A Flipped Class: Knowledge Management Tools & Research Software

For the past four years I’ve taught the session on Knowledge Management tools for Law Students in an Advanced Legal Research a Writing class. In an effort to help the students get more out of the session, this year I “flipped” the class.  Instead of lecturing and demonstrating software for 80 minutes, the students watched the short instructional videos I prepared and installed software on their laptops in preparation for the class. This took them between 40 and 60 minutes depending on their technical ability.

Then in a shortened 40 minute class, I put the students together in groups of 2 or 3 and had them work on some exercises.  This allowed them to practice using the using the tools they learned about in situations approximating how they’d be used in legal research.

The feedback from the students on the new class format was very positive.  83% of students preferred the blended class style to a traditional lecture, and 75% said that they felt more confident using the tools covered in class than they would have with a traditional lecture. At the end of both classes, most of the students stayed behind after the class was dismissed to continue playing with the new software tools.

Below, exercises A to H are to be completed before the class. The in class exercises are at the bottom. These materials are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License to encourage their use and re-use. In plain english this means that anyone can modify the materials, as long as they share the modifications back to me, and the materials can be used for commercial purposes.

Creative Commons License


A. Introduction:

We’re going to look at 7 different tools that will help you develop a more efficient research work flow. It is not expected that you’ll use all the tools, but most students find that they’d have a hard time living without two or three of them once they see how the tools make their research lives easier.

  • The tools we’ll look at are:
    • Desktop Search,
    • Zotero for citation management,
    • Evernote for saving general notes, capturing web pages and pictures for future reference,
    • JotNot Pro to take the place of a photocopier,
    • Google Drive for collaborative document editing,
    • Google+ Hangouts for online meetings and document co-editing, and lastly
    • backup options so that your digital life is safe.

Before you move on, please make sure that you have a Gmail account, and have signed up for Google+, as you’ll need access to a Google account for the exercises in this module (and in the next class). If you don’t have an account, you can sign up here: http://gmail.com

B. Desktop Search [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4qbs-GmQvE]


  1. Using your desktop search tool, see if you can find a paper you wrote last year.
  2. Also using your desktop search find all the emails you’ve received from a friend. How many were there? (if you don’t see any emails in your desktop search you’ll need to add your webmail account to your desktop email program).

C. Zotero – The Social Citation Manager [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tmtPUgrbojw]


  1. Install Zotero stand alone edition – http://www.zotero.org/download/
  2. Install the Zotero browser plugin for your favourite web browser. http://www.zotero.org/download/
  3. Open up a paper you are working on and lookup a couple of references in your web browser.
  4. Save those references to Zotero.
  5. Insert a new footnote & import reference from zotero. Do this for at least one other reference.
  6. Create a bibliography using the zotero plugin for word.

D. Evernote – Capture anything, access it anywhere. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKpk5IIbf2Y]


  1. Install Evernote on your laptop & smart phone (if you have one). http://evernote.com
  2. Capture a couple of web pages about a topic that interests you, and tag them with “alrw test”
  3. Take a picture of a white board or piece of paper that describes the topic of interest to you. Share the note that includes the picture, and post the shared URL to the moodle board for this lesson (the OCR can take up to an hour for free Evernote account, so don’t be worried if you can’t successfully do a full text search on your picture right away).

E. JotNot Pro – A photocopier / Scanner in your pocket [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y7OxTt15k1M]


  1.  If you have an iPhone or iPad, install the free or paid version of JotNot on your device.
  2. “Scan” a two page document.
  3. Email a PDF of the document to yourself.

F. Google Drive – Collaborative Document Editing  [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQeix5BaqwQ]


  1. If you haven’t already, create a Gmail account for your self (at Gmail.com) and then log on.  Press the “DRIVE” icon on the top menu.  or http://drive.google.com
  2. Paste a couple of paragraphs from a paper you’ve written into the document.
  3. Insert two footnotes & drag & drop references from Zotero.
  4. Share the document with a classmate or friend.
  5. Edit the document at the same time as them.

G. Google+ Hangouts: Group Video Conferencing & Collaboration [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8wU5NYhWz4]


  1. Log-on to Google+ at the same time one of your friends is online, and experience a Google+ hangout for yourself.  http://plus.google.com
  2.  Open a Google Doc during your hangout and collaboratively edit a document together.
  3.  Share your screen with your partner.

H. Backing Up Your Data [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AIkDPFQzIWc]


  1. Do you have a 3-2-1 backup solution in place? Do you at least have a cloud backup of your important files? If you don’t, now would be a good time to install Google Drive, DropBox or SkyDrive.
  2. Explain to a friend or family member why it’s important to backup important files.


In Class Activities (no longer than 50 minutes long):
Tools: Zotero, Google Drive & Google+ Hangouts.

  1. Class Exercises:
    1. As a group, choose one member to create a Google document.
      • Copy and paste the “Polygamy in BC” text from Moodle into the document.
      • Share the document with others in the group using their Gmail addresses, plus rich@msys.ca.
      • Delete the last paragraph of the document.
      • At the top of the document, each member of their group should type their name and email address on separate lines.
    2. Set Up a Zotero group to put your research sources into (make membership “Private”).
      • All all members of your group to the Zotero group you just created, using their Zotero user names, or email addresses they signed up to Zotero with (invited group members need to accept the invite sent to their email address before they can see the Zotero group). Also add rmccue@uvic.ca to your group.
      • Spend 5 minutes putting citations into the team’s Zotero group library.
      • In Zotero, add a note to a citation from one of your colleagues.
    3. Each group member take one paragraph from the Google document and insert  citations into the footnotes you’ll create.
    4. Collaboratively write a paragraph at the end of the document (we’re looking for evidence that everyone contributed at least one sentence).
    5. Create bibliography in Zotero and paste it onto the end of the document on a new page. You do this by selecting all the items in your Zotero library, and then “Edit” -> “Copy Bibliography” and paste into your Google doc.
    6. Look at an earlier version of the document using “File” -> “See revision history”.
      • Find the version(s) where the summary paragraph was created and edited.
      • Copy the deleted paragraph, & then paste in into the current version of the document after you’ve exited out of “revision history” mode.
    7. Change the “Share” Permission for the Google Doc so that “Anyone with the link” can comment on the document.
      • Post the link to your document, along with the names of everyone in your group to the Moodle “In Class Exercise Fourm”.
    8. Save the document in DOCX format.
      • Upload the document, along with the names of everyone in your group  the Moodle “In Class Exercise Fourm”.
    9. Send one team member with their laptops to the student lounge (or the other side of the room).
      • All members of the group create a “Circle” in Google+ called ALRW and add all group members to the circle.
      • One member of the group, start a Google+ Hangout, and invite everyone into the hangout.
      • Discuss and make summary paragraph edits with both of them via a Google+ hangout.
  1. Bonus Points:
    • Figure out how to digitally put on either a tiera or a clown mask in the Google+ Hangout video.
    • Put some of the citations from the paper you brought with you into your personal Zotero library, and re-insert them into your document so that you can use Zotero to build your bibliography for you once you’ve finished your paper.

Creative Commons License
A Flipped Class: Knowledge Management Tools & Research Software by Rich McCue is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


  1. Thanks for making me aware of JotNot. I am sure it will be usefull. But what I really would like to know is what is going on with bobmcue.ca Did you take it down or is it just broke?

    If you drop breadcrumbs don’t be to surprised if you are followed.


      • Rich,

        I just found your list of blogs you follow on BlogSpot. You and your family just don’t seem to stop educating and entertaining me. Spanish Fork Ward 401 and Swearing Elders has me thoughtfully rolling on the floor with laughter. My sister lives in Spanish Fork. MY BIL was born there.

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