Thursday, November 12, 2009

Late Adopter

In the senior seminar, the students are (I hope) hard at work on their papers. At any rate, they have a stepping-stone assignment due tomorrow, so yesterday we were talking about paper writing strategies.

One of the strategies I picked up during grad school, when I began word processing on a computer that could actually open two files at the same time (Go Amiga!) was to have a second file open while I was writing, and every time I'd use a reference in the essay or chapter, I'd tab to the second file and add it in to the work cited list in the proper alphabetical order. That meant that I wasn't trying to figure out the works cited at 7:50 am to turn in at 8am.

So, I was telling my students about this and suggesting they could also use something such as Endnote, and one of my students raised his hand and asked why I don't use the function in Word that handles works cited.

I'd never even noticed that, but it seems to be new with the new Word program! And it's cool! We played with it for a few minutes in class (I can project my computer screen in the classroom) so that everyone knew the basics of where to find it and how to get started. Other than that one student, none of them seemed to know about this function.

They were laughing at me because I was so excited. Indeed, there was no hiding my excitement. (They all should have been equally excited.) I'm just a nerd. Except I'm a late adopter nerd, which is really unimpressive.

How did I miss this? Laziness is part of it; I just use what I've used as long as I can get away with it. I still do control keys mostly, because I type a LOT faster if I don't have to move my hand to the side to use a mouse. But I also looked, and my old Word program on my laptop has nothing like this, and I do a lot of word processing at home. (My computer at home is from 2002, so it's got whatever program was available then.) Is it worth trying to upgrade a 7 year old laptop? Could it even run the newer program? (A new laptop is not in the budget.)


  1. oh, i have got nothing on what works with aging computers. but the other day, i figured out how to use editing functions on word -- not just inserting edits and comments in text, but these balloon things for comments, off at the side. endnotes must be great.

    i still have a grudge against word, partly because of the paper-clip guy and partly because it wants to do too much -- i do not want my wordprocessing program to think it knows better than i about what i want to say. wordperfect is still my fave, but it doesn't do the swoopy new stuff.

  2. I just checked and Open Office v3 has a bibliographic database function.

    It's free and I don't think it needs as powerful a machine as the latest versions of MS Office do.

    get it from

  3. Anonymous4:43 PM

    My Word 2007, alas, doesn't have the MLA 2008 updates installed, so the bibliographic citations aren't correct.

    However, there undoubtedly is an upgrade somewhere online I could download...

    Since I haven't used it much, I had a student do a presentation on it in class a few weeks ago, and it's wonderful for APA, not so much for MLA yet (and I haven't checked their other documentation systems).

    So, no, you're not the only one behind the times;-)

  4. I use EndNote, so I haven't yet checked out how the functionality in Word compares. But I do find EndNote much better since they added the 'Custom Groups' function. I have groups set up in there now of interesting articles and books I want to read (at some theoretical point in the future when I have some free time), and reviews of works I'm intending to use.

    Sadly, I doubt your old laptop would have the ability to run the new version of Word. But the Open Office software now does a pretty good job of converting docs back and forth from the proprietary Microsoft format, so if you don't *need* to have Word, it could be worth checking out.

  5. Count me in the "Word has that feature?" camp--I'm supposed to be developing a workshop for next year on technologies and writing, and clearly I have some catching up to do between now and then!

  6. The last time Microsoft was on campus to talk about job/internship offerings they mentioned some of the projects that interns had created that made it into the final release, among them is this word function. Always thought that was pretty cool.

  7. Holy crap. I had no idea. Which is sad, considering all the time I spent editing and proofing English in scientific papers. Thanks.

  8. Hi, I'm a grad student instructor who just found your blog, thanks for posting these great details about your teaching. I had the same experience with works cited issues on Thursday! I thought I would impress my students by showing them how to use the Noodlebib program on our university library site to build their works cited, and they were all, "you mean, like Microsoft Word does"? I had no clue. And I need to stop thinking I can introduce my students to any new technologies anymore. Sigh.