I decided to try and build digital portfolios using Evernote in my Kindergarten classroom. I was thinking of doing this next year but though I’d give it a test run for the last trimester this year. That way if I found I didn’t work for me I would have all summer to find something else that might. We have about 4 weeks left in the trimester and I thought it would be a good time to reflect on how it’s been going.
If you’ve never heard of Evernote take a moment to check out this video.
This and other videos and testimonials can be found on the Evernote website. These users range from nurses to musicians to teachers on how they’ve found ways to get their organizational geek on. There’s definitely a wealth of information on the website so take a moment to check it out.
So if you’re still reading this post and haven’t been sucked into the wealth of examples on Evernote’s website I’ll attempt to explain how I use it in my classroom. Real quick side note… I will only attempt to learn and incorporate a new tool if it’s relatively easy to use, quick and efficient. In addition it has to add value to what I already do. If it doesn’t adhere to these qualifications I won’t use it.
OK on with it already! The first thing I did was to download the Evernote application onto my computer as well as my iPhone and class set of iPads and iPods. I created a free Evernote account and signed in to said account on both my phone and my computer. Since Evernote is a “cloud” based service, theoretically you can access your information from anywhere. What that meant for me was that anytime I updated or added notes on my phone those changes would sync with my computer etc.
Next I created “notebooks” for each of my students. The idea is that everything that I wanted to document for each student would be kept in their respective “notebook”. I then started thinking about what I wanted to put in the portfolio. This is when I hit a bit of a hiccup. Like I said before, if it takes to much time I don’t want to do it. For example if I wanted to insert a piece of writing in a students notebook I would have to take that piece of paper to the scanner(with is at pretty much the farthest point in the school from my classroom) scan it, email it to myself, download it to my computer and then add it to a note. Not simple or efficient, so it was out.
In searching for a solution I did find a little something on the Evernote website about the ability to scan something and have it send directly to Evernote. In theory this sounds great… but the likelihood of making this a reality at my school is not likely.
The solution I came to is actually very simple and this is where an iPhone or iPod or iPad comes in handy. I realized that you could take actually picture of something from within a note while in the Evernote application. So whenever I want to add something such as a piece of paper I can just take a picture of it rather than scan it. I know I know… you’re like “DUH!” but it was sort of an epiphany to me. It made adding things to portfolios sooo quick and easy. I could whip out my phone, open Evernote, snap a pick, add some comments, tags and BAM, I’m done!
In my mind the beauty and power of using Evernote comes with the use of “tags”. Tags are a sort of label that you give to notes. Let’s say for example I am reading with one of my students named Budhi. We read a book that is a “Level C” book. When we’re done reading the book I can create a new note in that students notebook and either take a snapshot of the book or simply use the book title as the note title.
I can take a couple notes about how the student did and what specific skills and strategies they may have struggled with. Now once I have done this I add some tags. I would add these tages: Budhi, Literacy, Level C, Reading, and possibly a couple others. What makes this is important is that at any time you could generate a search (or apply a filter depending on how you want to look at it) in Evernote and you will only see notes with those tags. Say for example I search for only notes tagged Budhi, level C, reading. I would only see the notes with those tags displayed. I could then these notes see his progress over time. I can also see if there are certain skills or strategies that he may be struggling to grasp with and I can address these specifically with him next time we meet to read.
This idea can be applied to any area of the curriculum. I am a big believer in process and I believe the flexibility Evernote provides (voice, text, images, etc) lends itself to really documenting the entire creation process, not just an end result.
Next year I was thinking of assigning each child a specific iPad. I would then creating a shared Evernote notebook on each students iPad where they could add notes. They could also see the notes that I have created. It would be a nice way for them to reflect on their own learning as the year progresses. (assuming they could read my notes) This would provide them with an opportunity to participate in the process as well as give them the occasion to possibly discover a new way to utilize Evernote as a digital portfolio tool. Their little minds work in such fascinating and unrestricted ways it wouldn’t surprise me if they repurposed the app in a truly enriching way.
I know many of you other educators are using Evernote to build digital portfolios. Please chime in and tell us how you utilize this tool!
***Update*** I’ve written more about how students can add content to their Evernote e-portfolios using Skitch on the iPad here.