NoodleTools & Connected Educator Month 2016

Working in a large school district has many advantages and disadvantages. One frustrating disadvantage is the slow response to educational technology requests. Let me begin by saying I am very proud of my current district’s educational technology team. Together they have come a long way to address teacher concerns since I began with my current district in 2005. But, educational technology requests are problematic. A teacher’s individual concern might be high priority to him or her, but the individual concern might be low priority for the entire district. This mismatch of perceived concern then creates a different perception on the speed of resolution; the teacher wants a quick response while the district will prioritize it differently. I urge teachers to try a third option this month, Twitter.

This school year my district began using NoodleTools research and citation software (which I love), but I was unable to sign into the iOS app. When I inquired about signing into the NoodleTools app, I received no response. Today, three weeks after the initial request, I received a half-response, a work around really. The district answer directed me to use the mobile website version of NoodleTools, not the iOS app. Again, I’m not blaming my district or personnel for not addressing my individual issue. In our district, I bet less than 1% of the teachers have the same concern about NoodleTools as I. I am suggesting other teachers in my position follow my next course of action.

Frustrated, I took my request to Twitter. October begins Connected Educator Month, and I cannot believe I forgot the power of asking my ed tech questions on Twitter. I received a response in 14 minutes!

Amazing, right? Kudos to NoodleTools for their lightning fast response, but their quick response makes sense. The incentive for NoodleTools to respond to my specific, individual request was much greater than the incentive for my district to respond to my request. NoodleTools can leverage my request to highlight their product and improve all customer performance. My district works tirelessly to resolve requests, and finding an answer to my individual request does not have the same immediacy or benefit to other teachers.

Lesson confirmed; when you cannot receive a quick ed tech response from your district personnel, ask your question via Twitter. You will likely be amazed how quickly you get a response.

Specifically, how do you log in to NoodleTools iOS app with a GAFE sign-in?

  1. Log in to NoodleTools on your web browser.
  2. Click the “My Account” button in the top right corner and select the “My Profile” option from your drop down menu.
  3. Once the “My Profile” page loads, on the right half of the screen you should see a “Companion Key” alpha-code. Mine is six characters. This key serves as your password for your iOS app.
  4. Open your iOS app and use your common username for NoodleTools, but use this companion key as your password.
  5. When you first load the iOS NoodleTools app, you will be prompted to set up a device password. So, you won’t need your companion key again, but you will need this device-specific password.

Thanks to the NoodleTools Twitter team who so quickly helped me with my request.

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.