How Evernote Is Revolutionzing My Classroom

evernote official logoFrom 8th January – 22nd March I chose one class, my First Year class (aged 11-12) to give up using exercise books, reading books and textbooks. Instead, they would use only digital mediums that were available to them through an iPad that they were supplied with during each lesson.

We are now at the halfway point of this test, and I wanted to reflect a little on what I have found so far.

The first stumbling block was the fact that the iPads that they had access to were not theirs to take home – they were issued at the start of each lesson and collected in at the end. So, I needed something stable, reliable and powerful that would work across any platform to be at the core of what we did. The natural choice for this was Evernote.

Evernote would do two of the key things I really needed – it allows my students to curate their work (which can be produced in a multitude of mediums) in an orderly, logical fashion, and, perhaps most exciting, it allowed me to observe their work as they created it, through shared notebooks. In addition to this, we have utilized other parts of the Evernote family by using Skitch and Penultimate which automatically sync drawings and handwritten notes amongst other things) straight to your main Evernote folders.

On the surface of it, this meant that I had simply digitized what has always been; they have an exercise book that is held on the cloud instead of on physical pages.

So is it worth it?

evernote-ipadThe answer is, yes. As a result of this experiment I have had to adapt and adjust the way things have been done in the past. The most obvious change is the way I have approached my marking of their work. I felt that if I had gone to the trouble of setting up a digital portfolio of their work, then asking them to print it off each time I wanted to mark it would be a backwards step, especially given that I had access to the work whenever I wanted it. So, I marked the work on my computer. For each note that they created, I had a corresponding Text box on a Pages document.

As I read the work in Evernote, I made both formative and summative assessment of the work as I saw it. The flaw in this plan at the moment, is that I’m not physically putting ‘pen to paper’ in order to correct work, instead I’m pointing out errors through my comments. Whilst I don’t see this as a particularly bad thing, it is something I am going to experiment with in this second half of term using a PDF annotating app, which will allow me to open up their work in a secondary app and make actual corrections to the work.

That said, the summary sheet that accompanied this scheme of work was very well received by parents; there was a sense that this document gave them the clearest possible indication of how their child was progressing in the subject and was more accessible than trying to look through an exercise book. I have also got the impression (though I will attempt tot collect data on this) that parents have been quite heavily involved at home with regards to discussing and using Evernote and the iPads in general, which has had a very positive impact on how the whole ‘experiment’ has been received.

Has the work improved?

In a class of 22, I would say that there were 2 or 3 students who have struggled with the technology aspect of this project. The workflows used are relatively simple, but they do take some getting used to and the students involved had less developed motor skills and organizational skills than the other students.

For the rest of the class, I have noticed that the overall trend is that the level of effort they put in to work has increased and their attainment, or actual academic level, has moved along with this. The use of technology has masked totem the fact that we have handled material way beyond the expected level. The great thing about having a device like the iPad in the classroom is that it has made them realize that no problem is insurmountable.

See Also: 6 Ways To Have A Paperless Classroom

If I ask them something they don’t know, they look it up, if they come across a word they’re unsure of, they look it up. If they need to know how to make the app they’re using do smoothing, they ask their friends or they look it up. My students are more independent as a result of this experiment and yet at the same time I am able to spend more individual time with them discussing ideas and problems.

The summary so far…

evernote new versionEvernote, the related apps and then the iPad in general have allowed my students to produce more varied work than they would have without it. There notes are organised, unlike their exercise books. There is far less missing work, there are no missed deadlines and they feel that this work is more important to them.

In this 6 week block just gone by they have been studying poetry. They have looked at incredibly challenging material, ranging from identifying the key aspects of a Shakespearean sonnet, right through to studying and comparing poems by Langston Hughes. They have annotated poems online, created a glossary of poetic terms, a video poem of one of Hughes’ poems, an eBook of their favorite poems which they have designed and illustrated, as well as curating notes on how to begin the process of analysing poetry and examples of them having a go at the very challenging task.

As I have already mentioned, much of this work is beyond their years in terms of complexity and subtlety and yet their grades have either maintained the level they were at, or gone up; none have floundered. Do I think that the technology has facilitated them accessing more complex material in a meaningful way? Unreservedly.

What’s next?

In this next four week period these same students will continue in this trial. I will collect data from them about their own perception of how their learning has been challenged/improved and how they would hope to progress from this point. They will be studying A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which they will read as an iBook. They will continue to curate their notes in Evernote, but in this second half of the trial I hope to challenge them to use a wider variety of apps, come to me with their own recommendations, and maintain the high standard of curation that they have started. I hope to address the difficulty of marking, so that I can feedback in a wider variety of ways and I hope to continue to produce work in as many different mediums as possible. Already they have created a short film of the opening of the play using Puppet Pals, and I’m looking forward to seeing how things progress

15 Comments

  1. Richard Anderson

    March 15, 2013 at 10:36 am

    The plural of “medium” in this context is “media”, not mediums.

  2. Chris Parsons

    March 16, 2013 at 5:35 am

    Whilst I’m obviously interested in the way you are going with this (otherwise I wouldn’t have been reading it!) I’m nevertheless unsure about the assumed goal of a ‘paperless’ classroom. – Not whether it’s possible, but actually whether it’s desireable. Sure, paper involves the cutting down of trees, but these can be re-grown, whereas many of the constituents of an iPad can’t. Furthermore, where’s the ecology in a platform that continually requires electricity, and increasingly, access to a disparate network? Surely a mixed paper/digital classroom is the optimum? Certainly for the pupils’ eyes, but also for the environment and also in the eventual interests of variety and contrast of learning experience?

  3. charlotte

    March 16, 2013 at 5:37 am

    This is really interesting, and Ilove the idea of evermore as an online portfolio. How are you getting hem to annotate? Think this isth e current stumbling block for e.m

  4. Julie

    March 16, 2013 at 8:53 am

    This sounds great. I only use Evernote personally for organizing my recipes. I’d love to use it more in my classroom although sometimes I struggle with finding authentic reasons for using it. Do you have any samples or screenshots of some student notebooks you’re willing to share? I’d love to see what your kids are curating and producing.

  5. Nurmuhammed

    March 16, 2013 at 9:50 am

    Hello curious teachers all from around the world. I am from Kazakhstan. I would like to share some information about how to collaborate Evernote with annotating apps. One of which is IAnnotate PDF. So students can annotate a text, then make make a screen shot of his work if he/she uses iPad. And paste it into the Evernote where lately teacher makes some correction by commenting the picture. What do you think about my idea?

  6. Manuel Braverman

    March 18, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    Is this project strictly personal? Each student has its own Evernote Notebook and you view each one individually or is it a collaborative job done in one single notebook for the whole class. Do you use the free version of Evernote or a premium one?

  7. Jason Knight

    March 18, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    Thanks for sharing your experiences with us. Very helpful. Our school is on the cusp of launching a 1:1 iPad program next year. You might try Notability as an app to use for annotating student work. We are wondering if it doesn’t largely take Evernote out of the cycle completely.

  8. Tom

    March 19, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    Any thought in using Google Drive instead? I was thinking about making a very simple portfolio with Google Drive…

    • Cindy

      March 27, 2013 at 9:41 am

      I have been using Google Sites for online portfolios for about 5 years now. Using a basic template that I have created, it has been a very valuable experience for my 12-13 year old learners. It has been exciting to see them go from needing regular feedback from me in order to feel validated in their decision making to a more confident student who is more productive and proud of their accomplishments.

  9. Aaron

    March 21, 2013 at 3:00 am

    I have been using Evernote extensively this year in my Middle School science and math classes. I find it to be a great way to track student work, emails ( parent/student), write anecdotal notes and generally stay organized. A colleague and I put together an hour long PD session on Evernote (see link), and since then I have been using the share feature more and more. It allows for a continuous feedback loop between students and teachers as well as parents. Please email me if you have any questions about using Evernote.

  10. Kim Nilsson

    March 21, 2013 at 5:33 am

    Google Drive works perfectly for this purpose and also includes the ability to edit the pupil’s shared documents. Also many pupils can work on the same document at-the-same-time!

  11. Tommaso

    March 21, 2013 at 6:54 am

    Try this app: AIRSKETCH. You can transfer your student’s work to this app and then add your handwritten comments (any color), take a snapshot of the result and send it back to them.

  12. Mocheline

    March 23, 2013 at 6:49 am

    Inspiring. Would you consider commenting on your students’ work with Jing. The audio would be a powerful tool to respond to student work, ask good questions and, a good resource for editing purposes. Cheers.

  13. Rick

    March 25, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    This sounds great I’ve used ever note for research and a little note taking on pc’s. Can you tell me more about the organisation and submission of work.
    If you were going to extend this across other subjects how would you organise content.

  14. Deborah

    March 28, 2013 at 5:53 am

    Thanks for sharing–it’s great to follow your adventure. My question is the same as Charlotte’s: how are your students annotating? My students found sketch book express and some are using it with confidence, but I’m still on the hunt for a really good answer to this important question.