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Thoughtbox.es: Organising Your Life, Your Way

Thoughtboxes is often billed as a brainstorming tool without the markers and butchers paper. But it’s so much more than that. Thoughtboxes can be used for organisation, to do lists, brainstorming, collaboration, list making, and anything else that works in a linear fashion. Not only that, but Thoughtboxes is appealing to look at, with color coding, a grid structure, and an easy to use interface.

Now a lot of the time, blogs and other know-it-all┬ápeople will tell you what the brilliant features are, where the flaws lie in the product, and other tip-of-the-iceberg information. How useful is it, really? Sure, if you’re deciding if you want to use the product, but once you’ve seen just how amazing it is, how do you know where to start? That’s my aim today. Read More…

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Ponderings of Identity

While I was rewriting my about page the other day, I got to rambling, as I often do, and came up with a few questions. I thought I’d share.

It’s a pretty standard page on any website, particularly a blog, but it’s quite a difficult one to write. Who am I? What defines me? Who am I to define myself? Surely it’s irrelevant how I define myself, because I’m somewhat bias. So then, it’s more important for someone else to define me from the outside? Although, can an outsider really know the inner workings of such a complex system? Read More…

6 Ways to Mess Up a Presentation

There is no way that you will get through your schooling life without having to give a presentation of some kind. It’s highly probable that you’ve done one, if not many, already. These can range from simple three-minute talks, to half hour presentations complete with slide shows and handouts. There are lots of things that can go wrong in a speech, so here’s 6 things to look out for in your next oral presentation.

  1. The Migraine Inducer

    This presentation will use yellow on white, blue on black, or purple on green in the PowerPoint. You know you’ve got a problem if no one will look at the screen. This pretty much goes for all design choices. Choose colors that don’t make you want to tear your eyes out. If you can, try to set up your presentation a few days beforehand, on the same screen, so that you can see where your text is unreadable. Watch out for low contrast, as this can be a problem on projectors, and clashing colors, which hurt people’s eyes.

  2. The Special-Effects King

    On par with the migraine inducer, this presentational mistake uses mountains of special-effects, many of which have to be reused, because apparently, PPT doesn’t provide them with enough. A simple fade-out will suffice if you’re looking for a little flash, but making your text appear letter-by-letter, while your images swirl around the screen makes other people feel like they are going to be sick.

  3. The Nervous Nelly

    Quiet voice, hunched shoulders, speech in front of their mouth, and head looking at their shoes are some of the signs that your presenter really doesn’t want to be there. Display some confidence. Keep eye-contact with the audience, speak loudly, at a regular pace, and stand tall. If people see you have confidence, they will automatically think that your content is reliable.

  4. The Fidgeter

    My goodness, just stand still! This is one of my pet-peeves. A sure sign of nervousness is fidgeting, and it’s so annoying, I thought I would include it in its own point. Fiddling with things in your hand, rocking back and forth, pacing around the room unintentionally and not keeping focus can distract your audience. A focused audience is a good audience, so try to keep them concentrating on your presentation, not your nervousness.

  5. The I-Want-People-To-Read-And-Hear-My-Speech Powerpointer

    No, you do not need your entire speech written on into your PowerPoint. They should be important dot points, that your audience can refer to. Most people prefer to read off the screen, rather than listen to you, so don’t let them! You want all attention focused on what you’re saying, not the screen. Think of the screen as a supplement to your speech, for things that you can’t say, or are important enough to restate.

  6. The Tree Killer

    This presenter feels it necessary to provide his audience with a multitude of hand-outs, many of which are irrelevant, or unimportant. Sure, handing out your entire speech may be useful later, but why would people listen to you, when they can just read what you’re saying? And yeah, maybe a whole bunch of facts may help them better understand you, but if it’s so important, shouldn’t you say it in your presentation?

Have you identified any of these in yourself? Yeah, I thought so. We are the computer generation, so let’s get rid of the terrible PPTs of the previous generation, and make this the building-block for more superior presentations.

Evernote: For All Your Noting Needs

evernote

Evernote is the productivity tool of everyone. As a student, you will find it immensely useful, but it is a tool that you will use for the rest of your life. Evernote keeps track of everything, and because it’s in the cloud, you won’t lose anything, and you can access it from anywhere, on any device with an internet connection.

Evernote functionality features around organization tools, compatibility with multiple devices, and storage of many file types. Being a child of the computer generation, constantly on the move like most students, you will probably use all of these extensively.

Before we go any further, I want to add a little bit about Evernote Premium. It is definitely not essential to buy it. You should only consider purchasing Evernote Premium for two reasons 1.) You wish to take advantage of some extra-special really amazing features, or 2) You want to thank Evernote for how much they have help you. Some of the extra-special really amazing features are an increased upload limit, offline notebooks on Android and iOS, PDF search, collaboration, and more file type support.

Organizing all your information doesn’t have to be a painful thing. In fact, with Evernote, it’s almost impossible to be so. All of your notes are fully searchable, so even if you only know the title of a note, you can find it easily. If you want to be super-organized, you can divide them into Notebooks, and assign tags to them. Say I want to find a picture of an African Daisy. You know it’s in the My Pictures Notebook, and you tagged it with ‘flower’. But there are still heaps of pictures to sort through. Just search for Africa, and up it pops. Easy. You can also find notes using Attributes, which are things like creation date, where it came from, and if there any images, and Saved Searches, which are just like normal searches, but you can call them up with a click of your mouse.

Your notes are accessible from pretty much everywhere. Evernote has clients for Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry, Palm, and Windows Mobile. There are also two web apps, for desktop and mobile. Evernote is brought into the browser with extensions for the four major browsers, and a bookmarklet for everything else. Evernote goes wherever you do, so you never have to worry about not having those study notes, important diagrams, or contact information with you.

Evernote will also accept whatever you throw at it. With the free account, you can upload pdfs, images, audio, ink notes, web clips, and screenshots. And because PDF is such a flexible file type, you can save pretty much anything as a PDF, like a Word Doc, or PSD. If you sign up for the Premium account (which is a very reasonable price), you can add any file type you choose.

I’ve been an Evernote user for over a year, but the majority of my notes have been created in the last 5 months. It takes a while to really find out what you need Evernote to store for you. Just remember, Evernote won’t just take care of your digital life. I bet your phone has a camera. Use that to store information on the go. Soon, you’ll wonder how you got by without it. To help you along, here’s a bunch of use cases that you might try. And who better to explain how to use Evernote as a student, than people they have asked themselves? Seriously, these are some pretty useful videos and posts, I recommend checking them out.

[UPDATE 20/1] Sorry about the images, they are supposed to link to  the images. Something to do with WP.com galleries. The links are now in the caption.

my left paneI use Evernote for pretty much anything. As you can see on the left, I’ve divided each aspect of my life into one of six notebooks, most with more notebooks in them (I love notebook stacks by the way.) I use Evernote to plan, review and write blog posts, and other stuff that is required to keep it going. In the Design stack, I keep code snippets, and inspiration. The important notebook carries long-term information: goals, passwords, purchases. katiewalker’s notebook, which is the default notebook carrying your username, is much like an inbox. As you can see, the school stack isn’t full, but as the year begins, I will be filling it with class notes, assignments, time management, and course descriptions. I also have a Study Abroad stack, which is there in the forefront so that I remember to keep researching. It is also a good place to organize all the material I have found.

I also use tags, although the majority of these are sorting out my blog notes. I guess this is because this is the information that I need to find the most often at the moment. I know that when school gets started, I will be using tags to keep track of assignments within their folders, and to mark assignments as finished or in progress.

We’ve talked about how I use Evernote. But what about you? You could use it to share class notes with your friends, through email, print, and the web interface, through which you can set your notebook to public, or invitation-only. The last option is very useful if you have classmates who are also Evernote users. You can also keep track of your assignments, keep them backed up as a pdf, or study wherever you are, with an internet connection or premium account.

This is all well and good, but why should I use this over Simplenote, OneNote, SpringPad, or even a simple notebook and pen. Well, Evernote has such a large user base that app developers, and hardware makers, are starting to take notice. Take a look in the Trunk, there are so many apps, devices and tools that will make using Evernote even more fun and simple. Plus, it’s in the cloud, so you don’t have to worry about spilling coffee on it, or your computer crashing. And finally, it runs on a very effective freemium payment model. They can keep providing a free service, because so many people want to pay for the premium edition. This means if you don’t want to pay a cent, they won’t make you.

Nearly all students need to be more organised, it’s a known fact. The only ones who don’t are those using Evernote. That’s not a known fact, but I’m hoping it will be. Evernote not only lets you be organised, it will do the organising for you. You want simple? Try Evernote. You want powerful? Evernote again. It is what you want to be, and lets you get on with having great ideas.

Do you use Evernote already? If so, how do you use it? Have you tried it in the past, and not been happy with it? Do you think you will be using Evernote in the future? As always, have your say in the comments.

Nominalisation

As a student, whether at high school or a college, you have to do a lot of writing. A lot of the time, you’re going to be marked on it. And let’s be honest, you probably don’t put all that much effort into your essays, reports and reflections. I know many people, and you may be one of these, or know some who are, who just run a spell check in Word. For most, this isn’t enough. Read More…