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Academic literacies Digital literacies Skills Team TechItUpTuesday

Digital Notetaking, is it better?

#TechItUpTuesday

Digital Notetaking can in fact fit into two of our digital capabilities’ digital creation and digital learning. So instead of ‘notetaking’, it should really be thought of as ‘note creating’ or ‘note making’. This is because good notes are creations that represent your thinking, learning, understanding, and questioning. In contrast ‘taking notes’ where you just write down what you have heard or read is actually poor for learning. Whilst these notes do help you record information (like in a lecture), they are actually poor for learning as they don’t require much thought.

Take Notes GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

The benefits of Digital Notetaking

Though notetaking with paper is very useful and I’m not suggesting you should only use digital notes but there are some benefits to digital notetaking.

  • Organization. Endless folders can be created almost instantly so sorting is simple and easy. Tags can be applied to files for easy access, sorting, and searching. Each file is named so it is clear what each file is; and you can change the name if you want. Also, files can easily be moved to different areas on the computer. Since the files are digital, they do not take up any physical space (unlike notebooks or papers).
  • Easy to share. Rather than copying or scanning notes, computers have simple share screens to instantly share with anyone. People can collaborate on a document like in Google Docs, or files can be emailed quickly. When sharing notes, unlike with paper you still retain the original notes.
  • Faster. Writing is time-consuming, especially in a fast lecture. Typing takes the least amount of time so more information can be put on the page.
  • Backups. Although computers and tablets can go wrong, they can be backed up on the cloud another drive or on a usb so that your notes are safe. Losing notes can be costly when studying for an exam especially if you spent a lot of time working on them. The ability to back up your notes is one less thing to worry about.
  • Audio recording. You can use a recording software or app that allows you to playback your notes, which is a great tool if you prefer to learn audibly. You could also record your lectures to back up your notes.

Digital notetaking via tablet

The tablet is a happy medium that has both benefits of the computer and paper notes. Sharing and customization is easy, and it also gives you the option of handwriting which while not as fast provides better retention. Additionally, the small size makes tablets as portable as notebooks. Some note-taking apps for tablets such as the iPad include GoodNotes and Notability.

Red Carpet Technology GIF by E! - Find & Share on GIPHY

Apps for note creation

Here are a few apps that you might find useful. The Hull University Libguides has a full explanation of all these applications.

How should I take my notes?

Today we have discussed the benefits of digital notetaking but that isn’t to say that one form of notetaking is better than the other. You could utilize both physical or digital noteataking effectively as this video explores. It’s up to you which one you find most useful or you could use a combination of the two.

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Academic literacies Skills Team

Digital Assessments for Public Communications

We’ve recently published our brand-new Public Communications SkillsGuide, but you may be scratching your head wondering why we’d need such a guide. The way students are being assessed is ever-changing, so we need to keep up with the digital age. This guide provides much-needed advice on assessments in this category. 

What are Public Communications?

There are many forms of writing produced for public audiences (no not tweets and Instagram captions), more like articles and blogs etc. Public Communications are used to make academic research available to the public. They are written in an accessible and readable way to not exclude certain groups, therefore reaching a wider readership. 

The aims of public communications are to explain, inform, and educate. They may also be written to enact change. 

Here are a few examples of formats used to accomplish these goals:

Blog posts

Why are academic blogs written?

  • To reflect on your work – talk about your strengths, weaknesses, achievements and what you would do differently next time. 
  • To share experiences –collaborating with a group and writing a short section each about your role and the work you completed. 
  • To update – an e-portfolio to post a run down of your creative process, or data you’ve collated. This would be written over the course of your module. 
  • To share knowledge and advice – like an academic essay where you go in depth about a topic, however, a blog will be more informal, shorter, and use less academic jargon. 

Letters to the Editor

You may write a Letter to the Editor after reading an article, or journal and wish to voice your opinions on it. A few reasons for writing such a letter are:

  • Discuss controversial aspects of something recently published.   
  • Enrich the existing knowledge of the piece with an informed opinion. 
  • Seek clarification on an aspect of something you’ve just read.  
  • Share relevant professional viewpoints.

Letters to the Editor should not only be critical but should add value to a topic and stimulate debate.  

Magazine Articles

An article gives a balanced view, or a biased standpoint on a topic which will depend on where it is published and the target audience.

They are usually written to:

  • Inform – give information about current events.
  • Persuade – to get readers to agree with their viewpoints. 
  • Enact Change – educate people about socio-economic issues and how they can help change happen. 

(I thought this one would feel left out if there were no bullet points)

Wikis

A wiki is a place to gather information, thoughts, and ideas which you can easily share with others. Now, you maybe sat there thinking “wait isn’t this Wikipedia?” You’re not wrong, sort of. A wiki is structured like a Wikipedia page, yes, so as you all clearly know what this is I guess I don’t have to go on…

But wait there’s no bullet points!

What can a wiki be used for?

  • To document work – use multiple pages for different topics and store your work.
  • Create collaborative bibliographies – you and your group can summarise and critique further readings.
  • Build a collection of links and/or documents related to your work to discuss with your group.
  • Create e-portfolios – a place to showcase your work and process. 
  • Reflect as an individual or group, writing about how you got from A to B and how the process went. 

I feel better now all have bullet points. I hope this has helped you understand what Public Communications are used for. This may also clarify why you may be asked to complete one, or multiple of these whilst at university. 

Other types of Public Communications include infographics, newspaper articles, opinion pieces and posters. We go into greater detail in our skills guide. 

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Academic literacies Internships Skills Team

Is University Really That Scary?

By Joanna Rawnsley

Image from Pixabay: Halloween

Students have settled into their dorms, now the nights grow long,

Prepare thine selves as assessment season dawns.

Overindulgence crept up on the first years,

Overestimating the time they had before essays were due.

Karaoke cats got thine tongues?

They didn’t realise being a student meant hard work,

October brings chilling realisations.

Books upon books soon cover their rooms,

Emergency study sessions are being scheduled.

Remember thy words: university doesn’t have to be that scary, you know.

Yes, a poem because sometimes you have to let your creativity loose and in my opinion, spooky season is a great time to do so.

What on Earth does the poem mean?

Basically, what I’m trying to say is, try to manage and organise your time, so you don’t find yourself overwhelmed. And, as it is Spooktober, remember to treat yourself when you’ve done enough studying. Go for a walk down Cottingham Road and the Avenues, it’s wonderful this time of year as the leaves begin to fall.

Image by K. Chin, BA Creative Writing and Film Studies

Arrange study sessions with coursemates and friends, you can book rooms in the library for a nice, quiet place to meet. Use the Booking Service to book seats, rooms with or without computers. We now have a lovely Family Room too so parents can have a quiet place to study whilst keeping an eye on their little ones.  

Then you can treat yourself to a nice warm drink in the café on the ground floor, you might even want a cake!

Another way to help you manage your time is by contacting your lecturers and personal supervisors for advice on assignments and how to arrange your time best. Remember, they are there to help.

Most of all remember that university doesn’t have to be full of tricks, schedule in your day some nice treats too!

Happy Halloween!

Image from Pixabay: Happy Halloween

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Digital literacies Skills Team TechItUpTuesday

Stress and anxiety – our digital wellbeing

#TechItUpTuesday

Halloween Edition

As it’s approaching Halloween I thought it appropriate to theme this week’s post on digital wellbeing and some of the fears that may be caused by the digital world. Namely stress and anxiety which may sometimes feel as if it is coming out of nowhere (a bit like a flying pumpkin), but is likely in part due to our developments in the digital world. Whilst technology has many major benefits there are some downsides when it comes to our mental wellbeing.

Distraction

Problem

One of the biggest impacts on our digital wellbeing is our phone usage the persistent messages and notifications mean that we are constantly distracted by continuously checking our phones. A UK study found that we unlock our phones roughly 85 times a day, and use them for about five hours each day. This means we are unable to focus our attention and consolidate things into our memory, causing us to feel more and more ‘goldfish-like, which can be quite distressing in itself. 

Solution

So how can we avoid this? The most obvious choice is to turn off your phone although this can be difficult for some people and you may need to keep your phone on if you have responsibility for other people. So if you can’t turn off your phone there are ways you can minimize these distractions. You can temporarily hide your notifications by turning on do not disturb in the iPhone Control Centre or on an Android device by going to Digital Wellbeing and parental controls turning on Focus mode. Here are some instructions for how to do this on those devices. There will be similar instructions available online for other devices.

Not enought sleep

Problem

Another important aspect of our digital wellbeing is our usage of phones at bedtime. You get into bed intending to go to sleep, but you just want to check your phone to find out something unimportant like tomorrow’s weather or scroll through your feed. Then an hour later, there you are watching a totally random video about monkeys. Looking at our phones when we should be sleeping over-stimulates our brains, making it harder just to switch off, and exposes us to blue light from the screen. Research suggests that blue screen exposure can reduce melatonin production, which interrupts our circadian rhythm (sleep-waking cycles), making it harder for us to fall, and stay, asleep. Unfortunately, poor sleep tends to mean poorer resilience and higher levels of anxiety and stress.

Wide Awake Insomnia GIF by MOODMAN - Find & Share on GIPHY

Solution

The best solution as before is to turn your phone off and maybe do something else before bed like reading a book. However, if you really need to keep it on you can adjust your phone’s lighting using Bedtime Mode (Android) or as previously mentioned Do Not Disturb (iPhone).

Work/Life balance

Problem

While in the past there was often a clear boundary between where work-life ended, and home life began… this area is now very much grey. This may not be as much of a problem when you are a student but is something you must be aware of when entering the working world. Most of you will have your work emails on your phones meaning you are constantly available and contactable. This makes it very difficult for us to ever truly disengage from work and relax.

Fire Working GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Solution

  • Appoint a gatekeeper. Don’t have the willpower to self-regulate? Appoint a loved one as a technology gatekeeper. If you’re really struggling
  • Multiple profiles and accounts
  • Manage Your device
  • This is a more expensive option, you could consider getting two separate devices. One device is dedicated to work the other for your free time.

F.O.M.O

Problem

Fear Of Missing Out is essentially a type of social anxiety that arises from the fear that you are missing out on something; maybe an event, work or social opportunity, a communication, a connection, or just something that you might like be a part of.  So we want to be connected ‘just in case’. Many people probably have considered leaving social media but the majority decide not to, because of FOMO.  Ironically, the more connected we are, the more likely we are to experience FOMO because it is often caused by the posts we see on social media sites like Facebook. This leads us to believe our friends and acquaintances are having exciting and/or interesting experiences in our absence.

Homer Simpson Fear Of Missing Out GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Solution

  • Relish feeling out of the loop. Great things will sometimes happen when you aren’t out there and sometimes you’re not invited. But you are likely missing out on way more boring things than exciting. You just have to admit that sometimes you will miss out like everyone else and sometimes it’s nice just to have moments to yourself
  • Take a break from social media. Try staying offline for a day, a week, or maybe even a month and it will likely put in perspective what is really important. You will realize life is much the same only you are less worried about what other people are doing. If you wanted you could even go as far deleting you social media apps but that’s up to you.
  • Use software to prevent FOMO. There are Apps available such as Forest for iOS, Space for Android, RescueTime for Windows, or SelfControl for Mac. All these generate reports to help you see just how much time they spend online and set time limits. Most phones already have inbuilt features for checking screen time as you can see.

Social comparison

Problem

We can’t help but compare ourselves to others, and social comparison theory suggests that we use these comparisons to evaluate how we think and feel about ourselves. Social Media, encourages this, as it is full of information that can be used to rank our apparent social success (e.g. friends, likes, shares, followers).

These metrics are problematic because if we don’t get enough likes on something we post, or if someone has more likes or friends than us, it can make us feel inferior especially if one day you get a load of likes then the next barely any. It’s almost like you think you are getting a treat with all those likes but in fact, it’s a trick. Furthermore, the disparity between real life and what people post on social media means that we often see an extremely edited ‘highlight reel’ of people’s lives. This links back to FOMO with this false impression that others lead a more interesting life than yours but in reality, it has its ups and downs as it does for everyone.

Trick Or Treat Halloween GIF by Dunkin’ - Find & Share on GIPHY

Solution

We previously talked about limiting time spent online but there are more ways to prevent social comparison. Here are some boundaries you can put in place to protect yourself:

  • Unfollow any accounts that make you feel bad about yourself.
  • Set a timer that lets you scroll for 30 minutes. When time is up, step away.
  • Turn off your phone when you’re with your family and friends.
  • Don’t feel obligated to reply to every comment and message
  • When you feel a need to check social media, ask yourself why. Are you bored, uncomfortable or seeking affirmation?

I hope this has provided some useful information about your digital wellbeing and given you some helpful solutions to many of these issues. if you have time why not watch this video which explains many of the ways you can optimise your phone for your digital wellbeing.

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Digital literacies Skills Team TechItUpTuesday

Master your email

#TechItUpTuesday

You may remember in the first #TechItUpTuesday post we went through accessing your university email and some etiquette tips. Well, today we will be going over almost everything you need to know to become a master at email. This is a skill that will likely aid you not just as a student but also in your future career.

Angry Computer GIF

Keep in Contact and Organise

Contacts lists

Online contacts lists help you organize contact information for your friends, family, and coworkers, just like an address book. Once people are added to your contacts list, it’s easy to access their information anytime and anywhere.

Creating groups

Maybe it’s for a group of friends, fellow students, or for your colleges when you enter the working world. If you find yourself sending emails to the same people on a regular basis, it might be a good idea to create a group. This will allow you to select various email addresses and save them as a single group. Then you can simply select the group as the recipient instead of having to select each individual address. The feature can usually be accessed from the Contacts page of your email client (e.g. Gmail).

Season 4 Group GIF by Friends

Using Cc and Bcc

Copying individuals on an email is a good way to send your message to the main recipient whilst also sending someone else a copy at the same time. This can be useful if you want to convey the same exact message to more than one person. In professional settings, copying someone else on an email can help get things done, especially if the person receiving the copy is in a supervisory role.

Though perhaps you may not want everyone to know who else was included in the email. This is more likely to happen in the working world perhaps if you are sending out an email to a number of clients they might not want their email shared with other people so instead, you can use Bcc (blind carbon copy). Just like with a Cc it sends exact copies of the email to multiple recipients, though it does not show other recipients who got a copy, and BCC recipients don’t see further replies from the email thread.

Email filters

When you’re receiving a lot of emails on a daily basis, it can be difficult to keep them organized. Luckily, various email clients offer a feature called filters, which basically sort your emails into folders as you receive them. This is usually located under the “More” drop-down when you select a message and should give your the option to “Filter messages like these”.

You can create filters that sort your email by various characteristics, including specific senders or recipientskeywords in the subject or body, and attachments. For example, let’s say you want to make sure emails from your tutor don’t get lost among the rest of your messages. You could create a filter that sorts every email received from your tutor.

Plan ahead

Cat Working GIF by Looney Tunes - Find & Share on GIPHY

Email Calendar

The best tool for organization in your email is the Calendar. Just as you write in a notebook, you can click any time slot in the Outlook Calendar for example and start typing. By using the Calendar, you can create appointments and events, organize meetings, view group schedules, and much more. You can also set up reminders to tell you when these events are happening. This will help you massively both as a student and in the workplace.

Schedule an email

When you’re finished with your email, click the down arrow at the bottom left of your new email next to the “Send” button. You will be prompted with “Schedule Send.” Click this option and pick a date and time to send the email. Once this is selected, click “Schedule Send” and then it will send by itself.

Un-send an email

To set this up, go to the Settings icon in the top right-hand corner of your Gmail homepage, choose Settings → General, then toggle on “undo send.” You can decide how long you have before the option to call your email back from the dark internet chasm disappears. For the more nervous person, you can opt for the 30-second option, whilst the braver of you can select five seconds.

Use auto-replies

This can be useful both as a student and in the workplace. If you worry that someone may want to contact you with an urgent matter and you won’t be able to reply by email you can set up an auto-reply message that says, “If this is a highly urgent matter, please call me on…” and give your phone number or an alternative way to contact you. To do this just Select File > Automatic Replies then select Send automatic replies. You can then choose the dates and times you’d like to set your automatic reply for and write in your message. This may be slightly different depending on your email client.

Hyperise - Personalization Toolkit for B2B Marketers GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Keyboard shortcuts

Almost all email clients have some set of keyboard shortcuts that can help you navigate your emails more quickly. As these shortcuts can vary depending on what email client you use here are a few support pages listing shortcuts for some popular clients:

Redirect email

This can be useful if you have more than one email and you want to access all your emails in one place. Here is how you can redirect your university emails to your own account. The method should be quite similar for most email clients.

First, you need to set up your personal account as a contact in Outlook:
  • Click on the button at the top left of your screen (or the button at the bottom left if you are on mobile device).
  • Select People.
  • Click New to add a new contact.
  • Add the details of your personal email account and select Save.

Click back on the or button and return to your Mail.

Now you can set up the rule to send emails to that account:
  • Click on the cog button [] and choose Options (if using a mobile use the three dots at the bottom right instead of the cog).
  • From the options pane that appears on the left of the screen, choose Inbox and sweep rules.
  • Click on the button to add a rule.
  • Give the rule a name (i.e. Send to personal).
  • In the When the message arrives box, select [Apply to all messages]
  • In the Do all of the following box, select Forward, redirect or send and then Redirect the messages to…
  • Your contacts list should open.
  • Select the personal account contact you created earlier and choose Save.
  • Click OK to complete the rule.

Take a break

Last but not least this is an important part of your digital wellbeing though it may not impact you as much as a student. When entering the working world getting a stressful email after work hours can really put a damper on going out with friends or family time. Activate your email “snooze” feature when you need a break from your inbox, and emails will reappear at your chosen time.

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Academic literacies General Skills Team

Can Music Help You Study?

In the past 30 years, there has been much debate over whether music can help you study. In 1993 Dr Gordon Shaw reported that a group of college students increased their IQ by as much as nine points just by listening to classical music. However, 10 years later some researchers looked into it and discovered very little evidence for this. This does not mean music has no benefits and though it can’t magically make you more intelligent there are ways, we can use it to assist in our studies and it may also help our brains in other ways.

Marco Verch Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Music as a reward

You probably remember those long nights of studying; you tell yourself I’m going to study this subject till this time, and you think you’ve planned everything perfectly. However, you find yourself losing motivation and by the end of the session you’ve only done half of what you wanted. This is where the reward method comes in, you promise yourself a reward for the end of the study session, such as the latest episode of a show or eating that delicious Ice Cream. Well, this works with music too, research from 2019 suggests music can activate the same reward centres in your brain as other things you enjoy. Rewarding yourself with your favourite music can provide the motivation you need to study, so you can listen to all your favourite music during study breaks.

Memorization

According to a 2014 study, listening to classical music while not making you more intelligent seemed to help people perform better on memory and processing tasks. These findings also suggest certain types of music can help boost memorization abilities and other cognitive functions. Music helps stimulate your brain, similar to the way exercise helps stimulate your body. The more you exercise your muscles, the stronger they become and much in the same way this stimulation is like a cognitive workout for your brain.

Increase focus

According to a 2007 study from Stanford University School of Medicine, music specifically classical music, helps your brain absorb and interpret new information more easily. They also found that music can engage your brain in such a way that it can train you to pay better attention to events and more accurately predict outcomes. So, when you are studying if you struggle to make sense of new material, listening to music could make this process easier. You can also link the ability to make better predictions about events to reasoning skills. Improved reasoning abilities won’t help you pull answers out of thin air, but you may notice a difference in your ability to reason your way to these answers based on the information presented.

Other ways to use music for study

Music can also help reduce stress and promote a more positive mindset. Studies have shown that a good mood generally improves your learning outcomes. You’ll likely be more successful in your studies when you’re feeling good. Also, if you are musically inclined, you could consider writing a song based on what you are studying as our brain seems to process learning songs differently, making it easier to remember. For example, have you ever listened to a song you haven’t heard in a long time and out of nowhere you can just remember the words.

Here It Goes In Living Color GIF by Justin - Find & Share on GIPHY

Music to avoid

Whilst research suggests music may benefit your studies it may not always help:

  • If you listen to loud music with lyrics while trying to read or write it tends to be less efficient and you may come away not making the most of your study session.
  • Loud or agitated music can adversely affect reading comprehension and mood, making focus more difficult.
  • Some Students who use music to help them memorize may need to listen to music while taking the test in order to reap the benefits of this study method,

What could you listen to?

As we’ve discussed most research suggests music without lyrics is the most beneficial for study so when choosing music for studying here are some genres you could try.

  • Classical – Most classical music is mainly instrumental
  • Electronic Music – As long as it’s not really loud and has no lyrics
  • Ambient – A form of instrumental music that uses layers of sound rather than a structured musical beat or melody meaning it has less distractions.
  • World Music – Various kinds of ethnic, folk, and indigenous music from around the world even songs with lyrics might work as long as you don’t know the language.
  • Instrumental Jazz – If you stick to more mellow songs.
  • Instrumental and Atmospheric Rock – If they aren’t loud songs

How to listen to your music?

Most streaming services like Spotify have playlists designed for studying. Whilst you can listen to these for free on some services you can subscribe and get a student account with a discount (available on most streaming platforms) and you won’t get blaring adverts. Most streaming services like Apple Music or Amazon Music have similar playlists, or you can create your own. YouTube is probably the best free source for music although you may get some adverts. Here are a few study playlists you could try.

Spotify Playlist

Apple Music Playlist

Apple Music playlist

Amazon Music Playlist

YouTube Playlist:

This article was written by John Weightman, Digital Skills Intern

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Digital literacies Skills Team TechItUpTuesday

Digital communication through Microsoft Teams

#TechItUpTuesday

Graphic of a screen with pictures of people

Today we will be taking a look at digital communication through Microsoft Teams. Teams is used to have online lessons or business meetings which include audio, video, and screen sharing. Teams allows you to communicate with your teacher’s fellow students or colleges. In Teams, you can also access any files your teacher or employer may ask you to upload or complete. You can also send your completed work by attaching your documents. If you are interested you can find out further information on the Microsoft website.

First, let’s start with a video that explains the use of Teams and how to communicate like a pro.

Most of the information you need is provided in this video but here are some useful tips for you to use when in a Teams meeting.

Previewing videos: 
  1. Hover over Turn camera on to preview your video.
  2. Preview how you appear: Select Blur my background to blur background or select More background effects to preview other backgrounds or add your own.
  3.  Apply and turn on video.
Visual example of Teams video preview
Share your screen: 
  • Select Share content to present your screen. You can share: 
  • Your desktop
  • Window 
  • PowerPoint presentation 
  • Whiteboard
Visual example of using Share in Microsoft Teams
Raise your hand and show reactions:

Under Reactions, choose how to engage in a meeting:

  • Select Raise hand to let others know you’d like to speak without interrupting the conversation. 
  • Choose a reaction like Applause or Heart to show how you feel.
Visual example of the raise hand and show reaction feature
Spotlight a video:

When a featured speaker’s talking, spotlight their video so it’s the main one everyone sees.

Visual example of the spotlight feature
Video layouts:

On meeting controls, select More options () and choose:

  • Gallery: Default view 3×3 layout
  • Large gallery: 7×7 layout that shows up to 49 people at once.
  • Together mode: Lets you feel like you’re in the same shared space space in the meeting
Visual example of switching to Large Gallery View in Microsoft Teams.
Breakout rooms:

Create and open breakout rooms so you can hold smaller, more focused discussions.

  1. On the meeting controls, select Breakout rooms.
  2. Choose how many rooms you need and how to assign participants.
  3. Select Create rooms > Start rooms
Visual example of how to use breakout rooms in Microsoft Teams.

You’re on Mute

Don’t forget to unmute yourself if you want to talk (though if it is a really large meeting you may be unable to talk unless you are hosting). For those of you who have already used Teams, this has probably happened to you, you neatly explained your point only for someone to say you’re on mute.

Muted Mr Mackey Shut Up GIF by South Park

Stickers and Memes on Teams

Just because you’re working doesn’t mean you can’t spare a bit of time and have a mess around. Here is something a little more fun, this video explains how to use stickers and create memes through Teams.

Now it’s time to end the call, make sure to check out the library blog every Tuesday to keep yourself updated on your digital skills. #TechItUpTuesday

Visual of the red end call button on Microsoft Teams.
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Academic literacies Skills Team

Importance of Writing

Writing skills allow you to communicate clearly with others, share ideas and create useful resources. Even if your subject area or profession doesn’t focus solely on writing you will likely still require a certain level of written communication expertise. Today we’ll discuss the writing skills that we have experience in based on our studies and how these could be important for you.

Research and Planning

By John Weightman

Whether you’re writing a book or a short essay planning can make all the difference. You should start with just a rough skeleton that maps out the order of your overarching thoughts. Next, go through each thought and start outlining the sub-elements. The idea is to focus on breadth before depth. If you focus too much on any given section of your writing, it’ll be harder to rearrange it later if you realize there’s a better way to structure the document. Properly planning any piece of writing before you begin provides a few key benefits:

  • Improves the structure and flow of your writing.
  • Organises your thoughts.
  • Cuts down on thinking-time when writing.
  • The best way to improve your planning skills is to develop an iterative approach.

In addition to planning in any academic writing knowing how to reference is incredibly important. It demonstrates the depth of your research and acknowledges other people’s work. It ensures that you avoid plagiarism by making it clear which ideas are yours as well as showing your understanding of the topic. There are many ways to reference depending on both the source and the referencing style most of which are discussed in the University Skills Guides and will be fully covered in a later blog post.

Writing skills for STEM

By Codey McShane

For students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) courses, it can sometimes seem like you don’t need to spend much time on your writing skills because they might not be as directly related to the work you’re doing.  Whether it’s writing a research paper or creating technical documentation, the ability to express your thoughts through writing is an important skill even in the most technical of fields.

Within these fields, you’ll be required to write with clarity, ease and without jargon to prevent miscommunication (Google Developers, 2021). When writing, you should be aware of your audience and tailor your communication to their level of knowledge about the subject.

Developing your writing skills may also improve your critical thinking and problem-solving techniques. In STEM you’ll find yourself dealing with complex ideas and information – being able to break that information down and then evaluate or convey it to others is more difficult than learning the information in the first place. Developing your writing skills will improve your overall ability to communicate. (Quitadamo and Kurtz, 2007)

So, writing a blog about a blog

By David Moore

Writing blogs in my experience expresses to the reader the importance of creation, that being a story, a game or animation.  This shows the development of creation and the journey of the creator, such as, where they may have gained inspiration and learnt new skills/ techniques.  Without writing skills and creativity a blog would be a bland description of the designer’s day to day activities. Writing skills are important to help the reader understand what the writer is entailing, to show their point of view and expression to their piece of work.  Without writing skills, you would not be able to provide clear communication, understanding or development to a project or share your own point of view with others. 

Reflective Writing

By Joanna Rawnsley

Being able to reflect on your work is crucial to all academics, be it writing a reflective journal about your creative process, a blog about your research and how it’s helped you progress, or a commentary on a group task you did in a lab. You will always be learning from your previous work and using your experience to help you in future tasks. It’s not only crucial in writing heavy subjects such as English and History, but practical ones like the Sciences and Performing Arts.

Reflective writing makes you look at your work through a critical lens, this doesn’t mean writing in your assessments “my work is rubbish.” It means looking at your strengths and weaknesses, where did you go wrong and what would you do differently next time. It’s not all negative though! Maybe you achieved a great grade on an assessment after using techniques you learnt in class, this can also be a part of your reflection.

Reflective writing helps you understand yourself better and recognise any necessary changes you need to make in your techniques.

Check out our Reflective Writing Guide for more guidance and information.

References:

Google Developers (2021) Overview of technical writing courses | Technical Writing [online]. Available at: https://developers.google.com/tech-writing/overview [Accessed: 15 September 2021].

Quitadamo, I. & Kurtz, M. (2007) Learning to Improve: Using Writing to Increase Critical Thinking Performance in General Education Biology. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 6(2), 140-154.

Categories
Digital literacies Internships Skills Team TechItUpTuesday

Jisc Digital Capabilities

#TechItUpTuesday

What is Jisc?

JISC is a tool you can use to discover the range of your digital capabilities. These capabilities as JISC describes are the skills and attitudes that individuals and organisations need if they are to thrive in today’s world. 

There are six key elements to consider when building your digital capabilities.

  • ICT Proficiency (functional skills)
  • Information, data and media literacies (critical use)
  • Digital creation, problem solving and innovation (creative production)
  • Digital communication, collaboration and partnership (participation)
  • Digital learning and development (development)
  • Digital identity and wellbeing (self-actualising)

Why are digital capabilities important?

Angry Andy Richter GIF by Team Coco - Find & Share on GIPHY

Digital capabilities are important for students as they help you learn how to think critically, creatively solve problems, and express your ideas in interesting ways. Having a good level of digital proficiency will also help many of you in your future careers. Since Covid-19 these skills have become increasingly important as several businesses are moving to digital alternatives compared to in-person activities. This means that more employers will expect all staff not just those specialised in IT to be well versed in their digital capabilities. A company can have the best digital tools in the world but still be inefficient if the employees fail to utilise them proficiently.

As this video explains your level of digital capability depends on several factors: the requirements of your role at work or as a student, your subject specialism, career choice, personal, and other contextual factors. So for some of you, you may only need to be well versed in a few of these skills whilst others may need to know much more.

How to use JISC?

It takes approximately 20 minutes to create your report using JISC. First, use this link or click on the button under the image at the start of this article. Press login then select your organisation which in our case is Hull University and log in with your email and network password to initially set up your profile. Then press explore your digital capabilities, where you can then being to create your report. Once you have completed the report don’t forget to either take a screenshot or record your results down somewhere, otherwise if you want to view your results at a later date you will have to go through the whole process again.

As I previously said don’t worry if you aren’t knowledgeable in all areas you don’t need to be proficient at everything, it’s a personal reflection, so consider what skills are most important to you.

Categories
Academic literacies

Looking After Your Well-being Whilst at University

The new academic year is here! It’s exciting, but maybe a little daunting. There are many things you need to know when starting or returning to university, for example how to take care of your well-being.

From Giphy

Before you groan because you’ve already been lectured by your parents, your well-being is crucial to your success as a student. These tips will not only help with your studies, but in every aspect of your personal and professional life.

Did you know according to the NatWest Student Living Index 2019 45% of students in the UK feel stressed about their course. If you ever feel this way know that you’re not alone and there are things you can do to help combat this feeling.

As a student myself, I know that being organised and learning time management techniques may not be on your list of priorities, but it should be. We want to enjoy our time at university and not spend it making to-do lists or arranging our diaries, but this is a big part of university life and being independent. If you learn to manage and prioritise your time, you’ll find you’re spending less of it worrying and trying to catch up on work, and you’ll have more time to do the things you enjoy. Knowing how to manage your time and finding a structure that works best for you can be a little overwhelming, so check out our Time Management Guide for more advice and guidance after you’ve read this post.

You may be sat, stood, or maybe even laid there thinking:

“How does this relate to my well-being?”

From Giphy

It’s quite simple really; you want to take as much pressure off yourself as possible. Being at university can be a wonderful experience full of new, exciting opportunities, but it can also be stressful at times. Once you start looking at your extensive reading lists, timetable, assessments, all the extra-curricular activities you want to do; you might have the urge to turn off your phone, hide under the covers and try not to think about it. Therefore, learning how to prioritise your time is a key to staying relaxed whilst at university.

Looking after yourself at university

Here are my 5 top tips on how to look after your well-being whilst studying:

  1. Prioritise tasks on importance and length – can some be split into smaller tasks to do over a longer period? Look at our guide on Priority Matrices to help categorise them.  
  2. Know your limitations – if that’s doing work in 30-minute segments so be it, we all work differently.
  3. Understand your work style by trying out different tools to manage time – check out our guide here.
  4. Take breaks – put these in your diary and make them as much as a priority as your tasks.
  5. Don’t overdo it – if this means becoming a member of one or two societies instead of the five, you’re thinking of joining (we’ve all been there), so be it.

Most importantly don’t burn out. I’ve been there; thinking I can do 101 extracurricular activities whilst writing multiple assessments, having a part-time job, and trying to find time to socialise with friends. This left me with very little, or no free time to just relax in front of the TV, or Netflix rather. I had to think about what my priorities were. It meant stepping away from a few things, but it gave me more time to relax and do things I enjoyed whilst still putting my all into university/work. I had more time to focus on my assessments, but also on my personal/social life.

Obviously, your studies are important and should be one of your main priorities, but so should your health and well-being. The university is here to support you throughout your studies.

From Giphy

Available support

Check out Student Support for guidance on well-being and how you can contact someone if you need extra support. They have self-help and well-being tips too! You can also do their Survive and Thrive module to learn about how to improve your well-being whilst learning new techniques to help maintain a good balance between your studies, work and social life.

Even though being at university is a big change for a lot of people, with the right tools in your arsenal you will have more chance of success whilst enjoying your time here.

Don’t forget to have fun in every aspect of your university career. Make your to-do lists have personality, get a fun diary and calendar, personalise your apps. Being organised doesn’t have to be dull.

I hope you have found some useful resources here to help you manage your time sufficiently and things seem a little less daunting. Enjoy your time at university and stay hydrated!

This article was written by Joanna Rawnsley, SkillsGuide Intern