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Digital literacies Skills Team TechItUpTuesday Visual literacies

Advanced digital creation

#TechItUpTuesday

JISC describes digital creation as:

“The capacity to design and/or create new digital artefacts and materials such as digital writing, digital imaging, digital audio and video, digital code, apps and interfaces, web pages.”

JISC Digital capability framework

What do we mean by digital creation?

Previously we have covered digital creation basics through PowerPoint and Word. Depending on what you study and your interests there are more advanced digital creation software’s which some of you may wish to explore. Here are a few useful beginners guides for these software’s some of which you may be able to pick up more easily than others. You don’t need to go through all of these videos as some are quite long but if you are interested in further advancing your digital creation abilities why not give one of these a try.

Suggested digital creation tools/software

These are just a few recommended tools to develop your more advanced digital creation skills. That isn’t to say these are the only tools there are several others you could look into here. You could also learn about these tools or software through MOOCS which are online courses that will be discussed more fully in a later post.

Adobe Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop is a software that is often used for image editing, graphic design and digital art.

Adobe InDesign

Adobe InDesign is a software that focuses on layout and page design for print and digital media. 

Sketch

Sketch is a digital design app from Mac. You can use it for UI (User Interface), mobile, web and even icon design. 

Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator is a vector-based graphics software. It lets you scale down your artwork for mobile screens or scale up to billboard size

Blender is a free and open-source 3D computer graphics software used for creating animated films, visual effects, 3D models, and many more. This is a fun tutorial that I have tried myself, it tells you how to make a 3D realistic donut whilst teaching you all the basics of Blender.

How will these tools help in my future?

The ability to use just one of these tools can be tremendously helpful for jobs in any of these fields and more:

  • Web Design
  • Advertising
  • Graphic Design
  • Teaching
  • Video editing
  • Photography
  • Game Design

Digital creation/design permeates much of our society delivering information, product identification, entertainment, and persuasive messages, which is something we will cover in a later post. Having a good grasp of how to use one of these more advanced digital tools may also help you stick out from the crowd when it comes to your job search after University. Employers will like these skills as achieving the speed and agility necessary for competing in today’s work/business environment requires that organisations advance their digital capabilities and creativity.

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General

Procrastination & Time Management

Learning how to manage your time effectively is crucial to any student’s time at university, but also something you will need to take into any job/career. We, interns, are no different, the techniques we learnt as students to help us tackle procrastination have helped us manage our time whilst in our current roles. Here are some tips from each of us to help you with your studies (and avoid procrastination along the way!).

A photograph of alarm clocks. Procrastination can make time disappear!
Image from pixabay: Alarm clocks

Beating procrastination the old fashioned way

By Joanna Rawnsley

I’m old fashioned because I keep everything in a paper diary, if I keep things on my phone, I end up looking at them more often which leads to me procrastinating. When doing my work, I always put my phone out of my line of sight: out of sight, out of mind. Back when I was doing my assignments, I’d even turn it off, or onto “do not disturb” and put it in a drawer. That way I wouldn’t be distracted by notifications, and I’d be solely focused on the task at hand.

Speaking of tasks, every morning before I start work, I write a daily to-do list for that day. As I go about my day, I tick off any tasks I’ve completed, you don’t realise how satisfying it is to tick off tasks until you do it. I also write down any deadlines in my diary when I get them, so I always know when things need to be in. I do, however, use my phone for reminders. Having an “annoying” alarm going off helps remind me of meetings and deadlines, this way I’m less likely to forget things and I always have a calendar handy.

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Another way to help with procrastination is taking short breaks between classes, studying and work, especially if you’re working at a screen. Now bear with me, I’m serious about this! It’s good to take a break every hour or so to give your eyes a rest and stretch your legs. According to the Well-being Thesis taking “micro-breaks” throughout your workday will not only improve productivity but will also help with stress and your overall well-being. Getting a drink and/or talking to a peer for a few minutes helps you relax and then when you go back to your work, you will be more focused and more efficient. This also helps prevent you from burning out at the end of each day. I for one have been known to turn my laptop off and spend my evenings scrolling through social media and watching TV due to feeling lethargic after work. So, take breaks when you can and stay hydrated!

Now I’m going to go get a drink and take a micro-break of my own.


Time management in the workplace

By David Moore

Throughout this Internship, I have had to schedule my time between different people and their required designs. How I started this, is a week at a time and planned the following week ahead of time for example on one occasion I had to finish editing videos and complete Halloween designs in the same week. I was stressed at first but planning and preparation and doing the video first left me enough time to complete two designs a day so I could finish the work by Friday. What stopped me from getting distracted was I tried to mix my design work, so I was not doing the same work repeatedly. So, one day I would do videos on After Effects and on another day, I would create my own images on Photoshop and create slides and descriptions of work ideas for new images on PowerPoint or I would separate hours of the day to do a mixture of them all.

This is my first work experience and I have found the time management quite challenging as I am not a morning person as it took some time to get used to the hours but once I got into a routine, I have enjoyed my experience. It is important to me to keep a routine, so I do not lose track of where I am.

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Avoiding procrastination with the right mindset

By Codey McShane

For me, the most important aspect of managing procrastination and my time for study was getting into the correct mindset. While I was at university, I found it easy to beat myself up for procrastinating, which would only make me want to study less. When thinking about doing my work evoked feelings of guilt or made me feel under intense pressure, it became way harder to get anything done at all. For me, what helped was accepting and forgiving myself for procrastinating – there was no point dwelling on what I’d already done, and all I could change was what I was going to do. I didn’t pretend that it hadn’t happened, but I recognized that I could still turn things around and give myself a fresh start.

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It was incredibly freeing to be able to let go of these feelings of anxiety and realize that so long as I began working now, whatever I produced would be the best work I could’ve done starting from my fresh start. Of course, this isn’t a method that will work for everyone – there is no magical cure-all for feelings of anxiety or stress that may prevent you from being able to work. The answer may be different for you (e.g., therapy, medication, journaling, exercise, dieting, mindfulness/meditation). But if you can get yourself into the right frame of mind in whatever way works for you, I found it way easier to apply some simple methods to mitigate my procrastination.

Here are some tips that worked for me:

  • Structure your time.
     The simple act of creating a daily schedule for when I would study helped a lot. Having a planned-out routine for when I would study and when I could relax made it a lot easier to power through it.
  • Find your incentive to work.
     Once I planned out exactly what and when I was going to be studying, I got a big sense of satisfaction by being able to cross that task off my list when I had finished doing it. Figure out what motivates you and use that to your advantage.
  • Starting is the hardest part.
    Once I was studying, I tended to not get distracted. But getting there in the first place sometimes felt impossible. Studying when you don’t want to requires discipline; I had to do the work even though I didn’t want to. It helped me to think things like “Just do this first task, and then you can stop if you need to.” Once I’d completed that first task I was past those initial feelings and could then continue with my schedule.

Cutting distractions to avoid procrastination

By John Weightman

Procrastination was a problem for me when I first started out as a student so much so that I would sometimes have YouTube clips playing in the background while I was supposed to be concentrating on work. However, I soon realized I couldn’t keep doing this as even though I would get the work done it would take much longer and lead to stress as deadlines loomed. As has already been mentioned one way to solve this was to turn off my phone or other distractions. But sometimes we find it difficult so what I would occasionally do is listen to relaxing sounds or music nothing loud or distracting. It was just something that helped me concentrate though now more frequently I also go along with the method of just turning off my phone.

A photograph of a mobile phone sitting on top of a book. This kind of set up leads to procrastination! Put the phone away and out of sight.
Image from Pixabay

Another good way to avoid procrastination is to think about the different places you have been when studying where were you the most focused? Where were you most distracted? Is there anything you can do to make studying enjoyable?

So, in my case, the music made it more enjoyable for me and I also found that working in a different environment to the one where I spent my free time was beneficial. For example, as a student, I found I did more work in the library than I did in my room as there were just more distractions but at the library, the people around me were working which motivated me to work. I carried this on after I was a student too as when I’m working now, I have a separate room where I can do work and it doesn’t have things like a PlayStation.

It is important to remember though that what works for one person might not necessarily work for you.  For example, studying with friends may limit your productivity. But for others, studying in groups can help to increase motivation and avoid procrastination.

Managing time

So, if we have got our procrastination under control how would I manage the time I have to work. Breaks as we have covered are important, I would often do something fun which for me is playing the guitar. I would say right I am going to write for maybe an hour then I’ll play the guitar for 20 minutes and let my mind concentrate on something else. Alternatively, you could try something like exercise which you may not believe but actually works in the same way sleep does. It can focus your state of mind, helping you to clear your head and boost your brainpower in between study sessions. If you don’t exercise much maybe aim for a 10-minute run/workout here and there, steadily increasing the amount you do as you go on.

via GIPHY

Finally, as a history student planning and research was also very important for me. If I managed my time well it would allow me to process new information and plan how I was going to use it which can help you to avoid having to re-read and repeat any research. One way of effectively planning before researching is to make a list of everything you want to find out so that you can make notes below each subheading as you go. Rather than writing out information just anywhere, if it is stored in the correct place on paper, it will then go to the correct place in my mind.

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Digital literacies Skills Team TechItUpTuesday Visual literacies

Making effective PowerPoint presentations

#TechItUpTuesday

Microsoft PowerPoint Logo
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 7d0bf5544c7c7de10df981156d14f306.jpg

PowerPoint is an important part of your digital creation skills. Today we are going to discuss how to use it effectively and create great presentations.

Most of you have probably given the odd presentation at school and you are likely to give more at university and possibly even more in your working life depending on your career path. You may think well my particular field doesn’t really involve presentations so I don’t need to bother. You likely will have to give one at somepoint. For example, even though my main role is writing content like this I did have to give a short presentation when I first started just to introduce myself.

Slide Transitions and Effects:

Transitions and effects often become the focus of attention, which can greatly distract the audience. In addition to this when a presentation contains several of these effects and transitions runs on a computer much slower than the one on which it was created, the result can be slow and often look silly. These effects rarely enhance the message you’re trying to communicate leave the fade-ins, fade-outs, wipes, and dissolves to Hollywood filmmakers.

Project Powerpoint GIF

PowerPoint Graphics (don’t use Clipart)

As PowerPoint is so widely used if you go for clipart graphics it shows a lack of creativity. If you want to use graphics, use your own photographs or better-quality graphics from free image sites like The Noun Project. Screen captures can also add realism when presenting information about a Website or computer program.

PowerPoint Templates are distracting

Templates should be avoided as it forces you to fit all your originality into someone else’s mould. The templates are often distracting and use poor colour combinations. Create your own distinctive look or you could use the university or organisation logo in the corner of the screen. Could you really concentrate on what someone was saying if you were looking at this?

Example of a bad PowerPoint Template

There’s too much text

Slides are great at depicting an idea using graphics or providing an overview. However, they are not good for detail and reading so you should avoid paragraphs, quotations and sometimes even complete sentences. Try and keep to at most five lines of text and use words and phrases rather than full sentences. The audience will be able to retain the key points more easily. Don’t use your slides as speaker’s notes or as a script to read from. You don’t want to write something that ends up looking like this.

Example of a bad PowerPoint presentation with too much writing

Take the audience into account

Many people will often scan a table or graphical image directly from material that was designed to be printed and red off an a4 piece of paper not as part of a presentation. The results are at best mediocre. Print visuals are usually meant to be seen from 8-12 inches rather than viewed from several feet. These images are too small, too detailed and may often have too much text for an effective visual presentation. This also goes for font size for example 12-point font is too small aim for a minimum of 40-point font though sometimes a bit lower may be okay. Remember the audience and ensure all elements of any slide are large enough to easily see

Season 4 Michael GIF by The Office

Technology can go wrong

This is relevant for anything you store on your computer. You never know when equipment will malfunction or maybe you will have to give your presentation on another computer. You should be prepared by having a backup of your presentation on a USB, a compact-flash memory card with an adapter, or even a CD-ROM. In the worst-case scenario, nothing works, and you have no visuals to present. You should still be able to give a good presentation if you prepared correctly as the slides should just be a visual aid, not the main focus. So, make sure you familiarize yourself with the presentation, practice it and be ready to engage the audience regardless of the technology at hand.

Angry Employee Office Destruction GIF

PowerPoint Tips

Now we’ve explored how to make your PowerPoint presentation more effective and what can go wrong why not check out some useful tips for you to use in your next presentation.

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General

Explore Your Archives 2021

Endless discoveries to be made!

Every November the archives world takes a week out to celebrate our collections, encouraging everyone to #ExploreYourArchive.

At Hull University Archives we’re always discovering interesting things hidden away in our collections and the national #ExploreYourArchive campaign is the perfect opportunity to show them off.

Archive Animals

With so much to choose from, we found it hard to narrow down our choices for this blog so we set ourselves a theme, ‘Archive Animals’ because why not! The rules were simple: all items must feature an animal in some way, and no animal type could be repeated. After much ‘ruminating’ (sorry) these are our top five…

1. Dogs have feelings too

Who doesn’t love a dog?! Okay, some people, but here at Hull University Archives we just can’t resist their fluffy little paws and waggy tails. Our first selection was difficult, there are just so many options (including a rather stern looking Victorian lady wagging her tail at an upright lapdog). But, in the end, we went for this one:

U DBV2/30/8 – British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection stall, mid 20th cent.

From the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection collection, this old English sheepdog is just begging us to sign a petition against live animal experimentation in the early 20th century.

The British Union (BUAV) was formed in the late 19th century by Miss Frances Power Cobbe to raise public awareness of vivisection and to campaign against it. Aside from photographs, the collection contains publicity material, notes and reports, newsletters and publications, minutes and correspondence. The material is vital evidence of early animal rights activism.

Explore the contents of the collection further here.

And just because we’re nice, this is the one that almost made the cut:

U DDCA2/54/87b – Photographic print from the Stapleton Family of Carlton Towers collection, early 20th cent.

2. A bunch of asses

At 3pm on 23rd August 1837, a group of 10 students, accompanied by two staff from Haxby School near York, set out on a multiple day excursion around North Yorkshire. The trip was recorded in a wonderful little journal written by one of those students, Hewley John Baines.

Baines describes visits made to Hambleton Coxwold, Byland Abbey, Rivaulx Abbey, Duncombe Park, and Helmsley. He notes the sites and monuments visited by the group and includes sketches of the same.

But the reason we love this item is the central role played by animals in the trip. In the opening lines, Baines tell us that seven members of the party were mounted on donkeys, whilst five rode horses and ponies. He later recounts (with below illustration) how a Master Smith’s donkey took to sitting down, which caused the rider to slide off his mount backwards leading to much laughter amongst his companions.

U DDBH/27/3 – Illustration of Master Smith from the journal of Hewley John Baines, 1837

And finally, we are told that at Easingwold the group heard several remarks on the figure they cut:

Some cried ‘Tail them’! Others shouted, ‘These chaps have just come from the ass market’!

Journal of Hewley John Baines, 1837

Such accounts of youth experiences are rare in archives and so are a fantastic find when we do see them. This one comes from the Baines Family collection.

Explore the contents of the collection further here.

3. Do you think you can get an education by just swanning around!

Our next item is from the aptly named Miscellaneous Local History collection, a collated collection begun by our first archivist Norman Higson. The collection covers anything and everything local history related, from 19th century local recipes to Acts of Parliament. But one particular item stood out for us:

U DDX/16/227 – Inside cover of the arithmetic exercise book of Miss Ann Lamb of Rudston, c.1850

It is rare that we find evidence of female education prior to the 20th century in the archives. So, this exercise book, belonging to a Miss Ann Lamb of Rudston, is a fantastic discovery.

When we think of the education of young ladies during the 19th century we tend to bring to mind Jane Austen-esque images of embroidery, European languages, and rudimentary history or geography. But Miss Lamb shows us that women can be both logical and creative at the same time with her swan illustrated front cover. The subject of her studies, arithmetic, was traditionally considered a male province. Nevertheless, here we have an East Yorkshire girl learning maths, and, not only that, she’s doing it with an artistic flair!

Explore the contents of the collection further here.

4. Old McDonald had a farm

Here we have an ode written by poet Hubert Nicholson to that humble beast of burden, the ox:

U DNI/1/1 – Poem ‘A Yorkshire Farm’ by Hubert Nicholson (journalist, novelist and poet)

Part of Yorkshire’s rural landscape for longer than records can tell, the ox features regularly in agricultural records and accounts kept by ancient landowning families. In fact the ox was so entrenched in the daily life of our medieval communities that it even lent its name to a unit of measurement: the oxgang, a measure of area based on how much land could be tilled by one ox in a season.

Explore the contents of the collection further here.

5. The mower stalled, twice

Any Philip Larkin enthusiasts should recognise the above as the opening line of one of his more famous poems, The Mower. Inspired by a tragic incident with a hedgehog and a lawn mower, we really hope that the little guy in this next item was not the source of his inspiration:

U DLV/3/222/4 – Photograph taken by Philip Larkin at his Pearson Park residence, 20th cent.

Most people will know of Philip Larkin the poet, and those of us who work in the University Library are well aware of Larkin the Librarian, but Larkin the Photographer is a less well-known entity.

In recent years we’ve seen the publication of a number of illustrated works written about Larkin. These illustrations have been largely selected from his own photographic collection. Amongst the selfies (yes, Larkin was taking selfies before phone cameras even existed!) and the photographs of family members, holidays, and girlfriends, we’ve discovered lots of animal pictures – many of them cows, strangely enough.

Explore the contents of the collection further here.

Over to ewe

If your interest has been piqued why not discover more at Hull History Centre? Check out the website and our online catalogue.

Need support using archives? Check out our Archives SkillsGuides. Topics include the theoretical basics, search strategies, uncovering diverse collections, online primary sources, material held at Hull History Centre, and palaeography. Want to chat to someone about resources available for your own coursework or research? You can email us at archives@hull.ac.uk to ask a question or arrange a chat.

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Internships

The end of my internship

It’s been an amazing journey for the last 3 months, and I can’t say enough how much I’ve enjoyed my time as an intern. Through it all, I’ve learnt a lot and improved my skills in web design, as well as having learnt a lot about Customer Engagement, a field of work I never fully understood before this role. 

I’ve met so many people and I feel like I’ve had a chance to get to know a little of everything that happens in the Library. It’s amazing how much goes on behind the scenes to bring the fantastic experience we get as students at the University of Hull, and I appreciate it more having seen behind the curtain. 

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So, what have I done? 

Well, it feels like a whole bunch of stuff. I’ve done research into Customer Engagement Strategies, delivered presentations on the same, helped edit SkillsGuides, gave my input on a wide range of stuff to help the Library have a student perspective. I’ve helped design and run Usability Testing sessions and fixed bugs or improved aspects of the Library website.  

I’ve also done some less easily defined things, like learning how a workplace works, making connections, and speaking to a wide variety of people working in different roles so that I can get an insight into what they do. I think these skills will really help me in my job search and future careers. 

Speaking of, what’s next? 

Well, I’m hoping to continue now to get an IT job in another University (or academic library) somewhere in London, where I live. As fun as it’s been to work remote, I’m excited to learn how to work in a physical workplace and everything that comes with that, including interacting with and directly helping customers. Wherever I end up though, I’m planning on keeping in touch with the amazing people I’ve met during my internship here. 

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It’s been really fun, and really insightful. I’m glad I got this opportunity, and I’m looking forward to the future. See ya! 

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Internships

My Internship Progress – The Final Post

My Internship Progress – The Final Post

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Two weeks ago, the public communication skills guide I’ve been working on went live and is now available for all who need/want guidance and advice on these types of assessments, but also for anyone who wants to learn more about writing for the public. I am incredibly proud of myself for completing this guide and the amount of work I’ve put into it.

I’ve also been working on the content for another new SkillsGuide about infographics, using the information provided by Dr Dom Henri, a lecturer at the university, as well as my own research into visual communications and design principles.

Writing these guides has provided me with more research expertise and taught me about how to communicate efficiently to the public; this will help me with furthering my career.

As well as working on the guides I’ve been writing weekly blog posts (like this one). I concentrated mainly on student well-being and mental health due to this being incredibly important to me. I also wrote about my experience as a creative writer and aspiring indie author. Me and the other interns collaborated on a few posts too, to help students with time management and procrastination. Writing these posts alongside the skills guides content has given me the opportunity to be more creative whilst working which I have really enjoyed.

Even though my internship has included a lot of writing, I have also helped start discussions between one of my old lecturers and the Skills Team to provide more guidance to Creative Writing students. This involved setting up a tutorial session for first-years to teach them how to get the most out of the library and skills guides, as well as the Creative Writing department potentially writing content for a SkillsGuide about creative writing assessments. I was very proactive as a student, so am passionate about helping other students as much as I can.   

What have I learnt whilst being an intern?

I realised that I am good at working on my own initiative, and always have many creative ideas. I can be impulsive, however, but whilst working I learnt how not to jump the gun, instead, I should talk things through with the team to get the best results. I found that I am incredibly passionate about collaborating with other departments/teams to help student experience and engagement. This passion has led me to apply to become a Graduate Ambassador at the university. (Hopefully, I won’t be leaving the university just yet)

What’s next for me?

Image from Pixabay

Being an intern at Hull has offered me many new opportunities. Not only have I applied for the ambassador position, but I’ve also been able to apply for copywriting, marketing and social media positions. I now have more confidence in my capabilities, and I am a lot more ambitious after these 12 weeks.

I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity of being an intern with the Skills Team and can’t wait to see what the future holds.

Oh, one other thing, I am still working on my book and am now a Master of the Arts!

Categories
General

Final Blog – This is the End – David Moore

After 12 weeks of work experience and how time has flown by, my internship is at an end and what an experience it has been.  From meeting new people, learning new skills and gaining experience within a working environment. 

So, after the first week which was hectic but enjoyable my work began from learning how to do timesheets, something that I have never done before to drafting design ideas for projects.  Throughout this journey sometimes I felt that my head was going to explode with information, which included searching websites and mandated training, but I overcame each obstacle and enjoyed every moment.  With the help of Lee and members of staff including other interns (Jo & John), it showed me a guiding light into the unknown and this has been a good learning curve for me.

During this time, I have gained a clear understanding of my role Visual Design Intern which is to help the other Interns design images and videos for the Skills Guide and Digi skills.  This involved creating images, of which I used PowerPoint, to create these icons I had to change the size, colour and merge them together to create simple images.  For the videos, these are instructive videos on how to create blogs, magazine articles, letters, opinion pieces and wikis.

For example

Skill guides

  • YouTube Videos – These videos are to show how to do blogs and shows examples of letter to editor, magazine articles, newspapers etc. 
  • Public Communications SkillsGuide – I helped with images.
  • Helped with other designs and images as required.

Digi Skills

  • Digital Tools – created images for the titles of topics.
  • Images based around public holidays such as Halloween, Christmas, Easter, Bonfire Night etc, for example the title was Fear of Missing Out and the holidays was Halloween.  The image I created is

Conclusion

The end of the journey has come around quickly and I am thankful for the experience and gained a lot of knowledge.  I have met a lot of new people, explored the university as a staff member which showed me how things work in a working environment and having the chance to work in an office if only for a few days (working from home was great too).  Thank you to all the staff members of the library for helping me along my journey and this opportunity for which I am grateful.

Categories
General

My internship journey ends

Ending New Year GIF by Looney Tunes - Find & Share on GIPHY

Well, my internship adventure has now come to an end and I’m writing this after saying all my goodbyes. This has gone very fast the past three months only feel like a few weeks, but it has been a great learning experience for me. I have learned new things got to build on my experience as a copywriter and met some nice people along the way.

If you are a former student and considering an internship at the university I would highly recommend it. You will have a great time whilst also gaining valuable experience in your chosen field.

My Journey

My Internship first began back in August where I was nervously and excitedly pondering where the journey would take me. The first couple of weeks was just about getting to know the basics. Then I really started to get into my job role which was to write and adapt the digital skills course for students. If you want to know more about how this went check out my previous post at the halfway point of my journey.

I have now come to the end of the road I have finished all the content I was writing for the digital skills course. I overcame a few obstacles and actually exceeded my expectations in terms of how much work I completed. Over the course of the university year, you will all get to see my work published on the library blog and hopefully it will be both informative and enjoyable. As I planned with the help of my supervisor Lee the course is delivered in a different format to how similar courses have been delivered so as to hopefully be more engaging for students.

Highway, Wilderness, Yellow Line, Asphalt, Landscape

Goodbye and thank you

I would just like to thank all the staff I’ve worked with as well as my fellow interns, and my supervisor Lee whom I previously mentioned. I will now probably consider taking a taking a couple of weeks off before I get into job searching for copyright work in the London area. Although I’m not ruling out the possibility of working with the university again at a later date. Goodbye and thank you for the experience.

Reaction Goodbye GIF by reactionseditor - Find & Share on GIPHY

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Digital literacies Skills Team TechItUpTuesday

Making the most out of Microsoft Word

#TechItUpTuesday

Microsoft Word - Wikipedia

As a student, you have probably used Word to write a document maybe an essay or analysis/review. Additionally, Word is also a program you are often likely to use in your working life and so it is an important part of your digital skills. Even though so many people use Microsoft Word, not everyone knows how to maximize the capabilities of the program. Word is packed with features that can help make the creation of documents, reports, and text files easier. When your work becomes easier, you become more productive and more efficient.

Save your favorite formatting

Every time you start writing a new document you probably find yourself resetting the same formatting for your text. Here’s the good news: There’s no need to do that if you use Microsoft Word’s Quick Styles, you can save all of those formatting preferences so that the next time you need to create a document you’re ready to go.

For example, using the heading of an assignment or report. Each week you re-format that title so that it’s bold, centered, and size 18 font.

The better way to do this is after you have it formatted, highlight that text and then visit the Styles Pane menu in the Home ribbon. Click the button for a New Style, name it what you want maybe something like “Report title font”.

 elf will ferrell smilings my favorite GIF

Tracked Changes and Comments

This is a very useful aspect of Word it allows you to make amendments to a document. If you want to keep track of your own revisions or add comments to your work, you can follow the steps in this video.

When receiving edits from your tutor or perhaps an editor in your future career with tracked changes, you can approve or reject each inserted, moved, or deleted piece of text in the document by clicking the Review tab.

Use the Navigation Pane to Navigate and Move Text Around

The Navigation Pane can be used to navigate efficiently around a document which is particularly useful when working in a large document that contains a number of headings.

• Click the View tab
• Check the Navigation Pane box

navigation

You can navigate by Headings or Pages by clicking on the relevant link to jump to that part of the document. You can also use the Search field to search for specific text. The Navigation Pane can also be used to reposition paragraphs of text. Simply drag and drop the heading to move it. The associated paragraph text will also move along with the heading.

Comparing and Combining Documents

This may not be as much of a problem for any small essays or projects you do as a student. However, when it gets to the stage of writing your dissertation and larger assignments or when you’re moving into the working world this will become important. A common problem you will likely have is “Which version of my document am I looking at?” The problem is probably similar file names, back-and-forth emails, and misplaced files and folders can be confusing. At times you will need a way to find out which document is the most up-to-date. For example, let’s imagine you or your tutor has done a full revision of an essay draft only to realize that the changes weren’t tracked.

When either of these situations arises, Word has a Compare Documents feature that can easily save the day. To compare two documents, simply click the Compare dropdown in the Review tab and select two documents. If you forgot to track changes, a new document will appear with all the edits as tracked changes.

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Collaborate on OneDrive

If you are working on a group project you can edit the same Word document simultaneously (works for all applications in the Office suite). Just save the document to your Microsoft OneDrive account, click Share, and send the link to the file to the rest of your group. People with the link can access and edit the document using the Word desktop app or Word Online.

Convert a document in Microsoft Word to PDF

It’s worth noting that you can convert any Microsoft Office document to PDF format. This includes an Excel worksheet, PowerPoint presentation, Publisher document, and a Visio drawing. Here is how to do it:

  1. Open a Word document which you wish to convert to PDF format
  2. All you need to do now is perform the Save As function
  3. Click the File tab and select Save As OR press F12 on the keyboard
  4. Enter a new File name if needed and select a location to save the PDF file to
  5. Now click the Save as type drop-down menu and choose PDF (*.pdf) from the list and click Save
  6. Open File Explorer (Windows + E) and navigate to the location you saved the PDF file

Shortcuts in Microsoft Word

Here are some useful keyboard shortcuts that will help make some processes faster and more efficient. If you want a full list of all the shortcuts, they are available on the Microsoft website.

  • Ctrl + C to copy, Ctrl + V to paste, and Ctrl + X to cut. Master these three basic commands and you’ll find yourself zooming through documents at surprising speeds.
  • Instead of slowly pressing or holding down backspace on the keyboard to delete text to eliminate words or entire sentences, press Ctrl+Backspace with the cursor placed after a word you want to erase a word at a time, making the task much easier.
  • The keyboard shortcut for adding web links to a document is Ctrl + K which will save lots of time and quickly become one of your favourite tools.
  • Instead of using the mouse to navigate to the Find command (used to locate words, pages and headings in your document), click Ctrl + F to either open the window

Customising Microsoft Office 365

The Microsoft Word App

If you get Microsoft Word for your PC or Mac, you also have access to the Microsoft Word app in Google Play or Apple’s App Store. This app works for tablets and all other mobile devices and is perfect if you are traveling, or if you just prefer to write on a phone or tablet.

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Academic literacies Internships Skills Team

Can Mindfulness Help Your Studies?

Joanna Rawnsley

A student reading a book, looking clearly stressed. Perhaps mindfulness can help them?
Image from: Pixabay: mindfulness

Stella Cottrell thinks so. Cottrell is the author of Mindfulness for Students (2018) which isn’t only a book explaining what mindfulness is and how it can be useful, but it’s also full of exercises which can help you learn how to be mindful.

What do you think of when you hear the term “being mindful”?

You may scoff thinking it’s some mumbo jumbo about meditation and spiritual healing. You wouldn’t be wrong, it is to do with meditation, but there is a reason mindfulness has been practiced throughout the world for at least 2500 years. It helps build your awareness and makes you more focussed. It can teach you techniques to help you in stressful situations and prevent you from becoming overwhelmed. These techniques can also help with productivity, therefore can be very helpful for students.

What is Mindfulness?

A student meditating. Meditation is a fantastic way to stay in the moment, keep perspective and practice mindfulness. The student is sat on a pier overlooking a lake - the scene is clearly relaxing.
Image from: Pixabay: mindfulness

Cottrell simplifies it by not simply telling you but showing you by having you do an exercise – something we will do at the end of this post. For now, I’ll tell you this, to experience mindfulness first you must stop. Stop moving, stop doing and simply be in the moment. Take time out of your day, even if it’s five minutes to do nothing but be aware of your surroundings, your mind and body.  

To become mindful, you are asked to simply observe, but this doesn’t mean you must stop thinking. As we know this is almost impossible, and a misconception of mindfulness and meditation. You don’t need to stop thinking but become aware of your thoughts. For example, if you were sat listening to your surroundings and thoughts emerged, you acknowledge them and then refocus on your listening.

As I previously said, the techniques you learn as you become more mindful not only help with your mental wellbeing, but also your productivity. You learn how to refocus your attention, not become as easily distracted and enjoy your studies. Yes, enjoy them.

How can mindfulness help with studying?

A student is biting their pencil while working on a computer. They are clearly stressed with their studies.
Image from: Pixabay: Study

Firstly, you want to start every day mindfully. Don’t worry this is incredibly simple and you will no doubt forget to do it sometimes to begin with but creating a new habit can take time. Be persistent and don’t get annoyed with yourself for forgetting. Just tell yourself you’ll remember next time and be proud of yourself for doing so.

At the beginning of each day, you want to do a meditation or mindfulness exercise, like sitting concentrating on your breathing or listening to your surroundings for 5-10 minutes. If you are unable to do this, you can bring the exercise to an activity such as brushing your teeth or even as you travel to campus. When doing this exercise set the tone of the day, what will you be doing and what do you want to get out of your day. By doing this first thing you are more likely to continue having this mindset throughout the day.

Speaking of the structure of your day, try and set time aside for meditation and/or mindfulness exercises. Again, this could be simply doing a 5-minute breathing exercise to help your concentration. It is also advised to do these before lectures and study sessions. If you’re self-conscious about doing this in public, you could go to the chapel in Larkin or find a quiet place away from crowded areas.

When it comes to your study time you can also learn how to have a mindfulness approach to this time.

As first years we are, usually, eager to get started and excited about our studies, but as we realise how tough our studies can be at times our relationship with them may change and become more negative. We want to change our relationship with studying and how we think – yes this is still about being mindful. Being mindful, as I’ve said previously is becoming more aware of our thoughts and feelings and asking ourselves why we may feel negatively at times. Change how you communicate about studying.

Do you have an essay coming up that you’d rather not write? Before you start your assignment why not sit for a moment and think about how this could be enjoyable. Is the topic something you’re interested in, have you enjoyed learning about specific things related to it, what are they? Does this essay relate to something you want to do in future? Try not to divert from your assignment by daydreaming about the future though, set a 5-minute timer and allow yourself this space to feel positive about the assignment. You’ll find yourself enjoying your study time a lot more if you go into it positively.

Continue learning how to be mindful

I have only touched the surface of mindfulness in this post, but I hope you have found something useful here. If you wish to learn more about how mindfulness can help your studies, I highly recommend Stella Cottrell’s book, Mindfulness for Students. It is full of exercises you can do to help with studying.

A mindful exercise

Set a timer for 5-minutes.

Close your eyes and smile gently to loosen your face muscles, then relax your face.

Bring your awareness to any sounds you hear, don’t describe them just notice them.

If you notice your mind beginning to wander, try not to get irritated or annoyed, simply bring your awareness back to what you hear.

When the timer goes off, open your eyes, stand up and stretch.

Now you can go about the rest of your day. Have a good one and remember to stay hydrated.  

Joanna has also written an excellent post on Looking After Your Well-being Whilst at University which links well to this topic.