When I started graduate school, web-based reference tools were only just being developed. At the time, I was using Endnote to keep track of my citations. That is, until I clumsily tripped over the cord attached to my iBook. This was before the cord was magnetic, and I watched in stop-action as all of my work came crashing down. Little screws and bits of plastic spewed out from the sides. I hadn’t backed up in a while, and have not made that mistake since.
Today, it seems like everyone I talk to is using Zotero. I was, too, until I realized about halfway through last year that someone else was using my Zotero library (and adding to and reorganizing it), too, in the adjunct office where I spent the bulk of my time last year. I hadn’t completely understood how Zotero works, and although I managed to get through defending my dissertation proposal by using it, I gave up and have been wavering ever since on where to take my library of citations next. And it dawned on me: why not just use a blog?
Has anyone had experience doing this? If I set up categories for authors and subjects, would it be easy enough for me to aggregate the appropriate data when necessary? I wonder if it would be possible to develop a WordPress plug-in (or if there already is one) to export bibliographic information as Zotero does. In the meantime, I am considering using a blog to organize my data by using categories and tags as codes. Obviously, the blog would need to be private; however, I wonder what other institutional requirements might be necessary for such a project. If my data is housed in a private site on the internet, is that as good as a locked file cabinet in an office?
Meanwhile, I have a Google Scholar alert set up for “teachers and blogging,” and have for almost a year now, and I’m fascinated by what comes up every time I receive a new digest. This morning, there was a paper about students “phlogging,” the practice of blogging from your phone, to complete assignments. And something else dawned on me: I have witnessed a 180-degree turn when it comes to technology and gadgets in the classroom.
I have probably already mentioned how when I started teaching at an elementary school, if we had to look something up on Google, we felt guilty; like somehow we weren’t good teachers if we didn’t have all the knowledge we were trying to impart to our students stored away in neat little virtual folders in our brains. The fact of the matter is, I don’t remember all the capitals to all fifty states anymore (and probably haven’t since I memorized them for an in-class quiz about twenty-five years ago now), not to mention all of the conversion rules for ounces/cups/quarts, etc. It’s not that I had to sit there with my laptop open, Googling things every moment of every day in order to teach; however, I admit that there were times when students asked questions that stumped me, and my colleagues and I made good use of the technological tools within reach. (A note on laptop use as a teacher: when our school was initially wired, teachers were not permitted to use the wireless network. This is another example of the policy-practice gap I’m examining in my research.)
I’m getting a little off-topic here, but it’s hard not to think about how things have changed, while trying to figure out how to make technology work for a project right here, right now. I have a feeling that in ten years, blogs will be even more sophisticated, and there will in fact be a more universally available option for keeping reference information and research data in blogs. In the meantime, I’ll be developing my own system and will keep you updated on that project in future blog posts.
In other news, I went down to the Occupy Wall Street protests again yesterday with a group of colleagues, and was overwhelmed (in an inspiring way!) by how huge the crowd had gotten by the time we got there. Thousands of people came from all over, and union representation was enormous. At one point, we stretched all the way from Foley Square to Wall Street. You can see photos here if you’re interested:
Lastly, RIP Steve Jobs. Apple technology = awesome.