During the past few weeks, I have had a chance to explore the various features of Zotero and figure out how they can best work for me and meet my needs. In theory, this program can help me become more organized, store my notes and sources in a single space, make citing and syncing documents easier, and offer a free digital space to collaborate and share documents. However, the biggest challenge at this point has been the overwhelming size of the task.
While working on this project, I have been searching through multiple folders on my personal computer, my work computer, my external hard drive, my Drop Box, and my Google Drive. After uploading the documents, I need to go through again and add source material manually or find the article in Google Scholar if the PDF does not contain meta data. Then I need to tag, link, and import annotations into the notes section.
This tool is ideal for keeping track of sources as they are collected and used, but it is a huge task to add over a year’s worth of graduate school materials all at once. Throughout this process, I have been switching back and forth between the stand-alone Zotero program, the Firefox plug in, my internet browser with tabs for course information, YouTube videos, and articles I found via Google. This screenshot shows one page of the stand alone program with the information I have added.
The following information, though difficult to see, is highlighted in this screenshot:
- Purple Arrow: These are the separate collections I have added to Zotero. For now, I have created a separate collection for each of the courses I have taken. The collection that is currently open is for AL 877, Community Literacy.
- Blue Arrow: This section contains an alphabetized list of the entries in this collection. The entry that is open is nested under the book entry for which this PDF is a chapter.
- Red Arrow: This information includes the document information such as authors and title. It also includes the date the entry was last modified, links to related entries, and tags for the entry. For this entry, I have tagged the topic description (learning) and the author names (Lave & Wenger).
- Green Arrow: This is the note section of the entry. I have uploaded the annotation for this PDF that I included in a previous annotated bibliography. This program offers the option for adding multiple notes to each entry, so I could also include notes in other formats within this section.
- Orange Arrow: This section is not, strictly speaking, part of this program. However, it highlights the number of programs that I have open simulataneously while working on this project. I am currently working in two web browsers, various file folders, Word, Zotero, Notepad, iTunes, and Paint.
As I was working through these different pieces of the program, I found this article to be extremely helpful for learning the technical steps to make the program do what I want it to. This list of tips seems to have been developed based on common questions and problems, and I referenced it often as I managed my resources in Zotero.
This video also helped me learn to sync my Zotero account across my stand alone program and my Firefox plug in. The video is quick, and I found it much easier to follow that a written set of instructions.
Finally, I found a great video describing how Zotero can be used collaboratively.
Interestingly, the creator of this video talks not only about how to use Zotero as a collaborative tool, but also about why integrating technology into classrooms is important. She argues that teachers need to know about various technologies and advocate for their inclusion in the classroom. I watched this video multiple times because the information about Zotero was helpful and because the creator and I share a common perspective about integrating technology into writing instruction. I have started to watch more of this creator’s videos, and I am finding her YouTube account to be a great resource for me.
I have made a great deal of progress in my goal of learning to use Zotero to make my life easier and more organized. However, this job is far from over. At the moment, this program has added some stress to my daily life, but I think that once I have caught up, maintaining the program will help me in the ways that I envisioned. Either way, this project has connected me to some great resources and made me think critically about the ways that I manage and store information. It has reminded me that infrastructure is an important consideration in education and that the resources I have saved are only as useful as my ability to find them when I need them.
Mark. (2013, April 11). 12 must know Zotero tips and techniques. The Ideophone. Retrieved from http://ideophone.org/12-zotero-tips-and-techniques/
Sharing Resources through a Zotero Group Library. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3QKF25nmnds&feature=youtube_gdata_player
Zotero: Using Sync to Access Your Library. (2011). Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KiLj4Hgsu2Y&feature=youtube_gdata_player