Well it’s been just over 2 years since I tentatively pulled out my iPhone in class and trialled using the app ‘Evernote’ for the first time. If it wasn’t love at first use, it sure was close. Since then I’ve blogged about it, talked at numerous conferences about it, posted hundreds of tweets declaring my love for it, and watched countless other teachers who I’ve introduced Evernote to blog about it, tell others about it etc etc.
There are many great blog posts about Evernote by teachers that explain ways that they use it (Miss Spink On Tech is a particular standout), but I’ve never quite found everything all in the one post. So this is it. I’m putting the effort in here because I honestly believe its the most powerful assessment tool that’s ever been made so freely available to teachers.
What is it?
In a nutshell, a note taking app that stores the notes you take in ‘the cloud’ and syncs them to each device you have installed Evernote on. You can take audio, photo or text notes, or a combination of all 3. It can also take clippings from the web and save them automatically for you.
Evernote’s iPad toolbar
Easily Capture and Store notes, photos, audio of student performance:
The power of Evernote comes in how quickly and easily the user can capture an observation and store it in an easy to search filing system. Record observations from class, notes from parent teacher interviews, test results etc, all in one easy to search paperless automatically backed up place that is accessible from almost any connected device on the planet.
As well as just straight text notes, you can take a quick snapshop of a student’s work on your phone or iPad, annotate the picture with your observations, and then tag the note with the student’s name.
You may then have that same student read for you later in the week. Open Evernote, create a new note, hit the microphone and you are recording that student reading to be played back at any time later on. You can even make notes of your observations as the student is reading. Once again, when you are finished, simply tag the note with the student’s name.
After 6 months of these types of observations, by the time you sit down to do your reports and type in a student’s name into the tag search, you will find you have so much rich informal assessment information without even considering lugging even one of the student’s workbooks home with you.
If you are teaching in an ICT rich environment and most of the student’s work is online or on a wordprocessor, simply use the Evernote web clipping tool to capture the bits of the student work you would like to save into a note. Or, use the app Skitch. Also free, it is a screen capture tool that links up with your Evernote account.
Here’s some examples of what you might capture with Evernote:
This is a quick photo taken of a section of a February spelling test. I wanted to record the pattern of the student putting an ‘e’ at the end of each word. It shows clearly his confusion about this, and a clear teaching point for me with this particular student. Its a classic example of something I would have corrected and forgotten about before Evernote.
Once you have recorded a student reading to you, this is how it looks. The recording is stored as an mp3 file that can be easily played back. The notes above the recording can be typed in real time as you hear the student read.
Snapshots of students’ first pieces of writing for the year with my own observations annotated in. This type of snapshot is priceless when sitting down to report on the student’s progress in writing mid year or end of year.
Evernote allows you to create checklists with tick boxes. Checklists are a great form of assessment when you are looking for evidence of the demonstration of a particular skill. Lets say you’re a Music teacher looking to see which students in your Prep class can clap to the beat of a song. Create a checklist with the names of the students in your class. Simply have your iPad next to you as you run the class activity and tap the box next to each student name to create a ‘tick’ as they demonstrate the skill you are looking for. Simple and paperless. And the best thing is you can then copy and paste the check list you have created and simply change the title for the next time you need it.
See some other different ways checklists can be used on Bec Spink’s blog here
Simply recording a child reading is an amazing thing. Not only does it allow you to reflect on their reading after the hustle and bustle of class time is over, but playing the recording back to a student can be an incredibly powerful learning experience for them. I had a student that would rush his reading so as to almost be impossible to understand. I told him to slow down over and over again throughout the year with little success. Finally I played one of my Evernote recordings of him reading. He looked amazed and said to me “I read too fast!” From that day on his reading was clear and at an appropriate pace.
You can take Running Records a step further by uploading the Running Records assessment sheets into digital PDF form and annotating them using your iPad. They can then be saved as a digital file in Evernote. Once again, a paperless assessment solution.
Once again, Bec Spink has covered this topic here, with a particular focus on the app Goodreader for annotating PDFs.
Displaying student work
Because Evernote syncs all your devices almost instantly, it is possible to take your iPad or iPhone around the class, take photos of student work, and by the time you get back to your desk they will all have been downloaded onto your laptop. If your laptop is plugged into an LCD screen or IWB you can immediately show the student’s work on the screen to the rest of the class. This is great for displaying and highlighting student work you want to make a teaching point from. It’s immediate and instant, and allows you to capitalise on things you notice in the moment as you rove your class. Even better, when you’re finished, tag the photo with the student’s name and it will be stored with the rest of that student’s tagged notes waiting for you when you want to reflect on what that student has demonstrated this semester.
Likewise, if you’re outside doing an activity, you can take photos on your phone through Evernote, and as soon as you return to class show them to the students from your laptop.
Using the automatic text detection feature
Evernote automatically detects text within snapshops and digitizes it to make it searchable. This is an amazing feature and can be very useful for teachers. For example, if you take a snapshop of student work and forget to tag it, as long as the student’s name is present somewhere on the piece of work (even if it is handwritten), that piece of work will come up when you type in the student’s name into Evernote’s search bar.
If you need to take lots of photos of student work on the run in a class and don’t have time to tag as you go, a good idea is to make up a name card for each student in your grade and have those appear in the photo instead. For example, an Art teacher taking photos of student art work might put a card with the student’s name on it next to the art work, take the photo, and let the Evernote text detection go to work. Having the student’s name present in the photo is as good as tagging the picture.
Of course, Evernote is also a fantastic place to store all your own personal notes as well! Now I no longer have a class, that is exactly how I now use the app.
So there you go. I’ve tried to be as thorough as I can with all the ways I’ve used Evernote or heard about it being used by other teachers. If you’ve got a great idea that I’ve missed, please let me know!