Blog Archives

Buying some new gadgets for college? Engadget has you covered.

So, it’s the time of year when A-level results come out (in the UK, anyway) and students’ thoughts fondly turn to the start of the college/University year in October when they can finally experience some spatial (if perhaps not financial) independence from their parents. And these days, if you aren’t already fully equipped with all the tools necessary to make a success of your time at University then it’s time to start smiling sweetly at Mum and Dad to make sure they’ll give you what you need in time for the start of term. And by ‘tools’ I mean technology, not a six-foot bong and a jumbo-pack of prophylactics.*

Fortunately, Engadget has you covered for all your gadget-related decisions with their excellent annual back-to-school guides. These are short reviews of the top picks by the editors at Engadget in a variety of categories of gadgets/technology such as laptops, digital cameras and electronic readers. Useful stuff if you’re pondering a new purchase to get you through the school year, and there’ll be more to come in the next few weeks so keep checking Engadget.


*Though, those wouldn’t hurt as well.

The Oldest Student Technology – Taking Notes

This is a quickie, as I’ve just spotted an excellent post over on the PsychTopics blog. The old joke about lectures is that they’re a mechanism for transferring ideas from the lecturer’s notes to the student’s notes, without passing through the brains of either one, however by taking effective notes in lectures you can definitely increase your chances of a) retaining more information at the time, and b) knowing what the hell they mean when you come to revise for your exams six months later. The blog post linked to above has some great tips, and even though I’m a massive, rabid techno-fan, even I’m forced to admit that sometimes the best tool for the job is a slightly chewed biro and some bits of paper.

The student essay as an assessment technique – an obsolete technology?

This post is a bit of a diversion from normal service, but it’s been inspired by some things I’ve been reading recently on essays (or ‘papers’ for my North American readers) and student assessment. The first was this piece on plagiarism and essay-mills, and the second was this piece here. Both highlight some current issues with assessment methods at university/college level, such as plagiarism, something which I’ve also covered before.

So anyway, in keeping (vaguely) with the theme of this blog I thought I’d take a look at the essay/paper as a technique (or ‘technology’ if you will – see what I did there?) for educational assessment and try and determine whether it’s still up-to-date, or as obsolete as a 5-inch floppy disk. Or a 28.8K modem. Or leaving your goddam twitter account alone for five minutes and giving someone your undivided attention during a social interaction. You get the idea.

So, the essay* as a literary format is a curious one. Canonically it has its origins in the 1580s with Michel de Montaigne; probably the first person to describe themselves as an ‘essayist’, although he was apparently inspired by Plutarch. Interestingly, a similar format existed in the Japanese literary tradition since its very early period. It first became formalised as a standard way of assessing students in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Read the rest of this entry

Reference Management Software – Yes, again. It’s important.

Protoscholar recently, and very kindly, linked to my previous post on computing skills for students and made two very pertinent comments, which you can read here. The first comment was that I’d missed out any kind of software for doing qualitative analysis. This omission is entirely a product of my own ignorance I’m afraid – I come from a very experimental background and know very little about qualitative research and the relevant tools available. I’m happy to link to protoscholar’s article and the recommendations for qualitative software made there.

The second comment was that ‘Reference Management Software’ and ‘Do regular backups’ were too important to be filed away at the end under ‘Miscellaneous’. This is absolutely right – in fact I regard the use of Reference Management software to be the absolute number one, top tip that every student, post-grad or academic needs to know. I notice there are already some good articles on protoscholar’s site about various bits of software, so I’m linking to them here.

Just to reiterate – if you’re a student and you’re not using some kind of reference management software, you’re making your life so much more difficult than it needs to be. It doesn’t really matter which one you choose, as long as you use something!

All via

A very useful chart on different features of the most popular RM software.
A useful article on organising your research.

My Favourite RM tool – Mendeley.


E-textbooks – a tiny update.

The future - you can touch it.

I blogged the other day about e-textbooks and how they might change the way we study and consume information, and have just come across this page on the Nature site (via the never-less-than-excellent GrrlScientist). It’s an online biology textbook, published by Nature, full of beautiful illustrations, you can read it anywhere you have web-access, on any device, and it’s constantly updated, so it never goes out of date. The future – it’s here!

Psychology and cloud computing – Google Docs, DropBox, iCloud.

My favourite cloud-type - you can't beat a nice bit of cumulonimbus.

Following Apple’s announcement of ‘iCloud‘ last week, I’ve been thinking about how the current trend towards cloud computing might have an impact on psychology students, teaching and research. Not so much about the psychology of cloud storage itself (although I definitely think there’s an interesting discussion to be had there) but more about how as psychologists we can use the cloud to make our lives easier. Read the rest of this entry

Kno for iPad, and e-textbooks – the future of studying?

E-textbooks - the future?

OK, I know I ragged on the iPad (and tablets in general) somewhat in this post, but there’s just been a very interesting announcement from a company called Kno, and what can I say, I’m capricious. This company had previously put out a massive piece of hardware, which consisted of two 14.1 inch tablets stuck together – they were marketing this as a digital textbook. The device was generally poorly reviewed, and it looks like they’ve come up with a different strategy – licensing their software for the iPad. You can download the Kno app, and then have access to a store which will sell you e-textbooks for (they claim) 30-50% off the list price.  A quick perusal of their store reveals many common undergraduate psychology titles (although quite a lot are labelled as ‘coming soon’). This has to be better (and cheaper) than carrying around a load of massive textbooks, right? Their software looks pretty good – you can make annotations, share stuff through the normal social-network channels, zoom-in on illustrations etc. Read the rest of this entry