In which I get with the times…


Image Credit: Natalie Denburg and Flickr

I have been considering the best way to create videos for academic purposes for a while now, but the thought of having to appear on camera horrified me somewhat. The screen capture tool, then, is a game changer and the best piece of tech I have tried so far on this course. I made a quick video to have a go, which I have put a link for below and I think I will be using this feature a lot. It’s so easy as well!

Short Video Test

I chose to use screencast-o-matic because the tutorial video made it look so simple. I think his could be a great tool for my teaching and my research and I have now set up a youtube channel for this purpose with updates to come.

I am glossing over ‘thing 13’ because data will never be part of my research thankfully. I will stick with words as numbers were never my game. So, publishing research online then. As I do quite a lot of teaching Prezi is an invaluable tool, both for using a a teaching resource and to watch others people to acquire knowledge. I find the dynamic style of the presentations must more creative and less restrictive than powerpoint. However, I do think I would keep Prezi for teaching and Powerpoint for academic outputs as it seems to me to be slightly informal.

I also really like the idea of Slideshare, as although I have Surreylearn for my UG students to access my presentations, I would like to share them more widely, particularly if I made some that related to my research.

Here is an example of one of my presentations for second year teaching:


More soon!


Picture This.


Image Credit: Flickr & Keene Public Library and the Historical Society of Cheshire County

On one hand, I use Wikipedia all the time to check on a topic I’m not sure about, to check I am right about something to end a family debate, and, weirdly, clicking random links on each page that comes up to see where the search takes you (it’s more amusing than it sounds, I promise!).  On the other hand, I avoid it like the plague when writing and researching my thesis areas. Including Wikipedia as a reference is a big no-no as far as I’m concerned; however, I do use it to look up some ideas before moving on to the more authoritative sources.

Exploring aspects of the site such as ‘talk’ and ‘history’ have never occurred to me. To be honest, I’ve never actually bothered to see what lies behind the link. The talk function was particularly interesting as it offered some insight into the general consensus about the topics I am looking at. I started searching for ‘the home in American Literature’ with no success so decided to make it more general by searching ‘home’. Then, I went to the talk element and it offered some interesting ideas that linked to my research, such as the comment below:

Wiki Talk.png

The other helpful aspect of this exploration was rediscovering the reference list at the bottom of each page. I searched one of the texts I am studying House of Leaves (2000) and found a list of critical articles, some of which I hadn’t read myself.


Although I can’t reference Wikipedia directly, it seems a good place to start for any research topic and I would consider adding some of my own knowledge to the pages that relate to my research interests.

Next, I moved on to the free images on offer to add a bit of sparkle to my blog posts and research presentations. I used a similar approach as before and searched in ‘The Commons’ for pictures of houses. Then I tried ‘home’ and interestingly the results were very different. Whilst the term ‘house’ brought up lots of pictures of the exterior of the building, such as the one at the top of the post, the term ‘home’ only brought up pictures of the interior of the home. It’s something to consider when discussing my research! I am not much of a photographer so I haven’t uploaded any research based photos as of yet, but it is good to know there is a facility that makes using and sharing photos so easy. I am already an avid user of Instagram but will be keeping it personal so that not all of my social media is guided by my academic interests.

Finally, I am a big fan of online presentations on youtube and other sites such as Prezi for teaching and lesson planning. I would also consider uploading my own videos to discuss texts I am reading, to discuss theory and to open a discussion with other researching or those interested in similar areas. I also really enjoy listening to Podcasts, particularly those that discuss true crime such as Serial and Sword and Scale. Although true crime is a hobby, there are elements that cross over with my research and I am often inspired by them in unexpected ways. I do listen to some of the TED talks as they open up some important areas. I haven’t used podcasts as an academic tool, but I will endeavour to subscribe to a relevant programme, but I will need some time to try a few. In terms of MOOC’s, I have never come across these before, but after a very quick search I found at least one interesting course such as an exploration of postmodernism’s history. It’s good to know there are options for expanding my knowledge for free.

Lots of interesting ‘Things’ this week and I think I will definitely be using images, Wikipedia and MOOC’s more regularly.

More Soon.

Organised Chaos

In theory, referencing software sounds like the best time-saver in the world. I attended a ‘Digital Tools’ workshop last year and saw a brief overview of what software like Zotero and Endnote could do, and although I prefer to write everything by hand, I decided I would try and make my life a little easier by letting the computer do it for me.

I started with endnote and quickly realised I would need some help with learning how to use it. So, instead I remembered I had briefly been shown how to use Zotero and I liked the browser integration element. However, once I had followed the initial steps to download the software, I quickly realised how complex this type of software is. As I said, I have always preferred to handwrite everything, I would even prefer to do my thesis by hand, which in Freud’s opinion would probably make me a sadomasochist. There is something about holding a pen in front of a blank piece of paper and creating something that will never feel the same on a digital medium. It’s too temporary, too easy to delete and lose everything you have made.

Alas, I don’t have the rest of eternity to do my Ph.D. and I will have to take some shortcuts as a result. Next semester I think I will request some help with Zotero as I still think it is the software that would work best for me and the thought of collating all of my bibliographies at the end of the three years sparks a little shiver of terror.

I realise that I have been very cynical about the benefits of using digital tools and social media to enhance my experience as a researcher and it probably has something to do with my OCD tendencies. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to discuss these kind of issues, but I think it is important as I know many researchers suffer from the same problems. For as long as I can remember I have colour coded, labelled, archived and organised my research.


As you can see from the image, I have a very particular way of working and this is only a very small portion of the notes I have made. Varying from this method would be extraordinarily difficult for me, and if I did switch to digital referencing software, it is highly likely I would make notes and handwritten bibliographies alongside it.

I’m working on it though!

I am not very familiar with copyright law and I know it will become important as I get closer to finishing my thesis. I think it would be a good idea to copyright my blog if I ever want to share my research ideas or experiences, but I think I need to read a bit more about it before I do it.

More soon.