Blog Post

First Forays

Hello all,

this is my first post as a HASTAC Scholar...woohoo! My brief bio contains pretty much the essentials so I will get right down to describing my project.

Officially, I am interested in exploring the use of new technologies in second language teaching and learning. I am particulalry interested in tablets as a learning tool and the vast world of apps. I teach introductory French and I try to incorporate hands-on (literally) activities in my classes that simulate as much as possible real world interactions with technology as well as with a variety of different situations: from shopping to navigating a city to making short films. I am also working on an app to teach Martinican Creole to English speakers using the communicative language teaching approach. I am hoping to learn more here about how people use tablets and smartphones in their classrooms, especially for language intsruction so that I can figure out how to make my little app as useful as possible. I am targetting primarily students who wish to study abroad in the French Antilles and would like to acquire some Creole. I am also becoming increasingly interested in social media as a way of incorporating authentic input in language instruction.

Unofficially I am obsessed (strong word) with research tools to improve work flow efficiency. I am currently exploring options like Papers2 vs. Sente vs. Zotero + Goodreader, as well as writing tools like Scrivener and GTD tools like DevonThink.


Ok that's it for me. I'm looking forward to interacting with folks and learning as much as I can from this community.





Hi Annette. I can't wait to hear more about your app! And, I couldn't help but share my favorite research tool. I am pretty obsessed with Mendeley ( for research. It was a game changer for me --one click bibliographies, in program pdf notation, multiple platform options (ipad, web, desktop), and social networking to boot!


Hi Meg. Thanks for stopping by. I've heard a lot about Mendeley. How does it compare to Zotero? Do you use it with an iPad? I've looked up more tutorials and blog posts than I will admit to (hehe) but I'm still not quite sure what to make of Mendeley.


Hey Annette! I'm goin gto ask you a whole lot about Zotero, but my current love is DEVONthink, the data management system. LIke Meg, it was my game changer. I'm not familiar with Mendeley, and having gotten used to Dt, I probably won't switch over. But, we've had a few conversations in the History Dept about data mgmt. It'd be beneficial to learn as much as I can about all the programs available out there. 


Hi Miriam.  I found the UI of DevonThink a little too database-like but I've only looked at it a little and really UI is not a good reason to not like something unless it is not intuitive/user-friendly. What is the one thing you love the most about DevonThink? I like Zotero but if I find a super-duper program I would gladly switch. Let me know. Thanks!



>What is the one thing you love the most about DevonThink?

Hello everyone... couldn't resist chiming in here. Been using DT a lot recently and its best feature for me so far is the ability to index entire folders of PDFs without needing its own copy. I work on a laptop with a relatively small drive and all of my PDFs are already in the bibliography manager (Sente). Can't really afford to have, nor would I want to have, two copies of each file. DT will make its connections—and it is very good at making connections—between these indexed folders and its own database content. I'm sure it would index the Zotero folder just as easily; don't know enough about Mendeley to say.

Another thing... recently, I've been going back to a number of seminar papers I wrote in grad school and revising them. What I'm finding with DT is that, since I've last looked at some of these papers and added more notes and files to the db, it is making connections between these (seemingly unrelated) topics in interesting ways.


Patrick, Zotero has the option of only saving a link to the pdf and not the full pdf file as an attachment, which means I don't have duplicates of my pdfs in zotero + dropbox. The advantage of this is that when I annonate a pdf in goodreader it syncs with dropbox and that new version stays linked to the reference in zotero. It took me quite a while to figure out how to make this work and I think there are still too many steps involved in it for me. It sounds like with DT everything would like in the DT program (pdfs, refs, annotations etc) rather than me relying on mutliple syncing steps. Correct?


you know - I've been looking to have an in dept discussioin on DevonThink for awhile now. I've only been using it for about 6 months, but some habits (bad or otherwise) are starting to form. I'd love to get a conversation devoted to DT going. Maybe I'll blog about it and see what happens.

As for it being "too databasey." I think that's what I love about it. So maybe, DT and Zotero are trying to do different things. I haven't used Zotero, so I'd be interested to hear your thoughts for the uninitiated. However, like Patrick was saying, DT has really helped me with indexing. I have hundreds (thousands?) of articles that I've skimmed, parsed, forgotten and misremembered. One of DTs coolest features is its algorithm which recognizes PDF text (only in Pro Office version), and assembles a sort of descending concordance of text frequency. As patrick also points out, this feature can be applied over your entire database and DT will sort your docs based on the frequency of certain words. I've been using it to help write my dissertation.

For instance, I'm writing about a certain man named Balcarres. He shows up in a lot of my primary research which I have saved in DT as PDFs of newspaper articles from the 18th c., or PDFs of journal articles, or documents of my notes from the archives. By searching for "Balcarres" I get a list of say 20 items where his name appears in the text. It's a simple way for me to make sure my chapter address all the instances where Balcarres shows up in the archival material.

This is an organization lifeboat. PreDT I was using Finder to search through my heaps of data and relying on my abysmal note-taking skills. Since my research has spanned years, DT gives me hope that I will be able to find the weird rtf file I notated in 2009 in the British Archives and then emailed to myself.

Geez! DT reply on steroids. Sorry for that.



Miriam I'm loving this exchange! Yes you're right it sounds like DT does different things from Zotero. As you described things it appears to me that DT automatically makes connections that I am currently having to make manually in Zotero using tags and folders. I think I am (very nearly?) sold. This sounds like what I've been looking for. I would love to read a blog post on DT. In the meantime I think I'll write a more detailed and coherent description of my current worklow using Goodreader on iPad + Dropbox + Zotero with a better idea of what is lacking in my current configuration. Maybe moving this discussion to a new post dedicated to workflow will generate even more interesting responses. I still have a ton of questions including whether DT has a social/collaborative component to it like Mendeley apparently has.

I would really like to get a good program down because I am in that weird reading-before-comps stage and I would like my dissertation research to be as organised as possible.

Seriously though where has HASTAC been all my life!? I've tried to have this conversation in other circles with pretty sad results.


The conversation continues here: Workflow!