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Student organisation with Notely

It’s fast approaching time to get back to school or college for most pupils and teachers. That generally means rushing everything in the last few days that has been put off under the false illusion that there’s “Plenty of time.” Thankfully, I’ve managed to get everything done. However, I’m always hunting for ways to improve my organisation to ensure that tasks get finished on time, and everything is neat and accessible. Notely aims to make everything easier for students by providing numerous useful tools.

The interface of the scheduling tool was impressive

The interface of the scheduling tool was impressive

Notely packs so many smashing features into one web-application that it’s difficult to know where to begin. After registering and logging in, you’ll be presented with your dashboard. This’ll be useful in future to see quickly what tasks need doing and what events are coming up.  Rather than just work my way through the entire sidebar in this article, I’ll pick out the main features in an order which makes some sense and couple them with comments and the usual babble.

Right-ho, let’s start with the ‘Courses’ section. This is one of the must fundamental features – each lesson taken can be added here; doing so allows future task and other such items to be placed in their right category. It’s a simple process to creating new courses, and each has extra information assigned to it, such as teacher and classroom. For some reason it’s compulsory to add those, which makes it a bit awkward for me since it’s not yet confirmed what teachers I’ll have, let alone the room numbers. It also doesn’t account for the fact that it’s likely that some students will be in different rooms at different times – especially if they have more than one teacher for a subject. However, simply placing a dash or other symbol in the teacher name and room number box is enough to fool the form into thinking that you’ve entered the information. A more minor feature is the ability to add a colour to represent your course. Unfortunately, the choices were very limited, which meant that I couldn’t have the same colours as the folders for each subject. A minor issue, but I’m sad enough to want the colours to be standardised.

Once you’ve added the names of your lessons, you’ll be able to categorise other information into them. One of the most important of these is likely to be the ‘Notes’ feature, and judging by the name of the website, it’s designed to be the key feature. The tools for creating a new note are more than sufficient – you’re given a text area featuring a number of different tools to allow you to format the text, add links, insert images, and other such jazz. I did wonder why Notely’s notes feature would be used in place of a document, since other software is more suited to taking more strenuous notes. They would lack the integration with Notely’s other features, but I’d still rather create notes in software that features more advanced features and will store it on my hard-drive. PDFs and RTF documents can be imported to Notely, but the ability to import other formats such as .DOC would be a welcome addition.

I’ve been trying to work out the difference between ‘Tasks’ and ‘To-dos’, but I haven’t quite been able to fathom it out. They both appear to serve the same purpose, but ‘Tasks’ appear to be more focused upon outlining specific projects which need to be completed, whilst ‘To-dos’ appear to be designed for more minor task – things like ‘Buy book’  or ‘Find pen’. As with any organisational application, the plan behind these is to enable you to keep track of tasks which need to be done, and to ensure that you’re handing them in or completing them in time. Notely’s offering is good, but I don’t think the interface and ease-of-use compares to Soshiku’s. However, the tight integration with Notely’s other features may be the factor which wins you over. Like Soshiku, each to-do note can have a due-date applied, but Notely also allows a time to be added, which allows for a little bit of extra prioritisation.

Complementing the to-do feature is the ‘Calendar’ item. This shows when each task is due, and therefore allows you to see more clearly when work needs to be completed by. Additional items can also be added directly to the calendar. Therefore it can serve the dual purpose of keeping track of your work, as well as scheduling more enjoyable plans. Something which I thought was especially smashing was the ability to view the calendar in weekly or daily mode; this meant that each day had hourly intervals underneath, allowing the events to be seen clearly. Whilst it doesn’t quite compete with applications specifically focused upon the calendar, it is a very useful addition to the suite of features. A minor qualm was that the calendar didn’t show the name of the day when in weekly or daily mode – opting instead to show only the date.

The ‘Links’ section is fairly self-explanatory. Links to useful websites can be added. Each contains a title, URL, and an optional description. This is a simple feature, but may prove to be useful for quickly accessing useful but obscure webpages or online applications. However, it would be nice to be able to categorise the links into the aforementioned courses which were created. A similar feature is the ability to upload files. Unlike the links, these can be organised, which means you’re able to create folders which contain sub-folders and files, allowing you to keep track of anything you choose to place there.

Notely's calendar is useful for seeing when tasks are due or events are occurring

Notely's calendar is useful for seeing when tasks are due or events are occurring

Another duty which I usually do over the summer holidays is typing out my timetable in a more friendly format. This includes colour coding and a cleaner design than the plain black-and-white which the dull photocopier provides. Undertaking this arduous quest usually involves poring over a meticulously perfected table in Word, this time I could use Notely’s ‘Schedule’ tool to create the coming year’s timetable. The rows span from the ungodly hour of 7am right up to 8.30pm. Whilst this is a benefit in that even those with very strange schooling hours will be able to use the feature, it means that I end up with a large number of wasted spaces. I’d therefore like to be able to specify which days and timespans to include on the timetable. Despite this, the interface is really rather smashing. The subjects which were created on the ‘Courses’ page are ready to be dragged to their correct places on the timetable, and they’re also accompanied by the more inviting ‘Free time’ and ‘Lunch/dinner’.

With regard to learning rather than just organising, Notely also provides features which allow for the creating of quizzes and mind-maps. Both of them seem to work fine, but lack the shine and polish of other alternative web applications which are designed specifically for those purposes. Bubbl.us is a good alternative for creating mind-maps, but once again you’ll lose the compatibility with the rest of Notely’s smashing features by using an alternative website.

There are also a number other features which are well worth a look, but I’ve now babbled for quite long enough and will therefore wrap this article up. Notely has proven itself to be very useful and full of features which promise to help students organise their busy schedules. You can sign up at www.notely.net.

Online maths tutoring with LiveMaths

March 11, 2009 3 comments
Get a £5 discount on a LiveMaths subscription if you use the voucher code: BPTR09 at the subscription page.

I’ll freely admit that I’m not a fan of maths: numbers have never been my strong point. The lack of open-ended answers scare me: I’m more a fan of being able to babble on about a load of twaddle in the humanities subjects: English and History in particular . That’s the reason I do all I can to be less awful at maths in order to muddle through my examination. One of the ways I do this is using a dandy little website called ‘LiveMaths‘.

An example LiveMaths how-to tutorial.

An example LiveMaths how-to tutorial.

There’s plenty of revision websites out there, but this one is a little bit different: rather than just text, images, and maybe an occasional diagram, it has a video walking you through the steps to complete various different maths problems you’re likely to encounter if you’ve been unfortunate enough take GCSE Maths or foolish enough to take it for A-Level. It uses short but in-depth videos to make it clear how problems should be tackled in the exam.

You’ll find an incredibly wide range of topics, but if you are such an intrepid explorer that you find a missing topic, you can always contact the people who run it. Both of which are long-term secondary education maths teachers. I think my only suggestion for improvement would be for the site to also include webpages or worksheets with steps for solving the problem and sample questions for each topic which could be printed and used if one does not have access to a computer at the time. I must also say that the narration on the videos greatly resembles that of a robot programmed to patronise! The rates are pretty cheap: a GCSE subscription comes to the cost of about two private tutoring lessons. Have a look at the free samples to see if it’ll be helpful for you. Poddle off to www.livemaths.co.uk if you’re interested in a further browse or subscribing.

School organisation with Soshiku

March 8, 2009 2 comments

The number of web applications has exploded recently, seeing a number of really useful stuff running directly from your browser or Internet enabled phone, without the need to download or install anything. Whilst this is one of the less exciting, it’s a really simple, sleek and helpful web application which will help you organise your studies. Soshiku is, in a word, fantastic.

If you’re like me, you get so much homework you can’t keep track. I’d tried keeping a log in various ways, such as using

Soshiku makes organising your schoolwork a snap - no more excuses!

Soshiku makes organising your schoolwork a snap - no more excuses!

Excel or Onenote, even the hated paper, but none of them compare to the features and simple interface of Soshiku. The registration process is incredibly simple and easy, only requiring three details from you: name, username and email address. After that, you can log in and set about creating a snazzy space to organise your school work.

You can add sections for each of your subjects, or if you’re only studying one or two subjects, you could use that feature to add different modules or segments for your course. You can then add assignments; these would likely consist of homework, coursework, reading, revision, etc. Define a title for it, a due date, add a few notes and you’re finished. You can even break down assignments into individual task lists to make it clear for yourself.

Soshiku will keep track of when your assignments are due by putting them on the homepage under headings like ‘due tomorrow’, ‘due this week’ and the dreaded ‘overdue’. This allows you to prioritize at a glance. Clicking on an assignment title will take you to the details you added earlier, allowing you to view and edit them. Each subject you add also gets its own page, where your current and past assignments are listed.

I don’t know about you, but I hate having to work on projects with other people; I’m a control freak, but occasionally I have to. Soshiku helps me to get through this traumatic experience by allowing me to set projects as being available either publicly or to selected Soshiku friends, making it easy to collaborate with them. Ican also utilize the feature which lets me upload documents, sharing them with my workmate so he can make changes and then upload it again.

There’s no need to be at your computer either – just set Soshiku up with your mobile and you can receive assignment reminders whilst you’re plodding around town or hiding from your masses of work in a bar. You can even add new assignments from your mobile via a text message! It’s really simple to use after having a fiddle around and getting aquainted with the features. I’m sure you’ll love it, so sign up now at www.soshiku.com! If you find yourself confused, have a read of the simple help pages.