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Monthly Archives: March 2014

Meet Evernote, you new best friend

When people discuss the integration of tablets into the classroom, the first point they bring up is saving paper. While this is a great ideal to aspire to, I never thought that note-taking apps were that useful. Maybe I’m just a traditional kind of girl who likes writing in a notebook (and filing my papers in a TrapperKeeper), but also I’ve never found that students were very organized with their digital notes. Digital notes were hard to search through and organize, you couldn’t even store your hand-written notes with your digital notes (at least easily), and, as a math teacher, my students might as well forget even bringing a laptop to document lectures. When I’ve tried to make my own digital notes, I would write them down and then either lose them or forget about them.

trapper-keeper

I swear, if Trapper Keeper made tablet covers, they’d make a second fortune.

And then I was introduced to Evernote. I played with it for a single weekend and it CHANGED. MY. LIFE. I never knew it, but I have been waiting for this app for years. If you feel the need to curate entire webpages, enjoy keeping records of your files digitally, or just want to keep a record of every random thought you have, Evernote is for you. I use it to quickly and easily organize my personal thoughts, articles I like on the internet, and rough drafts of lesson plans and blog posts.

Why Evernote? Simple – Evernote gives you the ability to organize your digital notes, bookmarks, AND hand-written notes all in one place.

  • Evernote organizes your notes into “notebooks,” where you store individual note files, and your notebooks in “stacks”, folders in which you keep related notebooks together. They also provide a traditional search feature so you can find a note quickly and easily.
  • Evernote is available on your desktop, tablet and smartphone on either the Windows, iOS, or Anrdoid platforms, so you can use it on any device you have and ultimately sync all your notes together on the cloud.
  • In addition, Evernote allows you to add on hyper-links, pdfs, voice-recordings, and images to your notes.
  • Evernote also has formatting options that allow you to make task lists with checkboxes and set reminders.
And those are just the basic features. I have yet to try out all its fancy aspects, but this has been enough to make it useful. Right now, I have a stack for my blog, my work notes and ideas for lesson plans, my dog (aka: my baby), and random personal thoughts. I can see my students making a stack for each class, and a notebook for each unit. They can finally have all their notes in one place and be forced into organization – hooray!

The Evernote homescreen on my desktop.

The Evernote homescreen on my desktop, where I’m writing this post!

evernote-android-ipad

The Evernote interface on the Android and iPad, respectively. They’re great about interface consistency!

To get the most out of Evernote, I recommend downloading it to your desktop, tablet and phone so you have easy access to it at all times because, seriously – if I don’t write down a thought the second I have it, it’s gone. And my best advice is to start categorizing your notes immediately. If you’re not used to a tablet/iPad, organizing your notes on their desktop app is an incredibly easy way to get started. If you do have an iPad, I definitely recommend downloading Penultimate to also integrate handwritten notes into your stacks. Here are a list of some of their awesome integrated products (which I’ll be writing individual reviews for later!):

  • Penultimate: Your Penultimate notes are saved in Evernote as well as Penultimate, and you can add them to a notebook or stack, keeping them organized with other related notes. Android just introduced Handwriting which is a limited version of Penultimate, but works for jotting down short blurbs.
  • Clearly: This app is basically bookmarking on steroids (the good, legal kind).Clearly is a Chrome extension which allows you to read an article or website without advertisements. It also allows you to markup the webpage with your notes and save those too! It’s like Pinterest, except you curate entire webpages as opposed to just images.
  • Food: I haven’t used it yet, but they this is an app that allows you to store recipes and restaurant reviews. I’m looking forward to trying it out and having a nicer binder of recipes than the unorganized pile stacked on top of my fridge 😛
  • Skitch: Skitch is a pdf/graphics markup program, but not gonna lie – Skitch is the only blip in my Evernote experience. Maybe I just don’t have a good use for it. If you use and love Skitch, let me know how you implement it in your workflow!
You may ultimately wonder, can’t you achieve the same thing in Google Drive? Although you can share your notebooks, which definitely has its purpose, the difference for me is that Evernote is for my personal use; Drive is for work collaboration. I keep formal lesson plans and worksheets in Google Drive, where I expect people to see them. Like my blog, Drive is where I formally publish documents. Evernote is where I keep a record of my scattered thoughts and ideas, giving me a chance to iron out the kinks. It is also where I jot down mundane information like confirmation numbers, songs I like on the radio, and gift ideas that I get two months too early.

If this at all sounded interesting to you, give it a shot – it’s free! And I promise, once you get started, you will be totally addicted:)

An ode to my first educational app, Educreations

Educreations is the tool I use to create my flipped classroom videos on the iPad, and I LOVE it. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s super easy to use, it’s free(!), and it gets the job done. Its ease of use gave me the confidence to flip my classroom, and I hope it encourages you to try out a new educational app.

Educreations works by recording what you’re writing and typing on screen in addition to your narration, and I would like to emphasize that your face will not appear in the video (promise!). You can read the details on how I flip my class here, but in a nutshell, I give the students skeleton notes that they are to fill in while watching the video, and I use those notes as my script. To start making your own video, you simply select a pen color, hit the record button, and go! There is, of course, a little more that you can do than just that. The image below highlights all of Educreations’ tools.

educreations_whiteboard
Below is a more detailed explanation of some of the featured whiteboard tools –

  • Pen colors: You have black, blue, red and green as initial options, but if you double tap one of the colors, you get another six! The additional options include white, gray, brown, orange, purple and yellow.
  • Insert text: You also have all the above mentioned color options available for typed text. You can resize the type within the text menu, and if you select the hand icon (next to the T), you can drag the textbox around.
  • Add image: You can add an image from your iPad’s Camera Roll, Dropbox, or a specific web address, or you have the option to take a photo and insert it. As with text, the hand icon will also allow you to move images around your screen.
  • Erase: If you tap the eraser icon, you can use it to erase any ink on the page. If you double tap, it gives you the option to clear the page completely, clear the ink only, or clear the voiceover you recorded and keep what’s on the page.
  • Change background: You can change the “paper” you’re writing on to lined, graph, or a coordinate plane.
  • Done: The Done button will publish your movie, but it also gives you the option to start over completely.

Although I think Educreations is awesome, there are a few drawbacks (that you can workaround):

  • You can’t back up to a specific point in time to fix a single mistake you made recording; instead, you’re forced to restart completely. There are a few ways I work through this though:

    • Pause – pause is your best friend while you try to gather your thoughts and figure out what you’re going to write/say next. (The Pause button appears after you hit Record.)
    • Skeleton notes – I give my students skeleton notes to fill in, so I use an already filled in version as my script. It keeps me on track!
    • Keep videos short – No one wants to watch a long video anyway, so be as concise as possible, and if you do have to start over, it’s not completely depressing.
  • Videos are hosted solely on Educreations website, which is both a pro and a con, in my opinion. If you don’t have a class website, you can simply direct students to your Educreations feed or email your students a direct link to the video you want them to watch. On the flip side, Educreations does not provide a very intuitive search function specifically for your feed, so your students may have to do a little work to find a title if you don’t give them a direct link.
  • Lastly, you can’t add in other types of media, such as videos or quizlets. This may not be a concern if you’re new to recording your lectures, and I think the tools Educreations provides will get you going well enough until you figure out what your needs are.

If you’d like to see it in action before you give it a shot, check out my video below. This is my first time setting up this new screencasting system (Screencast-O-Matic), so forgive me if it’s a bit rough!

If you’re trying your hand at screencasting, this is a great place to start. I hope you enjoy working with Educreations as much as I do!