4 Tags That Make Sense of It All: Best Practice for Tagging Academic Notes

tags

2013 is already looking like a busy year for me, not least because of an exciting move from the University of London to City University of Hong Kong.  That means new courses, new students, new administrative systems, and a lot of new projects.  Since I have set some time aside this week to take stock and review my plans for the coming year, I wanted to share one of the things that keeps my note-taking organized and ultimately helps to support my work as an academic: a clear, consistent tagging system that I use everywhere I can.

The academic life is a chaotic mixture of teaching, research, service, knowledge transfer, partnerships, publicity, and planning, so it has been important for me to find a way to seamlessly blend these strands.  To this end, every piece of information that I put into Evernote or Things immediately gets these types of tags (I use the hashtag to denote a type of tag–these don’t actually form part of the tag itself):

Context > #Output > #Topic > #X-Ref

Because I use this same tagging system in both my task manager and my note taking software, it is incredibly easy to cross-reference details or to find the information that I need.  Before I explain how these tags function within Evernote and Things, here’s a quick summary of each:

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Location Numbers in Research?

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Following a blog post last week on using Kindle in teaching, I asked: “do you think location numbers (rather than page numbers) are an adequate form of citation?” I received many responses…

[View the story "Location Numbers in Research?" on Storify]

 

 

Have you entered to win 12 months of Evernote Premium?  Share your thoughts on paper and digital research workflows here to win.

Win One Year of Evernote Premium

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I have been using Evernote since the early days of my PhD (see how I get Kindle notes into Evernote for my teaching), so I was thrilled when they invited me to be their Higher Education Ambassador. Starting today I will get to do lots of cool stuff with them–a bit of traveling, a bit of writing, a bit of speaking.  Awesome!

So, to mark the occasion, I have some great Evernote stuff to give away.  Here’s how you can get it:

To enter, respond to the following question in the comments at the bottom of this post: ‘How do you organize your teaching, research, and writing?  Paper, digital, post-its? File folders, shoe boxes, digital tablets?’  Everyone has their own system–what is yours?

This isn’t just for academics, but for anyone who writes, thinks, doodles, ponders, pilfers, or philosophizes.  And there are some great prizes to be won…

Entries close at 11:59pm GMT on 12 December 2012 and winners will be chosen randomly from all entries on 13 December 2012.  Make sure that you include your e-mail address when you comment so I can contact you.

Using Twitter for Curated Academic Content

twitter fail image

Twitter Fail Image (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The job of the humanities academic has always been to absorb large amounts of content, evaluate it, synthesize it, and portray the results in a way that will be relevant and engaging to an audience (whether that audience be students, peers, or the wider society).  In the information age, we have a vast array of new tools to not only help us sort through this content, but also to shape it and share it.

I am a big fan of the ‘whole-person’ style of tweeting, with a mixture of general chatter (e.g. “it’s Thai for dinner!”) and valuable curated content (e.g. “great article at http://…”).  A mixture of about 30% chatter and 70% content is seen as a golden standard by those in the brand and digital media world, and seems to suit academic tweeting down to a T.  This blend of chatter and content situates the academic lifestyle in a very real and very human context, while also providing some helpful information to colleagues.  Remember, sharing is caring!

But continually finding that 70% of curated content can be an onerous task, especially now, when desks are piled with unmarked essays and grant application deadlines are looming.  To make sure that my Twitter feed is filled with links that the academic community may find interesting, I use a couple of helpful apps to make the process as easy for me as possible.  I spend an hour every Sunday getting high-quality Twitter content ready for the coming week, which leaves me the rest of the week to tweet about the interesting new recipe I’ve made for dinner or the dance routines on Strictly.

My Twitter workflow for curated content is based on David Allen’s infamous GTD method, as is the flowchart that outlines it.  It goes like this.  Throughout the week I scan through the content that comes through to my RSS reader (I happen to use NewsRack).  The content is a mixture of my main interests: academia, of course, but also fashion, design, media, culture, theatre, and architecture.  If I can read the post in less than 2 minutes (that magical cutoff point for GTDers) then I have a read, and tweet it if I think it is worthwhile.  But if it will take longer than 2 minutes, I send it straight to Pocket, a read-it-later app which links directly with NewsRack.

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When Will Kindles Be Ready for the University Classroom?

English: Amazon Kindle DX Graphite displaying ...

Amazon Kindle DX Graphite displaying Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have said before that my research is still largely paper-based and that I use my Kindle exclusively for pleasure reading.  This isn’t entirely true: I do use a combo of Mendeley and Evernote on my iPad for journal articles.  However, the fact remains that my primary texts are just about always of the paper and cloth variety.    As a new academic year rolls around, I can’t help but wonder how much longer that will be the case, and how long it will be before I am teaching to a classroom full of Kindle-holders.  When will an instruction such as “turn to page 34″ consist of more button-tapping than page-turning?

A great number of the novels that I regularly teach are now out of copyright–including James Joyce, who has been out of copyright for a full 9 months –and are available widely and freely in a number of eReader formats.  Having an entire semester’s reading list on one device would undoubtedly have a great many benefits: an unanticipated seminar tangent could be taken even further if all the students were able to quickly turn to the book that we were discussing; annotations and marginalia could be shared between all the members of the class, creating a real community of learning.  And it seems, leaving my love of paper and print culture aside, that a classroom full of Kindles linked to Twitter could, perhaps, create a positive impact on my learning and teaching.

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7 Things This Academic Learned from the World of Brand and Design

Design library, reorganized by topic

Design library (Photo credit: juhansonin)

I spent a postgraduate gap year working for the brand and design agency Ingenious Rapport, first in business development and then shortly after as Creative Account Manager.  In addition to working with some extraordinary colleagues (indeed, some leaders in the field), I had the opportunity to work on thrilling accounts, including a major UK bank, government agency, and several popular restaurants.  The experience was as eye-opening as it was edifying.   From thinking about how to use super high-speed personalized printing to promote books and cars, to tracking down someone who could make me a giant illuminated sign in 48 hours, my days were filled with extraordinary (and often extraordinarily fun) commissions.  I also learned a bit about print and digital design, social media, and the business world in general through the process, all of which has contributed to my approach to teaching, research, and academic practice.

  1. Design does matter. It was fascinating to see the design process take place.  A key part of my job was to meet with clients and figure out what it was they needed and how they wanted their brand to be communicated through print and/or digital media.  I then translated that into a brief for the designers, who would take it from there.  Serving as the intermediary between the designers and the client, I was often right at the centre of debates between design and practicality, between function and form, and I took one important thing away from this:  people choose to spend their time with the objects that intrigue them most.  This doesn’t just apply to advertising and websites, but to everything around us.  And, because of this, I have maintained my interest in design and typography into my academic life.  Is it something to become obsessive about?  Perhaps not.  But using BlairMdITC rather than Times New Roman for a syllabus is a simple detail that can make a difference to how your ideas are viewed, understood, and remembered. Continue reading

Folksonomy

Katalog biblioteczny w Łodzi

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

www.duolingo.com

English: The Rosetta Stone in the British Muse...

The Rosetta Stone in the British Museum. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The language learning site Duolingo has recently left beta for a full release, and it is nothing short of thrilling.  It is a free site which, in its own words, helps users ‘learn a language and simultaneously translate the Web.’  Not only is the interface sharp, engaging, and extraordinarily intuitive, it personalizes language learning in a way that should keep language teachers salivating.  With each successive unit, you are given new translating tasks (most of which are from Wikipedia, though it appears this will become more diverse as the site grows) which build upon and help to assess what you have learned.

Whoever saw language learning as the start of crowd sources translations was definitely on to something.  When you translate authentic material from the web with Duolingo, it is assessed against all other submissions, ultimately identifying the most accurate or most correct.

Through this, it takes into account the fact that any language, at its most essential root, actually is an exercise in crowd sourcing.

The programming behind all of this magic must be pretty astonishing, but the entire learning process looks seamless and perfectly tailored to each learner (not to mention, entirely free and a new significant competitor to Rosetta Stone). French, German, and Spanish are already live.  I am looking forward to Swedish and an iPad version.

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