Evernote – an attempt at the definitive summary of teacher uses!

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.

Create Checklists

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

Running Records

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.

Personal Notes

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!

30 thoughts on “Evernote – an attempt at the definitive summary of teacher uses!

  1. Hi Richard,

    What a great post! I really enjoyed reading and hearing about another teacher’s use of EN for asessment. Like you, I belive that EN is by far the best assessment tool available for teachers. It becomes such a powerful tool as it is an instant record of student achievements and work samples.

    Before last year assessment was never a strong part of my repertoire, I could never keep up with notes and the amount of paper was ridiculous! Since EN I fell like I am so confident and good at keeping and analysing student assessments!

    I will definitely be sharing this post with the teachers at my school. You can never have too many ideas when it comes to EN!


  2. Nice detailed post Richard. EN is one of those things I liked the look of, but never got around to using or fully exploring. I really wanted to!
    Wouldn’t it be good if Ultranet had this functionality?
    The only thing I am hesitant about, is forming any sort of absolute reliance on a cloud-based proprietary tech tool for essential school tasks. If for some reason EN was bought out (more likely), went belly-up (seems unlikely) or Netspace suffers one of its problems (very likely atm) or was unavailable at report time – particularly if you are only using the free version that doesn’t allow offline sync, then you need some other data source available for reports.
    Are you using the free version or are you paying for more? Have you ever had sync issues over VicSmart?
    There is no doubt it is a great piece of work – what do you think the impact of mandated Ultranet reporting may have on its use? You don’t want teachers double handling assessment.
    The other thing that has been known to happen with popular programs like this is that what was free, suddenly becomes a pay-for service (Ning anyone?) Have you got a contingency in mind if you find that everyone is in the EN groove and they suddenly have to pay for it? What if schools were suddenly data throttled or again had to pay for net usage again? These are the things going through my mind when I think of using these tools, as good as they are – and EN seems certainly to be up there as a great one!

  3. Hi mate, you’ve raised some good points to think about. Firstly, there is indeed a paid version and free version of Evernote. I’ve never needed to pay a cent as I never go near the data upload limits. The free version of Evernote syncs to all devices. Even when you are off line, you still have access to all your notes because a copy of them lives on the hard drive of your computer.
    In terms of issues with using it in Education Department schools, we did initially face some hurdles getting it to work on iPads through the proxy, but this was quickly resolved by our tech.
    As with any cloud based tech tool, there is no telling what the future holds in terms of pricing. The one think I’d say is that it has now been 2 years since I discovered Evernote and its pricing structure has been very stable all that time. Its been insanely popular for at least a year and its still free – surely a good sign?
    The great thing about their pricing structure is that if you reach your data limit in a particular month you can pay a few dollars to increase your data just for that month and then go back to the free service again. This is fantastic for our Art teacher, who uploads photos of 475 student’s Art work in some months!
    In terms of the Ultranet, I see Evernote as more a personal note taking tool. We still have digital and physical portfolios for student assessment. If we are forced to move our digital portfolios and reporting onto the Ultranet next year so be it, it won’t impact how we use Evernote.
    Go on Cameron, give it a shot. I know you want to!

  4. Cameron,

    You raised a great point about relying on cloud based tech- I can’t solve the issues completely but to make sure I don’t loose my EN data I regularly export my notes, usually once a week, so that when it does come to writing reports and if something did happen to EN I still have all my data…

  5. Hello Richard,
    This is Ron from Evernote. Just wanted to drop by and say thanks for putting together this great write-up on Evernote. Glad to hear you are enjoying using it and are sharing your uses with others.

    Regarding some of the questions in the comment thread. Evernote as a business uses the Freemium model, you can read more about it and our successes here http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/147/next-tech-remember-the-money.html . The business model was designed so we will always have a full featured, usable Free version to use and download for as long as you’d like. If you are looking for additional features such as advanced collaboration features or additional upload limits each month we have a premium version of Evernote.

    We recently launched Evernote Premium for Schools which bundles together all of our premium features as well as some specific ones relevant to schools and brings them to schools at a discount. You can check it out at http://www.evernote.com/about/schools/get_started/premium_for_schools/.

    Regarding the question of backing up. One of the bennefits of Evernote is that we have native desktop applications built for every platform. When you create a new note using the Mac App or the Windows App it is actually storing a copy locally on your machine. In this way you have multiple copies of your database on the different computers and devices as well as stored in the cloud.

    If you have any questions or would like me to clarify anything further please feel free to contact me.


  6. Pingback: Evernote the Definitve Classroom Guide | So What's It All Mean?

  7. I’ve now signed up for the paid version. Now I have the option of allowing users with whom I share notebooks to edit notes. Works well for team teaching.

    There are still some limitations I would like to get around.

    You can’t create a note in someone else’s notebook that has been shared with you. So my teaching partner cannot create a note about one of my students in a notebook that I have created for our two classes.

    On the iPad, shared notes can only be edited by the creator. Editing on the MacBook is fine.

    I’d love to attach video to notes!

    Perhaps these gripes taken care of in Evernote Premium for Schools?

  8. Hi Richard,
    Great post! I have been using Endnote now for a couple of years mainly for personal organisation. I never really considered using this in my teaching and learning. You’ve definitely given me some great ideas about how I can use this!


  9. Hi Richard
    Spent today ‘capturing’ some Year 8 book reports on Evernote. Bit slow on the iPhone but I persisted. Evernote could be a good tool to use at the upcoming Parent-Teacher interviews.

  10. The latest update for the iPad app resolves some of my issues. Notes can now be created and edited by the ‘share-ee’ as well as the ‘share-er’.

  11. Thanks for all your comments. Paul, that’s great news. Is that just in the paid version or in the free version as well?

  12. Pingback: Research tools | edthink

  13. Great post outlining the great features. I look forward to sharing this with the staff at my school so they can see its potential and use it to their advantage.

  14. great article…and if you use a Livescribe smart pen—the integration with EN is awesome—

  15. Thanks for the awesome examples! I have had the app for a while, but needed this to convince me to use it in class!

  16. Pingback: Using Evernote in Education | SSFS iPads

  17. Richard,

    Thanks for sharing your post and the ways you have used it.

    I recently worked with a group of teachers that have a shared notebook and they all use it to develop and refine their learning programs – simple idea with huge benefits.

    Have you used it with students to collect and record their work or thoughts or even recorded classes/presentations so that they can refer back to them.

    These tools offer teachers amazing levels of recording and capturing but with students they potentially provide a gateway to new ways of learning and sharing.


  18. Pingback: EverNote Ever Useful and Tom Whitby IS my PLN - CTRL-ALT DELiver

  19. Pingback: Daniel's Blog EST430 » Blog Archive » Why I no longer use a notebook in class

  20. Pingback: A Great Blog post on teacher uses of Evernote | Avalon

  21. Pingback: All about Evernote | Bright Ideas

  22. Pingback: Evernote – Remember Everything.

  23. Pingback: Evernote – Organization and Research tool for students | PBL Tech

  24. Pingback: A Great Blog post on teacher uses of Evernote | Welcome To Zona Putih

  25. Pingback: Should teachers have to pay for the technology they use?

  26. Wow! What a fantastic post. It’s great to see all of these tips in one place. Do you have some suggestions on the best way to organise the files? I see that having too many notebooks could be an issue so would you set up one notebook say ‘Class 2014’ and then just tag everything you add with student name, date and subject area?

  27. Yep, that’s pretty much it. Although ‘date’ is recorded automatically. Really you just add any tags that represent things that you may want to sort your notes by at a later stage.

  28. Really good, thanks Richard. We intend to reference this in the national Naace Professional Development on AfL.

    kind regards

  29. Good job Richard. I teach Yr 4 primary in Malaysia. Now that it’s 2016 and smart phones have become even better and evernote has just updated the android version, I am finally trialling an idea I’ve been waiting for tech to catch up to – digital marking. Using the new skitch tools in android EN and the document camera, I digitise their work; use pre-programmed keyboard shortcuts or speech to text; add arrows and highlighter marks and save it all to be printed off in the morning. They glue in my digital marking which includes a space for them to improve on one or two aspects, and I’ve avoided the marking tower of doom or wrist ache. The keyboard shortcuts include emojis and just a few letters turn into a short paragraph of teacher’s advice. Adding a preprinted name tag before photographing files the work away to be found later by EN after a search for their name. The results are much nicer to read and much easier to do as I can mark in the gym, walking across the field or even in the coffee shop.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *