The Technology Experimentation Group was set up to encourage Brookes staff to discover and experiment with new digital tools and techniques – providing a safe space for playful exploration of technologies. The group runs regular ‘lunchbytes’ at Headington and ‘brunchbytes’ at our other campuses with a different theme each week. To find out more and see the latest schedule, check out https://www.brookes.ac.uk/teg.
Back in December, we (Isabel Virgo and Melanie Bashor) ran a session to showcase some tools that aim to make your work life easier, more collaborative, and more interesting. Together these tools will help get you organised from the planning phases through to the completion of all of your projects, big and small.
The tools we covered were:
- Pocket (saving online content for later)
- Coggle (collaborative mindmapping)
- Trello (collaborative project management)
Our presentation slides make use of a technology introduced in the previous week’s TEG session. Microsoft Sway allows the creation of slides with multimedia which are well-suited to sharing after an event (web page style) as well as presenting live.
The first tool to be introduced, Pocket, is an app that allows you to collect content from around the web and save it to read later. The standout feature here is that you can tag saved pages using your own tags to create an easily searchable library of content. There is an app for mobile devices and browser extensions to allow content to be quickly added and accessed from any platform – even an e-reader. The content follows you around so you can catch up on your reading whenever you have a spare minute. Pocket transforms the format of saved content to make it more accessible, stripping out unnecessary extras on the web page and putting it into a readable format for e-reader devices and text-to-speech readers. One member of the audience pointed out a feature in the top right that also allows you to change the background colour and font style, again improving accessibility.
Coggle, meanwhile, is used for mindmapping. The attractive, streamlined look of the maps was noted as a positive, but the real advantage of this tool over others is that it enables collaboration. For example, a project team can all work together on a mind map, and changes are reflected in ‘real time’. There is also the capacity to embed videos, images and web links alongside text. It was noted that although the free plan only allows you to create 3 ‘private’ diagrams, you can create an unlimited number of public ones. Here is Coggle’s own gallery of some of the best examples of diagrams created with this tool.
Finally, there is Trello, a powerful free collaborative management tool that is easy to access (no need to sign-up, sign in with Google). The Trello experience is a unique one with ‘lists’ that include ‘cards’ you can use to organise project items, team members, and tasks. You can use multiple ‘lists’ to indicate the progress of your activities for example, to-do/in progress/approval stage/finalised. You can use ‘cards’ in the ‘lists’ to assign different project items to team members, add task lists and checklists for the item or team member, and more. For a free account you can also use one ‘upgrade’ from their list. With an upgrade, you can add automate custom checklists for every new card, access your Google Drive, or sync the board with your calendar. The audience commented that the tool was completely personalisable, and that there were almost too many possibilities.
Upcoming TEG sessions will cover Notion, a new “all-in-one workspace”, and 3D printing! Keep an eye on our webpage to discover more.
— Isabel Virgo (Academic Liaison Librarian) and Melanie Bashor (Technology Enhanced Learning Advisor)