GTD with Evernote – update 31/1/14

No update on my physical classroom GTD except to say that the piles are becoming more organised! It doesn’t really look like it though. I’ll be brave and post a photo next week, honest!

With regard to Evernote I’ve started to get into a routine of checking for untagged notes while in the desktop app and am still keeping on top of that. I added 32 notes in the past seven days but have around 80 PDF files from my scanning to import and tag (perhaps I’ll do that this weekend!).

I wanted to focus on my “Secret Weapon” structure tonight. I’ve been working through the notes tagged with “now” starting with the oldest first. Most of the time I was able to merge or archive the notes to my “Completed” notebook so I now have a fairly realistic list of 16 tasks to attend to. I also tagged my new tasks in a realistic way this week, hardly ever adding them to the “now” list, instead preferring to queue them up in my “next” list (there are 47 items lurking there, but I suspect many will have already been actioned).

One of my biggest departmental tasks at the moment is the development of the new Higher Computing Science course and associated notes. I’m finding Evernote very useful for this as I can quickly find tagged resources, links and – increasingly – my own work which I’ve scanned to PDF and imported.

My only wish is that we could have the desktop version of Evernote as the web version is VERY slow to search by tag.

Reflections on #BYOD4L

Image by Christine Rantzi (BY NC SA 2.0)

I learned about #BYOD4L via Twitter and joined in the conversation before finding out exactly what it was: a five-day open course for students and teachers focused on the topic of BYOD for Learning. Its aim to develop the participant’s understanding, knowledge and skills linked to using smart devices for learning and teaching.

My school is moving towards 1:1 devices for all teachers and students from upper primary stage onwards. We began this journey in January 2013 from a blank slate, so it is quite exciting to be so close to implementing our ideas. We trialled a number of different devices in school for learning and teaching and decided that the iPad would be most suitable for our needs. However it wasn’t as easy as going out with the company credit card and purchasing 1600 devices – we have worked closely with different companies and individuals to create a long term strategy for implementation while entirely redesigning our existing IT infrastructure. While it has taken a long time to get to where we are, the school’s digital roadmap is clearly defined and stretches out many years into the future. Fraser Speirs talks with Bradley Chambers on this very topic in their latest Out of School podcast and highlights the need for a “professional plan for implementation”. Recommended listening!

BYOD4L is the first time I’d encountered the pedagogical design COOL FISh (Collaborative Open Online Learning / Focus – Investigate – Share). I need to investigate this further but wonder how this digital pedagogy could add to Curriculum for Excellence and new National qualifications experiences and outcomes.


I’ve recently been paying more attention to my connections and using sites like  and to pro-actively manage the amount of people I link with on Twitter.


Yesterday I took part in one of EdTechTeacher’s Winter Webinars. WHY Innovate ? was led by Beth Holland, Don Orth and Daniel Edwards and focused on the iterative development of learning spaces at Hillbrook iLab and Stephen Perse Foundation  (also read about their Cabinets of Curiosity !). They used Google Hangouts on Air alongside ChatWing to open up the discussion to more than 15 people at one time while maintaining control of the conversation flow.


This week I began to use . This service allows crowd ranking of web pages – be it articles or apps! I plan to use this with the iPad roll out to staff at my school to build a dynamic list of apps suitable for planning, teaching and learning. Now I just need to work out how to embed it in my Google Site (not public yet!).

[twitter url=”″ ]

[aboutme url=”″]

Success depends on people, not things #pln

As you know I’m attempting to categorise my Evernote notes (now over 5000 of them). Part of that exercise involves going through the notes I marked “now”, “next” or “soon” and making progress or archiving them as appropriate. I also recently added saved searches for (1) untagged items and (2) those posted in the last seven days so that I can more quickly audit my tagging and filing of new notes. I’m currently using the untagged search solely as a gauge of my weekly progress. At present around half of my Evernote notes remain untagged but I’m really pleased to see that I have been 100% successful in filing and tagging new notes so I’m confident the number will only decrease during 2014. The goal is less than 10% untagged notes by the end of 2014. OK – this is not GTD focussed – rather GTO.

One of the earliest “now” notes I revisited was date stamped August 2012. This was a Steven Anderson webinar “Personal Learning Networks: What they are and why you should have one”. I recall watching the preview on the website but wanted to identify the characteristics of a PLN and see if this already existed naturally at my school or if it was something that had to be encouraged.

I’ve blogged about my PLN experiences before ( Failure is good: Twitter changed my thinking ) and I can’t believe it was nearly four years ago! During my first two years of Twitter and blogging I made connections with a large number of international educators. The instantaneous nature of Twitter suits the idea of a PLN being available to support you when needed, so most of what follows relates to my experiences with that particular medium.

## Three observed important characteristics of an online personal learning network

# First impressions count

Your online persona should be carefully, but honestly, constructed. Twitter biogs should be informative, but not necessarily a CV. LinkedIn or is good for more in-depth information, but don’t expect too many of your PLN to be *that* interested in what you’ve done in the past. What your biog says is more accessible than the tweets you wrote five years ago so make sure that it also reflects your current interests and ethos if possible. That way those you follow and those who stumble on your account can quickly decide if you are someone they would like to have in their PLN.

In short: on Twitter most users tend not to follow eggs. Be prepared.

# PLNs are fluid

Your aims, current projects, issues and successes change from term to term. So will those of your network. Followers migrate as your position in their locus of interesting/helpful/useful ebbs and flows. If you don’t keep conversations flowing then you shouldn’t be surprised if you are archived. I recently hit the 2000 follower limit while in Boston and now make fairly regular use of  to check up on my PLN. In the beginning Twitter was where all my digital CPD came from as I become more used to using Pocket, IFTTT, Evernote, Flipboard, Pinterest, etc. I should have migrated the one-way connections i.e. those I followed for information away.

# Thoughtful responses are better received, regardless of depth

Related to the last point I suppose but I kind of fell out of love with Twitter chats a few years ago. #ukedchat had evolved as more teachers joined Twitter and had, most weeks, become more about point scoring than supporting. Or at the very least the supporting was drowned out by the arguing. On reflection, it may have actually been my first observation of trolling. Regardless the experience sullied what had, up until that point, been the highlight of my week on Twitter. I’ve dabbled since, but never again committed for the full hour. 

It was interesting to read Richard Byrne’s thoughts about G+  enabling more rewarding PLN experience  back in August last year:

> “I also find that because folks aren’t forced to express themselves in rapid-fire 140 character messages, the conversations are more robust even if they take longer to develop. For me, Google+ conversations have more depth that Twitter interactions.” 

I see his point but I feel there is room for both rapid-fire (thoughtful) reflection and more in depth response. Doesn’t G+ tread the same territory as blogging while enjoying the benefit of easily linked conversations and more carefully controlled sharing mechanisms? It doesn’t seem to be the most suitable place for relationship building, it has the aura of business social media site Yammer about it.

Put simply, there should definitely be space in your PLN for a warm, supportive reply or a cheery “good morning”! One of the most beautiful and uplifting messages I received via my PLN was a piece of blackout poetry. It is far, far down my Twitter timeline now but retains much more prominence in my memory. A digital random act of kindness as close to receiving a surprise chocolate bar or cheery postcard in the mail. 

## Comparison to local personal learning network

The next time you find yourself in the staffroom, an inset day or a department meeting ask yourself if the aforementioned characteristics exist in these environments. Obviously we don’t wander around clutching index cards with our achievements on them ready to thrust them under the nose of a new member of staff (imagine the terror that would cause!), but our ethos reveals itself over time through our interactions with others. We curate our relationships around our current needs and can get much more out of our conversations if we take time to listen, reflect and then respond when it is most appropriate to do so. The success of online PLNs are merely due to the increased reach technology has provided, not necessarily due to any change in human interaction.

In my role as PT of ICT for Learning I’ve spend two years getting to know teaching and admin staff both in my school and through face-to-face meetings with digital connections. It has been – without question – one of the most enjoyable aspects of my role. One of the key requirements I had outlined in my interview for the post was to build a community in the school where staff felt they were supported in their use of ICT and could in turn feel confident in providing pedagogical or technical support to others. It remains for me the most important aspect of the digital strategy of the school – to paraphrase a parent’s thoughts on the matter – “Success depends on people not things”. Whether online or local communicating clearly, thoughtfully and with respect for others can only result in success.

Submitting #coffeechat to iTunes

Martin Coutts and I have been working on a new EdTech podcast called #coffeechat and it’s time for it to be launched on iTunes. We met last week, recorded the show, and collaborated via email and Dropbox to get the files ready for upload.

Over the next seven days I converted the .wav file to a reasonably sized .mp3, added ID3 tags and uploaded it to Internet Archive. The last step took a while and I had to resort to using the most basic of upload options (non flash!) to successfully complete the upload process.

The next stage was to make use of WordPress to create a podcast feed which contains the mp3 file stored in IA.

Once this was set up I made use of Feedburner to add iTunes-specific tags and cover art.

Finally I attempted to submit the podcast via the iTunes Store. Here I encountered a major stumbling block: iTunes couldn’t recognise the mp3 file in the XML!

I couldn’t work out why. Even a post to my Twitter #pln drew a blank!

Tonight I found a feed validator and it helped me resolve the issue. Turns out the mp3 URL has to be http not https; the domain needs to be entered as  . It was a similar situation with the cover art URL. Half an hour working through the URL problem and iTunes accepted the podcast.

Now we just have to wait. But in the meantime you are more than welcome to subscribe via  – comments are more than welcome!

Extracting annotations and highlights from Kobo Touch

I bought a Kobo Touch (for £29.99!) over the Christmas break. To say it has increased the amount of books I read is something of an understatement as I’ve already read close to the total amount of paper books I got through in the whole of 2013!

At times I find it useful to highlight sections of the book to refer to later. I was interested to see if I could easily extract these annotations and highlights. Unfortunately it wasn’t as easy as I’d envisaged.

This answer to a discussion thread got me started:

I then looked at the SQL code and tried to find out which other fields were available. So I downloaded SQLite Manager plug in for Firefox.

Once I opened the KoboReader.sqlite file, it was easy to modify the SQL to extract more meaningful information:

SELECT VolumeID, Text, Annotation, DateCreated

FROM Bookmark

WHERE VolumeID LIKE “%%.epub”;

However I would quite like the output file to be parsed into Markdown or HTML to be a bit easier to read. I think I’ll have a look at what I can do in Visual Studio.

I plan to add the final output to Evernote and tag it as CPD. Saving the output file to my c:scan_to_evernote  directory should be enough for now.

Searching for untagged notes in @Evernote

TankStencil by Dfrg.msc (CC 3.0)

I’ve been thinking this week about how to use Evernote in a better way so I can more efficiently store and retrieve information. My original GTD plan was to use The Secret Weapon , but I quickly found it difficult to maintain across different devices – especially when using the web version of Evernote.

I revisited it last weekend and made use of some saved searches to give me quicker access to my notes tagged now, next and soon but with almost 5000 notes in Evernote I realised that I have a lot of untagged notes to categorise.

So I investigated boolean searches within Evernote. Similar to the process used with a search engine if you wanted to search for “football” AND “scotland” you would use the phrase “football +scotland”. If you wanted to search for “football” NOT “scotland” you would use the phrase “football -scotland”.

I want to search for all notes which have no tags. So I created the search “-tag:*”.

Once dragged to my Shortcuts I just have to click on “Untagged” and I’ll see all the notes I have to categorise regardless of the Notebook they are stored in.

A quick “select all” shows that I have 2556 untagged items in Evernote. Ouch.

I’m not going to stop adding notes to Evernote while I categorise my history, so I have to think about how best to leverage the services that feed resources, articles and ideas into my account. I’ll cover that in my next post.

Quick access to notes in @Evernote


Over a year ago I attempted to make use of Evernote to keep track of things to do after reading a few blog posts on Getting Things Done (well, mainly The Secret Weapon ). I used the suggested tagging system and began to categorise the notes and ideas I’d saved.

However one of the biggest challenges was retrieving the list of notes. At school we do not have the Evernote Desktop application but were able, after a bit of wrangling, to gain access to the Evernote web app. However using Evernote with IE8 wasn’t the easiest: formatting errors and sluggish response made efficient use of non-contact time tricky. So I tried the Android app on my phone. It was more responsive but harder to search. As time went on I trusted the system less and it was replaced by Wunderlist 2 for my phone and – in time – the iPad used during the #RGCdevicetrial. Unfortunately syncing issues between devices where items I’d previously completed reappeared or items I’d added on one device didn’t appear on another killed my trust. I was also slightly unhappy about the disconnect between Wunderlist 2 and Evernote – knowing which tasks I’d completed required using Wunderlist and once the synchronising issues began, it wasn’t a reliable gauge.

Over Christmas I read a few blog posts on productivity and the pros and cons of a clean workspace ( Clean Your Desk and Save Your Career with GTD , Cross Disciplinary Evil of Clutter ,   Why You Should Have a Messy Desk ). Bill Meade’s words had the most impact and I decided to revisit the GTD system I’d implemented in Evernote as a result. Now the Desktop application allows shortcuts and I already use this to jump straight to my blogging notebook. I decided to try saving searches to quickly show the notes categorised as now, next and soon but then had difficulty finding the saved searches. A few more internet searches led me to discover that you can drag saved searches to the shortcut section in Evernote – result!

Now my important searches are quickly available:

I was also pleased to see that the saved searches syncronise to the web app too!

And the iPad app gives me the same searches!

At the time of writing I have just short of 5000 notes in Evernote. Only 318 have been moved to the “Completed” notebook and a further 1000 have been categorised. I have a bit of pain to go through before I see the gain!