Reference Management Tools – Zotero

Organizing references and citations when writing papers is not an easy job without proper tools. In this workshop, I introduced a number of open-source reference management tools, and compare their features and limitations. We also had some hands-on experience using Zotero.

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Statements used in dissertations and what they really mean

Disclaimer: this was circulated via emails and I really don’t know where they come from.

“IT HAS LONG BEEN KNOWN”… I didn’t look up the original reference.
“It is well known…” – nobody I asked knew the reference either
“A DEFINITE TREND IS EVIDENT”…These data are particularly meaningless.
“WHILE IT HAS NOT BEEN POSSIBLE TO PROVIDE DEFINITE ANSWERS TO THE QUESTIONS”…An unsuccessful experiment, but I still hope to get it published.
“THREE OF THE SAMPLES WERE CHOSEN FOR DETAILED STUDY”… The other results didn’t make any sense.
“TYPICAL RESULTS ARE SHOWN”… This is the prettiest graph.
“IN MY EXPERIENCE”… Once.
“IN CASE AFTER CASE”… Twice.
“IN A SERIES OF CASES”… Thrice.
“IT IS BELIEVED THAT”… I think.
“IT IS GENERALLY BELIEVED THAT”…A couple of others think so, too.
“CORRECT WITHIN AN ORDER OF MAGNITUDE”…Wrong.
“ACCORDING TO STATISTICAL ANALYSIS”…Rumor has it.
“A STATISTICALLY-ORIENTED PROJECTION OF THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THESE FINDINGS”…A wild guess.
“A CAREFUL ANALYSIS OF OBTAINABLE DATA”…Three pages of notes were obliterated when I knocked over a can of beer.
“IT IS CLEAR THAT MUCH ADDITIONAL WORK WILL BE REQUIRED BEFORE A COMPLETE UNDERSTANDING OF THIS PHENOMENON OCCURS”…I don’t understand it.
“AFTER ADDITIONAL STUDY BY MY COLLEAGUES”… They don’t understand it either.
“THANKS ARE DUE TO JOE BLOTZ FOR ASSISTANCE WITH THE EXPERIMENT AND TO CINDY ADAMS FOR VALUABLE DISCUSSIONS”… Mr. Boltz did the work and Ms. Adams explained to me what it meant.
A HIGHLY SIGNIFICANT AREA FOR EXPLORATORY STUDY”… A totally useless topic selected by my committee.
“IT IS HOPED THAT THIS STUDY WILL STIMULATE FURTHER INVESTIGATION IN THIS FIELD”… I quit.

Learning Attitude 2

Today I read some quotes in the signature part of one email.

“Complaining does not work as a strategy. We all have finite time and energy. Any time we spend whining is unlikely to help us achieve our goals. And it won’t make us happier.”

I am immediately impressed by the words and did some research. The quote is from the Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. You may get more information about it from http://www.thelastlecture.com

I also discovered some more quotes relevant to learning at http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/complaining and want to share some:

  • “Never tell your problems to anyone…20% don’t care and the other 80% are glad you have them.”
  • “Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted. And experience is often the most valuable thing you have to offer.”

Tips to make a classroom presentation fun and interesting (updated)

It’s very common for students to deliver presentations (either formal or informal) on certain topics in the classroom. However, I found many of the presentations are not “interesting” enough to grab other students’ attention. Here are some tips (from my own experience) for making presentations interesting:

  • [New] Co-presentation (http://www.totalsuccess.co.uk/co-presenting-tips-and-techniques/): I personally find this very helpful if the presenters cooperate well in group presentations. A common practice in group presentation is to split the presentation into several sections and each person takes one. It is better to present like a conversation throughout the session. I will come up with more information in another post.
  • Utilize relevant multimedia (graphics, animations, video clips, sounds, etc.) and discuss them (this is important – having these media but not discussing them sometimes confuses people). They can be funny, but also should be relevant.
  • Share personal real life experience, and encourage the audience to share theirs.
  • If it is a team presentation, you can present different arguments and ideas from each presenter, or have a debate among presenters.
  • Hold in-class polls. Besides asking audience to raise hands, try these polling systems: 1) polling service such as http://www.polleverywhere.com (they can use cell phones to vote!); 2) (if in a computer lab) wordpress.com or blogger.com poll gadgets, or Google Docs Form.
  • Do small exercises or play simple games that involve the audience. Award them with candies.
  • Deliver live demonstrations. Note that the demonstration is a way to illustrate your idea; it should serve your presentation, not the other way. Do not let the demo take over your presentation.
  • Ask interesting questions to the audience (don’t ask hard (cold) questions). Remember to give feedback to their answers. Prepare your own answers to questions and see how people respond.
  • Use good and interesting examples. Don’t just read definitions of terms and concepts. Use live examples from the Web if possible.
  • Set up dummy statement and let people judge and debate, or intentionally do something incorrect and let the audience judge. Present conflicting arguments and ideas.

Is there any other practice you follow and find effective? Please share.

Some other resource:

A Presentation on Business Intelligence Education

This is a presentation delivered during a campus visit in which I briefly discussed business intelligence education in Metro Atlanta.
View it on Office Live: Business Intelligence Education
Download: Business Intelligence Education

Questions discussed:
What is BI?
What is the job prospects of BI?
Why should higher education care about BI?
What are the ways to offer BI education?
How’s BI education in Metro Atlanta?

Learning and Problem Solving Attitude

I usually ask some behavior questions on learning to my students, and hope to encourage them to get most from any learning experience. The following two are the most often asked questions.

1. What is your action or attitude toward problems?

2. What’s your attitude and action when you “feel” the study material is too simple for you (assuming that the subject was your interest)?

Systems to Support Virtual Office Hours

It is common now for instructors to hold virtual office hours, when students can communicate with instructors without physically coming to the office. However, sometimes phone and emails are not that effective to deal certain issues. Here I want to discuss some applications and technologies to hold virtual office hours.

Let me start with a summary of some office hour activities:

  • Simple communications. This is a basic form of out-of-classroom contact between students and instructors. It is usually on simple issues with limited rounds of questions and answers, and can be quickly resolved just by talking.
  • Discussion. This is when students want to discuss more complex topics with the instructor, like presentations, research topic, study guidance, etc. These activities are not limited to verbal communications, but also include activities like drawing on paper, collaborative browsing, sharing of resources, working on computer files, etc.
  • Teaching (see Learning and Teaching During Office Hours). Sometimes students will come to ask for help on certain course content subjects, in which verbal explanation is often not very effective. The session may involve writing, drawing, demonstration (especially on technology subjects), and other hands-on operations.

Here are some common applications and systems to support these virtual office hour activities:

  1. Asynchronous communication applications such as emails and discussion boards.
  2. Online synchronous communication tools. There are several choices to consider:
    • Many course management systems (BlackBoard, D2L, Moodle) have built-in messaging tools.
    • Using general instant messaging tools, such as Live Messenger.
    • Popular social network sites (such as FaceBook, where most students already have accounts) usually provide integrated chatting applications.
    • Setting up a chat room, where multiple people can join and chat. Here is an interesting one called Party Chat. Google Hangout is a more recent one.
  3. Advanced collaboration applications. These applications not only support communications, but also provide some advanced features like application sharing, desktop sharing, collaborative viewing and editing, white board, etc. These are good for more complex office hour activities. Some examples:
    • Skype has a desktop sharing feature, in addition to video chatting.
    • Groove has many application sharing tools.
    • Google Docs (especially Spreadsheet) provide great synchronous collaborative editing and resource sharing features.

I think a desired virtual office hour application is basically some specialization of an online collaboration system. It is best to be part of a learning or course management system, with the following features (but not limited to) to support major types of office hour activities stated earlier:

  • support synchronous and asynchronous communications;
  • support text, voice, and video communications;
  • support file/document sharing, desktop sharing, application sharing, and other collaborative actions;
  • support one-to-one and one-to-many sessions;
  • support recording and broadcasting of general issue discussions.

Do you hold virtual office hours? Do you know or use any other good applications? Please share your experience.

Some other good readings: