9 December 2013

Split Screen: Easy Note-Taking for Digital Immigrants

Split Screen Extension, Chrome Store
I am fairly comfortable with technology and have been using it for as long as I have been working, though it did not pay a big role in my education. My father did recommend my taking a GCSE in Information Technology, one of the first ones that came out, as he said that computers were the future. I wanted to do art, but I did as my pops suggested.

During the time I was studying for my degree, the Internet made its debut appearance. I do remember a boyfriend at the time excitedly showing me a page on an American punk band we were into, but it took about ten minutes for the page to load and I just didn't see the appeal. My degree essays were researched from actual physical books and journals and my essays, in the main, were handwritten, though I did invest in a word processor in my final years. Being able to see four faint lines of my 4000 word essays was progress... I think.

My first job out of University was as an Office Manager for a small architect firm in Manchester; they had a very old PC that had no mouse and operated purely by command keys. I quickly got them to invest in a new PC and began exploring spreadsheets and Zip files.
Apple Macintosh

I moved on to a job back at my old university after this, and my first position came with a very old Apple Macintosh that slowly would grind through my daily tasks. When I was promoted to faculty level, I gained a new PC. My second promotion led me to work directly for the Pro-Vice Chancellor, where I got not only a desktop, but my first laptop and a palmtop, to allow my secretary to synch my meetings. The laptop weighed a ton and took about ten minutes to boot-up; the palmtop was great though and synched with my PC calendar - my first glimpse at how tech. could make things easier!

Working at the university meant lots and lots of free courses on offer plus the time given to do them. Not only did I complete a Post Graduate Diploma in Management whilst I was there, but I also took as many courses as I could in Word, Excel, Access, FrontPage - and in 1999, I made my first webpage and began getting my head around HTML (though I still haven't managed this well).

A year or so later, I returned to my hometown university to complete my teacher training certification - where my courses came in handy as the government required all trainees to take and pass an ICT literacy test. Yes, even at the start of this new millennium, teachers were required to have some competency in the use of ICT. I passed, thank goodness, and twelve years later, I teach using technology everyday, I build websites as par for the course and my lessons are all online, I am even completing a Masters in Education and Integrating Technology. I am not a digital native however, as I am still awed by technology and whilst I feel more and more comfortable with it, I am not always at home with it.
Split Screen Chrome Extension

For example, I am completing my M.Ed via distance and online learning - an amazing positive of the power of technology. I am able to talk to my classmates who are scattered around the globe AND access the UMUC databases to find the journals I need for my research. No more all-nighters at the library under a pile of dusty periodicals. However, despite having been using technology for a great many years, I still struggle to read and take notes on screen. I struggle equally with effectively marking on-screen, and still find it much easier to print out work and use a pen to make suggestions. Hence - I am truly still a digital immigrant.

I recently found something that might help with these issues that I know are common, and will certainly be a useful tool for natives and immigrants alike.

Split Screen is a free extension from the Google Chrome Store. Once installed - for free - it allows users to easily split their browser screen into two. One side can be something you are reading (simply type in the URL), while the other side is a note-making tool, see below. Alternatively, you can have two URLS open side by side for direct comparison.
Split Screen - one side for notes, one side for reading

Change the orientation
of the split
If you prefere to change the layout, users can click on the blue arrows in the top right (see image right) and change the orientation of the screen so it is split horizontally rather than vertically.

For those of us making the transition to reading and making notes online, or even for those of us who find flicking between a document and a website disorienting, frustrating and time-consuming, I think Split Screen might be worth a try.

Split Screen - horizontal split