Guardian

January: Month of the ‘Best of…’ Posts [EduLinks]

Now that TheUniversityBlog is back, how about a load of links? Lots of ‘best of’ features for you to grab loads of goodies from last year’s haul of great online content.

First up, the Guardian has predictions for the 2014 graduate jobs market. What does your future hold?

Leo at Zen Habits presents great content on reaching your best potential and leaving pointless actions behind. Here are his favourite posts from 2013.

Becoming Minimalist shares a highlights post. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a minimalist to get value from the posts. You may start becoming one soon though!

Tyler Tervooren at Riskology.co starts his version of the 2013 ‘Best of’ post with a bang. “11 Lame-Ass Excuses You Make Every Day That Are Ruining Your Life”. Can you handle it?

Jane Hart links to the 50 best articles she read in 2013. Education-wise, there’s something for everyone.

With a postgrad vibe, Patter has her top 10 posts from 2013.

Tony Bates looks beyond 2014 and thinks about online learning in 2020.

Paul Greatrix (aka @registrarism on Twitter) brings together his collection of 2013 (and 2012) posts on The Imperfect University. Well worth a read if university admin and policy is your thing.

As for beefy study tips, I’ve got a heavy, but valuable read. A journal article that breaks down the very best ways to learn and study. Sadly, the usual techniques are generally the least effective. It’s heavy, but important stuff. Set aside a bit of time for reading so you can work more efficiently in the future.

That’ll keep you going for a while. What did you read in 2013 that inspired you to do awesome things? Share the wealth!

Winner (photo by kreg.steppe) (CC BY-SA 2.0)

(photo by kreg.steppe) (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Use Wikipedia by going beyond Wikipedia

Adam Coomer asks on The Guardian, “Should university students use Wikipedia?

No, if you want to cite directly from it or get all your sources from the article’s references and nowhere else.

Yes, if you want a starting point or if you want to familiarise yourself with general concepts.

Of course, there is a proviso: always expect mistakes, controversy, and vandalism. Just in case.

The subject matter may look like a boring source to add jokes, false information, and opinion, but it happens all over the place. Take everything with a pinch of salt.

By the time you’re at the stage of writing essays and completing coursework, Wikipedia shouldn’t be top of your list. But it’s a great place to start when you’re researching and gathering notes.

libri8 (photo by rezdora70)

Here are three major reasons Wikipedia will work for you:

  1. Off to a Great Start – A wiki entry isn’t good enough for gathering references, because it only skirts the surface. Even an in-depth article won’t cover everything to the extent you’re expected to dive into. You are expected to look at academic articles and books from many sources. But Wikipedia is great to use at the beginning. Get stuck in when you start out, not when you finish up.
  2. Convenience – A quick look online is easier than taking out the textbooks. You may even want a simple outline of a topic. Enter Simple Wikipedia. Brief explanations when even the original Wikipedia article is too much hassle. A great way to remind you of the core information.
  3. Jumping Off Point – Don’t think of the Wiki footnotes as a set of articles to add to your own references. Go further and read the references within those referenced articles. Also, find key words that the Wikipedia piece makes a big deal of and look them up in recent scholarly articles. That way, you get the important older papers, plus a look at more up to date stuff. And all off the back of a Wikipedia page.

Talking of jumping off points, there are others close to home. Use your textbooks in the same way. Yes, Wikipedia is convenient, but you probably have your textbooks close to hand much of the time. You don’t have to do much to get the treasure. Grab the books, find the topic you’re researching, and look at the references given in the book (usually at the end of the chapter, or at the back of the book). Voila! More books and academic papers for you to dig out to study and reference. And not the same ones that everyone else looking at Wikipedia will dish out either. Win!

The point of all this is that Wikipedia has a place. As the Guardian piece states, “the default response of academics to simply advise against using the site is unlikely to have much effect”. After all, why not use the site?

I say go ahead and use it. But use it wisely. The key is to use Wikipedia to your advantage and not merely for shortcuts. Make the site part of your wider scholarly plan and there shouldn’t be a problem. It’s when you rely on it as your major go-to that you’ll end up with issues.

Wikipedia is your friend, even at uni, so long as you treat it right. How much do you use it?

Will Science and Art Get Together (Again)?

Back in early 2008, I wrote a short piece about science and art. I said they should just get along.

photo by MuseumWales
photo by MuseumWales

The post still gets a lot of traffic from people searching ‘science vs art’ in search engines. The debate is clearly on a lot of people’s minds.

I was being light-hearted, but I still meant it. Science and art are not opposites or adversaries. Nevertheless, the two are separated as if there is a need to stay apart much of the time.

So it was interesting to see Bj√∂rk’s take on the matter when answering questions on the Guardian website. When asked if science and art will ever be combined successfully, her response was:

“seems like science and art were pretty much the same thing for thousands of years until the industrial revolution and the enlightenment separated them . i feel the 21st century is going to be the one where not only they can unite again but they have to …”

What might the future hold? Have needs changed? Will science and art get along better in coming years due to necessity?