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Automatically send quotes to your essay plan from Chrome

Automatically send quotes to your essay plan from Chrome

Evernote is great but it’s pretty bulky. If you’ve read my post on essay planning, here’s how you can send quotes straight to your Trello quote board with Evernote Web Clipper on Google Chrome.

Setup

  1. Create an account on Trello, Evernote and IFTTT.
  2. Add the Evernote Web Clipper extension to your Chrome browser.
    You can save your quotes to the default “notebook” (folder) on Evernote or create a new one called “Quotes”. Sign in on evernote.com then find the notebook icon in the left-hand column and add a new notebook by clicking the icon at the top right of the box that has just opened.ice_screenshot_20160828-192040ice_screenshot_20160828-192249


  3. Create a new IFTTT  recipe to use Evernote as a trigger and Trello as an action.

 

Want to make it even quicker? Here’s how you can add quotes by just clicking \ and Enter.

Done? You can click on a quote to remind yourself of its source.

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Cut the stress of essay planning with Trello

Cut the stress of essay planning with Trello

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Trello is an app that quickly creates cue cards / index cards on a virtual cork board. We can use Trello to organize any project, including an essay.

Of course if you prefer, you can use real index  cards for this instead.

Setup

  1. Once you’ve set up a Trello account, create a new board and name it with your essay question.
  2. Click “Add a list…” and title this column “Quotes”.
  3. Now dump every single quote you can think of under this heading, adding a new card for each quote. You are trying to find any quote you think might link to the question: anything that’s going to be useful later. Just copy the quote down; you don’t need to say anything about it yet. If you have a relevant point that you can’t find a quote for or you have something relevant to say e.g. about the historical context, you can stick this in as well – as long as it’s only a brief note.

If you spend quality time doing this now, you won’t have to break the flow of your essay later to flick through books/articles/Wikipedia.

You can add quotes whilst you read by downloading the Trello app on your phone and putting an “add card” widget on your home screen.

4. Once you have one long column of quotes you should be able to start shaping your essay. There are two ways you can do this

Method a) Click “Add a list…” again to add four extra columns; just call them “1”,”2″,”3″,”4″. Now try to split your quotes, putting them into these four groups. To move a quote, simply click and drag it. You don’t need to spell out what the quotes in each group have in common yet. You might find that five or three different groups emerge and that’s fine, just adjust the number of columns. If you still have some quotes it your quote column, just leave them there rather than trying to force them into a group. Once you’ve created your groups, change the column headings to something that describes what the quotes have in common using one sentence. What do all the quotes show? This doesn’t have to be the main thing they show.

Method b) Give a one sentence answer to the question. Click “Add a list…” and type in your sentence. Give three more one-sentence answers, creating four columns in total.

Q:    Is Curley’s wife presented as a villain in Of Mice and Men?

A:    1. She is presented as a naïve child.

2. She is presented as a manipulative bully

3. She is the only sign of life on the ranch and therefore good.

4. She is just projecting the hidden desires and anxieties of the other characters.

Q:    To what extent do biological approaches adequately explain the causes of Schizophrenia?

A:    1. Twin studies suggest significant heritability.

2. Many researchers focus on environmental stressors rather than genes.

3. Viruses and conditions in the womb may play an important role.

4. Some researchers suggest parenting and experiences in childhood are important.

Now click and drag your quotes into the column under the heading they relate to. Leave behind quotes that don’t belong under a heading, you might be able to mention them in the flow of your essay.

It’s fine if your one-sentence answers / column headings are similar: essays typically just have one central argument and sometimes a counter-argument.

5. A traditional essay typically has three parts:

The Thesis: Your main theory / argument.

This is the very first thing people are going to read so you need to have some hustle. Say something that can be proven wrong: not “There are many reasons to believe  that Curley’s wife may or may not be a villain” but “Curley’s wife is cruel, calculating and manipulative: a villain worthy of a Shakespearean tragedy.”

The Antithesis: The argument or arguments you know of that go against your thesis.

What would you say if you were arguing against yourself? In a scientific paper you might talk about the limitations of your study here or external factors that could undermine your findings.

The Synthesis: Why your thesis is still right, even given the antithesis.

You will need to rephrase your thesis with a few howevers to make this work.

You can split your columns into thesis and antithesis by clicking on the heading and dragging the whole column. Put your two or three thesis columns on the left. Start with the column that either

a) You believe is the “right answer”

b) You can argue for most passionately or convincingly (if it’s appropriate for the kind of essay you’re writing)

or

c) It is the biggest idea and can be said to include some of the ideas expressed by the other columns

6. Print off your board. To do this you can click on the right hand menu under “Show Menu”, click “More” then choose “Print and Export” and “Print”. “Print to .pdf” Will save your board as a PDF file on your computer that you can print off and have by your side when you’re writing your essay.

7. Turn off the internet at the wall and put your books out of sight.

8. Use your quote and point cards to start thinking about your paragraphs. You could write one paragraph per column or split the piece into shorter paragraphs. Use quotes or points that could belong under two different headings to move from one paragraph to the next. You can start a paragraph by talking about the same quote but making a different point about it.

9. Use your headings to help structure a synthesis / conclusion. You’re not using any quotes now. You’re explaining your key points. You’re explaining your thesis and how it might have changed or expanded in the process of dealing with the antithesis / experiments / wider reading. It often helps to make it sound like you’ve made a discovery.

You’ll probably re-write this when your essay is finished but it’s useful to know where you’re heading before you start.

10. You can go online or browse through your reading materials again at a different time, but not now! Now it’s time to write. Plug some music in (if it doesn’t have words) and write until you run out of steam, consulting your plan whenever you get stuck.

You can share your board with others to collaborate on an essay. You could focus on a column each.

Share your board with us below!

Want to automatically send quotes to your essay plan as you browse? Read this next.

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Cut the stress of lesson planning with Trello

Cut the stress of lesson planning with Trello

Timetable

If organisation doesn’t come naturally to you, then juggling what resources you need to produce for what lessons for what day for what class can be rather stressful. It’s nearly as stressful as finding all those resources when you’ve got two lessons back to back and the class are temperamental and last time the email with the attachment got buried in your inbox and when you tried to find it on your USB they all saw the photos from your holiday in Magaluf.

With Trello I can create a dashboard so that everything is right there in front of me. I plan

A Y12 Creative Writing lesson
A Y12 Creative Writing lesson

and retrieve my lessons in one place without fiddling about too much. If I click on a lesson in my timetable, all my PowerPoints, worksheets, links and notes are there.

Be warned though: the process of setting this up and sustaining it from week to week could be a lot more streamlined. Can you think of another way to achieve the same results? I feel like it’s something Google should do, by integrating Calendar and Drive.

 

Setup

  1. Create a Trello account and create a  new board.
  2. Title your board “Blank Timetable”.
  3. Click “Add a list…” and name the list for the day of the week. Create a new column like this for each day of the week.
  4. Click “Add a card” under each day for each lesson you are teaching (Add after school and lunch sessions if you’re going to track clubs and duties).
  5. Every time you add a new card, write in the name of your class.
  6. Once you have your full timetable laid out, hover over a class and click the grey pencil in the top right of the box. In the drop down menu click “Edit Labels” – this will allow you to colour-code each class.
  7. On the right-hand side, near the top of the page, click “Show menu” and then “More”. Choose “Copy Board”.
  8. You are now working on a copy of the board. Click the title in the top left to name the board with the starting date of the week you are planning.
  9. Click on a lesson to add resources or notes to it. You can choose “attachments” from the right-hand side and choose a file from your computer, Dropbox or Google Drive. Any links to websites or videos you paste it will automatically preview, ready to play / visit once you click enter. Make sure you’ve got at least a comment on every lesson you’ve planned already so that you know what you still need to do at a glance.
  10. Use “stickers” from the menu on the right side as reminders for specific lessons / break times.

 

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Turn your Fitbit into a productivity coach

Turn your Fitbit into a productivity coach

Chances are, your phone’s notifications have become like flies against a windshield. The endless slurry of texts, social notifications and lame attempts at direct marketing has made our brains go into standby mode. Productivity apps that rely on our phone’s notifications are unlikely to have the kind of impact we’d want. One partial workaround is to set a different sound for these apps’ notifications but this doesn’t really get to the heart of the problem.

The salve for this pickle could well be in your humble Fitbit. A Fitbit has three advantages over you phone’s notifications system:

  1. You can’t do much with a Fitbit so it’s not going to create more distraction.
  2. It doesn’t hold the negative associations of all the things you stress about on your phone.
  3. It’s right there on your wrist, holding you to account.

Wouldn’t it be great if your favourite productivity app could communicate with your Fitbit instead? Enter bitTicker:

Bit Ticker site and logo
http://bitticker.newimage.io/

bitTicker makes your Fitbit vibrate whenever you get a notification from a chosen app. Let me give you three ways you can make this work for you before I give some advice on setting this up.

1) Time your to-dos

You can use a scheduling app like TimeTune (for recurring tasks) or Any.do (for one-offs) to specify the exact day and time to do what you need to do. If you sit down and spend a little time inputting everything you have to get done (and make this process one of your weekly to-dos!) then you won’t waste the time you were meant to spend working or studying; nor will you have your to-do list looming over you.

You’re in the kitchen making a sandwich and then your Fitbit vibrates. You look down at your wrist and read:

“HISTORY ESSAY”

And so you go to your desk and do the essay. Removing the choice of when you do the things you’re meant to do can be very liberating!

I’ve tried this with Todoist and it seems to be a bit unreliable. Please let us know if you’ve found an app that works well for you or if you have a good way of using one of the apps mentioned here.

2) Quick reminders

You can use Google Inbox’s reminders feature to follow up on emails when it’s more convenient. Save this for important stuff; it’s a way to stop these things getting buried in all your other messages.

3) Pace yourself

The Pomodoro technique is the simple idea that you get your chores done quicker if you know you’ve got a break coming up. You time yourself for 25 minutes of work with 5 minutes of rest and there are lots of apps that do this for you. If you add your favourite Pomodoro app to bitTicker then the timer will work on your wrist!

The Pomodoro technique can backfire! It only works for things you find boring. This is because interruptions can drain you and cost you a lot of time trying to get back in the zone. To reduce this effect you could try to

a) Use the 5 minutes to do something still related to your task e.g. searching Google Images for photos to put into the assignment you’re writing or asking a friend something about the work.

b) Keep your break neutral rather than doing something else fun and absorbing e.g. make a cup of tea rather than playing Candy Crush.

c) If you have music playing, pause it and then resume it at the end of the 5 minutes.

Setup

  • Go to the bitTicker website and download the “APK file” for the app.
  • Get your phone cable and connect  your phone to your computer.
  • Move the bitTicker APK onto your phone, to a folder you’ll be able to find easily. Safely disconnect your phone.
  • Open up your files folder on your phone and find the file you just transferred. Install bitTicker.
  • You should be able to open the app. It has its own setup instructions on the home screen. Make sure you’ve clicked “Test” before going on.
  • Click the little plus in the top-right and find your productivity app of choice. It’s best to download an app especially for this use or choose an app that only gives you useful notifications. (Most  to-do apps don’t ask you to give the time at which you’d like to complete the task. You might need to look up how to schedule to-dos on your app or else how to schedule reminders.)
  • Make sure your phone is not on silence (bitTicker won’t work if it is).
  • Let us know how you got on!

Fitbit have stopped allowing this feature on the Fitbit Charge. It only works on the Surge, Blaze and Alta. If you’d like Fitbit to enable text notifications again to let bitTicker work with other models, let them know here.

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