Arts and Science

Today I discovered (looking for something else, of course) a book called National Competition, 1902: List of Students Rewarded, with the Report of the Examiners on the Selected Works of Schools of Science and Art and Art Classes. With a typically Victorian/Edwardian title, this book featured the student award winners presented by the Board of Education, South Kensington.

It is an entire book of student projects, evaluated by experts, with wonderful illustrations.

Of the over 5,000 works entered for competition in that one year are included designs for household furnishings, clothing, and material objects. Also many drawings in many media, of people and lettering and stencils. There are paintings and jewelry, mosaics and friezes, illustrations for children’s books and pictures of fish.

The awards list demonstrates remarkable diversity of location, with students from all over Britain, from Brighton to Newcastle-on-Tyne.

There are a few surpises for contemporary observers. Contrary to our view of the Edwardian era, there is much focus on the nude human form, and on sensuous designs. Women are well-represented among the awards winners, and the critiques of their work are in exactly the same tone as those of the men. The pronoun “he” is inclusive.

Silver Medal to Albert W. Dodd of Liverpool (Mount Street) School of Art (p. 28)

The critiques are cleverly worded, but could be sharp. For example:

With but few exceptions a want of interest on the part of the students is still apparent and the Examiners repeat their remark of last year, that painting from Still Life, which should be a delightful study, seems to be regarded as a wearisome task ; the result is that the work in general is more remarkable for patient labour than artistic spirit. (p. 32)

Also of historical significance is the goal of the institution itself, which combined artistic and scientific achievement. The Art and Science Department had been founded in 1853 with an emphasis on practical arts, but by the 1860s it was training science teachers, and in the 1870s its program for science had created the Normal School of Science, where T.H. Huxley taught new methods in biology at the higher education level.

During the 1880s T.H. Huxley and Matthew Arnold represented the sides of the Two Cultures debate. While classics dominated the standard curriculum for undergraduates, Huxley argued that science should be required study. Traditionalists maintained that while scientific achievements were important to understanding human development, the scientific method was not necessary to becoming an educated person.

It seems to me that in its combining of science and art, the Science and Art department was prescient in understanding that both are needed. Its origins in the practical arts, which combined technical knowledge with aesthetics to create useful items, inherently blended the expression of human achievement with the new methods of science and technology.

Such a book then provides a reading on our own issues of curriculum and culture, as we push the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) agenda and note its STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Maths) alternative.

It also gives us an idea of the artistic and technical achievements of students who in many ways are like our own.

Three kinds of online classes

As a six-year update to my Three Kinds of MOOCs, I present this idea.

While it is possible to combine these pedagogies, they are in fact already combined. It is possibly to start with one kind, then expand into the others, if one goes down the list — it is more difficult if one goes upward. The adjectives are ideals rather than realities, models rather than prescriptions, environments rather than methods.

Controlled

The Controlled Online Class features pedagogy created by the instructor or another entity, designed to make sure students complete tasks in a particular way to a particular standard.

This need not, however, be instructor-centered pedagogy. It is entirely possible to embed choice into each task, assign low and high-stakes items, or have differentiated grading.

For students, the experience emphasizes familiarity and predictability. However, it can still allow for surprise and independence within the assignments themselves, or within an alternate grading system.

This environment is often preferred for large classes, where the instructor would rather spend time in conversation with students, or individually advising, than in managing options. It is also good for workplaces where accountability is needed.

Curated

The Curated Online Class features selected resources, technologies, or methods designed to embed student choice, while the instructor takes the role of expert or guide.

This need not, however, reject standards nor prevent inventiveness. The application of curated resources may be creative or standardized, and include open debate as well as formal presentation.

For students, the experience balances choice with expert resource selection. If it allows for student-centered application with a variety of expressions, it can also look like a Chaotic course.

This environment is often preferred when choice is desired, but students may not be prepared for the work, or where there are too many exciting resources from which to choose.

Chaotic

The Chaotic Online Class features the appearance of freedom in pedagogy, with so much choice that the result can be beyond instructor influence.

This need not, however, mean there is no control at all. The very existence of any kind of “course” distinguishes this from an unfettered “community”. If there is a timeline, a start and an end, that can provide containment, as can scaffolding of assignments or creative expressions.

For students, the experience can be creative, exciting, and dynamic. It can also be frightening, or give rise to criticism regarding autodidacticism.

This environment may be preferred by instructors who want to break the mould of what they perceive as students’ previous educational experience, or where creativity is a larger goal than accountability or learner comfort.

 

In all cases, the “setting” for the class need not be particular. A Controlled course, for example, may seem more suitable for an LMS or software package, but in fact may be accomplished in an open course or through various web tools. A Curated class, while easier to conduct using tools that allow instructors and students to collect resources, can also be offered in any platform. A Chaotic class may be the most difficult to create inside an LMS, but it can be done by engendering student control over the platform elements (discussion board, resources, externally-linked web tools) wherever possible.

The concerns about all these models revolve around misapplication rather than design choice. A Controlled class, done poorly, allows students no independence of thought or development of mental processes, and becomes merely an exercise in memorization or task completion. A Curated class, done poorly, limits the selection in a way designed to push a particular agenda, or creates convoluted pathways for learning, or offers so much choice that there are no options for students who come in without previous ideas. A Chaotic class, done poorly, provides no guidance or standards at all, abandons students who need help, or awards intellectually inferior work and thus defeats any sense of accomplishment.

 

Images from Public Domain Review

The ed tech dream is dead

As if regular old political news weren’t bad enough, we must make connections between the behemoths of technology and the decline of enthusiasm for web-based educational technology and online learning in general. The conclusions are not inspiring.

As you know if you read my blog, I essentially gave up on web-based apps for my students a couple of years ago, and have moved all my class activity to the Canvas system or a Canvas-based LTI within that system (with the exception of one Honors blog).

As the author of Insidious Pedagogy, this has been a painful, soul-searching path leading to closing my classes. Since the beginnings (I started teaching online in 1998), I have encouraged faculty to put their pedagogy first, to find ways to force the technologies to do what you want. As an early fan of pedagogies that emphasize constructivism and connectivism, I have experimented with many formats (contract grading, connectivist learning, open blogging). If you’ve heard of Ning, Glogster, Dellicious, Blip,tv, Blabberize, Elgg, Eyejot, GoAnimate, Lingr, Mind42, MyPlick, Overstream, Plotagon, Plupper, Screenr, Slideshare, Trialmeme, and Posterous, you have some idea of what I’ve tried.

My college went over to Canvas in the wave of California Community Colleges who’d been made an offer we couldn’t refuse. As California began to standardize its online college education, mass media began to cover the concerns I’d had all along about student privacy and exposure in online environments. I no longer had any arguments to answer those who objected to students working on the open web, even as the web was closing.

So whatever else Facebook and Google have done (and none of it struck me as exceptional or unusual), they have underlined my concerns about students working openly, and undermined public confidence in living portions of our lives on the web. We were so concerned about not being sold by Learning Management Systems that we were sold by the very providers who gave us freedom.

Educators who persist in using social media for the classes are not just outliers in ed tech anymore – they are now collaborators in the dissemination and sale of student information and data. Stalwarts who object to online teaching and web-based learning can now say, “see? it isn’t safe!” Anything not in a protected, encrypted, controlled system is rightly suspect.

We’ve lost, and to me that has meant not only abandoning my own open classwork and my own research in educational trends but a return to subversion inside the system.

My pedagogical focus now is creating encouraging environments and meaningful tasks for students that take advantage of system-based automation while allowing for freedom of pursuits. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in ed tech — Canvas forces me to take my place as a nobody functionary, a foot soldier following orders, with limited creativity and continual frustration. It’s one of the worst LMSs ever created, with a “community” deluded into thinking we help improve it. When my head is flat from pounding it against Canvas walls, I try to remind myself it’s like making a movie during the Hays Code.

But doing anything else isn’t moving forward.

Why journalists write such good history books

In an only slightly different life, I would have been a journalist. As a significantly younger person, I followed Watergate closely, reading All The President’s Men (as well as Haldeman’s The Ends of Power), and attending a lecture by John Dean given at my college. I saved all the Newsweek articles on Patty Hearst, and all my newspaper clippings of the 1975 World Series, in a laundry basket. I became copy editor and then editor of my high school newspaper, writing articles and proofing galleys and protesting the truancy laws. I majored in English at UCLA.

I switched to History due to an odd series of events involving a high school counselor who didn’t tell me when the AP English test was offered, a fascination with the musical 1776, and a brilliant course I took with historian Joyce Appleby. I never took a journalism class after high school, but instead trained as a historian. My degrees are in History, and my certificates are in Education.

For the past decade or so, I’ve studied the evolution of the web as a teaching tool, and in particular online pedagogy. I’ve experienced the typewriter, the internet, the web, as customer and creator. I’ve used rotary dial phones, dial-up modems, and cell phones. Even as I experienced digital history unfolding (or perhaps because I experienced it), I have “reported” my findings rather than studying the phenomena as a historian. After years of being the person in the room saying “but this has all happened before”, I have recently returned to the study of history as my primary task. And yet, the history books I most enjoy reading now are not written by historians. They’re written by journalists.

Most of these works are about the history of technology, which was my specialty in grad school (although I studied medieval, not modern, technology). Tom Standage (The Guardian, The Economist) published his brilliant The Victorian Internet in 1998, the same year I began teaching online. The book became a reference for me, a way to connect the present (in which I was frantically operating) with the past I understood. In 2003, a student gave me a copy of Empires of Light, by Jill Jonnes (New York Times), about Tesla, Edison, and Westinghouse. It was another reminder that so many things (commercial competition, technological advancement, bloody-minded geniuses) are not new. Atlantic and NY Times writer Nicholas Carr’s The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google (2008) was a delight, part of a body of his work that supported my gut instinct that the web was making us stupid and that our dependency on computers had a serious dark side (that was the same year that saw the rise of MOOCs).

Steven Johnson (Wired, NY Times) wrote The Ghost Map, a 2006 book so clear and brilliant in its discussion of the cholera epidemic in London that I assigned both the book and his TED talk to students.

Few of these people have history degrees. Johnson’s are in semiotics and English lit. Carr, also literature. Standage has a degree in engineering and computer science from Oxford. Interestingly for those looking at women writers, Jonnes is the only one with a PhD in history, obtained after she was a published writer for the New York Times.

They don’t pretend to be historians. Standage notes his specialty is “the use of historical analogy in science, technology and business writing”. Johnson just calls himself a writer, and Wikipedia says the same about Carr.  Jonnes uses no noun to describe herself despite her degree.

With such a trend in evidence, it didn’t surprise me to read in Bloomberg Businessweek that New York Times reporter Cade Metz is writing a history of artificial intelligence.

Normally I’m quite the snob about non-historians doing history. For example, we have a number of departments at the college who offer classes with the word “history” in the title, but are taught by language or music instructors. The individuals teaching them are quite wonderful, but they aren’t doing history. They’re teaching cultural heritage, typically without reference to historical methodology. Their technique is usually narrative, rather than the development of a thesis to be proven with evidence. Similarly, the profusion of “history” days and months for groups of subcultures (women, African Americans, etc.) are all heritage-based, although they claim to be doing history in order to show they are on the right side of history, which is another thing entirely.

Such storytelling, however uncomfortable I may be with it as a historian, has always been important to human beings. It has become increasingly significant in recent years, as competing narratives are created to defend particular points of view. To the agggrieved, for example, all of human history may be a story of grievances. Historians study historiography, the “schools” of history formed by different viewpoints (such as Marxist history, or the Annales school, or the New Left). Historians tend to recognize these varying perspectives, though not always. Competing perspectives are inherent in the discipline. They’re a feature, not a bug. Historians know there is no “one” history, but rather histories told for varied reasons. That’s why historical evidence is so important — it is needed to support ones perspective, to ground it in fact.

Neither historian nor journalist, English prof Marshall McLuhan provided the foundation for many of the works mentioned here in his The Gutenberg Galaxy (1962)

So what do journalists and historians have in common? Both observe the world carefully, and note patterns. Both access the past for context. Both rely on sources, tell stories, create narrative, highlight key people and events. But they divide on method. A journalist may consult only a few sources, or a very broad selection of sources, and need not engage in exhaustive research among scholarly articles or primary documents. They may rely on scholars’ interpretations, since they themselves are not engaging in scholarship. Journalists may use more literary techniques to draw the reader in, to make clever connections. (These techniques have actually changed the way history is written by historians, as publishers now seek a broader audience for history books in an age where fewer people purchase books at all.)

Most importantly, journalists need not provide a new perspective beyond the telling of an interesting story. The originality lies in the creative telling of a tale, rather than in the development of an argument that must be proven with facts. Perhaps this is why the articles on Patty Hearst did not lead me to research the Hearst family, or terrorism, or cults. I never got into the history of baseball. I watched Watergate happening but did not feel an urge to research previous presidential scandals, or violations of the constitution, or the composition of the White House staff. The stories were complete in themselves.

So when a journalist turns a hand to history, it has the potential to be more lively, and more immediate. Liberties are taken (almost into “creative non-fiction”) with personalities, like those of Tesla or John Snow. “Bringing history alive” (a phrase that makes me cringe, with its implication of imposed drama) need not involve engaging in historical scholarship, but it does create the all-important analogies that Tom Standage mentions. These books bring facts to light, and connections between past and present. Without the work of writers like Standage and Johnson, it is unlikely I would have found the connections between what I was doing with my teaching, and what others have done in the past. Even if I discovered these connections while defending history in the various MOOCs in which I was enrolled, I might not have realized my own potential to write about them.

Skilled journalists make the reader feel engaged in the story, even if their thesis is nothing more than, “look at this cool series of events that happened”. Because they live in our time, their reasons for looking into the past are the same as those of historians: to find insights about ourselves in the present. With such similar goals, it isn’t surprising that so many good books featuring history are written by journalists.

Quotation for today

“[W]henever learning feels easy and too fluent, we should carefully check if this is reflected in the performance later…”

The Benefits of Longhand Notetaking versus Slide Annotaton

Quotation for today

All teaching in big classes must necessarily make against originality


H.G. Wells, The Saturday Review, 14 December 1895

Paradigm shift? best practice? perhaps not

In searching for information about distance learning theory that might inform my research into 19th century distance education, I came upon this article (thanks to Jenny Mackness):

Lee, K. (2016). A paradigm shift rhetoric and theory-practice gap in online higher education : a case study of an open university. In S. Cranmer, N. B. Dohn, M. de Laat, T. Ryberg, & J. A. Sime (Eds.), Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Networked Learning 2016 : (p. 251-259).

The author is Kyungmee Lee, Lecturer in Technology Enhanced Learning at Lancaster University. Her paper focuses on the discrepancy between social constructivist learning theories and the actual instructional designs for online classes used at places like the Open University.

I have long suspected that the maniacal adoption of collaborative pedagogy was based on very little evidence of efficacy. Instead, in my experiences studying connectivism and constructionist theory, I was aware that such methods were lauded by techno-utopians, many of whom weren’t actually teaching first-year college students. Studies demonstrated student satisfaction with the methods, but not better grades.

Lee notes that despite the insistence on a “paradigm shift” from “old” methods to collaboration and constructivism, resistance implies that the paradigm never shifted at all. The shift has been purely theoretical, and not adopted in practice, where most online classes do not use these techniques. While many studies have chided instructors and designers, implicitly or explicitly, for resisting the new and superior methods, this one subversively questions whether the methods really are better.

Hercules and Bacchus presenting libations while Atë, goddess of mischief and deception, flies above (1778)

It’s an interesting approach, questioning the assumption of a change in the field. While the study does not get into the “new” pedagogies per se, it implies that they may not be better, or may be better under certain conditions, or that people who really want a paradigm shift think they can just declare one. This last is most interesting to me, because it begs the question cui bono?

Many of us assume that if there’s a new technique or tool, it might be better than what we’re doing, or at least be better than older options. We ask questions like: will this work for my students? is this an improvement on what I’m doing? We give it a try.

With a tool, it may occur to us that adopting it benefits the company providing it, especially if we pay for it. If we don’t pay, it’s become increasingly obvious that the “freemium” model either benefits the startup, or that our data becomes the product being traded, a la Facebook.

But perhaps with a method, we fail to ask these questions. To whose benefit is it that I adopt this method? The well-meaning researchers and their careers, certainly. But our students? If so, which students? Does it benefit me as an instructor? How?

I have attempted many different pedagogical models in my 28 years of teaching, both in the classroom and online. None have been inherently better than the others. Each method has advantages and disadvantages. Whatever is trendy, though, is considered a paradigm shift, or a “best practice”. Right now, for example, the Online Education Initiative, which is moving to control all online classes at California community colleges, insists that collaboration among students is required as part of its online course approval rubric. There is little research to support this requirement.

If we consider that a paradigm shift has occurred, we are much more comfortable requiring such methods, as if they were based on research instead of theory and some successful practice. By questioning whether the basic principles are sound, whether there is any support for “best practices”, we give ourselves much more choice. We also give ourselves the opportunity to examine past practices, not as outmoded or disproven (which in most cases they are not), but as possibilities for current and future practice.

Automat(i)on

Automaton at CIMA, photo by Rama, CC licensed.

From Business Week (2 April 2018) about Russian startup Robot Vera:

“The co-founders, with a background in human resources, two years ago found themselves making hundreds of calls to candidates who’s lost interest in the given job or couldn’t be located. ‘We felt like robots ourselves, so we figured it was better to automate the task,’ [cofounder] Uraksin says.”

Ever feel like a robot teaching online? I know I do. Hours of time spend adjusting grades, putting in zeros for incomplete assignments, activating rubrics. Clicking to sort student names, clicking down three levels to send a student a message. I can imagine myself as a Victorian metallic automaton, typing on my computer instead of writing with my quill, mousing around, click, click, click.

Then there’s grading. I’m really fast. I can read an assignment quickly and click the appropriate boxes on the rubric. I know exactly what to look for, because the whole thing is my design. Click, click. But I have good rubrics, that give meaningful feedback to students, so that takes time to do well. Click, click.

So from the Robot Vera perspective (and that of everyone discussing automation taking over jobs), I have to ask: what part of my job should be automated? So many of the things I thought would be done by the machine, after two decades teaching online, are not. Stupid tasks take much of my time. Even auto-grading has to be double-checked (I change about 20% of auto-graded items). I don’t call support for actual help doing or creating things with the system – I get the system. I call because something  horrid and unexpected happened, and 9 times out of 10, it’s because I left a box unchecked, or neglected to use a particular combination of settings. Because I wasn’t, in other words, a good enough automaton.

What would happen if I automated everything that makes me feel like a robot? Marking, grading, tracking, checking outcomes, planning courses according to state mandates to which I am opposed?

Would I have more time to do the actual teaching, the contact with students, the individual discussions, the leading of in-depth conversations? Wouldn’t that feel less robotic, like I’m a person who cannot be replaced by an automaton?

I have already noticed that handing off the grading of primary sources to my students, having them do a checklist to get the grade for their post each week, allows me time to instead respond to the sources, note connections, give feedback so they can fix their work and “earn” the points they gave themselves, encourage them to return and see the work of their colleagues. I get a better view of what’s happening, with human eyes.

I can also respond individually to their auto-graded Lecture Notes (2 points if you turn it in). Doing that this week for the first time, several students took the opportunity to engage in private discussion with me, and it was about the history, not the grades.

So instead of resisting automation, I will continue to grapple with how to make it work for us all. Because, as usual, the simplification of the problem does not reflect reality. The simple version is just a dichotomy: teacher-involved OR auto-graded. But (in current trendy parlance) it can be and. I suspect it can even be because of – because there is auto-grading, I can be more involved as a teacher.

The ideas I’m exploring (student independence, teaching as modeling and demonstrating, learning as practicing and reflecting, and transferring the burden of learning) fit well with some automating if it gives me the freedom to do what I do best: that old-fashioned human teaching. So hand me that can of oil…

Transferring the burden of learning

As you may know if you follow me, I am edging closer to a methodology based on the self-assessment for student work. There are a number of reasons for this. This post will focus on just one: I am concerned about the increasing dependency on the instructor, especially in online classes. As students have adjusted to learning in online environments, as they become more comfortable with the technology, I’ve seen the reverse of what I anticipated. While I expected increased familiarity with learning technologies to increase self-direction, it has instead increased communication with the instructor in a manner designed to, shall we say, selectively individualize a student’s experience.

While I am sympathetic to the ongoing need to experience contact with the instructor on an individual level, I am less enthusiastic about answering multiple messages and emails asking for a repetition of feedback I’ve already given through multiple means, both individual and class-wide. There seems to be difficulty applying public or general feedback to ones own work, even when that feedback (like a rubric) is attached to an individual assignment. It is easier to just contact the instructor and ask, “why did I get this grade?”.

For those of us who provide extensive examples, clear directions, detailed rubrics, and continual feedback to the entire class, this insistence on individual comments which (most of the time) simply repeat what’s been already provided, takes up valuable time that is better spent interacting about the subject matter and the discipline.

In my syllabus, I have a list of expectations, which include:

Students should respond to guidance from the instructor, learn from full-group (rather than individual) feedback, and get help from the Help page and college resources as needed.

The ability to apply generalized feedback to ones own work is an important life skill, and yet I often succumb to the quick email or message response. This is because it is easier (and seems nicer) for me to just say, “oh, you just need to cite correctly as noted in the instructions” or “be sure to use only primary sources” than to encourage their independence in a helpful way. I never want to be the type of prof who barks, “read the syllabus!” Providing the information and pointing to it is one way to encourage some independence, I suppose, but it’s still telling, directing, prescribing. I want a slightly different tone.

So today I got a message:

Hello Professor, I do not understand what I am doing wrong on the essay prompts. Can you help me?

Normally I’d go look again at the student’s assignment and my rubric, and answer specifically. But this time, I wrote back:

Sure! First, take a look at the rubric, to see the areas that need improvement.

Then, take a look at the list in my Announcement – do any of those items apply? If so, how might you fix it?

Then, take a look at the work of your colleagues (especially those I put a “Like” on) – notice any differences from your own work.

Then, go to the Help page and look at the samples.

Let me know what you think as you compare your Writing Assignment, and what ideas you might have for what to do for the Final Essay. Happy to provide feedback!

Certainly there is a chance this will be interpreted as “she refused to tell me”, but I hope not. Instead, I hope that I’m teaching how to do what I’ve told them I expect them to do, and in a friendly way.

The burden of learning, you see, shouldn’t be on me – it should be on them. These days I am taking ever more to heart Stephen Downes’ idea that the professor’s job is to model and demonstrate, and the student’s is to practice and reflect. How can they practice if I do it for them? How can they be encouraged to reflect on their own work?

When students write or rewrite something, and send me, say, their new thesis, I am always happy to provide specific feedback, and they really appreciate that. But I’d like to have a better response to the more general “I just don’t get it” message, so we’ll see what happens.

Research/writing workflow

Yet another post recording a workflow so that I don’t forget what I decided to do!

This time I’ve had serious help from my brilliant friend and colleague Jenny Mackness, who generously shared with me the tools she uses (and how she uses them) in writing research articles, including PBworks, Word, Mendeley, and Evernote.

It was only as I investigated and tried these, thinking about her workflow and constantly reminding myself what task(s) I was trying to accomplish, that I realized something about doing research in the information age (or whatever the hell we’ll call this).

What we used to need to write research papers was:

1. bibliography cards for recording references (3 x 5)
2. note cards for recording one idea/note/quotation each (4 x 6)
3. notepads for outlining and brainstorming
4. more notepads for composition
5. typewriter/electronic typewriter/word processor/word-processing program on computer for formatting and final copy

Turns out the process hasn’t changed, just the technology. I think I’m going with:

1. Paperpile for bibliography
I’ve actually paid for this, and I rarely pay for anything. It’s a database where you either enter the bibliographic information or it figures it out from an uploaded PDF (which it actually uploads to Google Drive, not itself). You can annotate the PDF files and add notes to them, but I’ve found this only works well for recent articles. I’m using a lot of stuff from the 1880s, and those PDFs don’t do so well because the program does not OCR. The annotations and notes export, but not in a usable way. So I have quite a few articles where I likely won’t use the notes, but the highlighting is helpful. The best thing is that it integrates for footnoes in Google Docs. The other best thing is that it outputs bibliographies with multiple citation formats.

2. Google Keep for notecards
I’ve gone round and round on this, looking for something that tiles notecards on the screen, and makes them searchable. I tried Evernote again, and still don’t get how to see all the info at once. The main issue is integration between the notes and whatever program I use for composition. I looked at several other programs also, desperate to not go with Google. I know it’s likely Google Keep will disappear, since it’s “below the fold” on the Google menu, so this decision was influenced by #4, below.

3. PBworks for outlining
Jenny taught me that the old Peanut Butter Wiki is still around and handy. Here I can put research notes (not content, but process), library holdings lists, plans for articles, basic outlines, links to all the Google Docs (including the pdfs being used by Paperpile) and other stuff online that I might need.

4. Google Docs for composition
It’s the equivalent of those legal pads (I actually used letter-sized lined glued pads, and still do). Because of its integration with Paperpile, and the ease of writing from any of my four (!) computers, it’s the logical choice.

5. Word for formatting
It seems so bizarre that computing hasn’t saved a single step in the old research process, but it hasn’t. Word is crap at all the other processes here except composition, but I’d have to go all Microsoft to get another suite together, and, frankly, they wanted my cell phone number to give me that with OneNote and OneDrive (no). Several journals and conferences want submissions in .docx, and I’ve been using Word since before version 5.1a for Mac (the best version ever). Now if I could just get those citations from Paperpile to come through Google Docs in black instead of gray….

The biggest challenge will be backup (for the work, not for me, although that would be nice). PBworks is best at this – you can back up (export) the whole wiki in html with two clicks. Google, of course, does not want you backing up to your hard drive – it wants you cloud-dependent. So remembering to back up composition Docs as I go is a thing, but I managed it on my recent presentation so I think I can do it. Google Keep backup is awkward at best – you basically have to put them in a Doc and export to get anything usable. But at least a Doc can be exported as plain text.

So, now to work…