Are You a Google Power Searcher?

Physical Search Box by Josh Ellingson, via Flickr user WillowGarage:

While I considered myself fairly adept at online searching in general and using Google in particular, there were things lurking behind the Advanced Search options that made me balk.  Date ranges and searching within websites, but filetype?  Those colour options in the Image Search?  Some features had been added since I’d focused on mastering online searching skills (aka grad school), and while I was picking up tips and tools through Google-a-Day, I discovered that far too often, I found the answer and then moved on, without looking at the tricks recommended by Google.

So when I saw announcements last year for a free online course titled “Power Searching with Google“, it sounded like a great opportunity.  Taught by Senior Research Scientist Daniel M. Russell, the course uses online videos, exercises, and assignments to help users learn more about how to effectively and efficiently search and retrieve valuable results using Google. There were Google+ hangouts, and Google+ was used as a forum on which participants could share strategies, experiences, and insight.

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“This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco…”

Album Cover for Talking Heads’ “Fear of Music”

Originally, I was going to use this title for a pithy list of challenges and opportunities related to the dissertation process for the Spring semester (which is, indeed, no disco).  Upon reading feedback from my students for the Fall semester, I decided to take this title in a different direction, and that is expectations of work and readings in college.  College is serious business, and while there are so many opportunities to enjoy in college, there is still a deeper meaning for why you have dedicated four years and many economic resources to undertaking this education.  The title is not meant to be dismissive, but rather a unifying lyric for the amount of work it takes to get through it all.  What you will find below is some honest and helpful advice to manage expectations for students entering the world of higher education for the first time.  Sometimes it seems daunting, and even overwhelming, when faced with the syllabus and reading list for the first time.  There are also some protocol lessons that you just do not realize as a newbie.  Here are my best “lessons learned” to share with you:

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Vendela Vida: “Jump and a Net Will Catch You”

As we count down to 2013, I think this is sage advice for all of us who feel a little stuck or in a place of transition. As I try to get through the dissertation process and decide what the path forward looks like, I have had many a sleepless night wondering “What if?” and “What’s next?”. No one knows that answer. But the best we can do is to jump enthusiastically and purposefully forward with the hope that if we follow our internal compass, the net will be there to guide us safely to the ground.

Chasing the Heffalump

Photo Courtesy of the Walt Disney Company

This post is a little late, but I feel like it’s still important to share…

After the comps extravaganza, I became a candidate.  I felt flustered and happy.  I felt a little bit like this.  However, knowing the dangerous chasm that lies between accomplishment and satisfaction (or, rather, resting on one’s laurels), my advisor and I had a meeting almost immediately to start planning next steps.  Don’t get me wrong, there was a little happy dance of celebration.  But, “student” to “candidacy” means that I have hit the stage where dissertation will be the sole focus.  It is a milestone, not an endpoint to the journey.

In that meeting, we discussed many things: timeline, logistics, and the next steps in firming up a dissertation committee.  We also discussed the need for self-motivation and the huge swing in self-efficacy that must take place in order to keep yourself on deadline when no one external is assigning due dates. To sum up the sometimes intangible nature of the dissertation, my advisor compared the process to Winnie the Pooh chasing the Heffalump: a process filled with mystery, some hysterics, misperceptions, and ambiguity.  You have to have faith that the Heffalump exists, and moreover, be persistent in your pursuit.

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Recharging when getting away is not an option

sign at swap meet indicating facilities closed till October

“Swap Meet” image cc license from Flickr user LukeJNovak:

I remember when I used to look forward to summer — warmer weather, longer days, no homework, family vacations and time with friends. Even when I started working during the summer breaks, there seemed to still remain ample time to read and relax after work was done in those long months between school terms. Even when I had summer school, it would last only a fraction of the whole holiday period, leaving weeks to relax and recharge.

Now, I look forward to summer for some of the same reasons — the warmer weather and longer days — and some new ones — travel takes a bit less time without the traffic of parents driving children to school and fewer colleagues in the office means a slightly lighter load of internal requests.

Although I miss the family vacations, the biggest loss in the transition from school to work was the chance to decompress and relax that those summer months offered.  That time was fairly sacred and it was unlikely it would be scheduled over or co-opted by classes or meetings; one would dread catching a summer cold that seemed to suck up those valuable days of summer holidays, but never thought about a time in the future when unexpected work events or deadlines would force retraction of vacation days and a premature return to work.

As I cannot take off the several months I dream of to rest and relax during the summer, I’ve been trying to take advantage of the “Five Ways to Recharge During the Summer” recommended by Jamie Corcoran in her June post at Gradhacker.   Read the rest of this entry »


Sign and clock for Time Deli and Catering in San Jose, California

Image cc license from Flickr user Thomas Hawk:

Time is running out. Time keeps flowing like a river. It’s just a question of time.  A query of iTunes reports that I have 42 songs with the word “time” in the title.  I have it on good authority that it would be possible to write a few lines of code to figure out how many times the word “time” appears in lyrics from the 18.6 days of music and audiobooks in my iTunes,  given the appropriate skill set, files of all the song lyrics, and enough time.

However, time being limited and deadlines looming, this experiment remains hypothetical because I simply don’t have the time to spend on it. Earlier this year, I bookmarked and clipped articles on time from Grad Hacker (February’s “Setting time boundaries”) and Hack Library School (“It’s OK to not have time,” also from February), thinking I would read them as soon as I had time. Fast-forward four months and here I am, finally reading posts on time, trying to find some solution to my situation of feeling over-extended, overwhelmed with work, and wondering how much more I could get done or how much better I’d be faring if I only had more time.

As previously discussed on this blog, I keep statistics for our library, in an effort to quantify what we accomplish and what we produce. X number of publications catalogued, y number of reference queries of z duration. However, I could not use this same tool to effectively estimate how much time I spent on a given subject or activity. Following a recommendation, I created an account with and started using the Toggl app for iPhone to try to answer a very important question: where does the time go?

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Webcast of SUNY COIL Conference

For those interested in global education, online learning, and cross-cultural communication, there is a terrific webcast of a conference happening now from the SUNY COIL initiative.  I have blogged previously on the many great projects and opportunities that COIL has made available, including a grant that I am a part of for an online initiative between Lehigh, Drexel, and the University of Ghana Business School.  Today’s conference includes a wide variety of speakers and topics from faculty empowerment to online learning on a budget to using Japanese Manga as a medium for cross-cultural communication.  After a brief lunch break, sessions will start back up at 2PM EST.  The conference will be going on until 5:30 PM EST today, so tune in for some enlightening, interesting sessions!

4th SUNY COIL Conference