The rush, craziness, joy and anticipation of the holiday season has already begun. As my gift to you, I’d like to remind you (or perhaps introduce to some of you) of tools that we have to help us deal with the challenges, not only of the busy holiday season, but also could help make our day-to-day lives more rewarding and, well, happier.
I was fortunate enough to come across a wonderful MOOC that has just finished on the edX platform called The Science of Happiness. Led by Dacher Keltner and Emiliana Simon-Thomas, this MOOC was produced by the Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) at the University of California, Berkeley. I found this course so very interesting and informative. It helped motivate me to make changes in my own life to increase my happiness. The best news of all is that you all haven’t missed the boat! The Science of Happiness is being run again beginning December 1 on a self-paced basis. Instead of the 10 weeks that my course ran, the free self-paced course will be open for a full semester, giving everyone more time to read through all the great resources the instructors provide. (Check out my previous post on Mastering MOOCs with Evernote for some hints on organizing your study. I have created a great personal notebook from my journey through the course) I also loved all the videos they had of well-known researchers and authors in the field discussing various aspects of the program. I have a long list of new books I’d like to read just from all the speakers. I highly encourage everyone to consider this course, no strings, work at your own pace.. you have nothing to lose, except maybe a sad face. Listen to the instructors introduce the course themselves and then check it out on edX here.
My second gush is about the Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) itself. I never knew this great site existed prior to this course. The instructors have used a number of articles from the center in their readings and I am sold on the free e-newsletter. It is like getting an uplifting hug in your inbox. The articles are all based on real research, but they are written for a lay audience so they are easy to read and digest. The site is organized into Family & Couples, Education, Work & Career, Mind & Body and Big Ideas, or you can choose between topics like Gratitude, Happiness, Mindfulness, etc.
OK, enough gushing. Suffice it to say that this course came to me at a time when I was feeling really crushed by life and listening to the videos and reading the articles on mindfulness, gratitude, compassion (including compassion of yourself!) and trying out some of the happiness exercises helped me refocus on bigger picture. It helped remind me of some techniques and practices that centered and rejuvenated me — practices that I had let fall to the wayside in the busyness of life.
So what, you might be saying, does all this touchy-feely stuff have to do with productivity? Much more than you might initially think. We have explored some of these concepts before with regards to time management (Time Management or Focus Management? and May I Have Your Attention?). In those posts we learned that multitasking was a myth, and that managing our focus can be key when many competing priorities are demanding our attention. This is where mindfulness can come into play. As our secret weapon, the abilities that we gain through the practice of mindfulness can help us stay grounded and focused in the present moment. By knowing how to take short mini-breaks to empty our minds and release our stress, we can return to our tasks with renewed energy and clarity. Tara Healey wrote, “Mindfulness interrupts the conditioned responses that prevent us from exploring new avenues of thought, choking our creative potential.” This kind of positive return sounds like a good reason to spend some time cultivating my own mindfulness skill. How mindful are you? Take this quiz from the Greater Good Center to help you target ways to improve.
Finally, I’d like to briefly touch on two other topics from the Science of Happiness MOOC. Those of gratitude and awe. To me, those kind of go hand in hand and relate to the picture I chose to start this blog post. In it, not only do we see a Buddhist monk meditating, but we see the glorious waterfall behind him. I can almost hear the water rushing down the rocks. Nature is one easy place for me to stop and feel awe of the magnificence around me. When I take the time to focus on pictures, or even better, to actually visit some of these beautiful places where nature is King, I find my breathing and blood pressure slowing; I am reminded of the vastness and wonder of the world, and I feel an unfurling of all the tight negative emotions or troubles that may be weighing me down. And I am grateful.
I am also grateful for each of you, our readers, for taking time to visit our site, come to our talks and provide us feedback. Wishing each of you a holiday season of happiness, gratitude and awe.
Make Research Easier with These Five Tools is an article on Information Today by Brandi Scardilli that discusses five tools that are mainly for managing references. Tools mentioned are EndNote, Flow, Mendeley, Paperpile, and Readcube. The discussion of each tool is nicely organized, offering a description, the parent company, tagline, mobile apps, social media, features, customers, what’s new, and what’s next.
Stay up to date with Mendeley with their Twitter account for Tips.
Crystal alerted me about a great post and video by James Dvorak on using Evernote with an article-indexing database. It uses an Ebsco database as an example, but the technique (sending a bibliographic record to your Evernote email account) could be used with many article databases, including a lot of library catalogs.
Crystal and I posted the slides for our presentation on using Evernote for research and outreach previously. We did not post, though, the handout we used and to which we have since added. Now we have. ;-).
Evernote is rolling out a feature called Work Chat. You can see the faces of those with whom you share notes or notebooks, and are able to open a chat within the program. It is accessible on all versions of Evernote and does not mention being a Premium or Business-only feature. More information is available.
Evernote’s iOS-only Penultimate handwriting app has a new version with a number of useful features like infinite pages, a de-cluttered writing area, different themes, and better support for the Jotscript Evernote edition stylus. I do hope they come out with an Android version!
Google Calendar Now Adds and Updates Events for You Based on Gmail is a post by Alan Henry on Lifehacker about the new features. Of most interest is the feature mentioned in the title. The example they use is that if you get concert tickets or plane flight confirmations in your email, it will add the events automatically to your calendar. Post includes a video.
With Inbox, Google Dares to be Different is an article on CNET by Stephen Shankland, discussing the new interface for mail that shakes up the traditional way of viewing email in an attempt to make the flood easier to deal with. Article covers features and links to other resources.
Add-ons for Forms Brings a Little Something Extra to Your Surveys is a post by Google about new flexibility in their tool for creating surveys. Add-ons are created by third-party developers and the ones available do things like close the survey after a certain number of responses or on a specified date.
Three Nice Online Tools for Building Jeopardy-Style Review Games is an article from Free Technology for Teachers by Richard Byrne. A lot of librarians as well as other instructors use these as a more interesting teaching tool. The tools are eQuizShow, Jeopardy Rocks, and FlipQuiz.
IFTTT now also has a channel called Followup.cc, “A simple & powerful email tool. Use timed email to schedule reminders, follow up with leads and ensure emails are not ignored. eg. firstname.lastname@example.org“. Lifehacker has an article with a few more details.
Nicole Hennig is teaching an online course Apps for Librarians and Educators. It is a 5 week course with a self-paced option available. The course runs February 2 through March 6, 2015. While we generally focus on freely available materials, the course is not free. However, Hennig is extremely knowledgeable about this topic. I plan on taking the course and am looking forward to it. ALA members get a discount.
Hennig also has an interesting post Why You Don’t Need to Stick with One Mobile Platform: 50 Best Apps for Multi-Platform Productivity. It mentions a number of apps available for both iOS and Android, including a few I’ve wished were available and now are. One example is iAnnotate. Being an Android user, I do get frustrated because it seems that almost all of the people I follow who write about apps/programs for academic use are Mac/iOS users, so I rarely see reviews of equivalent Android apps. So this article is much appreciated!
Office Productivity Software
2014 Top Desktop Office Software Suites Comparison Chart is another excellent article by Cindy Grigg, the About.com office software expert. The article compares Microsoft Office 2013, Office 365, LibreOffice, Open Office, iWork 2013, and Kingsoft Office 2013 in many categories. She has also done more detailed reviews of all of these, plus some reviews of associated apps.
Grigg has also done a 2014 Top Online Office Software Suite Apps Comparison Chart. The article compares Microsoft Office Online, Google Apps, iWork for iCloud, ThinkFree Online, and Zoho Docs Online. In addition, Grigg has separate articles reviewing 40 features of Thinkfree, Zoho Docs, and iWork.
Grabbing Quotes from Journal Articles with Highlights App for Mac is an article from Catherine Pope of The Digital Researcher blog. She describes the Highlights app which can extract your highlights, add metadata for the article if it has a DOI, save as (editable) HTML or Markdown, and the result can be exported to Evernote, DEVONthink, or another text editor. Sounds like a great piece of technology for academics.
Manage Research Papers on the Go with Papership is a post from Dr. Alex Hope on the Dr Sustainable blog. Papership is an iOS app that makes reading and annotating papers with an iPad or iPhone easy. There is a free version, but the author recommends the $9.99 version as having excellent annotation tools. Found via Nicole Hennig in her email newsletter – and thanks, Ms. Hennig, for the shout out about our blog!
Podcast of Interest
Back to Work is “an award winning talk show with Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin discussing productivity, communication, work, barriers, constraints, tools, and more.” Available on the web, by RSS feed, and from iTunes. It was recommended in a post in Profhacker.
Kensington’s PresentAir Pro A Laser Pointer on Steroids for Mobile Presenters is an article about this product shipping as of November. It is a Bluetooth device, so doesn’t require a USB port, and besides serving as a laser pointer also controls the volume, playlist, and controlling video clips.
Using Scrivener to Project Manage Your Thesis is a post by Catherine Pope of The Digital Researcher blog. It has some good tips on Scrivener features to keep track of things to do and the status of tasks while writing a thesis in Scrivener.
6 Tools to Make Archival Research More Efficient is a Gradhacker post by Emily VanBuren aimed at graduate students who do a lot of research in archives. The tools include apps to manage finding aids, a good camera, a wireless SD card, a table grip for mounting the camera so it is stable, a remote control, and scanner apps. I particularly like the idea of the app she mentions for a scanning app, PDFpenScan+, which runs OCR on the scanned documents and turn them into searchable PDFs (iOS only, PDF Scanner looks like it performs the same functions on Android).
Canva introduces their Design School, “a new platform, workshop series and teacher resource hub designed to increase the world’s visual literacy.” It is a 30 part series of interactive tutorials on such topics as branding, fonts, layouts, and images.
Optimizing Microsoft Word for Academic Writing by Landon Schnabel in Social Work Helper has interesting tips with which I was unfamiliar, such as turning on more proofing options, using field codes, and more.
We have mentioned ReadCube before, which adds some interesting tools for managing PDFs for research, including things like turning references into live links where possible. They have a PDF on the features of the software, including its Word-compatible citation tool, and a comparison chart with its features compared with EndNote, Mendeley, Zotero, and Papers. It is a great chart, though I would always take such with a grain of salt for two reasons (1) any chart produced by one software is likely to have some bias; and (2) the features of this type of software change all the time.
Wappwolf has three products that work similarly to IFTTT, but on a more limited basis. They connect your cloud storage (Dropbox or Google Drive or Box) to other web services such as Facebook, Flickr, or Evernote. The range of actions for documents, audio, images, etc. is amazing. Scroll down on each page to see the list of actions.
Nicole Hennig, who is just da bomb on apps for learning, has a Pinterest board Content Curation with Mobile Apps. She has a website, Best Sites for Academics, and an ebook Apps for Librarians, and you can sign up for her email newsletter.
Content Curation Survey 2014 by Christian Puricelli is a slideshow illustrating the answers to a survey. He got results from 282 content curators.
Here is a pen to watch for, the N2 which has a kickstarter campaign in Australia. It looks like it can do much that the Livescribe pen (the market leader in digital pens) can do, but it doesn’t need special paper. Caveats include: when will it be available, will it be available outside of Australia and how soon, price, and a better comparison of features to Livescribe.
The Dawn of the Digital Classroom is a post by Jared Carrizales, of Mighty Skins (which produces skins for electronic devices). The post provides an infographic that summarizes the positive views both college students and faculty have towards electronics, with students having almost seven devices each! More importantly, both faculty and students have positive views of the value of online learning.
Evernote Lovers: Now You Can Create an Email Newsletter in Evernote is an article by Kira M. Newman in Tech Cocktail (an email newsletter for startups) discussing an email marketing tool created by Mastodon which works within Evernote. The article has screenshots of how to create and send the newsletter. The service uses a freemium model, with the paid version costing between $10-$35 a month.
Evernote has also announced a premium feature called Context, which searches for related information from your notes, from selected external sources, and, for Evernote Business users, notes from your team.
Garth Scaysbrook is an author who writes a lot about Evernote (see a short review of his Evernote book). His blog has a number of useful short tips, amply illustrated with screen shots. Two useful examples are Evernote: How to Search Within a Note and Evernote Quick Tip: Insert Date and Time. Another useful quick tip is Navigate Notes Back and Forward Shortcut.
Create Watch Folders to Easily Store Files in Your Evernote Account is a post in Lifehacker by Tori Reid. It discusses a VERY important new feature in Evernote for Windows – you can create a folder in Windows, then click on “Import Folder” in the tools menu in Evernote. Now everything you add to that folder will be automatically added to Evernote in whatever notebook you specify. This can be a huge help, especially for academic researchers. Article mentions there is a Mac script that can do the same thing. The Lifehacer article links to the official Evernote blog post with step-by-step instructions.
I have included many posts from Evernote’s Going Paperless Ambassador, Jamie Todd Rubin, in these link roundups. Sadly he will not be posting these on a regular basis anymore. He will, however, still post occasionally. For now, he has a post that serves as a table of contents for his posts on how to organize Evernote. He also has a post that serves as a TOC for his posts on searching Evernote. The third in this series is his roundup posts on productivity tips using Evernote.
Using Evernote in the Classroom is a recent Profhacker post that doesn’t itself have much new, but links to a couple of other resources including Raul Pacheco-Vega’s public notebook of using Evernote in academia.
Why Evernote is Amazing: A Collection of Articles, Blog Posts, Tutorials, and Ideas for Making Evernote Your Best Friend Ever is a board in Storify that is just what it says. ;-). Good collection, though would like the date to have shown on the list. Categories are Why You Should Consider Using Evernote; Video Overview of What Evernote Can Do; Basic Beginner’s Guides; Moving Beyond the Basics; Ideas for Using Evernote; Evernote for School and Research; and For Advanced Users.
Building Habits and Routines is a Profhacker post by Anastasia Salter. She discusses how easy it is to lose track of these at the beginning of a semester, and mentions the app she is currently using to track them is Way of Life(iOS only). I looked on the Google Play store, and there are a number of Android apps that do something similar, like Habit Bull.
The Projecteze System Keeps You Productive With Just a Word Processor by is a Lifehacker post by Mihir Patkar on creating a 4 column table in Word or Google Docs, for example, with columns for project name, due date, priority, and action items.
Scanbot is an app for iOS and Android that does crisp scans, multiple page scans, recognizes QR codes and barcodes, allows annotating PDFs including uploading your signature, automatic uploading to a variety of cloud services including Dropbox and Evernote, and more.
How to Save Tweets to Evernote is another useful post from Catherine Pope in The Digital Researcher blog. She describes two different methods for the task. Many academics use Twitter to create communities discussing research. Pope, by the way, has ebooks available on using Scrivener for research (see below), both Mac and Windows editions, using Evernote for research (Windows and Mac), and using Zotero to manage references.
Scholarly Writing Hacks: 5 Lessons I Learned by Writing Every Day in June is a Profhacker article by Jennifer Ahern-Dodson that is described by its title. Good tips for those who want to get in the habit of writing regularly.
How to Create a Content Brainstorming Dashboard to Keep Ideas Coming is an excellent article by Ann Smarty in Small Business Trends. First mentions a couple of apps (I just use Evernote and keep a bin list), but then a number of techniques. One I like is to step away from a project for a time… when I am writing a blog post, I first do the research, then don’t look at it again for a day or so. When I come back to it, usually the organization of the writing of the post has suggested itself to my mind.
How to Write Your Thesis with Scrivener is an ebook written by Catherine Pope of The Digital Researcher blog. I have been so impressed with her writing and organization, so I expect this is a really good book. The first link is for the Windows version, and she also has a Mac version. Both are available as Kindle versions for $4.99. Scrivener is a popular writing tool for academics.
Scientists have been recording data for millennia (Bird, 2013). Since science became more formal in the 17th century, more and more data has been produced, and tools grow ever more sophisticated. There are still some who think that if a paper notebook that records the progress of an experiment was good enough for Sir Isaac Newton, it must be good enough for me!
There are still advantages to paper. It is cheap, extremely portable, and if a spill destroys it, it isn’t hard to replace. If it is lost or destroyed, however, then that experiment is (sometimes literally) up in smoke. So as computers progressed, the idea of keeping experimental data online was born, and took hold first in the 1990s. Now there are many products, at all levels of sophistication. They range from free to highly expensive, and are designed for corporate or academic labs or individuals. There are versions for all operating systems, browsers, and, in this second decade of the 21st century, there are also versions for tablets. ELNs may be specific to one discipline, such as chemistry or biology, or more general. The more sophisticated ones may be required to meet regulatory requirements for the FDA, or to be able to meet requirements to protect intellectual property.
As will be no surprise to readers of this blog, we take particular note of note-taking software. A number of academic researchers use Evernote or OneNote as their ELN. Their availability on a wide variety of platforms, features that include robust search capabilities, ability to add many formats including audio and graphics, and more, make them the choice of many. As a devotee of Evernote, I somewhat reluctantly admit that for this purpose I suspect OneNote, with its infinite levels of hierarchy, might be best. Resources discussing each are below. Since note-taking software is tablet-friendly, some researchers pop their iPad in a plastic bag to prevent damage from spills, and type away. Others use Evernote with the Livescribe digital pen or the Penultimate handwriting app. Similarly, some use Google Docs or a wiki to keep track of their information and to share between a small group of collaborators.
However, while this software may work for some, especially academic labs where resources are short, such software lacks many desirable features of ELNs. There was a short-lived organization, the Collaborative Electronic Notebook Systems Association (CENSA). It developed a definition of an ELN:
CENSA define[d] an ELN as, “a system to create, store, retrieve and share fully electronic records in ways that meet all legal, regulatory, technical and scientific requirements.” (Rubacha, 2011)
The Best of the Best:
Bird, C. L., Willoughby, D, and Frey, J. G. (2013). Laboratory Notebooks in the Digital Era: the Role of ELNs in Record Keeping for Chemistry and Other Sciences. Chemical Society Reviews, 42, 8157-8175. DOI: 10.1039/C3CS60122F. Open access article with excellent explanation of ELNs and an equally good and extensive literature review.
LiMSwiki.org. Electronic Laboratory Notebook. Last updated August 2014. LiMS stands for Laboratory Information Management Systems, of which ELNs are a part. Article gives good background on ELNs (better than the Wikipedia article).
LiMSwiki.org. ELN Vendor Page. Page lists active vendors first (about 60 of them), then inactive vendors. The name of the vendor, their main product(s), home country, and notes (mostly mergers and acquisitions) are provided. Last updated October 2014.
Rubacha, M., Rattan, A. K., and Hosselet, S.C. (2011). A Review of Electronic Laboratory Notebooks Available in the Market Today. Journal of Laboratory Automation, v. 16 (1), 90-98. Reviews over 20 ELNs according to CENSA definition. Organization is by categories: R&D, Biology/Chemistry, Quality control/Assessment or Multidisciplinary. Reviews include awards if any, most important features, link to company website. No pricing information. The Journal of Laboratory Automation has had numerous articles with ELNs as the main or subsidiary topic, and its articles become open access after two years.
Notebook Software Sources:
Bedford, E. (2013). Electronic Lab Notebooks. Gradhacker, August 22, 2013. Primarily discusses Evernote, with links to LabGuru, iLabber (now Accelrys Notebook Cloud), and the PerkinElmer E-Notebook product. Also discusses the Livescribe pen and the advantages of tablet computers.
Crockett, C. (2013). Evernote for Scientists: Mastering the Electronic Lab Notebook. Astrobetter, June 24, 2013. Reports on a discussion on the Astronomers Facebook page about using Evernote as an ELN, and the features they most liked for the purpose.
ELNs Electronic Laboratory Notebooks – guide from Daureen Nesbill, University of Utah. Home page with definition, pages on selecting an ELN, Lists of ELNs, and implementation at other institutions. Last updated August 2013.
Electronic Lab Notebooks at Yale – this guide is an example of a campus that has chosen one product for the campus as a whole (LibArchives, in this case). The guide defines an ELN and discusses some features of LibArchives.
Selected Articles on Other ELNs:
Giles, J. (2012). Going Paperless: The Digital Lab. Nature, v. 481 (7382), News feature. General discussion of ELNs, with some specific mention of LabGuru, iLabber, and Syapse.
King, A. (2013). Notebooks Go Digital. ChemistryWorld, May 22, 2013. Discusses ELNs in particular and their expansion from just data capture but also data analysis and visualization. Companies with ELNs mentioned are Accelrys/Contur, IDBS, CambridgeSoft, and other players.
SelectScience. Electronic Laboratory Notebooks. SelectScience bills itself as “trusted information for laboratory scientists”. The ELN page has information on eleven products with a link to request pricing, and a link to the ELN producers website.
I have been using Evernote more and more as my research portal. The Evernote Clipper makes it so easy to clip whole blog entries or articles or even pages from the internet. Copying an article or set of powerpoint slides in PDF form is also very cool. It will display the whole article one page at a time with the page turners at the top of the article. I can even highlight and annotate the article. My most recent discovery of the power of Evernote was when I recently began taking a few MOOCs for professional continuing education and also for my own fun and interest. A copyright MOOC that I finished this summer is one case in point. The MOOC was set up with videos, accompanying powerpoints and pdfs, both of which could be downloaded. There were discussion groups and weekly assignments.
I began by creating a new notebook. I have chosen to preface each notebook name with MOOC so that all my MOOC notebooks are together. I could have also created a stack for MOOC notebooks. That being said, my new notebook was called MOOC-Copyright for Librarians. I always make one of my first notes the syllabus for the class. This gives me a good reference point in the future when I want to see where specific topics were discussed. It is also really nice to have the syllabus at my fingertips so that I don’t have to keep loading it at the MOOC site while I’m in the middle of taking the class.
Most MOOCs are arranged by weekly sessions. They generally have one or more videos where the instructors present material, as well as discussion questions for a discussion wiki area, additional resources (either included if they are open-source, or listed in bibliographies), and a weekly assignment. With some MOOCs the instructors are kind enough to post their powerpoint displays separate from the video so that they can be downloaded. Those I download directly with separate notes for each. Since I am only using these files for my own study, this is a permissible use under copyright provisions.
I organize my individual Evernote notes by means of tags. I always have one tag that corresponds to the session or week number so that I can later easily sort my tags for a particular session together. Then I will have additional tags based on topics. This is becoming increasingly valuable as I find myself taking a new MOOC which sometimes revisits or expands upon topics discussed in other MOOCs I have previously completed. By using common topic tags, I can retrieve a tag and all the notes on that subject will be gathered together, no matter which MOOC or workbook I happened to be using the that note was created.
By assigning a tag of “to do” on notes that are related to assignments, I can easily organize those items by then dragging the “to do” tag to my shortcuts area in Evernote, making all those items immediately available and easy to review for due dates.
I also find Evernote a great place to directly record any notes I take while watching the instructor’s videos. If the instructor has a particularly illustrative graphic during the video that I wish to refer to later, I can both note the number of minutes into the video where the discussion occurs, and also use my windows snipping tool to capture the moment of the video with the graphic displayed. I can then paste that snip into my notes and then continue on with the video and taking notes. I found myself doing this a number of times during a beginning astronomy course.
My final use of Evernote for my MOOC study came from the discussion threads of the courses. I often found that other students had both insightful comments I wanted to capture, as well as posting interesting links and article citations that I wanted to revisit later. I found by creating one note specified as Bibliography or Links to Revisit or Additional Reading, I could easily accumulate all those valuable resources together throughout the class. Since we generally had weekly topics to specifically discuss, I also captured my answers from the discussion thread so that I had a record of my own contributions.
MOOCs are a wonderful way to expand our horizons and hone our skills through free, continuing education. While Higher Education is trying to decide how MOOCs fit into a student’s university experience and whether MOOCs give the same (or better) training as classroom-based instruction, I am reveling in the opportunity to learn from great teachers at universities across the country for free and at my own convenience. The asynchronous, “audit only” structure of MOOCs allows individuals to sample interesting topics and learn at their own level and speed.
Have I finished all the MOOCs I have signed up for? Sadly, no. Life gets in the way. But Evernote gives me an easy to use, convenient way to document all that I do learn, which puts me far ahead of where I would be had I never attempted to join a MOOC.
What about you? Have you taken any MOOCs? They are available on a wide variety of topics. I have taken MOOCs on content curation, astronomy, happiness, copyright and “new librarianship”. How have you used Evernote for study or research? Share and continue the discussion.