For the past few weeks, I’ve been playing with a few new tools that could completely change the ways in which I approach collaborating and connecting. As I’ve written before, I really like Evernote as both a teacher as well as a student portfolio solution. However, the collaborative features of the Free Evernote are a bit lacking and sharing notes can be clunky – until now.
Let’s start with this issue. I like Evernote because of the organizational paradigm of notes and notebooks. My Google Drive account, despite my best efforts, is messy at best. Between My Drive and what others have shared with me, I constantly find myself scrounging around just to find my own documents. When I think about an ideal tool for reflective writing, I want something more organized, less chaotic, and with a cleaner interface.
The other reason why I really like Evernote is that it synchs with Penultimate as well as all of my devices. Lately, I’ve adapted to a new writing workflow that in many ways resembles the paper-based system that I employed in college. First, I sketch out my ideas in Penultimate on my iPad – similar to the ways in which I used scratch paper. The tactile experience of hand-writing my notes allows me to get my ideas “down on paper” significantly faster. From there, I’ve found myself using my iPhone to type a rough draft – the cumbersome nature of writing with a tiny keyboard forces me to slow-down and thoughtfully consider each sentence rather than letting my fingers mindlessly course across a keyboard. Ultimately, I use a laptop to complete my draft and prepare for publication.
While I doubt that many students will use this system right off the bat, Evernote provides options. What if a student started on paper, took a picture of the paper with their mobile device, added it into an Evernote note, and then typed below it? Maybe a student begins with an audio note and then types after listening to the recording, or creates an initial draft on a computer, switches to an iPad to incorporate a screencast or video saved to the camera roll, and then finishes the written piece. With Evernote, there are tons of options.
With a free Evernote account, collaborating and receiving feedback, however, just aren’t possible as shared notes are view-only. For months, when I wanted input from colleagues, I would copy and paste my writing from Evernote into a Google Document and then share it. This creates two problems: first, I now have multiple versions and second, I am assuming that the other person has a Google account. Then, a few weeks ago, I discovered Draft.
Draft offers up an amazing solution for version control, group editing, and so much more. I can import my writing directly from Evernote – no need to copy and paste – and then share with whomever I choose. To make edits, create a share link and send it out. From there, simply add an email address and create a password to edit.
Note: I understand that many younger students may not have email, but it could be possible to use a class account created by the teacher to make edits.
So why Draft instead of Google Docs? A few weeks ago, in working on an article with a colleague, I found myself frustrated with the inability to view all revisions at one time. Paragraphs had been deleted, and I wanted to bring aspects of the writing back into the final draft. With Google Docs, I had to go through the revision history, copy what I wanted, and then add it into the newest version. With Draft, I simply accept or reject changes and can view everything on one screen. The image below shows this more clearly.
Here’s the next step, with Postach.io, I can now publish from an Evernote notebook directly to the web. I first learned about this from my colleague, Greg Kulowiec, when he wrote about combining Evernote, Explain Everything, and Postach.io to create image posts. Once you connect Evernote to Postach.io, any note placed into a specific notebook and tagged with published automatically appears on your Postach.io blog. As Rhonda Mitchell has discovered, this could be an amazing solution for publishing media rich student portfolios.
In EdTechTeacher workshops, I often teach educators about using Evernote to curate student work, especially at the younger levels and in classrooms that incorporate iPods or iPads. With Evernote, teachers can collect both digital as well as physical work – the camera in mobile devices are excellent for capturing drawings, paintings, block sculptures, video of class interactions, etc. Teachers could use audio notes to have youngest students reflect on their learning. Finally, and this is incredibly useful as a workflow solution with iPads, students can email work directly to a specified notebook in a teacher’s Evernote account (this video explains the process). Imagine if all of this curated content could then be easily published to a class or student blog! I wrote a post on this a few months ago.
Bringing it all together
After experimenting with all of these tools, the power may be in how they interface. Imagine this: Your students create their own drafts in their Evernote notebooks. When ready, they login to Draft and upload a copy directly from Evernote that they could share with as many people as they like. After reviewing all of the feedback and incorporating suggestions, the students could export their draft to the Evernote notebook tied to their Postach.io account. This still leaves time to add media from the camera roll, insert formatting, and make final adjustments before adding the tag published to make it appear on their blog. The image below illustrates this a bit better.
While this may sound like a complicated process, once all of the accounts are linked, it is a fairly simple and seamless workflow that allows for writing, editing, reflecting, collaborating, and publishing.