Monday, June 25, 2012

Using an iPad for Conference Note Taking

I just returned from a conference in San Diego, where I took notes exclusively on my iPad using the Penultimate app and the Bamboo stylus from Wacom.

I bought this stylus after reading many reviews and felt it was worth the investment, especially since I planned to take notes by hand at conferences and meetings, rather than using the built-in keyboard. I purchased the Penultimate app for $.99 because of the good reviews and built-in integration with Evernote and Dropbox, for easy synching and access from other devices.

This app isn't perfect. I rest my wrist on the screen while taking notes, which can interfere with note taking because of the multitasking gestures. (These features can be turned off in Settings.) The app does allow you to select the wrist position that best reflects your writing position style, and that helped to prevent errant marks on the page from my wrist.

As you can see above, my handwriting is not very neat, but I can read what's on the page. It's also much easier to read than if I had used my finger to take notes. I used a single "notebook" to take notes over the three days at the conference and then uploaded the notebook to Evernote. The two work seamlessly together, which is no surprise since Evernote recently purchased Penultimate.

Before the conference, I wanted to find a note taking app that would convert handwriting to text. I only found one - Notes Plus - but it is $7.99 and I wasn't ready to spend that much money.

Overall, I'm very impressed with the Penultimate app, as well as the Bamboo stylus. I would definitely use this method again to take notes at a conference.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Using Evernote to organize article writing

Having begun developing research and writing habits in the pre-digital age, I find myself often facing piles of paper that include research interviews and fieldwork notes, hard copies of scholarly articles, dozens of yellow legal pads containing handwritten notes on articles and writing ideas and printouts of outlines and manuscript drafts.  I was thus keen on trying the iPad as an organizing device to see a writing project through from start to finish.   What I learn from this summer’s experience will be replicated in my spring EAS thesis course for students to model.  My plan that semester is to write an article alongside the students, building upon what I learn this summer about using the ipad as an organizational tool.   

I started by trying to find an app that would pretty much do everything.  I spent several long days reviewing multiple apps – thinking that there was going to be some magic app that did everything I needed and getting frustrated when something sounded good and then couldn’t handle all my various demands.  Never found one.  Got excited by something called Devonthink that promises to do everything, but turns out it only does everything on a desk top, the ipad version is limited and in the words of their IT help, totally insufficient for what I wanted it to do which is store all of the data I need for writing a paper, allow me to keep notes with readings, annotate outlines, tally things I need to do, file the readings.

So finally, after spending far too much time reviewing other users’ comments on scads of different apps, I decided to begin with a program called Evernote, try that for a while, and see what comes next, rather than trying to solve all my organizational problems at once.  As you can see from Lydia’s recent post, it’s a pretty decent app for the beginning stages of article writing.

The article I’m test-driving on the ipad concerns “Tank Man.” Tank man is the nickname of the young man who stood in front and stopped the progression of Chinese tanks as the PLA attempted to remove protestors from Tiananmen Square in June, 1989. I’m looking specifically at how Tank Man is used in the US to serve certain American political ends.  So, first thing I needed was to find and store all the visual images about Tank Man.  Evernote has “notebooks” within which you create “pages.”  One of my notebooks is solely devoted to Tank Man images – I found that you can either send an email to your Evernote email address, tag it with the appropriate notebook name, and your note/link magically appears in the notebook.  Or you can be on a web page and send it directly to Evernote – the first page, not just the URL.  Another of my notebooks is readings.  All the notes in this notebook are pdfs and then algonside the pdf I keep my notes, all on the same page.  Cool.  I have different notebooks for things like theories of collective memory, discussions of iconic images, discussions of Tank Man in the press.  I also have a separate notebook that has random ideas about the paper, things to explore, dead ends, and my abstract.  Now to get writing.

P.s. I’m writing this blog on my laptop.  I still haven’t mastered typing onto the keyboard with complete skill, although it’s getting better.  Haven’t yet bought a stylus so that I can do it by hand either.  Next month.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Using Evernote to coordinate research with a research assistant

 I have a wonderful research assistant this summer, Tricia Juettemeyer.  She is very Apple savvy and suggested that we use Evernote for a portion of a project I am working on related to copyright law and the Open Education Resources (OER) movement.  A lot is happening in the OER space in recent months and most of the information about it is available on websites.  (That makes sense because the OER movement is focused on making educational resources freely available over the Internet!)

I have been using Evernote just as a good way to take a variety of notes and be able to organize them on the fly.  I have the basic (free) version of Evernote and so does Tricia.

As Tricia collected links that fit the research criteria, she “grabbed” the URL and often the first page of the site and added it a note.  Of course she can write her own observations or even call out items for me so I won’t miss them!  She also then “tags” the note with tags that are relevant to the project sub-topics.  All of her Evernote notes for this project she keeps in a particular “notebook” in Evernote.  She has “shared” her notebook with me.  By sharing it, I have access to all of the notes in that notebook.  I can read the notes she made, along with any of the content from any particular page she has copied into the note.  If the source is something I want to continue reading I can then touch the “source URL” and the webpage opens automatically.

We had a little bit of difficulty figuring out how to share the notebook initially.  And, since we both have only the free version of Evernote, we are not able to access functionalities that would be nice.  For example, I am not able add notes to her notebook, nor can I modify any of her notes.  We think both of these actions are possible if you upgrade to the “premium version” of Evernote.    But, at $4.99/month (each!), that price was too steep for us!

Even without the upgrade to “premium” – the experience using Evernote on this project, so far, has been a positive one.  It also came in really handy when my laptop crashed while I was in Munich, Germany earlier this month – the night before I was giving a talk on OER!  Thank goodness I had brought my iPad along!