I’m kicking off my series of blog posts focusing on tools you might want to consider having in your PLE with a look at Evernote. If you follow educationalists and teachers on Twitter one of the tools you’ll often see them tweeting about is Evernote and you’ll notice they are giving it a positive press. Evernote is a free app (though there is also a paid version available), which works a bit like Microsoft’s One Note. It allows you to take clippings of websites, files, images, photographs, videos and audio recordings and tag them for easy retrieval and organise them into notebooks. Also everything you clip and store is easily searchable, including handwritten notes and text in images. You can also share your clippings so if you’re working on a group project it’s easy to share the resources that you find.
The real beauty of Evernote is that you can use it as a web service on any web browser, but you can also install the application on your own personal Windows or Mac desktop, your iPod Touch/iPhone. It also works on Android phones, the Blackberry, Palm Pre and Windows mobile. You can synchronise your Evernote account with your desktop or mobile device and access your notes offline. This ability to access your notes without an internet connection is what I really find helpful, particularly on a hand held device like the iPod Touch, I have all my notes and helpful resources at my fingertips even when I can’t get a wireless connection.
There’s a helpful overview of how you can use Evernote as a tool in your personal learning environment that’s been put together by a US medical student Ryan McDonald. Ryan calls Evernote his ‘medical peripheral brain’, unfortunately I can’t embed his video here but you take a look at it on his screencast page and see how he uses it to support his medical studies.
The Evernote website has a series of videos which give an overview of its features and how people are using it. There are several videos which include students talking about why they use Evernote. You can use Evernote for all sorts of things, I use it to support my ongoing life long learning but the more I use it the more uses I find for it.
If you want to find out more about how people are using Evernote here are some additional links you might want to take a look at.
Evernote: Redefining my organisational thinking – Academic Life in Emergency Medicine Blog
14 Practical Ways to Use Evernote – Guy Kawasaki
In my last post I mentioned the concept of the personal learning environment (PLE), which is essentially an individualised learning space that makes use of a variety of tools and resources. A PLE can help you gather and organise resources and information, support reflection and learning, as well as facilitating connections with others. A PLE can include both formal and informal learning opportunities, so the institutional VLE might be part of your PLE as well as other tools which are available via the web.
With the growing number of Web 2.0 tools that are free, accessible (and easy to use for those of us who aren’t computer geeks) developing your own PLE doesn’t need to be a daunting experience. Most individuals will have some sort of a PLE but perhaps aren’t aware of the range of tools that can now be used to support their learning or their teaching. Here on Dundee e-MedEd I’m going to start a series of blog posts looking at some of the tools that you might want to take a look at, which could support your learning and become part of your learning environment.
To find out a bit more about PLE’s take a look at this presentation by Stephen Downes.
Last year JISC published a report ‘Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World‘. The report is well worth reading, but if you haven’t got time the summary on the link I’ve provided gives a good overview. One thing which the report highlights is that the use of Web 2.0 technologies is high and pervasive across all age groups from 11 to 15 upwards. One of the key findings in the study was that
Present-day students are heavily influenced by school methods of delivery so that shifts in educational practice there can be expected to impact on expectations of approaches in higher education.
Whilst current students in higher education may have little sense of how Web 2.0 technologies might be used to support their learning and are not pushing for changes in traditional educational approaches in a couple of years time this is likely to change. One of the report’s conclusions is
The world they encounter in higher education has been constructed on a wholly different set of norms. Characterised broadly, it is hierarchical, substantially introvert, guarded, careful, precise and measured. The two worlds are currently co-existing, with present-day students effectively occupying a position on the cusp of change. They aren’t demanding different approaches; rather they are making such adaptations as are necessary for the time it takes to gain their qualifications. Effectively, they are managing a disjuncture, and the situation is feeding the natural inertia of any established system. It is, however, unlikely to be sustainable in the long term. The next generation is unlikely to be so accommodating and some rapprochement will be necessary if higher education is to continue to provide a learning experience that is recognised as stimulating, challenging and relevant.
So what kind of student might we expect to come to medical school in a few year’s time. This video by a 7th grade school pupil (12-13 years old) in the States gives an insight into 21st century learners and how they have developed their personal learning environment using Web 2.0 tools.
This second video looks at ‘What is Next Generation Learning’ and our presenter is 11 year old Harry in the UK. He gives a tour of his school and how it’s using ICT. The classroom and learning environment are changing and we need to support staff to develop skills in e-pedagogy.
With so much information on the web and everyone seeming to be busier and busier it’s helpful to know about some tools that can help you organise the information you’re interested in. One of the ways to help manage information is to use RSS feeds, yet to many the term RSS is just a piece of techno babble! So what is RSS?
RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary. It’s essentially a feed of information which may be a headline, a summary or full text of information published on the web. Websites like BBC News, the Guardian, the BMJ, SIGN, blogs, video sharing sites and most academic journals now distribute their content via RSS feeds. This is all good news because it means that we can subscribe to these RSS news feeds using an RSS newsreader. Whenever you see the RSS icon (shown here to the left) on a website or on the address bar in your web browser, this indicates that the site has an RSS feed that you can subscribe to. If you subscribe to these feeds it means that you can retrieve all the latest information from the sites you’re interested in dynamically in one place rather than having to trudge from site to site to see if there’s any new content. Take a look at this video put together by Sarah Horrigan of Nottingham Trent University to get an overview of RSS.
There are different ways to subscribe to RSS feeds. You can subscribe to them in your web browser, i.e. in Internet Explorer, Firefox, Flock, Safari etc. This is fine but if you use different computers you might want to consider using a web-based news reader which you can access anytime you are on the web. One option as outlined in Sarah’s video is Google Reader, another is Netvibes. You can take a look at a Netvibes page that I’ve put together with some RSS feeds relating to some respiratory journals and organisations. With Netvibes you can create your own personal pages of RSS feeds and also share pages publicly and embed images, and widgets for sites like Facebook, for searching sites like Google, PubMed etc. The page I’ve linked to from this post includes a widget which allows you to search the BMJ (thanks to Anne Marie Cunningham at Cardiff for creating and sharing this).
I subscribe to well over 100 RSS feeds across a whole range of work and personal related interests. Using an RSS reader saves me a lot of time, there’s no way I would have time to visit all these sites. I check my reader and look at the headlines and can quite quickly see what looks interesting and what I want to take a closer look at. Why not give RSS a try yourself and start start subscribing to some feeds from your favourite websites. If you need any help to get started post a comment and I’ll follow up with you.