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Information literacies Skills Team TechItUpTuesday

That’s Fake News

What is Fake News?

Fake News is often linked with politics especially due to Donald Trump and the countless memes about “fake news” during his presidency. This association can sometimes be unhelpful as it narrows the focus of the issue. The term ‘false information’ is perhaps preferable as it can refer to a more diverse range of disinformation.

 GIF

Most of what you read online may appear to be true but often is not. False information can include news stories or hoaxes created to deliberately misinform or deceive readers. They can deceive people by looking like trusted websites or using similar names and web addresses to reputable news organisations.

As social media is a public platform, anyone can post anything without checking their facts. When we consider what is “fake news” there are two kinds of false information to be aware of – misinformation and disinformation.

Misinformation and Disinformation

Misinformation

This aims to shape and change people’s opinion by misleading them. A study from Indiana University classified misinformation as “false or misleading content including hoaxes, conspiracy theories, fabricated reports, click-bait headlines, and even satire.” 

Lying Nicole Power GIF by Kim's Convenience

Disinformation

Disinformation can be spread in similar ways to misinformation but is intended to deceive rather than mislead. There are many reasons why individual social media or business accounts might do this. They may wish to increase their social media marketing effectiveness, boost online traffic, gain more followers, incite an emotional response, or create distractions.

Disinformation can be dangerous on social media due to the vast amount of information and readers’ attention spans.

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Identifying False Information

Personal accounts

Social media platforms are designed to retain users and get engagement not to distinguish between real and “fake news”. If you want to know if something shared by a personal account is trustworthy here are a few questions to consider.

  • Does the person who shared the post have an emotional or professional investment in these claims? If either, they might not be completely unbiased, but it requires some judgement on your part and perhaps some research.
  • Is this information reasonable? Does what they are saying sound believable. Perhaps ask some people you trust whether they think it is reasonable as sometimes our own biases can influence us.
  • Does it come from a reputable source? For example: University, Government or Scholarly articles, most mainstream Magazines/Newspapers, and published works from reputable publishers. Places like Wikipedia and online blogs are not necessarily reliable. Even more reliable sources may have a political agenda or their own bias, so you need to exercise your own judgement.
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Business or professional accounts

This may not be as relevant as a student but when you go off into the working world these are things you need to be aware of. When you work for a professional organization where social media pages are tailored towards a particular audience there may be more motivation to fall into the categories of “fake news” to gain an edge. As well as the questions you’d ask of a personal account, you should also ask:

  • How it serves its audience? It should help its audience and advertise the business based on accurate information.
  • How it reflects on the business’s reputation or values? Should be trustworthy and reliable. Consider checking the reviews (not always reliable) or asking people who’ve interacted with the company.
  • Is this relevant to my clients? Our personal bias should not be involved. 

If you are found to be using false information or “fake news” with a professional or business account can have serious consequences and possible legal ramifications. This is especially relevant due to the speed at which false information spreads.

How False infomation spreads

Combating Fake News

Combating “fake news” on social media is about understanding other users’ motives as well as the platforms intention. Social media platforms make money by selling user data to ad companies. This is why ads you see are often based on your interests or search history.

The news that appears on your social media feed is filtered based on collected data. So, now you are aware of can help you be more conscious of your own inherent bias as some of what you see may be based on what you are conveying about yourself online. Whilst false information on social media is probably unavoidable by thinking critically and exercising a level of curiosity for what you read you can help sort the fact from the fiction.

As this video shows any news no matter how riciculous can be spread and msilead people.

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Information literacies Skills Team TechItUpTuesday

Phishing, don’t take the bait

#TechItUpTuesday

What is phishing?

If you want to stay safe online you should always be on the lookout for scammers. Phishing is a form of social engineering attack or scam often used to steal user data, such as login details and credit card numbers. It often occurs when an attacker, masquerading as a trusted entity, possibly your bank, social media, or service provider tricking you into opening an email or message. 

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This video discusses many of the common examples of Phishing such as mass e-mail Phishing (often just referred to as Phishing), Spear Phishing and Smishing.

Other forms of phishing

HTTPS phishing

Often included as part of e-mail phishing this is something to be wary of when you are on any site. Most legitimate organizations use HTTPS instead of HTTP because it is considered safer and establishes legitimacy. If it’s posing as a site you already know, search for that site on a separate tab and compare the URLs to see that they match.

For example, the address for Canvas, if you clicked on a link and the address began with HTTP rather than HTTPS it could be unsafe:

Correct: https://canvas.hull.ac.uk/

Potentially unsafe: http://canvas.hull.co.uk/

They may also use hypertext which is a “clickable” link embedded into the text to hide the real URL. When checking the link make sure that it’s in its original, long-tail format and shows the whole URL, double click on the URL so the full format shows.

Search engine phishing

Sometimes known as SEO poisoning or SEO trojans, is where hackers work to become the top hit on a search using google or other engines. If they get you to click their link, it takes you to their website. When you interact with it and enter sensitive data, they have your information. Hacker sites can pose as any type of website but are usually banks, PayPal, social media, and shopping sites.

Vishing

This is when you may receive a call on your phone maybe claiming to be your bank or government authority demanding your details or payment with a threat of legal action if you don’t comply. This is to create a heightened sense of urgency that may make a person take actions against their best interests. This can also happen online as well maybe you will get a message, or a warning pop-up often on unsafe sites as previously mentioned, you should not click on these links.

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Prevention and protection against Phishing

Protection

The best protection is awareness and education, if you are aware and careful you will likely never fall victim to this scam. Don’t open attachments or links in unsolicited emails, even if the emails came from a recognized source. If the email is unexpected, be wary about opening the attachment and verify the URL.

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Protection

If you do fall victim to phishing, you can protect yourself through Two-factor authentication (2FA) which adds an extra verification layer when logging in to applications. 2FA relies on two verifiers: something you know, like a password and username, and something you have, such as a smartphone or credit card. If you lose one layer of protection or your phone is stolen, 2FA prevents the use of compromised data or credentials, since one verifier will not gain you entry. You may also sometimes have a third verifier something you are which is either a fingerprint, an iris scan, or a voiceprint. 

Other methods of protection against phishing include frequently changing your password and not reusing the same password for different applications. So stay safe online and don’t bite when phishers come phishing.

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Digital literacies Information literacies Skills Team TechItUpTuesday

Digital identity – You’re leaving footprints

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Digital footprints

So, what is meant by your digital footprint, well whenever you use the internet you’re leaving a series of digital footprints. These footprints are the lasting impression of all the activities you perform online. Your digital footprints can be seen by others, particularly if you are using social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

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Sometimes these footprints can be hidden, such as your order history on Amazon, your PayPal purchases, or your searched terms on browsers like Google or Bing. Although most users on the internet cannot see these particular footprints, they are still lasting impressions about you stored online. Therefore, you need to ask yourself if you trust every website and service that you use to keep your data secure and use it appropriately.

Though it is impossible to have no footprint if you use the internet, there are ways to reduce your footprint. This video explains what your digital footprint is and how to reduce it.

Digital identity

All the information that you share online contributes to your digital identity. Your identity is made of what you share online, however, it may include things you didn’t consciously share. For this reason, you need to carefully manage your online activities and curate your online identity.

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Many individuals form multiple identities online. Sometimes this is to keep personal, business, and/or study in separate digital spheres to stop personal issues from blending into professional spaces. Others construct online identities as pseudonyms to isolate their true selves from their online activity. This can be to protect personal information about themselves, to hide something they think is embarrassing, or to cover up criminal activity.

Having multiple identities online in most cases (with the exception of criminal activity) is completely fine and often the services people use online encourage this. This doesn’t mean making yourself a completely different person online is okay for example Facebook encourages people to connect with friends and family whereas LinkedIn encourages people to act professionally and connect with colleagues and business professionals. This leads people to act differently on each service, creating unique identities for each service. This kind of isolation is useful as it ensures what you share is appropriate to the audience. However, just as you may be creating your own digital identities, you need to be aware that other users are also doing the same.

Check out this site for some more useful tips on managing their digital footprint.

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Information literacies Skills Team TechItUpTuesday

Using databases

#TechItUpTuesday

Graphic with a pencil on paper

What are databases?

A database is a system that makes it easy to search, select and store information. These databases will usually contain journal articles, but might also hold legal cases, statistical datasets, news archives, videos, geological maps, and much more. In the case of The University Of Hull and many other universities, the Library buys subscriptions to hundreds of databases that are made available to students and staff through the library website

A picture of a hand pointing at a screen with text and various icons floating around the outside.

How do I use databases?

You could just search for your topic when using databases but it is much better to plan your search strategy. Otherwise, you may spend hours searching to find what you want. Here is an outline of how to carry out your strategy.

Visual representation of your search strategy with five key points

1. Identify key terms

The first step is to identify key terms. It is important to consider the keywords related to your search topic and establish the appropriate terms to search. Rather than entering a whole assignment/project title, you need to pick out the important words that describe your topic. The database will only look for what you type in, so for each keyword, you need to apply a few search tips.

  • Synonyms (a word or phrase that means exactly or nearly the same as another word or phrase) and related terms.
  • Consider American spellings and terminologies
  • Take into account Formal and informal terminology
  • Think about word endings and plurals for example instead of “Educate” maybe consider other endings like “Education”.
  • Acronyms and abbreviations can also be used for some words and phrases as well as some organisations
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2. Combine key terms

Next, you need to combine your terms using Boolean operators. Boolean consists of connectors that combine your search terms. Let’s take a look at how to use Boolean operators to help us get appropriate results.

This shows a venn diagram that demonstrates the use of the AND operator to link social media and teenagers. It only finds content that contain both. Content with only one will not appear in such a search

Use AND to combine and find information on all of your search terms. This will narrow your search. When using AND, you only receive pages including both of your search terms, though not next to each other. For your assignment, search for ‘social media AND teenagers’ to get results including social media specific to teenagers.

This shows a venn diagram that demonstrates the use of the OR operator to link teenagers and teens. It finds content that contain both teens, teenagers or both

Use OR to look for alternative terms, phrases or synonyms to broaden your search. When using OR, you receive pages containing one of or both of your search terms. For your assignment, search for ‘Teenagers OR Adolescents’ to get results including teenagers or adolescents, or both.

This shows a venn diagram that demonstrates the use of the OR operator to link teenagers and NOT pre-teens. It only finds content that contains teenagers alone. If content also included pre-teens it would be excluded

Use NOT to exclude a certain term and narrow your search. The NOT operator is used to find pages including only the first term and not the second term. For your assignment, search for ‘Teenagers NOT Adults’ to get results specific to teenagers only and not get any results related to adults.

3. Search techniques

You also need to consider some additional search techniques that can improve the relevancy and number of your results. These will consider things like different spellings, plural words, similar and related words, different words for the same concept. You do not want to miss a key paper because the author used “social networking” and you had only searched for “social media”! The main techniques to help with this are explained in the list below.

GIF showing a man searching for clues

Truncation

This ensures that all relevant articles are retrieved. It will often be an asterisk * which is placed at the stem of the word. Truncating will look for variant endings and plurals.

Phrase searching

Enclose your search terms within double quotation marks, i.e “social media”. This will avoid databases automatically inserting an “AND” between your search terms.

Wildcards

Use wildcards to improve your search. Different databases use different symbols. For example, on the EBSCOhost database, ? replaces one character, # replaces one or more.

Proximity

Narrow and focus your search, e.g. proximity searching. You can use operators NEAR (often N), Adjacent (ADJ) or SAME (in Web of Science). In some databases, you can specify the distances between search words, for example, in the EBSCOhost databases (such as Academic Search Premier, Business Source Premier and Cinahl).

4. Refine your search

The fourth stage is effectively repeating the other stages by further refining your search. If your search doesn’t find enough results consider adding more synonyms or a broader topic. For example instead of Henry VIII try searching for Tudors instead. Although if your search finds too many maybe combine more keywords or limit the date ranges or language to just English. You could also limit your search based on the material, so maybe just search for news archives or add more words to a proximity search.

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5. Save your search strategy

The final stage is to save your strategy so you don’t have to repeat this process if you want to find your chosen article again.. The video below goes through the process of an advanced search for journal articles in the Ebsco database Academic Search Premier. The techniques seen in the video can be applied to all databases that the Library subscribes to.

Recommended databases

Now that we know what databases are and how to use them I just thought I’d give you a few recommendations. These are a few databases I think many of you will find most useful at university and beyond depending on your career path.

JSTOR logo
EBSCO logo
Oxford Journals logo
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Academic literacies Skills Team

Strategies to make your revision successful

Revising your work and the information you’re studying is one of the most important steps you can take to ensure a high-level understanding of those subjects and high-quality work. Students in every subject area can benefit from a well-thought-out revision plan. Today we’ll discuss some of the different revision methods you can use, and how you can use feedback and revising drafts to your benefit. 

Study methods for revision

John Weightman & Codey McShane  

There are a wide range of possible techniques that may be useful to you when revising. The most important thing is to find what works for you. Everyone uses a combination of different learning styles throughout their academic study, and these will be unique to that student. That said, here are some example techniques that may be useful to you.

Leitner Flash Cards

The Leitner system is a revision technique using flashcards. The idea is to create your flashcards for the subject you are revising for and sort the individual flashcards into groups depending on how well you know the knowledge on the card. You then pull a flashcard from the group you remember the least from and attempt to recall the knowledge on its back. If you succeed, you can send it one box further along the line. If you fail, you send the flashcard back to the first group.

Index Cards, Cards, Paper

Groups of flashcards you know quite well should be revised less frequently than those you are having trouble with. This way, you’re focusing on the gaps in your knowledge, while still refreshing yourself on what you already know every so often.  

Mind Mapping 

Mind mapping is a technique that allows you to visually organize information in a diagram. Start with a word in the centre of a blank page (or use a tool online) and around this write your major ideas and keywords and connect them to the central concept. Then branch out into sub-branches from your major ideas with other related ideas that support your major points. You could also consider using different colours for each branch and draw pictures if it helps. The structure of a mind map is related to the way our brains store and retrieve information. Therefore, using this method can improve your reading comprehension and enable you to see the big picture by communicating the relationships between concepts and ideas. 

Mindmap - Free image on Pixabay

Colour Coding 

Writing in colour is a dynamic way to organize the information you’re learning. It also helps you review and prioritize the important ideas. A recent study found that colour can improve your memory performance. The study also found that warm colours (red and yellow) “can create a learning environment that is positive and motivating that can help learners” It also reported that warmer colours “increase attention and elicit excitement and information.” 

Consider these tips: 

  • Write down key points in red. 
  • Highlight important information in yellow. 
  • Organize topics by colour. 
  • Don’t just colour everything because then nothing will stand out
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The Pomodoro Technique 

The Pomodoro Technique was originally created by Francesco Cirillo in 1999. This method has been widely used by thousands of students for over 20 years. The method is based on studying in timed intervals. Cirillo actually named it after the timer he used which was shaped like a tomato (Pomodoro in Italian). Cirillo found that breaking large tasks up into smaller manageable timed units is the most effective way to study. 

  1. Decide what you want to study and for how long. Then break your work into Pomodoro’s. 
  1. Set a timer for 25 minutes and start studying. (There are many pomodoro apps available or you can follow along with someone’s study session on YouTube). 
  1. Minimize distractions during each interval. If a thought pops into your head write it down.  
  1. After 25 minutes take a short break. Have a tea or a coffee, go for a walk, call your friend, or just relax. 
  1. Then just repeat and after 4 Pomodoro’s take a longer break for 20-30 minutes. 

The Feynman Technique 

This technique is one that I find quite useful. It doesn’t require any extra resources, as all you need to do is take a concept you’re revising and pretend to teach it to someone else – specifically, a child. As you take a particular subject and pretend to explain it to a child, look for the gaps in your own understanding. Explaining a particular concept to someone else out loud can be an excellent way to realize exactly what it is you don’t understand fully yet. 

After refreshing yourself on the knowledge you didn’t fully understand, there is a final step. Simplify your explanation. Using analogies is a suggested way to do this, as analogies are easy to recall and explain, and require you to omit any specialized jargon.  

This also prevents you from merely committing facts to memory. If you’re able to take a concept, reduce it to its simplest form, and then explain it in a different way, you’re more likely to understand the concept. 

The Preview, Questions, Read, Recite, Review method 

This method (also called PQ3R) is potentially a more natural way of understanding academic textbooks. It encourages asking questions to facilitate your learning, as well as understanding the context surrounding the facts you’ll be learning. Following the PQ3R method in order should help you have a streamlined study method that will work every time. 

Preview: Before you dive into any source material, it’s important to understand what it is you’re about to read. With a chapter in a textbook, this means reading the chapter title, introduction, subheadings, the first sentences of each paragraph, and finally, the chapter summary. 

Questions: During the Preview step, you should take note of any questions that are raised by the initial text you are reading. This will help you to become active in your study, and you should keep these questions in mind during the next step, Read. 

Read: That’s right, it’s reading time. Read the chapter now, paying attention to any text that is specifically emphasized by highlighting or bold text. Look at all the graphs and illustrations, including their captions, and reread anything that you didn’t quite get the first time. 

Recite: If there are any questions that come at the end of this chapter, now is the time to complete them, as well as your own questions that you recorded during the preview step. 

Review: A couple of days after finishing the previous steps, you can perform the Review step. Attempt to summarize the chapter. See if you can answer the questions that you created and those in the text easily, having already done so before. How confident are you that you could explain the content in this chapter to another student? 

Revising your revision techniques 

Joanna Rawnsley

You may not think honing your skills and looking back on your techniques is revision, but when you do this, you are actually revising your techniques which results in them developing.  

Before starting an assessment, going back to basics will help familiarise yourself with how its structured and how to get the best possible grades. For example, if you’ve been asked to write an essay, revising essay structures and academic writing will make for a better outcome. For more guidance on essay writing, we have a whole guide on it: Essay Writing Skills Guide. 

If you’re a creative, honing your craft is a key part of your course – writing, drawing, any kind of creative skill needs to be continuously used to help it develop. Have you ever not drawn for a period and when you get back into it, you seem to not be able to draw anymore? You obviously haven’t lost your capabilities; you just haven’t been exercising your drawing muscles. Once you start drawing again, you’ll find your techniques starting to develop once again.  

This isn’t only for creatives though. If you’ve been using a computer software, you need to keep up to date with it to build your knowledge on how to use it. The same goes for health practitioners, who must always have more training when new medical practices are found.  

As a writer, I continuously revise narrative structures, planning techniques, and poetic form. I write whenever I get the chance to develop my writing, but I also read craft books and fiction/poetry in the genre and form I am writing in. This helps me familiarise myself with the genre and its narrative structure, but also any devices other authors use that may make my writing stronger.  

Therefore, revising techniques and honing your skills is important when it comes to the revision process. 

For more information and guidance on revision, processes check out our Skills Guide. 

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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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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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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.

Categories
Academic literacies Digital literacies Skills Team TechItUpTuesday

Best practices for Microsoft OneNote

#TechItUpTuesday

Microsoft Office OneNote (2018–present).svg

You might remember last week we covered digital notetaking, so I thought I would take you through Microsoft OneNote. OneNote is a digital note-taking application that allows you to gather information which can be backed up to Microsoft’s Office 365 cloud. What makes Microsoft OneNote perfect is it is such a versatile tool that you can use to:

  • Take lecture notes
  • Embed Excel sheets in your notes,
  • Take seminar/meeting notes,
  • Pull text out of images,
  • Create and share anything you could wish to even if it’s just a shopping list.

How to Use Microsoft OneNote?

Making the most out of OneNote

Alright, now that you have clear answers to “what is OneNote” and how to use Microsoft OneNote, let’s take a look at how to make the most out of Microsoft OneNote in the first place. Some of the reasons for using OneNote are quite similar to the arguments for digital notetaking.

Digitize What You Read

You are probabaly picturing something from the Matrix when I talk about digitizing what you read. This is in fact quite simple and is one of the best practices in OneNote. Most people often write down notes and highlight texts when reading books, articles, and magazines. When it comes to online sources, this can be a bit difficult. However, you can simply copy and paste texts to your OneNote and then edit, add some bullet points, highlight important paragraphs, and also save the source link as you like.

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Regularly Organize and Reorganize

If you are constantly adding notes and creating new notebooks, it can be difficult to find what you are looking for. That’s why you should organize your notes regularly into correct folders

Another effective way to organize OneNote is to use tags to prioritize and categorize notes. Tags can help your future searches. Just click the line of text you want to tag and then select a tag from the drop-down. It’s possible to add multiple tags to a single note as well.

Calendars can also help you keep organised. You can capture your tasks or just the things you need to remember in OneNote and create an Outlook task inside the app. For example, you can set a reminder to start studying a particular topic at a certain time or when to work on your essay or project.

Also, you sometimes may need to use the notes you archived in a new note. In cases such as this, try to reorganize and find related content that should be aligned.

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Archive your completed tasks and notes

This leads nicely on to using archives. You may go along with the notion that it doesn’t matter it was in the past. But as Rafiki from the Lion King would say you can either run from it or learn from it. You never know when you may have to use your old notes again. Instead of deleting them create an Archive folder in OneNote and add the old notes in that folder. This way, you won’t lose any information, and OneNote will still be able to search those files and bring you what you need.

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Search through Your Notes

The built-in search helps you find your notes wherever they are. To search across your OneNote and find what you are looking for, select the magnifying glass or press Ctrl+F. Then type in a search word or phrase, OneNote can search for:

  • Typed text
  • Handwritten notes
  • Words shown in pictures
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Draw and Handwrite Your Notes

This was something we mentioned in the previous post, this allows you to quickly capture your ideas through drawing and handwriting. OneNote allows you to convert handwritten notes into text. To draw in OneNote, select the Draw tab in the ribbon. Then, click the desired type of pen and start making a quick drawing in your notes. This feature is a great time-saver when taking quick notes. You can capture complex ideas with a quick drawing and circle important things on a note.

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Password-Protect Your Notes

This can be a useful feature both as a student or in the workplace where you may wish to keep your notes to yourself unless you are sharing them for a project. The password-protect option in OneNote is designed to keep your private notes safe from prying eyes. So, whether you keep your school notes, work tasks, blog content, or personal information in OneNote, you can protect them and keep them private with passwords. This will lock any page you want, and it won’t unlock unless you give the password.

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Sharing Your Notes

Though you sometimes want to keep your notes private you may well need to share a few. If you plan to share your notebook with others, make sure you create your OneNote notebook on OneDrive so that other people can access it. If you have already created your notebook on your computer, then you need to move it to OneDrive first. The fact that it is now on OneDrive doesn’t mean others can see it. Click on share to share with other people.

To generate a link to share your note with other people:

  • File tab>Share>Get a Sharing Link.
  • To change the permission settings of your shared note:
  • Go to your OneDrive and change permissions or stop sharing.
  • OneNote documents become available offline when shared from OneNote or SharePoint.
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I hope you have learnt more about OneNote today. If you can use the product effectively, it will have dozens of benefits that will not only help in your student and work life but in your day-to-day life.