Getting the most out of Google Scholar

The Palomar College ATRC webinar topic this week was “Using Google Scholar”. The Google Scholar site is so easy to use that most visitors will not have any difficulty right from the start. There are, however, a few tips that will make it a little bit easier for you to find exactly what you are looking for.

Tip #1: Set your Scholar Preferences

At the top right corner of the page, look for the gear icon.

Clicking the gear icon will allows access to the Google Scholar Preferences.

Clicking the gear icon will give you the option to open the Scholar Preferences page. From there, you can set a number of options including your Library Links. Library Links allow you to specify which libraries you are a member of so that you can access their subscription based materials.

For those of you at Palomar College, simply type the name Palomar in the box and click the Find Library button. You will then see three different Palomar College Library access links. Check all three boxes and then click the Save Preferences button at either the top or bottom of the page.

Enter the name of the library that you are a member of and then check the boxes for the appropriate databases.

Setting up your Library Links is important because Google Scholar will include links to the full text of articles when they are available at the chosen library. (Library log in may be required for off-campus access.)

Once your Library Links are configured, the results include links to the full text of many articles.

Tip #2: Use Quotation Marks When Searching for Phrases or Names

When searching for an article by title or author, enclose your search terms in quotation marks. Using quotation marks will make Google Scholar return results for items that include all of the words (or names) that you searched for. For example, if you search for articles written by Craig Venter, search for “Craig Venter”. If you do not include the quotation marks, Scholar will includes results for articles written by anyone with the name Craig or Venter.

Quotation marks should be used for searches when you want to find an exact phrase in the text of articles as well. For example, searching for “quantum dot solar cells” will return results that contain that specific phrase but not articles that only refer to quantum dots or only solar cells.

In this example, searching without quotes returned more than 15,000 results.
The same search terms with quotes returns fewer but more relevant results.

Tip #3: Use the Advanced Scholar Search to Narrow Down Results

The Advanced Scholar Search page gives a lot of control over what is searched for and what results will be returned. Click on the Advanced Scholar Search link next to the Search button to access it. From there you can limit searches to just the titles of articles, only the author names, a specific subject, and many other options.

The Advanced Search page allows you to narrow down the search results.

Tech Toolbox: ZoomIt

Occasionally when the techs here are speaking with faculty, particularly in the free-form discussions that come up at our Wednesday morning “Blackboard with Cream & Sugar” sessions, the techs will mention tools we use that faculty are unaware of. Sometimes those tools can be adapted to use in the classroom, so I plan to begin highlighting some such tools on the blog under the “Tech Toolbox” name.

For the first installment of Tech Toolbox, I’d like to focus on a simple Windows-based tool that can aid when doing presentations in the classroom: ZoomIt, from Microsoft.

From the download site:

“ZoomIt is screen zoom and annotation tool for technical presentations that include application demonstrations. ZoomIt runs unobtrusively in the tray and activates with customizable hotkeys to zoom in on an area of the screen, move around while zoomed, and draw on the zoomed image.”

What does this mean? That the ZoomIt program will allow you to show an enlarged picture of whatever is on your computer screen, and allow you to draw on the screen to illustrate points.

ZoomIt is easy to install (on Windows workstations running XP or higher, or Windows servers running 2003 or higher), and easy to use after just a couple minutes of horsing around. Since the program is free, I’d strongly suggest downloading and installing ZoomIt, should you ever have occasion to present to a class or meeting from a Windows system.

What to tell students about Blackboard

As covered in today’s webinar (available from the archive page), faculty often ask us what they should tell students about the Blackboard system. Of course the advice I give can vary greatly depending on circumstance; an fully online class should be told more than a traditional on-campus class only using Blackboard to augment classroom activities. However, here is my short list of the most important things faculty should tell students about Blackboard:

  1. How to log in to Blackboard.
    Sure it’s the same login info as students use on eServices, sure we have that information on the “Student Information” panel of the Blackboard login page, but it helps to repeat “nine-digit Palomar student ID number as username, same password as you have set in eServices.”
  2. How to navigate YOUR course.
    Students don’t really want to hear about all the parts of Blackboard, but they really do want to hear which parts of your course structure they should pay the most attention to. Tell it, in your own words. (Heck, record it in your own voice right in the Blackboard course, using a Wimba Voice Authoring component!)
  3. Describe your time expectations.
    If you expect to respond to emails “within three days,” but a student expects you to repsond “within six hours,” you will have an anxious student on your hands. Set some time frames for how long students should expect to hear back on emails, grades, etc.
  4. Mention file types and technologies you are using.
    If you’ve uploaded all your documents as PDFs, let your students know that; that way they can be sure and have the Adobe Reader loaded on their computers. Likewise, if you’re using videos from the Palomar streaming video catalog, let your students know that they should be sure to have Silverlight installed.
  5. If your students will be taking tests on Blackboard, make sure they do it properly.
    I’m constantly amazed at the number of students who expect to fit a one hour test into fifteen minutes, or who think they can take their final exam online while watching their four-year-old. I’m amazed enough that I made a video describing what I consider to be the pitfalls to avoid in a test environment.
  6. Tell your students how to get technical help from us.
    We have badges and buttons a-plenty, but if all else fails students can just be referred to to submit a ticket to our helpdesk system.
  7. The browser you use matters.
    If something isn’t working right in Blackboard, step one should be “try it in a different web browser.” I don’t know if it’s disturbing or amazing, but I find that often the technical problems that crop up in Blackboard are browser specific. Oh, and if you want a browser recommendation… Firefox or Chrome.

That hits the high points, at any rate. Touch on these issues with your students, and they’re more likely to have a good experience interacting with your Blackboard course.

Blackboard: Squirrel Resistant!

Electric SquirrelYesterday a squirrel (RIP) somehow burrowed into one of the campus transformers and after what must have been a lively, one might even say ‘electrifying’ moment, plunged two-thirds of the campus into darkness.  At least, this is the “unofficial” report we were able to get via the rumor mill which attributed it to campus police.  (The squirrel’s side of the story was unavailable).

The incident occurred at 4:28AM.  We know, because the clock tower stopped at that time, along with a couple of other electric clocks on campus.  When I got here at 6AM the office seemed dimmer than usual, and indeed, upon investigation proved to be nearly completely black.

The power remained off for around 11 hours, while the transformer was rewired.  It was an unfortunate time for this to happen because it is finals week for the six-week summer classes.

The good news is that it did NOT have an effect on Blackboard.  We were tempted to make a blog post stating that “Blackboard is Squirrel Proof,” but, as Dave points out, there is nothing truly squirrel proof.  The most one can say is that it is squirrel resistant, so that is our claim.  (Furthermore, how sure are we that squirrels cannot get into the server room?)

The moral of the story is THINGS HAPPEN.  This time online classes or online components of real-time classes were unaffected, while physical facilities were unavailable.  Usually it is the other way around, and online is down for all (rarely), or at least some (usually one or two, due to home computer problems) people.  In any event, we all need to take into account that even in the non-virtual world things do not always go perfectly and scheduling needs to be flexible enough to handle it.

The iPad in Education: The Professor’s Perspective

In my last post I discussed some of the ways Apple’s iPad is being used in education – from the student’s perspective. Here, I would like to consider the same issue from the instructor’s perspective: How helpful really, is an iPad, for a classroom instructor?

In one of the better studies of the usefulness of the iPad for classroom teaching – The Reed College iPad Study – the college faculty participants found the iPad to be very useful: “In addition to its usefulness in preparing for class and responding to students’ written work, the iPad proved to be extraordinarily well suited to use in classes that involved a great deal of movement by students and instructors, such as in science labs and dance studies.”

Many instructors cited the value of having class materials such as the textbook, journal articles, and other media on the iPad; others mentioned the convenience of the iPad’s relatively long battery life and small size which made it easy to carry with them, either while traveling or to use in class. According to the Reed College report, “In fact, the faculty members who used ipads in active classroom environments found them to be superior to laptop computers.” This assertion would require some supporting evidence to be convincing to me; none was provided in the report.

Western Illinois University initiated a Faculty Innovation Program to equip ” . . . our faculty to meet increasing student needs and expectations for technology integration within the classroom . . .”  During 2010 the innovation program made iPads available to faculty. Dawn Sweet, the program coordinator stated: “There is a mobile evolution taking place in society today, and we felt it was time to move toward a more mobile and personalized device in order to prepare our faculty for mobility within the classroom.” Some of the examples of how instructors in this program are using the iPad include the following:

  • Professor Simon Brassell is using the iPads in the Geology classroom. Rocks are arranged to mimic a natural pattern of outcrops so that students can migrate through the space, and access/record information about each sample on the iPad. The iPad apps used in this class include Compass, Clinometer, and AirSketch.
  • Associate Professor Patty Scott has introduced Concept Mapping via the iPad to her students in a research course. Working with a graduate student from HITS (working on the project with Scott as part of a Master’s thesis), early indications are that use of the iPad will result in strong concept maps.
  • Associate Professor Susan Robinson is downloading radiologic images and videotaping images with the Flip camera, then placing them on the iPad for additional analysis.
  • Clinical Assistant Professor Debra Wood is making videos of tissue preparation so the students can watch said videos on the iPad. Wood’s interest in this approach is whether it will help students with effective preparation of pathology slides, as they can watch the videos while they’re working.
  • Associate Professor and MD Alex Djuricich is working on two projects. In the first project, he wants to use the iPad to improve the hand-off of patient information from one resident to an on-call resident. Djuricich’s other project is looking to develop patient education video materials (along with existing material) to help improve patient understanding of various procedures and treatments, e.g., how to properly use an inhaler for the treatment of asthma.
  • Assistant Professor Amanda Cecil is teaching a Global Tourism Seminar where students are exploring and evaluating the use of many travel and destination applications geared to tourists. For her Mechanics of Meeting Planning course, students are using iPads to view virtual venue tours, select meeting sites, design rooms, plan menus, and create staffing grids for meetings and events.
  • Assistant Professor E.J. Choe is using the iPads in her musicianship courses. Students participate in novel activities to train them to measure intervals and hear the difference between two notes sounding together or in part.
  • Lecturer Jennifer Nelson uses iPads in her Introduction to Oceanography classes. Working in small groups, students use the iPads to examine tidal data for selected US coastlines and, later, to explore the coastlines’ depositional and erosional features.
  • Lecturer Jonathan Rossing has his Communication Studies students explore mapping of connections between communication theories and real life scenarios with the iPad apps Popplet and iBrainstorm. Students also explore news apps and websites, and record finding and reactions using note apps.
  • Senior Lecturer Suzan Stamper has iPads to enhance the study skills of international undergraduate and graduate students and to promote active learning for improving their English grammar, reading, listening, speaking, writing, and vocabulary.

Along with the creative uses of the iPad in higher education, a number of frequently cited iPad limitations should be mentioned.

  • The iPad’s lack of a cohesive file management system along with the difficulty of transferring files to and from a computer is seen by most faculty as a major impediment. The most frequently used tool to assist with file management was Dropbox, a free web hosting service that will let you store your files online and share them with your other computing devices.
  • An iPad liability often cited was the virtual keyboard – useful for composing notes but inadequate for inputting anything more than a few paragraphs. This limitation can be overcome in large part by buying an external keyboard and a word processing program for the iPad such as Pages or Office HD (edit and create Word and Excel documents).
  • Another issue for many instructors is the iPad’s lack of Flash or Java support which results in some restriction of viewing certain images and videos. While it’s true that the iPad’s native Safari browser does not support Flash-based videos, other iPad browsers such as Skyfire do.
  • Almost all the faculty who participated in the various iPad studies used one or more PDF reading and annotation tool; most used were GoodReader, Readdle Docs, and iAnnotate.
  • With the iPad2’s support for data projector’s, many faculty reported using the iPad for classroom presentations – with mixed reviews. Some faculty liked Apple’s Keynote app while other opted for a more robust app such as Quickoffice Pro.

So it seems that many instructors are experimenting with ways to integrate the iPad into their pedagogical activities. Many of the scenarios though seem to imply that many or all of the students in the class also have iPads. Until this is the rule rather than the exception in college classrooms, the utility of the iPad in the classroom will be somewhat limited. The sense I got from reading through the reports from those who are using the iPad in higher education is that, while most faculty report they like using the iPad, they still working through the issues of integrating this tool into classroom activities.


Indiana University: Project: Faculty Learning Communities: Exploring innovative teaching and learning with the Apple iPad

iPad Power: How To Transfer Files

Oklahoma Pilot iPad Study

Wired magazine’s article about iPad pilot studies for higher ed



Educational Uses for the iPad? The Student Perspective.

iPads in class

Apple’s iPad, and now iPad 2, have been enormous commercial successes by all reports but can iPads be used effectively in education? While this is still an open question, some initial reports seem to suggest the answer is: Yes. This blog post will address mainly the students’ reactions to using iPads instead of textbooks. The next blog post will report on the professors’ reactions.

A number of colleges and universities are experimenting with using iPads to promote teaching and learning objectives. Seton Hall University, for example, gave iPads to all full-time students to see if the device could be used productively in a university environment. While they weren’t exactly sure how the iPads could be used best, “students and professors seem confident that the device has some future in academe” (Kaya, 2010). Other institutions such as Williston State College, a two-year college in North Dakota,  are buying iPads for their faculty (Li, 2010). Other examples: a Project Management class at Notre Dame University is being taught with iPads instead of textbooks; Standford University gave iPads to all its first year medical students last fall; Duke University and Northwest Kansas Technical College provide iPads to their students.

Few of the reports that mentioned distributing iPads to students or faculty, however, cited any systematic study results.  One exception is Reed College. In a study conducted at Reed College, students in an upper division Political Science class were provided iPads (first-generation) with the course readings loaded in PDF format. The authors of the study stated that the goal of the study was to assess the value of using tablet technology (i.e., iPads) in a university environment. More specifically, the study objectives were stated as follows: “Potential features of e-book technology we plan to explore include: (a) the ability for students to have immediate, searchable access to all their course materials in one, lightweight device; (b) a reduction in the total cost of course materials; (c) a reduction in the use of paper; (d) ability of students to navigate course materials quickly and easily; (e) ability of students to highlight and annotate texts; (f) impact of iPad-based course materials on comprehension and classroom discussion; and (g) integration of e-book technology with other curricular tools such as Moodle (Reed’s open source learning management system).” (Reed College Study)

The data collected from the Reed College study consisted, apparently, of self-reports from the students. The students were given iPads to use with the stipulation that (a) anyone could drop out of the study at any time and return the iPad (and receive the course materials in traditional textbook format instead), and (b) all who remained in the study could purchase the iPad at the conclusion of the study at a very reduced cost. Notably, only one student declined to participate and everyone in the study chose to purchase the iPad at the end of the semester.

What feedback did the Reed College students provide? Here I will highlight a few of the students’ comments and refer the reader to the Reed College Study report for the full explanation of outcomes.

  • Students liked the idea of having all their course reading materials, including electronic reserve articles, on one reading device and, surprising to me, they did not feel the need to print nearly as much as they did in other classes because they found the iPad’s annotation tools quite adequate.
  • Students appreciated the ability to switch among reading materials to focus on certain relevant passages during lectures and in-class discussions.
  • The iPad was praised for its legibility and accessibility features.
  • Most students seemed to believe that the iPad was a valuable tool and they would prefer it to textbooks, provided the reading materials were optimized for the iPad and the cost was reasonable.
  • While the student reviews were very favorable overall, there were a number of deficiencies noted such as the iPad’s lack of a centralized file system; the virtual keyboard was another shortcoming, as most people find it inadequate for anything more lengthy than a short note.

Some publishers are beginning to make textbooks available in an eBook format but it seems likely that these efforts won’t accelerate until eBooks generate a similar profit as traditional textbooks do now. There are unique possibilities available with e-content such as interactive activities, embedded video, expert commentary and so on. A hint of how these possibilities could be realized can be seen in the favorable reviews of two recently published apps: T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land and Kerouac’s On The Road.

Next Post – The iPad in education: The Professor’s Perspective


Kaya, Travis. (2010). Classroom iPad Programs Get a Mixed Response. Chronicle of Higher Education, Vol. 57 Issue 6, pp. 1-3.

Li, Sophia. (2010). Williston State College Gives iPads to Professors. Chronicle of Higher Education, Vol. 57 Issue 2, pp. 1-4.