Re-Blog: 7 Smart Ways To Use Evernote For Research As A PhD – Next Scientist

OK- I still Love, Love, Love Evernote. It is one of my 3 technology saviours for my PhD and academic work (the other two are Dropbox and Mendeley) Here is a blog I read a while ago with some great tips for using Evernote to better organise your research. They had me very early on with the comparison to a ‘swiss army knife’… read on and enjoy 🙂

7 Smart Ways To Use Evernote For Research As A PhD – Next Scientist.

Until next time,

Fiona T

Dropbox update – MyPaperless PhD

Just a quick post today-

After thinking that I wasn’t saving to dropbox properly at work, I found the real problem was not closing the windows/programs I was working with on my laptop. I was inadvertently overwriting the work I did at work when I would open my laptop later in the day. Dropbox, being uber efficient, was updating the files fine 🙂 . I did find, by using opening my dropbox account on the web, that you can search previous versions of folders and files and re-instate the one you need- thanks dropbox.

I also recently upgraded my dropbox storage and began paying for this extra space- imagine my surprise when Dropbox announced last week they were upgrading all pro- storage to 1TB for no extra charge! Very happy with that 🙂

Until next time

Fiona T

Wishing you a Merry and organised Christmas.

Season’s Greetings to all of my readers and followers on Facebook and twitter.
This time of year brings with it a pause for me to reflect on the year and plan towards next year. At this time last year, I was in the midst of a frenzy of baking, wrapping presents and entertaining LT as he had started holidays. This year I decided to take a calmer, more organised approach to the season. I did this by planning well ahead of time the baking I wanted to complete and began to use my freezer to support the baking I like to do at this time of year. I baked Almond Bread loaves and stowed them in the freezer to be cut and baked only a couple of days ago. Next year I will make the cookie dough ahead of time and freeze this too. I also broke up the cooking over a couple of days, so I have time each day to spend with my family and relax too. This has worked pretty well, especially when on the last day I couldn’t store any more food in the fridge/freezer and so I cancelled the last day of baking!

Another thing I did to improve my use of time was to get photo cards printed to use as Christmas cards (I use , they have a 24 hour turn around and email the card to you to approve. These would also be great for invitations.) A couple of years ago I set up an excel spreadsheet with my address list for Christmas cards, and after a quick update for people who have moved, I printed off the labels. This made the Christmas card process more streamlined this year.

Christmas shopping was a combination of online and ‘real’ shopping, and I had a list on Evernote to track my ideas for different people we buy for.  This, I am happy to say, meant that I have bought less impulse presents, and so don’t feel that I have wasted money this year.

So, I am much calmer and looking forward to a busy but fun Christmas Season with my family and friends.

All the best for the holidays and happy New Year. I hope to see you all again in 2013, the year of full time work and part time ‘paperless’ PhD.

Fiona T

Squire’s Affinity Spaces: My example

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear” (Buddhist Proverb)

This is the quote that was in my head as I woke up this morning. Last night I read more of Kurt Squire’s: Video Games and Learning and pondered the section on ‘Affinity Spaces’ as examples of ‘Participatory Spaces’ for learning. An online affinity space is a place to voluntarily share knowledge and expertise, it is a participatory place as those joining need to contribute to it (Squire 2011). The larger and longer running of these become known as ‘Communities’.

Squire’s (2011) examples reflect upon spaces for students as well as his experiences in creating and enacting them as an adult. In my life as a teacher and teacher educator I have been active in creating and maintaining my classroom (and beyond) as affinity spaces. As I was reading I was quickly realised that I am part of a few participatory affinity spaces. First to mind is Facebook, where I am active in contacting and conversing with friends, and playing games. Second to mind is Twitter, where I am getting more active in participating in PhD and Academic circles. But my best ‘real life’ example of an affinity space is the online tatting group ‘intatters’.

I have been a keen crafter for a long time, and have been tatting (lace making, using a shuttle and knots), or attempting to, for nearly 20 years. Having no one nearby who could help me with the nitty-gritty questions was frustrating and isolating,  causing me more than once to put the threads and shuttle back in the cupboard. Around 10 years ago I figured out the ‘flip’ needed to create the stitches needed and I began tatting again with renewed vigor! By then we also has a great internet connection and I began looking at ebay, blogs and other places I could find patterns, inspiration, and advice. It was only last year I ‘found’ and joined the online tatting guild (there is a guild in Victoria, but they meet around an hour away from me, so I haven’t pursued this community link).

As an affinity space and participatory space the opportunities in this free forum abound. It was the opportunity for me to share my knowledge and ideas, and an even greater opportunity to draw on the ‘collective intelligence’ of tatters from all over the globe. I have been involved in ‘exchanges’ (tatters send each other items, there are about 4 of these a year), forums and chats. I have also been active in classes to learn how to use designing software to diagram and write my own patterns. There is also an online tatting class to learn shuttle tatting. These are run as free classes, and the teachers volunteer their time to put together course work every week. The tatters who organise these classes are creating wonderful learning experiences and are the drivers of these affinity spaces. There is a sense that we are all learning together, and I feel that we are good friends (I have been doing the classes for nearly 10 months now). As a whole this guild and associated classes have been running for a long time, and last year (when I was ready to be involved in them) I jumped right in.

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear” is as true today as it was years ago, it is just a bit easier to find the teacher using the wonders of the internet. When you are ready to learn anything today, you can easily use the online world to find an active affinity space to participate in. LT starts with you-tubes, I start with blogs, WH starts with ted talks and my BB starts with twitter.  Where ever you start, you will be able to find a place where you can be a learner and a teacher. Squire’s chapter explores the next step too, and says, if the affinity space you are looking for isn’t already there, digital media affords us the power and means to create it.  As a teacher I have seen students in schools active in creating affinity spaces, starting with their own classroom and then extending these spaces to the broader community. Knowing about and participating in these spaces goes hand in hand. Within my role as a teacher educator our team is modelling and exploring  how we can create, maintain and use these spaces for our own learning and that of our students.

I would be interested to find out about your examples of affinity spaces you are part of, or have been involved in creating. Please share stories and/or links in the comments.

Until next week,

Fiona T

Conference travel preparation.

The countdown is on! In less than 2 weeks I will be jetting off to the UK for my first International Conference.

I have been pondering and planning for this trip for a while now, and here is a link to my previous post on this topic.

After reading other blogs on conference travel I am under no illusion of getting a stack of reading done on the plane. In fact I am looking forward to the quiet (well relative quiet LOL) of not having to rush anywhere or do anything for quite a few hours.

I have found my case to be a little big for the carry on allowance the airline allows, so have sourced another case. I still did a trial pack though, into a smaller case, and think it will work out fine. I have 4 outfits that work with one pair of shoes and can cross co-ordinate these easily (yes, I’m only taking one pair of shoes!) :thinking in a minimalist way is getting easier. I am really proud that my toiletries bag is packed with the bare essentials, and have decanted creams and lotions into the teeny-tiny jars my BB found for us. Today I bought a bag that is between a handbag and a tote bag to be practical enough for plane and train travel and take to the conference. Of course there is always the option of shopping for something if I have really forgotten an essential item, but I don’t anticipate this as being necessary 🙂 .

Packing is only part of the logistics. The presentation will be fine and will be backed up on Prezi and Evernote. Insurance is sorted and tickets and accommodation. This week is busy with final bits and pieces as we get ready to jet off to this great opportunity.

The blog will be quiet for a couple of weeks while I am on this adventure, as I will be saving precious global data for skype calls home. I will post as soon as I can after I return.

See you all on the flip side!

Fiona T

Creating New Spaces for Students and Teachers to Learn.

The last couple of weeks have seen me working with my students on reflections on their teaching journey and the learning of their students. I am also reflecting on a range of aspects of my study as it emerges, and what I want to address in my learning journey. So it is probably no surprise to you that I’m a big fan of reflective practice.  Here is a reflection on reflective practice by an Australian educator…A PLPeep’s reflection from the Australia Community | Powerful Learning Practice. I did find it a while ago, but it still resonates with me. So have a read, then pop back here…I’ll wait for you 😀

Ok, so now you are back…what did you think? I like to think of the challenges that pop up on any learning journey as an opportunity. I also liked her lines: “Learning is the trips, stumbles and falls on the journey not the arrival at the destination.” and ” Student voice is powerful“, these are two ‘mantras’ all beginning teachers should have, and things we need to model and instill in our students also. Perhaps what I like most about the blog above is the honesty, we can see the shift in Margo’s thoughts about what the best PD is and what it really means to ‘learn’.

At this point in my journey I know how lucky I am to have this time and space to research and reflect upon education; my own (past and present), my WH’s and my sons’ (LT), and even that of my current students (young and old). I have blogged before on games, play, blogging with students and how they can be used as, of and for learning. These are all examples of things that I think are simple tools that can wield great power for students to start to build the skills they will need for their future, whatever it may hold.

Here is a link to a school in the US that has taken up this challenge. They have designed real curriculum (meets their state mandated curriculum) around World of Warcraft. It also has a you-tube of the students talking about their experiences in this class. I was excited to read and see the range of skills the students have developed by being involved in this unit, beyond just being engaged and motivated to research. The skills students have experienced include being active in an immersive world, collaboration with students in their class and students beyond, working at their own pace and challenging themselves too. Their teachers have successfully merged an online game and mandated curriculum. Most of all, they (students and teachers) have had FUN…they have enjoyed their learning experience and they want more!

This is what excites me about the future of education…it is an adventure in itself.

Fiona T

Long term planning: GANTT Charts (please help!)

First: Happy Mother’s Day to all Mums!

Second, this weeks blog post:

This week my BB has asked that I set up a planner/timeline for the 3 year duration of my study. I knew this was coming, and had been putting off doing a chart like this simply because I didn’t know what software to use and quite where to start.  As soon as she asked me I realised that I had put a ‘road block’ in place in my head. I have been so busy reading and researching other aspects of my study, this seemingly practical and obvious first step has been put in my mental ‘too hard’ basket.

So in an effort to move this forward and stop avoiding it I sat down with some sample GANTT style charts from a PhD seminar I attended and opened up Excel. Diligently I began typing in headings for each month, and straight away I found I couldn’t get it to display the dates the way I wanted. I also began to think ahead to when I need to break each month down to doable tasks and short term goals, I think (and WH confirms) that I would have to type it up again each time. This seems like a lot of double handling, and I’m sure my time could be used better.

I know I need help with this and so am asking you, my wonderful readers, for your advice of a program to use.

I would prefer a program that is free/low cost. If it works across platforms or is cloud based, all the better.  And the icing on the cake would be the ability to mesh it with my Google calendar, but I doubt any free software would do that. So what do you use? What would you recommend? What should I stay away from? I would love to hear what you think.

Thanks, in advance, for your advice 🙂

Fiona T

On standby: Kid’s present box

Over the last 15 years I have gotten a lot more organised with kid’s Birthday presents. This came from necessity, my husband has 5 nephews, and (especially when we were first together) their birthdays would creep up on us and we would make a mad dash past the shops on the way to their birthday parties. It didn’t take me long to come up with a formula for presents and a plan for gift shopping. Welcome to the ‘present box’ idea. I know many people use these and, like me, are always on the lookout for cool presents and bargains that can go into the box and make a great present for any child at a moments notice.

First, you need to get a few things organised. I started by getting sticky tape, paper and generic birthday cards and storing them in a box. I also have balloons to put in the birthday packages. All of these are quite economical if bought at places like 2 Dollar shops or K-Mart/Big W.

Second, come up with a ‘present formula’. This helps when shopping and also when gifting. I found it helpful with the 5 boys to buy for, as it always made sure the presents were fair across the years. We also have a price limit on birthday gifts for kids, otherwise it can get out of control. My ‘present formula’ is pretty simple: Something educational (eg a book), Something Fun (eg a small toy), something to share with their siblings (usually a packet of lollies) and some balloons (’cause birthdays are fun). As the boys have gotten older, I don’t always put in the sharing thing, they often get a lolly or chocolate bar for themselves. The balloons are still a hit, even with my now 18 year old nephew (he did complain when I stopped putting them in when he was a teenager, so they were re-instated LOL).

Next, when you are out and about shopping keep an eye out for discounted items or sales. If you have your formula and price bracket in mind, this becomes easier. Things I have on hand in my ‘present box’ include: Packets of pencils/textas/crayons, Activity books, children’s books (we are still working through the stack of Mr Men books we got at an Aldi sale!), sticker packs, stamp packs, tubs of playdoh, fuzzy felt, glitter glue, craft paper, felt, small project kits (include things like sand art, foam art and making bags/jewellery), novelty paper clips and erasers, small meccano or lego sets, matchbox cars and paint by number kits (or the newer canvases with paints). These are mostly not gender specific gifts, so are flexible in that all children will enjoy them. With LT at primary school and birthdays (it seems) every couple of weeks, this present box is a brilliant time saver.

Do you have a present formula, or even a specific gift you like to give to kids?  Do you have a present box? What other tips could you add…please feel free to comment below.

Until next week

Fiona T


Happy Easter and a Recipe.

Happy Easter! I am glad we have some holidays at the moment, it has given me a time to catch my breath and get organised again, with a view for a smoother term 2. In today’s blog I wanted to share a recipe I have adapted and my first photo tutorial to show the steps to make it.

I originally got this recipe from the Coles online blog. It was made with honey and dried fruit. Here is the link to the original recipe, it is nut free and egg free, and could easily be adjusted to be gluten free too. I find the ‘muesli’ slice idea a great one, and often have a slice of this in a container in my bag  in case I am caught out somewhere without a snack.

The reality when baking it was a little different. While it was easy to throw together, it was very crumbly when cut (we used a spoon to eat the first batch!) so I decided to adjust the recipe a bit. Over the last few months I have made this recipe almost every 2 weeks, adjusting it a little each time. I have changed this recipe so much, I now think I can call it my own.

This term I am also trialling a different way of organising my baking. As there are really 2 steps to mixing this recipe (1. Mix dry ingredients, 2. Add wet ingredients) I decided to make one batch, and premix the dry ingredients for another 2 batches (doesn’t take that much longer…I guess about 6 minutes). These extra batches are stored in airtight containers (or large snap lock bags) in the pantry, and when I need to make the next batch I can just add the wet ingredients and bake.

A production line of dry mixes:

Dry mixes: one ready to make and two to store in the pantry: 


Fi’s Honey & Nut Slice (Fi’s Honey and Nut Slice link to PDF version for easy printing)


1 cup rolled oats

1 cup nut mix (can be whole nuts, I do like to chop mine though. Dried fruit can be used instead)

½ cup Wholemeal flour

1 teaspoon of Baking Powder

¼ cup raw sugar

½ cup coconut

125g Butter

1 tablespoon Honey

2 eggs


  1. Melt butter and honey. I do this in a pyrex jug in the microwave. Once melted, allow to cool. 
  2. Preheat oven to 150 C-160 C (fan forced), and line a slice tin (approx 28cm x 18cm) with baking paper or greased foil.
  3. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. That’s your oats, nuts, sugar, flour, baking powder and coconut. Mix together.  
  4. Add the cooled butter and honey  then mix.  Add the 2 eggs. Mix thoroughly.

5. Press into prepared tin.

6. Bake for approx 20 minutes, until golden.  Allow to cool.

7. Cut into slices, and store in an airtight container. Keeps well for a couple of weeks. Great for snack and treats. Make a fruit only (nut free) version if sending for school lunches.


I really like the honey flavour in this recipe, especially for having only one tablespoon of honey in it.


Fiona T









Organising My Kitchen Cupboards


Last year I organised my hall cupboard, and blogged about it here: Hall Cupboard Guest blog  Today I finally got around to organising our kitchen cupboard. The corner cupboard had become a bit of a vortex in the last 12 months. It was a constant hassle to get anything in or out. Some of my cupboards are more functional:

and another drawer is a nightmare:On a recent trip to bunnings we found this ‘lazy Susan’ type insert for corner cupboards. That inspired me to get on and orgainse this cupboard and the drawers.

First I cleaned out the cupboard: And here is the multitude of things lurking:

  • a laundry basket full of plastic containers
  • Disposable containers for freezing food, blender beakers and a funnel.
  • Glass jars hoarded for preserving (that hasn’t happened on the scale I had planned…so they are going into the recycling)
  • Miscellaneous things that have rarely been used:

Some needed to go in the bin or recycling, a few other dishes needed better homes. I sorted and stacked while WH contorted himself to put the shelves into the cupboard. He didn’t let me take photos of this process, probably didn’t help that I was laughing…but here is the end result:

So then I got to re-arranging and finding better homes for cans, plates and plastics. Here are the photos:

  • made over corner cupboard
  • It swivels with room in the far corners for colanders:
  • The cans are accessible too…sooo much corn!

  • The plastics drawer, this is probably about as organised as it will ever get!

  • The bottom drawer now has large serving plates, quiche dishes and beaters:

So now it’s done. 12 months of annoyance and procrastination, and in under 2 hours it was sorted. I am so pleased, and it is one less thing to ‘deal with’ every day.  I also have seen stacked wire shelving on runners, for the pantry, and one day (perhaps in the easter holidays) WH and I will tackle that.

What de-cluttering task is on your list? Make a plan today to sort it out, I’m sure you will enjoy the benefits of one less thing being a chaotic mess, I know I am!

Until next week, when study has truly begun,

Fiona T



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