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Evernote and other tools for continuous learning

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So I'm out of university but I love carrying on with learning. Here are some tools I use to facilitate my learning which might be useful to you life long learners, as well as how I integrate the whole system with Evernote.

1. Mindmapping

I use SimpleMind, which has a free version and pro version. It's a very visual tool and its easy to create super attractive mindmaps. SimpleMind has a great notes tool which means each 'bubble' on a mindmap can actually store note text.

2. Wiki System

I use ZimWiki but I've used WikidPad in the past and some people prefer TiddlyWiki.
These tools allow you to create a personal Wiki where pages all link to each other. The apps mostly use plain text formats and what the app itself does is provide easy access to formatting tools, rendering for the formatting and it organizes the hierarchy/tree view for all your notes. Zim is amazing.

3. Anki

Hardest tool to use but potentially the most rewarding. It's used to make digital flashcards and syncs with your phone (free on Android, paid on iPhone). It uses spaced repetition to test you on your cards, but remember you have to set up each card. Two easiest ways to make a card: enter a question in the question field, and an answer in the answer field; or write a sentence and use the 'cloze' feature to comment out the answer. The second method is called a cloze deletion and gives you 'dot dot dot' questions like you might have had in school: "Nelson Mandela was the first democratic President of ..."


So the way I use all these tools is almost sequential:

I use mindmapping when I'm trying to learn everything I can about a new field entirely. Fresh knowledge - it helps me organize my knowledge. Imagine if you were trying to absorb a standard, introductory textbook on the topic.

I use Wikis for accumulating extra knowledge and personal knowledge. You don't want to create a second Wikipedia, where you write long wiki articles about things like 'the internal combustion engine'. Instead all my articles are things I've synthesized together from information which is more disparate: either new information, trivia, hidden information or information which is specific and might only be found in one corner of the internet or the other. It's about combining tidbits of new and useful information into a greater whole. If I wanted to learn South African history in general I'd use a mindmap. In my wiki I'd take for granted that I know who Nelson Mandela is and would rather create more unique pages like honing in on Mandela's views on the Iraq War.

Anki is where everything ends up. If I use my mindmap to learn general information and my wiki to store specific, newer information, I ultimately put what's in my Wiki into a flashcard deck. Things I want to remember. I much prefer cloze deletions to question-answer type cards. Then I review on my phone.



Evernote's role is pretty simple. I have a notebook stack called Learning and under it I have notebooks like: Add to Mindmap, Add to Wiki, Add to Anki. Any time I come across some new cool tidbit of information, it'll go into one of these notebooks as relevant. When I make the note, I specify where exactly and how to add the information. It might sit in my notebook for a while as I clean up the info before insertion. Then I review each notebook to see how to update my relevant resources. 

I use tags to organize by type of information. A Question is something I still need to read more about. A diagram is a picture I like which might need some annotation. A drawing is something I have to draw and clean up myself (I have a drawing pad which is super useful). A paper/attachment is something I will need to attach with key extracts. Database is something I will need to tabulate attractively before attaching... and so on


The key idea with life long learning is that you're going to be doing it incrementally. Like depositing little pieces of knowledge in your savings account. Evernote helps me coordinate that process - I can write down questions, save diagrams or articles snips I like and then accumulate them, edit them and deposit them in one of my main learning tools (mindmap, wiki, flashcard decks). I don't use Evernote as a lifelong store - both the Wiki and the mindmap have decent search. Instead I use Evernote to coordinate the process of storing the information in more useful forms which I can actually use directly.

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15 minutes ago, NewHero said:

Evernote's role is pretty simple.

For me, Evernote's role is the storage and organization of all my notes and documents     
This is my "lifelong store"

I have a notebook called "Filing Cabinet"   
"Learning" would be a set of tags

I'm not into mindmapping, but I would store the documents in Evernote   
No dedicated wiki service, but my notes are cross-linked, and tagged   
Task information is stored as Evernote notes, then exported to a spreadsheet for task management

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