Evernote : A teacher’s best friend

Evernote is a useful and powerful note taking application. Millions of people around the world rely on it for activities as diverse as ticking items off a shopping list to collaborating on extensive projects.  For many Evernote is so invaluable it is like an extension of their brain!

Several core features make Evernote hard to beat for most people: it is easy to use, it is reliable, apps exist for just about every platform (desktop, mobile and web) and it is quick to perform detailed searches.  In addition to its wide appeal, Evernote is a fantastic tool for teachers and students.  Below are the main ways in which Evernote aids my day to day planning and teaching.

Capture
A large part of my work consists of thinking up new ideas and new resources, Evernote’s biggest strength is capturing information.  It is great at capturing ideas typed up, scribbled on an envelope, doodled, sketched – you name it Evernote can capture it!  Type directly into Evernote if you are able to or write / sketch onto paper and use the excellent document scanner which is built into the mobile apps.

Organise
There are three main ways to organise stuff in Evernote: stacks, notebooks and tags.  Stacks and notebooks provide the overarching structure.  I use Stacks to broadly differentiate between personal and work notes, each area has with a few / several sub categories provided by notebooks.  My work area consists of a general archive, a resources archive, notes from meetings, notes for tracking student performance, and an archive of physics / teaching related articles.

Notebooks are useful for imposing order upon Evernote content but the most useful aspect of organisation is the use of tags.

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Whereas a note can only be in one notebook at a time, a single note may have several tags.  It is also possible to nest tags in order to keep them organised too.  Tags make searching through thousands of notes much easier.

It is also sometimes useful to be able create a checklist for lessons and tick them off as the lesson progresses.  Checklists are easy to create and tick off in Evernote mobile apps.  Managing tasks in the office and classroom is straightforward and effective.

Plan
In one form or another Evernote is nearly always at hand, whether I’m commuting or at my desk I have a way of collecting and shaping ideas.  The mobile apps are very capable so refining ideas for a lesson on the go is possible.  The desktop apps are even more powerful so my work accelerates when I’m at my desk.  I much prefer to have my ideas and plans in a custom made application rather than as separate documents in folders on a computer.  In Evernote I can click / tap on a note and instantly start reading it, but documents have a time delay before I can start reading through them.  That difference is accentuated on mobile platforms.  And as mentioned above, organising notes in Evernote with tags makes finding what I need a heck of a lot quicker.

Search
Planning on paper has the big advantage of being able to sketch or doodle ideas as you go.  But paper is messy when it comes to archiving – I am hopeless at paper based filing!  It is also incredibly slow to search.  Digital platforms are excellent at search.  Evernote brings paper and digital together wonderfully.  It has a document scanner built it – it’s the camera function I use most.  After planning something on paper I scan it into Evernote.  Once it’s uploaded to Evernote’s servers even the handwritten text will become searchable!  I have terrible handwriting so it’s usually hit and miss for me but it does get it right sometimes.  Nonetheless good use of note titles and tags makes searching much more efficient anyway.

Evernote searching is very useful, it can be narrowed down by notebook, tag, and attachment type.  If you find yourself searching with the same terms regularly then you can save the search too.  Notes can also be tagged with locations if you like.  That can create a whole new approach to browsing your note history, especially if you travel a lot.

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Share

I’ve often created notes in Evernote that I think my students will find useful.  With a few taps any note can be made public with its own link.  Share that link with a class and they have access immediately via the link.  If I make something in advance of a class I can insert the link into Moodle (our VLE, the same can be done with Blackboard etc) so students can login and tap / click on the link.  I usually make a QR code for the link too and add it to the note / presentation so that the students can scan the code and navigate straight to the note on their phones / tablets.

Often my students and I may produce something worth keeping on the whiteboard in a class.  The document scanner works very well on whiteboards too, so I’ll often scan it and then share it with the class.  The above method of sharing is useful for sharing resources or ideas with other members of staff too.

Collaborate
If you want to take sharing to the next level, then share a whole notebook with students or staff.  Then collaborate on projects in the notebook.  Anyone who has an Evernote account and to whom give editing rights in a notebook can add new notes or collaborate with you on existing notes.  In order to give editing rights to someone else in a shared notebook you will need a Premium Evernote account.

Make an Evernote account here: http://bit.ly/1brRE7T, download the app, then get more productive.

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