I’ve invested a lot of time in researching and testing tools to support my studies. i wanted to to break away from so-called ‘productivity tools’, as in all my years of using software like Visio, Word, Outlook, I’ve never really been productive: too much of my time and effort has been wasted in taming the application, or repeated manually generating my desired formatting – perhaps counter-productivity tools would be more accurate.

I’m in my third year of studying for a BA. I’m researching my subjects and my ideas, reading lots, annotating my reading, working on assignments, editing and revising my work. I work in different locations and at different times and I want access to my work where and whenever I am. As such, a piece of hardware, a laptop or a pda is not the whole answer to these needs, I need software to support my study too.

bring on the tools.

I’m using subversion to maintain a repository of all of my work, internet accessible with version control. Into this repository I’m saving my Freemind mindmaps when I’m making notes and working on essays. I’m using BibDesk for my bibliography which, with TeXShop as a word processor, gives me beautifully formatted and clearly referenced essays. Saving my bibliography and my essays as I write them into the repository gives me version control, the ability to step backward and forward in the development of my ideas.

I’m escaping proprietary formats. I’m escaping the anti-productivity trap. No longer spending time, making sure what I see is what I get… I’m concentrating on the content. So far it’s working well for me. I find that I make more and clearer notes from my reading and in lectures and seminars. Research and planning for assignments has become less of a chore as I have focused more on the topic than the tool. Perhaps my good experience with e-learning tools is down to me being a hacker, or at least a very competent ICT user… It’s not been easy and at times the learning curve has been long and shallow. But the investment paid off with all my assessed word-processed work receiving positive comments on my presentation and on the accuracy of my bibliography.