Using Evernote Efficiently

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Evernote is one of those “must have” research and personal organizational tools that quickly becomes essential.  Here are several tips to help you use Evernote efficiently, especially if you are new to the product.

Organize your Notebooks into Stacks

Casual Evernote users start making notebooks and soon discover that there are several related notebooks scattered about their list of all notebooks.  Wouldn’t it be nice if you could organize them into a folder?  You can.  Containers that hold a collection of notebooks in Evernote are called “stacks,” and they are super simple to make.   In the left panel (where you see the list of your notebooks) right click one of the notebooks you want to place in the stack, hover over the “Add to stack” menu entry, and choose “New stack.”

New Stack

Your notebook will become a “sub-notebook” in that stack, just like the folder within a folder in the Windows Explorer or the Mac OS Finder.  By default the new stack will be named “Notebook Stack.”  A less than useful name.  To remedy this right-click it, choose “Rename,” and give it a descriptive name.  When you go to add the next folder to the stack, the name you provided will appear among all possible stacks.  Click it and the new folder will be added.

Stack List

In this manner it is possible to organize a large collection of related notebooks.  Of course having a well thought through organizational taxonomy in the first place is the key to a highly efficient structure.  If you decide to remove a notebook from a stack, simply right-click it and choose “Remove from stack.”  To get rid of the stack container but keep all the notebooks, simply delete the stack.

Install Web Clipper to simplify note gathering

Evernote makes a fabulous browser extension for all four major browser called “Web Clipper.”  I strongly recommend you go to evernote.com and install it on all your browser platforms.

Web Clippe rAt Evernote Web Site

You will find versions available for Firefox, Chrome, Safari and (if you must) Internet Explorer.  Once you download and install it a new icon will appear in your browser toolbar, the familiar Evernote elephant with dashed lines around him (her?).  Now when you land on a web page from which you want to take a note—or take the entire page with links, as far as that goes—click the icon and tell Evernote what you want.

Web Clipper Dialog

You can also tell Evernote which notebook to put it in, manually add any tags you wish (a very good idea for the sake of finding your notes later), and add any comments you wish.  Evernote will always capture the URL for you anyway if you choose article or full page captures.  Manage Web Clipper options in your browsers add-on management console.  In Firefox this is in the add-ons > extensions area.  There are many and sophisticated options to set, but the defaults are good.

Another important Web Clipper setting is the “Search Evernote when you search Google, Bing, Yahoo and others” checkbox on the Web Clipper login screen (you will also find this in the Options settings).  If you want searches to extend to materials you have already collected in Evernote, but have forgotten about, this is a must.

Web Clipper Login Box

 Use Export to backup/share notebooks

Evernote allows for backup of any/all notebooks by exporting them as “.enex” files.  Backup is not necessary because your notebooks might disappear from Evernote’s cloud storage, which is for all practical purposes impossible, but far more likely it is necessary to guard against inadvertent or stupid actions you yourself might take.  I wish I had a dollar for every time I have decided to tidy up my old files and in doing so deleted something I really needed.  Of course I only discovered that I really needed it after it was too late.

Backing up your notes before deleting any notebooks is a pretty good idea, and it is very simple.  Just right-click the notebook and choose “Export Notes…” from the context menu.  You will be asked to choose from four formats: ENEX, the proprietary Evernote format that will later permit importing them back into the program or to send them to someone else so that they can import them; as a single HTML page; as an .MHT web archive (a bad choice unless you are used to working with this format and like Internet Explorer); or as multiple HTML pages.  You might have special reasons for choosing to export as a web page or pages, but ENEX is the choice if you plan on restoring the notes in a single operation.  Be sure you also elect to save tags along with notes (using the options button).  Tags are essential to finding material later in large, complex notebook structures.

Notebook Export

Use the Camera on your phone or tablet to create notes

Remember that you can snap a photo of anything and upload it to Evernote.  Evernote’s remarkable OCR search capabilities make distinct text searchable even in images, as in the hit on “Historical” in one of the images in a web page I captured recently:

OCR Search

Or in this hit on the word “Gmail” in this image scan taken with Readdle’s Scanner Pro.  In fact, you will increase the likelihood of OCR search hits if you use a professional grade app like Scanner Pro to snap pictures, rather than the built-in camera apps on phone or iPad.

OCR Hit On Image

Even if you do not have OCR search success on your snapshots, a snapshot is still better than nothing in a pinch, and you can always (and always should) tag it for later reference.  This is especially true with your handwritten notes, or even with grocery or to do lists.

Email notes to notebooks

Along with your Evernote account you will receive an email address @m.evernote.com to which you can email notes.  Add this address to the contacts list on all the gadgets and email clients that you use, and it will be easy to email anything you have written or captured to one of your notebooks.  If you do not specify which notebook it is to be filed in, it will go to the default notebook.  (Right-click any notebook and choose Properties to mark it as the default notebook.  It’s a great idea to set a custom “New” or “Inbox” notebook as your default one.)  To specify filing in a specific notebook add “@[notebookname] (without the square brackets) after the email subject.  If you capture something noteworthy on any of your gadgets it becomes as simple as sending an email to add it to Evernote.

Summary

These are just a few of the steps you can take to increase the usefulness of Evernote.  Above all, use tags.  Once your notes and notebooks start to expand, tags are the single best way to retain their usefulness.

HHMI Holiday Lectures

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Once a year the Howard Hughes Medical Institute presents a series of holiday lectures which are streamed on the web.  Normally the lectures will center on a life science topic, but this year earth sciences will get the focus.  The theme is “Changing Planet” and the four lectures are titled “The Deep History of a Living Planet,” delivered by Andrew Knoll of Harvard University, “Building Scientific Knowledge: The Story of Plate Tectonics,” delivered by Naomi Oreskes of UCSD, “”Earth’s Climate: Back to the Future,” delivered by Daniel Schrag of Harvard, and “Climate Change: How Do We Know We’re Not Wrong?” delivered, again, by Dr. Oreskes.  The lectures will be streamed live starting at 9:30 a.m. on November 15 (lectures 1 & 2), and at 9:30 a.m. on November 16 (lectures 3 & 4).  Click here for the detailed schedule and registration link.

HHMI is one of the world’s largest non-profit medical research organizations, with emphasis on advanced biomedical research and science education.  Their education outreach extends to offering free, high-quality learning resources (books, DVDs) available to educators everywhere.  The HHMI biointeractive web site contains quality interactive labs, animations and streaming media, and the high quality HHMI Bulletin is also free.  The Bulletin and two apps, the Virtual Bacterial ID Lab and a Click and Learn app are also available for the iPad.

Those unfamiliar with these outstanding free resources will be amazed at their quality and at their ease of ordering.  Those familiar with these resources will not want to miss tomorrow’s lectures.

The Google Nexus 7 Tablet

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The Google Nexus 7 tablet is an excellent value at $199 for the 8GB model ($249 for the 16GB) with an impressive feature set that feels smooth to use, thanks to Android Jellybean 4.1 with Project Butter, long batter life (over 9 hours of robust use) and tight integration with Google apps and services.

The Physical Device

The device feels good with a dimpled, rubberized back, aluminum banding around the edges, and a gloss black plastic bezel around the 7-inch screen.  It has a power button and a volume rocker on its right edge, and a micro-USB port and headset jack on the bottom.  It is easy to hold in one hand for prolonged periods with a substantial, stable feel to it.

The screen resolution is 1200 x 800 at 216 PPI, the same as the Amazon Kindle Fire HD, at the same price, less than the yet to be shipped Nook Color HD (243 PPI), far less than the Apple Retina display (264 PPI), but better than the recently announced Apple iPad Mini (163 PPI).  The proof of the pudding is in the viewing, and a Netflix high-movement video (Dana Brown’s Step Into Liquid) displays very smoothly and in impressive detail, though there were a couple of scenes that displayed pixellation, due most likely to the not-very-good wireless internet streaming speeds on campus.  At home the same video looked even better.  Which brings up another point: 8GB or even the higher priced model with 16GB is not a lot of storage for a media consumption device, but most of the content gets streamed to the device, so connectivity speeds become even more important.  Book loading speeds were noticeably sluggish.

The screen is backlit, with brightness controls per app, but even at its brightest the home screen and various app screens seemed murky and not bright enough.  The reading app, however, worked fine and displayed a bright white background with crisp, black text.

The glass cover is Corning scratch resistant glass, and not the Gorilla glass that Apple uses, making it more important to protect the glass front of this device with a cover.

It has only a front-facing 1.2MP camera which takes OK, but not very impressive pictures, but inexplicably the device does not come with a camera app.  You have to download one from the Play store.

The device is thin and light (only 1mm thicker than the iPad) and can easily fit in a jacket pocket or purse.

The Interface

The home screen is classic Android, with customizable wallpaper, places for a grid layout of app icons, widgets, a favorites “carousel” (removing this is the first thing that many will want to do), and a row of seven frequently used icons at the bottom: Google apps, My Books, My Magazines, all apps, My Movies, My Music, and the Google Play app store.  Below these shortcuts, and always available, are the Back, Home and History buttons.

N7 Home Screen

The star of the show is the new Google Now.  First, it must be enabled.  After that, swipe up from the bottom of the screen and Now cards will appear with information useful to you given your current whereabouts: weather, traffic, public transportation, local restaurants, etc.  It learns as you use the tablet and travel around, and is really quite impressive.

Also quite impressive is the Google voice search.  From the now screen say the word “Google” and voice search will be activated.  Speak your search term, Google will recognize it (using it’s online search technology, and not requiring a huge database for local voice recognition) and serve up your search results.  If you don’t speak fairly quickly after voice search is activated you will have to tap the Mic to re-activate it.  It worked flawlessly for me.

The touch actions operated smoothly, with no lag time between touch and response—except, of course, for the lag in loading streamed content.  Where the Kindle Fire can seem a bit balky, the Nexus 7 does not.  Google integration—i.e., using your Google id to login to services—was also very smooth.  The Google Play store suffers by comparison to the Apple app store, and the Play book store suffers by comparison to Amazon books, but overall it is a smoothly operating infrastructure where you can find any content you want.  The My Music area will play your own music stored in Google’s cloud service, but unless you have opted in to that, it will play only music you have purchased.

The onscreen keyboard works well, and Google has added a zoom feature when username/password boxes appear, making them that much easier to fill in accurately.

 The Reading Experience

If you are buying this device as primarily an eReader you will not be disappointed.  It runs the Kindle and Nook reading apps (“Nook” was the only word I could not get the voice search to recognize (!)).  Its native Play reading app works extremely well, facilitating highlighting, annotation, and bookmarking, like the other apps, with a more developed contents drop-down than the other apps and more complete sharing options.  In fact, sharing options throughout the app infrastructure were better on the Nexus than on any other tablet I have tried, including the iPad.  The in-book dictionary was not as good as that in the Kindle app, and Wikipedia ties in were not available, though translate options were.

Extras

Beyond the basics the Nexus comes with NFC technology, which is not widespread yet, but may become the preferred method of sharing data between mobile devices in the months to come.  It also comes with strong Google + integration, if that matters.

At $199 this is an excellent value.  It has an elegance of its own.  Not Apple elegance, but a strong, independent infrastructure in a smoothly operating package, for those who do not want to pay for Apple technology or be a part of the Apple infrastructure.

SnagIt 11.1

Techsmith announced today the release of SnagIt version 11.1, free to owners of version 11, meaning everyone who has the Palomar College licensed version of SnagIt.  Chief among the new features is the ability to capture system sound when capturing video.  Unbelievably they released version 11 without this ability built-in, and I suspect it was the most commented on oversight ever with a TechSmith product, unless it be the unaccountable dissimilarities between the Mac and PC versions of Camtasia.  Especially in view of the fact the Jing, TechSmith’s free video capture tool, is being deprecated and SnagIt is the heir apparent.

In any event, SnagIt has the ability now, and there is no longer a need to keep Jing around, if you have both.  It is not apparent how to turn the feature on, however, so here is a brief how-to:

Start SnagIt.  (Look it up in the Start menu; or if you have the icon on your task bar, click it; or if you have SnagIt running in the system tray—and what good is it if it is not always running—double click it).

Select the Video capture profile.

Video Profile
Video Profile

 

Click the capture button.

video capture button
video capture button

SnagIt will minimize, replaced by the SnagIt cross-hairs.  Draw around the portion of the screen you want to capture.  When you release the mouse button the video capture window will appear.

Video Capture Window
Video Capture Window

Depending on what you are doing, click the Microphone button to turn it off, the system audio button to turn it off, or leave them both on.  If you are MAKING a video that you are going to narrate, you will probably want the mic on and the system audio off.  If you are capturing an already made video, like a TED talk or YouTube video, you will want the mic off and the system audio—the sound that comes out your system speakers or your headphones—on.  On rare occasions you will be making a video that contains a video, in which case you will want them both on.

How TechSmith could have released the new SnagIt without this feature set is really puzzling.

Also new in version 11.1 is Windows 8 compatibility—that’s good, because Windows 8 is out October 26, though is already being distributed by many outlets, including our Academic Alliance.  There are also a couple of new stamp sets, which must be downloaded separately, one for algebra and one for geometry.  And finally a spell checker for the SnagIt editor’s text tool.  Pretty tame stuff all in all, except for the system sound feature, which should have been in SnagIt 11 from the get go.  In all, SnagIt continues to be the most polished screen capture tool available, and is now ready to take over for Jing when it is retired.

Academic Technology Services

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We are excited to be starting another semester at Palomar College.  This article will briefly outline some of the major services performed by the Academic Technology department—known as the Academic Technology Resource Center (atrc).  We are physically located on the ground floor of the library building on the San Marcos campus, but most of our work, except for the physical computer labs and in-person training, is virtual.

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Blackboard

First, we maintain the Blackboard system used for online and technology enhanced education.  Actually, it is systems, not system.  In addition to our production Blackboard Learn platform we maintain a test system, where we test new service packs, patches, building blocks and the other components of Blackboard; and we maintain a sandbox Blackboard system, where faculty members can build courses for later deployment and play with the system to get a feel for how it works, without having to worry about messing something up in a live class.

Technical Support

Closely related to the Blackboard system is our technical support function.  We provide technical support for all educational technology issues, not just Blackboard, but Blackboard is a major effort for our technicians.  This summer we converted our former helpdesk system to a self-hosted system, which means you can now use your Palomar login credentials to login to it if you want to create a help request ticket and track its progress.  If y0u wish to submit a help request via email, you must use your Palomar email address to do so.  If you want to call and speak with a technician or leave a voice mail, call (760) 744-1150 ext. 2862 to do so.  Of the three methods, file a ticket, send an email, or call, the quickest and most efficient method for obtaining assistance is to submit a ticket.  Actually, there is one quicker method: live chat.  On our helpdesk system home page, and on our web site home page you will see a button that looks like this:

Live Support Button

If it says ONLINE, it means there is a technician standing by to assist you with a live chat session.  This is actually the very quickest way to get assistance.  From any Blackboard login page, or from various pages in this blog, the live support button looks like this:

Live Help Button(it will be floating along the left margin of the page).  As long as it is lit up bright green, as you see it here, clicking it will also initiate a live chat session with one of our techs.  If the techs are busy doing something else, or it is after hours, the Live Support button will say “AWAY” and the live help button will be dimmed out.

Computer Labs

computerlabx200As always, we maintain four computer labs on the ground floor of the San Marcos campus library.   There are two 30-seat classroom labs (rooms LL-109 and LL-104), a large central public lab (LL-103), and a small faculty technology center (room LL-111).  In addition, there are four specialized ADA computers available for those certified to use them.  Each lab is equipped with a projector.

If you wish to bring a class into the lab for a one-off visit, please call one of our lab managers at ext. 2657 in order to reserve a time AT LEAST ONE WEEK IN ADVANCE.  All the labs are generally heavily impacted during prime times—around 8 a.m. til around 3 p.m., so the earlier you arrive the better.  Printing is available in the labs via the Go Print system, 10 cents per page for B&W and 30 cents per page for color.

Training

Each semester we offer a mix of in-person and online training workshops available for professional development and professional growth credit.  Further, we offer Wednesday morning Blackboard with Cream & Sugar sessions (you come on by on Wednesday mornings with your questions, we provide the coffee, tea and answers), and we also conduct many small group and individual training sessions.  Our training session descriptions may be found here, our grid schedule of in-person workshops here.  Many focused, training screen videos can also be found in the training section of our web site and on our YouTube channel.

Web Authoring and Web Services

wordpress-logoWe have a new WordPress implementation and are recommending WordPress as the web site (and blog) platform of choice.  In fact, we have just gone through a migration of all WordPress sites from a Microsoft SQL database to a MySQL database.  Performance should be much better.  WordPress is by far the easiest way to build and maintain a web site or blog, though we still offer site creation and management through Dreamweaver or Expression Web.  If you want a web site, or need to update your old one, please contact us for assistance.  Other web and document services include web site design, graphics creation, document scanning, and 35mm slide conversions.

Streaming Media

film reelWe are still in the streaming media business.  If you have media you wish to present for distance education purposes, and it clears TEACH Act requirements, we can encode/stream it for you.  We can also encode/stream fair use media, and media for which the instructor has obtained permission or is the copyright holder.  Copyright is a complex topic, but we have created a guide that attempts to spell out the requirements for using copyrighted media in the classroom and online.  If you want us to stream your media, bring it to room LL-108.  Remember, if you are using TEACH Act authorization, 1) bring a completed TEACH Act agreement form, and 2) if you have VHS media and a DVD of the title exists, you must use the DVD.

Our media servers have virtually unlimited storage now, so bring in materials as you need them.

Hardware Checkout

We have an array of hardware products for faculty checkout, including digital audio recorders, web cams, PowerPoint remote controls, video camcorders, microphones, eReaders and tablets, and laptops.  See the Hardware menu on our web site for details.

Communications

Much of our job has to do with communicating news about educational technology to faculty members, staff and students.  Therefore we maintain an active blog (the one you are reading right now—and if you haven’t yet subscribed, please do so), a monthly e-newsletter (subscribe now to that also), a facebook group, an active twitter feed, and a YouTube channel.   There are plenty of opportunity to stay informed about what is going on in Academic Technology.

I suppose there is lots more I could mention, but these are the basic Academic Technology services we hope you will find useful.

THINK

How does progress happen?  That is the initial question that greets users of IBM’s free THINK app for iPad (the app is also available for Android).  For those who love technology, science  and the history of both, it is the entrée to a fascinating collection of resources put together in an engaging, thought-provoking display.

The presentation begins with the 10-minute Think film, which can be downloaded to the iPad (161MB) or streamed (from YouTube—the far better choice if your connection allows it).  The video is a split-screen, multi-camera piece provides a glimpse into four problems that were once thought unsolvable, and how they are being addressed:

  1. how man reached the moon;
  2. how a genome (the rice genome) was sequenced;
  3. how medicine has become personalized;
  4. how traffic congestion has been reduced.

The film is no more than an overview of these vast topics, but the common thread is how “…progress was made by combining people and technology…” by taking a distinct, repeatable approach to problem solving involving seeing, mapping, understanding, believing, and acting.  The five steps this app puts forward as the pattern to technical problem solving.

Since the THINK film is streamed from YouTube, it can also be embedded locally in any web media platform.  Here it is.  (Set the quality to 1080p and play full screen for best experience):

The Interface

The think main menu is a circular arrangement of six petals:  Think Film, Seeing, Mapping, Understanding, Believing, Acting.

THINK main menu
The THINK Main Menu

Small icons in the upper right of the screen permit emailing or sharing on Twitter or Facebook the link to the web-based THINK exhibit (where things rapily stray into commercial provinces), and a little plus icon that brings up the Help and credits screens, which can also be accessed by touching the word THINK in the middle of the six petals.

App Controls

Contents

The Seeing area asks the questions:  “When did humankind first see a second? A virus? An atom?” and is devoted to the history of the development of ever more precise tools used to see nature.  It is not a dry, grid timeline, however.  It utilizes a cartoon-rendering of the wandering path of civilization with linked photos and descriptions of major instrument discovery and development,s from first sun dial (800 BC) to carbon nanotubes used for testing water purity (2010 CE).  The number of objects must be very selective, of course, but it manages to display an amazing number of instruments.

3D Plasom Ruler

The Mapping section is an exercise in compare and contrast.  It begins with the question: “Why do maps matter?”  and is a visual presentation that explores the world of maps, and discusses the multiple functions of maps: as aids to navigation, illustrations of scale and structure, indices of change, measures of flow, inventories of resources, connections of knowledge, organizations in time, and so on. It is hard to think of a  better illustration of the growth in complexity and importance of maps than the juxtaposition between the simple, boxes of an 1855 Erie Railroad organization chart (1855) and the Hierarchical Structure of the Internet (2007)—or a better illustration of why we are not in Kansas any more.

Heirarchical Structure Of The Internet
Hierarchical Structure Of The Internet (2007)

The Understanding section begins with the question: “How do we explain cause and effect?”  It presents several illustrations of the use of modeling to “untangle and predict the behavior of complex systems.”  The illustrations include compare and contrast examples of weather prediction (a primitive 1877 weather forecast map vs. IBMs Deep Thunder meteorology system; Norman Borlaug’s inspired but tedious development of wheat strains that led to the green revolution (1944 and beyond) vs. today’s probabilistic functional gene network understandings; the by guess or by gosh approach to oil drilling exhibited by the early wildcatters like Edwin Drake vs. the bio-stratigraphic modeling used by today’s petroleum engineers; and so on.

The Believing section illustrates the human/technology interface.  Leaders give direction to technical innovation, and devise creative uses for practical ends.  Examples are given from reducing fraud and waste in social services to breeding disease resistant crops.  The job of the leader is insight in the interest of inspiration, and the individuals featured in this section are a collection of practicing leaders:  Don Edwards, assistant director Alameda County Social Services Agency, who speaks to the paradox of being data rich and information poor; Stephen Forman, chair of the Hematology Department at City of Hope speaks to the quest to cure cancer—in some measure successful with bone marrow cancers; Yvonne Chan, principal of Vaughn Next Century Learning Center, who speaks to the power of connectivity in education; Paul Sribhibhadh on food safety; IBMs David Ferrucci (Watson director) on the quest to create computers that understand natural language; MoMAs Glenn Lowry on the role of art in culture; Howard-Yana Shapiro on food science, plant yields and poverty; IBMs Chieko Asakawa on improving the web for the disabled.  These are but a few initiatives, but illustrative of the larger concept of the necessity of the leader who believes.

The final section, Acting, is a summary of how IBM is partnering with various businesses and governments to make the “world work better.”  Tapping any of the menu petals brings up a spinnable monochrome world map with various red push-pin locators that represents an IBM project.

Push Pin Projects

Tapping any of the locator brings up a description of the project.  As with the exhibit’s web site, this is where idealism intersects commercialism.  Be that as it may, it is also a great illustration of the practical application of the ideas of science and technology once they have ripened through the process of discovery, development and belief.

The app is a promoter of science and technology, a cheerleader for the same, and for IBM, and unabashedly optimistic.  It would be a great tool to illustrate the development and application of technologies, but needs the balancing insight of an instructor to explain the many obstacles to progress thrown up by the political and social environment as well, obstacles that are completely ignored by the creators of this app.  The exquisite irony of reach and grasp cannot escape even the most casual user of this app.  Here we have finally crawled from under the long shadow of thermonuclear annihilation to a new flowering of technology and science, justly celebrated by this app, only to have meaningful progress squelched by governmental ignorance and the apathy and selfishness of local human populations.  One is reminded of those in the US Congress who willfully ignore the findings of climate science or those who go on paying profligate agricultural subsidies that ruin the livelihood of African farmers.  None of this dark matter is apparent in the app, mind you, but I can’t help but mention it.  And it is the sort of discussion that could be very fruitful when using this app as a springboard.

The THINK app is based on materials and concepts used in a 2011 exhibit at Lincoln Center in honor of IBMs centennial.  The THINK  “exhibit has been placed in the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection and received awards from the Industrial Designers Society of America, the Association of Independent Commercial Producers, and the Art Directors Club. Later this year, the exhibit will be installed at Walt Disney World’s EPCOT Center in Orlando, Fla.” 1