Open Thinkering


Tag: Android

Systems Thinking, reference management, and Open Badges

Searching for term 'Systems thinking' in Paperpile on a BOOX Note Air 2

As anyone who knows me will tell you, I’m a fox (as opposed to a hedgehog). My natural tendency, therefore, is to create new things which reference old things. I’m making an exception here, and starting a new Systems Thinking category on this blog instead of an entirely new publication. Here’s the RSS feed for it.

This will mainly feature intellectual outputs from my upcoming MSc in Systems Thinking in Practice through the Open University. That begins on November 1st, so now I’m fully registered and have access to stuff, I’m getting myself prepared on Fridays.

It’s been 12 years since I finished my Ed.D. and the world has changed in many and various ways since then. One thing that I was pretty average at doing while working on my doctoral thesis was document and reference management, so I wanted to ensure that I was on top of that from the start.

The Open University’s Library website has some guidance on this, but I wanted to ask my network what they thought. The answer came back overwhelmingly in favour of Zotero. However, that’s not what I’m leaning towards and I thought I’d better explain why.

The iPad came out in 2011 and really helped me in the final stages of my thesis. I used to use the Papers app, which was pretty great. These days, being more aware of my migraine triggers, I use an e-ink Android tablet: a BOOX Note Air 2. At times when I can’t bear to look at a laptop screen or regular tablet like an iPad, I can still use that.

So, while I originally thought I wanted a completely web-based workflow, I actually need something that has an Android app that works well on tablets. I think I’ve found that in the shape of Paperpile, which is neither free nor open source. However, when it comes to my studies which I’m going to fit around my work and family life, I just need things that work. The Zotero app, for example, that I tried, was last updated by a hobbiest developer two years ago.

Annoyingly, the OU uses Microsoft 365 for email, calendar, and to-dos, but I’ll have to live with that. To keep things separate and all in one place, I’m using Microsoft To Do (which used to be Wunderlist before it was acquired). On my list of things to get done next week are to complete two free OpenLearn short courses:

These are both ‘badged open courses’ using Open Badges. It’s good to know that something I first got involved with in the year that I’ve finished my thesis is now an everyday part of the Higher Education landscape!

(Interestingly, just as I finished this post, I got an email from Navigatr announcing that OpenLearn’s badges will be available on their platform)

Change your launcher, change your life

Update: I’ve since found that Slim Launcher also does a great job!

There’s been an undeniable push recently to re-balance our relationship with our digital devices. Willpower alone doesn’t do it, which is why Apple and Google have introduced features into the latest versions of iOS and Android, respectively, for you to ‘take control’ of your smartphone addiction.

I’m just like everyone else in this regard, except probably more so given that I work in tech and I work from home. My ‘work’ is located everywhere I have a connection.

Light Android Launcher

Recently, after reading about The Light Phone (“designed to be used as little as possible), I mused on the fact that there’s got to be a better solution to device addiction than literally buying another device.

That’s why I had a look both at the F-Droid and Google Play marketplaces for minimalist launchers. I discovered LessPhone and Light Android Launcher. Of the two, I prefer the latter, as it’s both Open Source, and more aesthetically pleasing.

So, for the last few weeks, I’ve been using my usual launcher (the excellent, Open Source, KISS) on weekdays, and Light Android Launcher at the weekends. It’s been great. My most important apps are right there on the home screen, and I can swipe up for the full list. The whole thing is black and white with no icons, so I have to be intentional about what I do on my device at the weekend.

Try it! You might like it.

Sincere apologies to iPhone users: you’re stuck with the launcher mandated by Cupertino. You can’t customise your home screen.

Why a ‘mixed economy’ of digital devices is best for your educational institution.

lisa's scissors

Earlier today, on Twitter, I mentioned that the 64GB version of the BlackBerry Playbook is now at the scandalously low price of £129. They’re practically giving it away.

I mentioned that for some educational institutions that would be a really good fit, especially given that you can side-load Android apps. Eventually, I should imagine, you’ll be able to dispose of the BlackBerry OS altogether and juse go with Android for the entire system.

Bill Lord, a Primary school headteacher, replied that he was looking at a ‘mixed economy’ of devices for his educational institution, adding that he had three main reasons for this approach:

  1. Pupil needs
  2. Staff needs (confidence/competence)
  3. Vagaries of the market

I’m with Bill. To my mind, being an ‘iPad-only’ school makes no sense. It’s replicating the Microsoft vendor lock-in all over again. Since when was school about teaching young people how to use particular types of devices?

Instead, it’s better to look at the affordances of each device. That doesn’t mean how much it costs, but rather what it allows you to do. The BlackBerry Playbook at £129, for example, has front and rear-facing cameras and a high-definition screen. Sounds like an opportunity.

It’s OK to build learning activities around specific devices some of the time, but I wouldn’t want to be doing it all of the time. Why not focus on building and using things that are device-agnostic? Surely that’s a more sustainable option? Use the Web, for goodness’ sake!

Finally, if you’re reading this in the UK you should really stop by HotUKDeals every now and again. I’m on there at least three times a day – and not just to find cheaper stuff than usual. I also find it really enlightening in terms of what people are interested in but, more importantly, the comments people leave and the context they give. There’s some serious expertise there.

Image CC BY-NC reebob