website. It gives great tips for writing on a variety of topics. However the link I want to share today is specifically related to the topic of academic proposals (for conferences, articles, and books). I don't know about you, but for me, the idea of writing a proposal is both exciting and panic-inducing. It is exciting because I enjoy the opportunity to share my work, which I think is important and meaningful, but it's also panic-inducing because of all the fears that go along with academic writing: Will I be able to articulate my points convincingly? What if they think my ideas are hogwash? How long can I put off writing this proposal? "Insert your own fears here." So check out this link for some helpful guidance on how to write an effective proposal. Also, be sure to peruse the rest of the website because it has plenty of helpful tips for writers at any level!

SSWR's doc student resource center

http://www.sswr.org/studentcenter.php
The other day, I discovered that the Society for Social Work Research (SSWR) has a very useful website devoted entirely to resources for social work doctoral students! The topics include:

  • Writing
  • Funding
  • Teaching
  • Presentations
  • Methods
  • Employment
Each topic has multiple resources associated with it, including documents and websites that you will definitely find helpful. Head over to the website today!

Friday, February 15, 2013

KhanAcademy.org - its all about the math, y'all

I'm sure many of you already know about KhanAcademy.org, but if not, it is an online repository of learning modules on just about any topic you can imagine, from math, to science and economics, and more.

I want to focus your attention on a particular set of modules at the Khan Academy on probability and statistics (click here). Kal (the founder of the site, and the author of this particular series of modules) is a brilliant guy, and really good at breaking down statistics to social worker speed. It was a great supplement to the standard coursework on quantitative methods in my program.

Topics include:


  • Independent and dependent events
  • Probability and combinatorics
  • Random variables and probability distributions
  • Descriptive statistics
  • Regression
  • Inferential statistics
Need I say more? Get to clickin', y'all. ;-)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

WikiSpaces.com - a wiki that doesn't disappear at the end of the semester

www.wikispaces.com
I can thank my adviser for introducing me to today's featured website. Wikispaces is a site that is free to use, and is designed mainly for educational use. You can make a wiki page (like a wikipedia entry) for any purpose, on any topic! Most people use it for classroom projects. The thing I like most about it (besides that its free) is that the wiki page doesn't disappear at the end of the semester like it would in Blackboard. You can add documents, links, and have multiple pages per wiki. Here's a good example of how a wikispaces page can be utilized in the classroom: http://adultlearnercharacteristics.wikispaces.com/ . Like any "wiki," users can edit information, but there is a catch. You usually have to be a "member" of a wikispace page before you can edit it. I think that feature is optional, so you'd have to look into it for yourself if that was important for your project. Anyway, I think this is a neat site that will enhance a social work course on any topic!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Jing - screen capture in no time flat!

Get Jing here: http://www.techsmith.com/jing-features.html
So, I know there are tons of screen capturing software options out there, but I really enjoy using Jing for a few reasons. #1, it's free. (You know how I feel about free stuff!) #2, it's simple! You can install it quickly, and use it with ease! When you want to do a screen capture, you simply click on the little sun icon that hides at the top of your screen, then drag your cursor to select a rectangle portion of your screen, and then a dialogue box pops up asking you what you want to do with it! You can save that portion of the screen as an image, or you can use that portion of your screen to start recording a screen-cast, and lots more! Check out the link at the beginning of this post to start exploring the possibilities of what easy screen capturing can do for you.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Amara.org - subtitles so you can be heard around the world!

So, you know how you tech-savvy social workers are creating videos of your presentations and lectures? (Right??) Well, if you want to have subtitles in a different language, that's easy! Just upload your video to YouTube, then make an account with Amara.org. It's incredibly easy, and it just got easier with the announcement of a new feature. See details in their press release, here. Now it's easier than ever to expand your social work projects to the international arena. Globalization, here we are!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Mendeley - the next best thing since sliced bread?

Mendeley.com
I am excited to share this next resource with you all. It has truly made my life as a doctoral student remarkably easier! How can one program do that, you say? Well, let me show you.

First of all, it is FREE. Yes, it's free. Please note, it is free.

It is primarily a reference organization software program. But the best thing about it (in my opinion, at least) is that it is open-source, meaning that it is designed by users for users, and is thus updated much more often than a regular paid program, and it also has a much more intuitive design!

But it doesn't just organize your references. It also embeds citations into your Word document. You can also edit citations to include multiple references in one citation (such as: Gandy, 2012; Coles, 2013; Prorock-Ernest, 2010) or alter the citation to include a page number, or leave out the author name. Then, Mendeley will create a bibliography in the style that you select based on the references cited throughout your document!

That is not all that it does. You can manually enter new references into your library and "attach" the associated document (usually a PDF). You can also easily add new references to your reference library simply by dragging and dropping a document into the Mendeley screen (from your Windows Explorer screen, for instance). Mendeley then searches for information about the reference within the document, such as title, author, journal, year, volume, issue, abstract, key words, doi, and the list goes on! If Mendeley can't find the information, or has an error in the information it found, you can always fix it manually.

What if you have your reference library currently saved in another program, such as RefWorks, or EndNote? Easy! You can import references into Mendeley from most any other reference software.

But that's not all, folks! You also have a free Mendeley account online, where you can access your reference library from anywhere that you have internet access. You can also use a feature that will pull citation information right from a website, using a bookmark tool that Mendeley can install into your browser.

That's STILL not all! One of the most distinct and special features about Mendeley is that it also serves as an information sharing platform. You can go online with your Mendeley account, and find groups of other Mendeley users who are interested in the same things you are interested in. For instance, you can sign up to be a member of the "Qualitative Research Methodology" group. You can also browse other users' libraries to find literature of interest to you!

Lastly, it is a great tool for annotating your literature. You can highlight by selecting text (on newer, "smart" PDF's) or by dragging a rectangle of text (on older PDF's that don't recognize text). You can also make notes anywhere on the document. Then Mendeley has a nice view screen where you can see all of your notes on a single document, so you can review what you've annotated.

There are SO MANY MORE features to this program that I don't have time to go into. So, go check it out for yourself!!

Slideshare.net - not just PowerPoint!

I came across the Slideshare.net website as I was listening to a webinar for ICPSR's data services. It is a huge repository of slides on any topic imaginable! It is user-driven, so you can add to the repository if you want! There is a free account, but there are also paid account options if you want to be able to upload videos and other modes of information sharing. But it is free to upload your own slides.

Here is some information from their "About Us" page:


Some things that you can do on SlideShare
  • Upload presentations publicly or privately
  • Download presentations on any topic and reuse or remix
  • Embed on blogs, websites, company intranets
  • Share on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn
  • Zipcast: free, no download, 1 click web meetings
  • Leadshare: generate business leads with your presentations, documents, pdfs, videos
  • Slidecast: sync mp3 audio with slides to create a webinar
  • Embed YouTube videos inside SlideShare presentations
  • Use SlideShare PRO for premium features like branded channels, analytics, ad free pages etc

Journalogy.net - your source for scholarly stalking

Today while researching an author that publishes often in my substantive area of interest, I came across a cool new website called Journalogy.net. It looks like it is currently in beta-test form, and it's by Microsoft, so those are two things to consider when viewing it. So, what is it? Basically, it looks like a place to find scholars who are publishing in your area of interest. It featured a nice profile on the author I was searching for: Brian S. Mustanski, http://journalogy.net/Author/21326638. I also went to the home page, and found that you could view a graph that displays trends in publications in certain disicplines, and then find the top most published authors in that discipline. A warning, though: the disciplines are VERY broadly defined, so I am not sure how useful it is to have a 100,000 ft. view of the published authors in a disicpline. But, I'll let you decide its usefulness for yourself!