Saturday, April 14, 2012

Papers: Using Collections

Papers collections can be a bit confusing at first, but once you figure it out, finding articles is considerably easier, especially when you are reading 50-60 papers a week preparing for a literature review.

A collection (folder) of articles can be created by

File->New Collection->Manual Collection

All unfiled articles are automatically added to the "Unfiled Papers" collection

To add an article to a collection, drag it from the main pane to the collection.  Once filed it will disappear from the "Unfiled Papers" collection.

If you make a sub collection (a collection in a collection) articles will be automatically added to parent collections.  I found splitting Case studies and Editorials handy, since case studies typically have more depth (useful for a literature review) and reviews/editorials are wider reaching (useful to get a big picture look at where research trends are developing).

Things to remember about collections:
  • If you delete an article from a collection, it will again appear in "Unfiled papers".
  • If you delete an article from "Unfiled papers" it will be moved to Trash.
  • If you move an article directly to Trash, it will be deleted from all collections (but can be restored from the Trash).
  • If you delete a file from Trash it is permanently deleted.

This can all be disorientating at first (with articles appearing all over the place), but once figured out, it is quite useful.

A useful tip when wanting to move a file between collections is to delete an article from a collection and then add it to the desired collection from "Unfiled papers".  This will save you from having multiple copies of the same paper in different collections (but takes a bit of courage the first time).

Another interesting feature is the detection of duplicates.  If you download the same file twice, Papers detects it and prompts you to delete it.  The indicator is on the far right hand side near the bottom when looking at an article or in the main pane on the left hand side column.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Papers: Citations and Referencing (Mac)

I'm a fairly lazy researcher and loathe the tedious process of referencing - like many in the new generation, I enjoy finding and using a new idea, care little of the source, file the articles poorly and then find it difficult to reference them properly.

Luckily technology has come to the rescue.  EndNote, Papers and Sente can do some of the menial tasks in the past I may have written applications to do for me.  They do the work of filing and scraping references from online journals and all I have to do is verify the results to make sure it is correct and adequate.

My first efforts were with Papers for iPad which made the process relatively easy, and now that I have Papers for my mac, creating bibliographies and citations is a trivial task - at about the level of complexity I am comfortable with.  It's not to say EndNote and Sente are not better, it's just that I am familiar with this relatively cheap ($49 for a student version) option with iPad support.

I know why referencing is important, I do - I just don't care that much, the implementation and spread of good ideas is what a research practitioner is about; and a good idea can come from anywhere not just a renowned journal or academic.  Being able to recognise a good idea is a mark of a real practitioner, especially where early adoption is concerned.  If you can't do this, you end up implementing ideas that are aging and reaching end of life cycle, taking high risks on projects that are likely to fail or using ideas that have little merit.

Back to the problem at hand.. Papers installation and setup is quite simple.  It took me a little longer than this to figure it out, I hope this can help save you a little time.

Install papers from here. A 30 day trial was available at time of writing.

In the Papers application go Papers->Preferences->Access and enter the university library journal search url at the bottom of the page.

Now go to File->Open Library Website

Use your search page to find a journal article.  The journal search pages are widely different but the process is usually quite similar.  Here's one example:

Papers will attempt to scrape the page for the citation and is generally quite good.  To increase accuracy of the citation download a citation file (the endNote/RIS citation format works well)  and Papers will automatically detect the downloaded file and use it instead.  Quickly you will find that although not perfect, it is superior to manually recording citations.

Next click on a fulltext pdf representation of the journal article.  Papers will add it to the citation and the unfiled papers section for later reading.  Each pdf/citation can be added to a collection for use when generating an article or research proposal.

Once the article and citation is downloaded, the tab will be renamed with the name of the author (an important check to ensure the right citation is linked to the right article - sometimes it gets confused and overwrites the library website tab, restart the app if this happens).  Sections of the article can be highlighted whilst reading the article and notes can be added for later use.  The journal articles get automatically renamed and can be filed in folders (collections) to aid in relocating the article file later.

You can also add a bookmarklet to other browsers to add articles directly from a browser.  This also works quite well but lacks the workflow listed above.
Liking creature comforts, I enjoy reading articles on the couch on my iPad.  Papers allows me to link to my iPad effortlessly and annotate articles.  Grab it from the appStore.

The true heart of Papers though is in the ease of adding citations to articles that you are writing.  This works in Pages and Word, even Blogger!  Within any of these apps press control twice and a citation menu appears.  Type the author or title and then select the article that you are working with - it inserts the citation directly into the document.  When you are finished adding citations, go back to the citation menu and at the touch of a button a reference list can be created.

For the article above to get the the reference in APA format for Blogger would be "control, control" then

The citation is:

(Nehme, 2010)

The reference found is:

Nehme, M. (2010). E-learning and Student's Motivation. Legal Education Review, 20(1/2), 223. Australasian Law Teachers Association.


Web 2.0 usage in the classroom

This is the year of web 2.0 usage in the classroom.  Teachers have avoided using technology in the classroom and have stated that the failures in the past is a justification for not using it in the future.  I'll put my hand up and say that I was one of those.

Then I did a host of research for my "on again" masters.

I think the time has come that we give this a good look.  The failure of learning management systems (LMS's) can now be overcome.  Social media applications provide the gloss that engages students online.  It gives them reason to revisit and get access to information that they require at critical times during their "learning journey" (bleuch.. writing that leaves a bad taste in my mouth - but best describes what I mean).

Online applications are now reaching the level that they can be useful in the classroom and superior to direct instruction.  There is enough competition that application vendors are willing to listen to classroom requirements, assist teachers with implementation and work towards a successful implementation (rather than an "overstate the possibilities, take my money, dissappear" approach.  I'm sure this sounds familiar to many of us).

Web 2.0 extends the classroom beyond four walls - blogging, microblogging, social networking, cloud computing are being used effectively in higher education and there is little reason it shouldn't be used in primary and secondary settings.  Not doing so causes equity issues for our students when they enter higher education.

Students are now IT literate in ways that can be useful to implement in the classroom.  We're not teaching mail merging, Excel and Access usage anymore.  We're talking small bites of IT understanding and using it to directly aid classroom progress.  Microblogging (short notes sequentially placed on a wall similar to facebook) attaching IWB notes for revision, getting a better idea of progress through online marksbooks, providing tools for online collaboration and creating active subgroups within a class, shared development of documents through googledocs, improved organisation through calendars, online project submission,  annotation reducing paper usage, creating digital rather than paper notes using applications such as notability or goodnotes, classroom monitoring software, vod and podcasting - these sorts of things take small amounts of time to implement, are typically free and can make real differences in results, it's now accessible, cheap and works.  These things can be done now, not tomorrow, enabled by tablet and 1-1 laptop access.

I'm not glossing over the learning curve for us, or the overhead of starting the progress but.. if it can clearly be shown that these techniques are superior, it is worth the effort.  I think this time has come.

Even in Math, technologies are starting to mature that reduce IT overheads and improve the classroom experience especially in revision, organisation and note taking.  It's time that schools and universities embrace what can be done to improve teaching pedagogy where new technologies drive student performance. Perhaps we could give less prominance to engagement and self esteem.  These two come primarily as a result of performance and to get engagement with web 2.0 in a class, I think it has to be shown that performance is the primary result.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

CAS calculator and differentiation

There are a host of ways to find the first derivative on the CAS calculator and to solve calculus problems quickly.  Sometimes I think exam writers are well behind what these calculators can do and fail to understand how trivial some problems have become.

Let's start with simple substitution into an equation:

a) Find y at x=3 for y = 2x^2 + 2x + 2

The "|" is important between the equation y = 2x^2 + 2x + 2 and x=3

Let's now find x if we know y.  This is a little harder as we have to solve the equation.

b) Find x at y=14 for y = 2x^2 + 2x + 2

The easiest way to do this is to type 14 = 2x^2 + 2x + 2, highlight it using your stylus (this is important!) and then go

Note that it find both possible solutions (unlike using numsolve with the incorrect range specified)

Let's find the first derivative.  For this use the 2D template in the soft keyboard

Go keyboard -> 2D -> Calc ->

c) Find the 1st derivative of y=2x^2 + 2x + 2

Note that I removed the "y=" this time.  I differentiated the expression on purpose as it makes the next part easier.

Finding the 1st derivative/gradient/instantaneous rate of change at a point is also easy.

d) Find the 1st derivative of y = 2x^2 + 2x + 2 at x = 3

As you can see, it is a mix between c) and a)

Last but not least we can find a point for a particular gradient.

e) Find x at y' = 14 for y = 2x^2 + 2x + 2


To find y itself we could repeat a)

It's very much a case of thinking what you need and then finding it.  As you can see it can all be done with one line on a CAS calculator, things that would take multiple steps on paper.  TanLine is also a useful function that can be investigated and used to quickly find tangents.


Click here for more CAS calculator tutorials