EasyBib vs. NoodleTools

For the last five years, students at my high school have organized and prepared their rigorous research in the online tool EasyBib. However, our school is now evaluating a switch to a new online service, NoodleTools. Below I hope to provide a first-glance comparison of both these services. I would love to know experience from NoodleTools users (teachers and students) as our school evaluates this program as a possible EasyBib replacement.

EasyBibNoodle

NoodleTools is a complete research companion. Its premium features allow citations in three major citation formats (MLA, APA, and Chicago). It generates footnote or in-text citations too. These citations are all saved by project type, but that is only where the fun begins. Each project can have a research question and thesis stated clearly at the top of the Project Dashboard. Also on the dashboard are features to share the project with student collaborators and a teacher drop box. While these features are not as user-friendly as one might expect in 2016, they are not difficult to learn either. Another feature on the dashboard I love is the “To Do” list. Students can add upcoming items they (or their team) needs to complete. Additionally, a comments section allows team members and teachers to add comments about the research in progress.

NoodleTools also offers a research note-taking and outline page which allows students an easy way to take digital notes, connected to a specific source, and then organize the notes into sections for an outline. Teaching research skills in the digital age, this is a key feature digital learners need to organize research in the cloud. I like Zotero for similar features, but unfortunately it is less glamorous than even NoodleTools.

EasyBib has been my go-to citation tool for five years. I’ve both written papers with it and helped students learn the system. Its main feature is a collaborative bibliography organizer. Students can share bibliographies with multiple users. Most importantly (and missing from NoodleTools), students can easily cite from many database and news sources without manually typing in the fields required for the source. For instance, when researching from JSTOR, EBSCOHost, ProQuest, or Gale databases, students can simply click a “send to EasyBib” button and the citation is generated automatically, with a high degree of accuracy. NoodleTools lacks this function. In fact, you cannot even import .ris files into NoodleTools, again shocking considering the other digital progress NoodleTools offers for online research.

A final assessment. In short, EasyBib is easier to use, but only as a bibliographic generator. NoodleTools offers all the same services and much more, albeit more difficult to use. Ignoring pricing differences, which you would need to investigate for your individual or organizational purposes, NoodleTools offers a far-reaching range of tools compared to EasyBib.

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Ideas for Managing Teacher Workflow

Our lives are… BUSY! Whether you are a teacher, student, office worker, lab technician, artist, or general savant, we live in a digital world; if you are like me, your digital world is messy. Me? I have multiple cloud accounts spread across multiple services. I am active on social media. I have several email accounts. And, I would rather still take notes on paper. Some days, life feels very messy! In a recent Twitter chat (#edtechchat– Monday evenings at 8-9PM Eastern), we discussed how to manage this workflow. I began investigating some options in the past week, and I am proud to report on some success.

1. Managing e-mail. At last check, I have four very active email accounts, and a fifth as a throw-away when I sign up for free stuff. One person cannot manage all the data! One account is a work email from my school. Two others are Gmail accounts set up for Google Drive access. Both of those are active, but I never check them. Technically, those are both school-based accounts that I use primarily with students. I have a third Gmail account for personal use. My last account, as I said, is an older Hotmail account with no contacts or personal data, because a few years ago it was hacked. I still keep it around to collect my unsolicited email. To manage these accounts, I prefer to use the built-in email forwarding features common in most accounts. I mirror both of my work-related Gmail accounts to my work-provided email. If a student emails any of these addresses, all the mail funnels to one account. I have this work account and my personal Gmail account all funnel into my iPad, and I routinely sift through and manage my email on this device. My older Hotmail account is attached to nothing, but it allows me a level of security against unwanted email.

2. Cloud-based storage. I love Google Drive. I use the account to create and share digital files with my students. I have two accounts so I can separate my course content into separate parcels. It also affords a bit more storage! I recently used my old Hotmail account to access Microsoft’s SkyDrive. I have been tinkering with some SkyDrive-based syncing options on my iPad to improve my workflow. But, sometimes I forget where everything goes. For that, I have recently been introduced to the iOS app Cloud Browser. With this app, you can sync your cloud-based files to your iOS device and share to different users. The Google Drive iOS app is frustrating because those of us with multiple accounts cannot access multiple drives at once. Cloud Browser makes this possible.

3. Note-taking. Teachers take notes. I find many of my notes are still on paper. I write more quickly than I type on a device, and I believe electronic devices alter the conversations you have with others. I always carry a Field Notes brand notebook in my pocket. Aside from the plethora of useful features, I like that Field Notes brand products are still made in the United States. But, workflow from a paper notebook is difficult if you don’t carry it with you. Or, so you thought. I was recently introduced to Evernote’s fantastic ability to search for text within an image. Rather than keep my notes in a stand-alone notebook, I now take a picture of my notes and load them to Evernote. I’ve just started this process, but it has already been a lifesaver. In addition, Evernote allows me to schedule notes to address later; if I need to remind myself to attend to an item at home, I can do that very easily.

4. If this, then that. I’m not completely sold on If This, Then That, a website which allows you to create simple “recipes” to bring together your data. I use two “pre-made” recipes now: one sends me an email of the top ten news items I should know about each day, the second records all of my favorited Tweets to my Evernote notebook. Neither of these features are game-changers for me, but IFTTT is worth investigating when bring together your workflow chaos!

Honorable Mention- iCloud. I have not used iCloud much for more than syncing my personal “home” life; mostly pictures and music. However, Apple’s iCloud allows online creation and sharing of documents among peers like Google Drive does. Apple’s recent improvements have made iCloud better, but for efficiency, Apple cannot beat Google. What I do love about Apple’s iCloud is the appearance. The Keynote presentations and the Pages document templates are design-oriented while the Google Drive suite are more efficiency and collaboration-driven. So, I have begun working more in iCloud, but it is still not the greatest program for a connected lifestyle.

As I said when I began, I have data everywhere, in both digital and print format. Hopefully some of these tips give you more ideas to try in your classroom. Good luck!