Mendeley and Dropbox

Mendeley - good with PDFs

UPDATE: the technique described below does not work reliably and I would not suggest trying it. D'oh.

Mendeley, the bibliographic tool with some nice community features, has one major advantage over rival web-based freebie Zotero: its handling of PDFs.

Mendeley desktop can often extract bibliographic data simply from having a PDF dropped into the application; in other cases it can find enough information its Google search facility to fill in the gaps. It also saves the PDF in your library and syncs this with your web account and from there to Mendeley desktop on your different computers.

However you 'only' get 500mb of storage with the free Mendeley account, and occasionally syncing the PDFs can be slow. For the impatient or parsimonious, this is where Dropbox rides to the rescue.

The following video shows how to enable Dropbox to take the strain out of syncing your Mendeley library PDFs (Mendeley will sync the other bibliographic info). Click full…

Shall we read?

I took a speed reading course and read 'War and Peace' in twenty minutes. It involves Russia.
Woody AllenReading is time consuming. When it involves unfamiliar terminology on novel topics it can also be hard intellectual labour. Worse still, some academic writing seems deliberately obtuse. No surprise then that a colleague who had been collecting feedback from learners following an online course reported they had objected to the amount of required reading.

However the students' gripe was that the online nature of the course and the assessment tasks involved (evaluating what they had read on discussion boards) had required them to actually read the readings.

One of the students observed that in a traditional seminar style course you can pick up the gist of the readings from other people, particularly from the teacher. In fact, just attending the seminar and bluffing some acquaintance with the literature is sufficient engagement, as long as you pass the exam or whatever the ass…

Technology for learning; technology for teaching

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.
--W.B. YeatsIf you ask 'why use technology in learning?' You get a lot of obvious and interesting answers e.g.:
the right tool for the job: twenty first century learners must use twenty first century tools,
the explosion of information in every subject area means teacher telling the kids how it is is less valuable than previously
lifelong learning. More than ever education is about learning to (re-and un-)learn, to adapt, to make decisions.
the knowledge economy: the skills kids (and not just kids) are going to need are handling the masses of information they are subject to.
the range of stimulating media and activities available through technology
personalisation: the ability to fashion your own route through content when and as it suits youcollaboration may not necessarily be easier online, but it can be more multifaceted, involve more people and go on over a longer hours, days even weeks.
Indeed, most teachers assu…

Succesful study versus web2.0?

Interesting guide from the university of Illinois for prospective online learners.:

What Makes a Successful Online Student?

I was struck by the emphasis on careful consideration of contributions. Weighing your words before committing: "Be able to think ideas through before responding". In many respects this stands in contrast to a certain style of interaction, particularly in web2.0 and possibly 3D environments, where the spontaneity of interaction leads to a more speculative type of discourse with a more informal register. A recent article on the American Society of Training and Developments' website entitled "All aboard, the web3D train is leaving the station" carried the following advice:

The hard part about Web 2.0– and Web 3D–powered training isn’t technology—it’s attitude. You have to loosen up, lighten up, and shut up. Don’t join the party wearing your faculty cloak. Join as a participant. [...]

Let them teach each other. No one has better credibility than a…

Have wikis had their day?

It looks like wikis are not worth shouting about any more. PBwiki (so called because it makes setting up a wiki easier than making a peanut butter sandwich) is changing its name to better project the uses of its product: it offers a cross between a content management system, VLE and, erm, wiki. I have always thought that pbwiki didn't look or feel like a wiki, so the name change makes sense.

One of the other free wiki providers: wetpaint went down this route some time ago. In fact, even the page titled 'Create your own wetpaint wiki' contains no reference whatever to wikis!

Maybe when collaborating online is so easy with Google docs, Ning et al, wikis just aren't sexy any more.

This is probably a good thing, wikimania led people to try and shoe-horn all kind of activities onto a wiki regardless of whether it was an appropriate tool, whether students liked it and whether it served any purpose other than keeping up with the virtual Joneses.

Perhaps now wikis can rest easy…

Thomas Frey's Future of Learning

Really interesting article by futurologist Thomas Frey called 'The future of Education'. It seems to be a combination between a wish-list and a prediction. It was written nearly 2 years and already seems in some respects a little dated (for example cites MySpace as the stand-out social networking site).

There's a lot to think about here, including a (for me) timely reminder about Maslow's hierarchy of needs, but the part that really grabbed me was his vision of a 'standard courseware unit' (an hour's study) and a standard 'courseware builder'.

So far, so similar to what we have already: a desire to produce standardised 'learning objects' using standardised courseware tools. Frey envisions these standards and tools emerging by the action of the market 'gravitating' towards particular tools and formats(probably online course authoring sites) in much the same way as youtube and iTunes have become ubiquitous. I'm not sure if this anal…