Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Is this the “killer ap” for research?

Posted by lpearle on 9 May 2010

Last year, after much to-ing and fro-ing with some of the faculty, Hackley adopted Noodletools as a citation maker.  As one teacher said to a class just yesterday, “if you use this, you won’t stupidly lose points for not formatting your bibliography properly!”  (and, on a personal note, it frees me up from having to explain exactly where the periods and commas go – boring at the best of times – and allows me to focus on why citing is important and what type of resource things are).

When I talk to students, particularly those in tenth grade and above, I remind them that in college they’ll probably use RefWorks, or Endnote, or Citation Machine, so getting used to using Noodletools is good college prep.  I know that this doesn’t always sink in, but hey – it’s a start.

There’s been buzz about Zotero (the E-Techer is very much in the pro camp) so when HVLA arranged a demo at METRO, I was happy to go see what was going on.

Zotero is one of those aggregators for web clippings, pdfs, etc. that you can use when you’re doing research.  The problem for me was several-fold, the most important of which was the learning curve.  I could see the utility if, for example, our 20th Century World class was told in, oh, November, that they’d have a 15-20 page paper due in June on a topic, and then had several months in which to find appropriate resources.  But using Zotero for our usual 2-3 week papers seemed like overkill (and the trainer did say that it was more useful for long-term research projects).  I also didn’t like the idea that it was linked to Firefox – I have nothing against FF, but to not also have it available for users of Chrome or Safari or any other browser felt a bit odd to me, particularly as I know that not everyone uses FF.

I could definitely see our teaching teams using it as a way to share resources, clipping sites and articles for future class use.

This got me thinking about other such aggregators…

The Librain, for example, uses Livebinders.  I haven’t really played with them, but the “free” part worries me: how long before you have to pay?  what about privacy (Zotero does offer some privacy controls, which I think is important if you’re a student)?  She’s created one to highlight the use of various on-line tools and that might be a good way to start using them.

Buffy and WillR both love Evernote.  The Unquiet Library was abuzz with students using Evernote as part of their Media21 course (so envious that she gets to teach it!) and Buffy’s also used it as a collection development tool.  Will is considering the implications for his reading/notetaking habit.  Me, I use it and love it for certain things, but haven’t played with it enough to think of the research possibilities.

Diigo is better set up for groups to share links (and comments), but doesn’t really get screenshots (something that Zotero does, so you can prove that the site said what you say it said when you saw it).  Delicious doesn’t really have a group component, but you could share a username/password.

And then there’s Sente, which I haven’t played with at all – no matter how much E-Tech raves about it – because I’m a PC, not a Mac.  Finally, Yolink, which is new to me and may just have it all… except that it merges with EasyBib not Noodletools.

So, what am I looking for?  I want a program that will clip items from the web, allowing students to aggregate their sources (they could create a bookshelf from our library and GoogleBooks, scan in some articles, find sources on the web) and comment on them.  They should be able to organize them and take notes on them, and have an easy way to create a bibliography from all this.  Zotero does some of this… Diigo other bits… Evernote still other bits… There are several other issues (is this going to remain “free”?  what about privacy?  student sharing?  is there a pay-for model for schools, the way Glogster and VoiceThread have? where is the information stored: computer or cloud?  is there syncing between home and school and vacation and cloud? any smartphone aps on the way?) that also need to get sorted.

End result: lots to play with and think about over the summer, but for right now I think I may show some of these tools to our more advanced teachers only.  Perhaps they’ll play, too, and we’ll figure out how best to use these in school.  Or not.

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3 Responses to “Is this the “killer ap” for research?”

  1. elisabeth a. said

    Hi –
    This is a great post – something I have been wondering about too. I am a NoodleTools user/teacher. I think it is good developmentally for the kids..
    Diigo Does do screenshots. That is the way they deal best with PDFs. But I want to learn Evernote.
    Tell me when you find the perfect answer. For now, I just started teaching Diigo and may continue with it, or switch to Evernote. I haven’t decided.. I feel that using them for notetaking might detract even further from using traditional books.. Lets compare notes (and notetaking) at ALA!

  2. barbara (kitten) said

    I’m a big fan of Evernote as well…and I think it has lots of different uses (although it can get cluttered if you just clip things and don’t file them). I like Zotero, but I don’t have any use for it unless I am writing a paper. You didn’t mention list.it, which is another favorite tool of mine.

    The big problem, and I agree with you, is that these tools are scattered hither and yon…It would be really great to have one big tool that does everything, or at least syncs everything so it is possible keep your work together and make it useful.

  3. elisabeth a. said

    There is also Webnotes, which is like Diigo, but it treats pdfs better and is a subscription service. they have school prices. I looked at it last year and it was great, but I didn’t want to pay for it, especially since I didn’t know how it would go this year..

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