Beth Holland

Food for thought…


Collaborative, Reflective Blogging with Evernote, Draft, &

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.

Why Evernote?

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.

Draft editing screen

Draft editing screen


Here’s the next step, with, 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 to create image posts. Once you connect Evernote to, any note placed into a specific notebook and tagged with published automatically appears on your 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 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. Workflow
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.

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From Consumption to Creation to Curation to Connection – Evernote as Portfolio Tool (Re-Blogged)

In response to the growing discussion around iPad workflow, student curation, and portfolio assessments, I started to look at Why the conversation had shifted in this direction. In fact, my colleague, Greg Kulowiec, wrote an excellent post a few weeks ago about using Google Drive to create student portfolios. His detailed presentation and screencast walk through the workflow of curating student content into Drive, and then sharing it with teachers and peers.

While it has become apparent that empowering our students with iPads and other mobile devices unlocks tremendous potential to create, communicate, and collaborate, the still unanswered question is how do we determine that they have also gained greater understanding, reflected on their learning, and mastered content? Can these same devices support our students as they engage in those higher order processes? Will curating all of this content into a portfolio support this quest for higher understanding and allow students to connect with their own learning? Is there an app for that?

When I first started using Evernote, I saw it as a convenient note taking tool – especially since Google Docs could not initially be edited from an iPad. Evernote allowed me to start writing on my iPad (or iPhone) and then access it from my laptop later or share it with colleagues. Upon discovering the ability to email to Evernote, and combining that fact with the audio and photo note features, I started to see it as a powerful assessment and portfolio tool.

Teachers can create one notebook per student and then curate their projects by taking photos of physical assignments, sharing digital ones via email to the student’s notebook, recording students’ thoughts and reflections with audio, and typing additional notes for assessment purposes, to create a robust portfolio for each child. These student notebooks could then be shared with colleagues, peers, or parents.

While this may help teachers paint a picture of what students have created, it does not necessarily illustrate what they have learned. Just because students can create and curate their own content, that does not necessarily ensure that they consequently understand what it means for their own learning, how they should think about that information, or what they should do with the knowledge. Could Evernote as a portfolio tool also serve as a catalyst for metacognition, easily supporting student reflection on their own creation?

In October, I spoke with Jill Gough and Rhonda Mitchel at the Trinity school in Atlanta. They are implementing a curriculum based on the goal of teaching students to think of themselves more holistically as learners and then archive their learning based on five categories: communicators, collaborators, thinkers, knowers, and leaders. Not surprisingly, Evernote sat at the center of the process.

Beginning in the second grade, students receive an Evernote account which will follow them through to graduation after 6th grade. Upon the completion of projects, or the culmination of learning experiences, teachers then guide the students through reflection exercises in order to achieve that stage of “thinking about their own thinking.” This not only provides students with a way to reflect on the day-to-day, but also the ability to go back and see their own progress throughout their learning career. With this longitudinal approach, it will be possible for students to see their whole portfolio as an archive of student growth. (Rhonda and Jill will speak more about this in our January 24th webinar).

With more and more schools moving to a Google Apps environment and integrating iPads, Greg’s thoughts on using Drive for student portfolios is an excellent solution as it provides for easy collaboration, extensive cloud storage, and easy workflow, but I don’t see Evernote and Drive as mutually exclusive. In fact, Trinity uses both tools concurrently. They view Google Drive and Google Docs as the “messy space” for collaborating, creating, and curating work. However, Evernote remains reserved as a clean, quiet space designed for reflection.

Could another note taking tool serve the same purpose as Evernote? Could Drive? Absolutely! My thought is this: when we give students iPads or other devices and empower them as creators and curators of their own content, we also need to provide them with time, space, and direction to reflect on why they are creating that content, how it reflects on their own learning, and what they can do with that knowledge. In other words, in addition to leveraging iPads for consumption, creation, and curation, students can also use them to make those deeper connections.

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“Get Out Your Notebook” – reposted from the EdTechTeacher Blog

I recently published this post on the EdTechTeacher blogas a follow up to my previous article, Go Get a Notebook! No, Wait, Go Get a Means for Aggregating Information.

In addition to working for EdTechTeacher, Beth Holland also coaches a high school sailing team. Recently, on her blog, when describing a situation with some of her sailors, she wrote:

“About half-way through our lesson, I looked at my group’s slightly glassed over expressions and said, Go get a notebook and write all of this down! As the words came out of my mouth, I stopped in my tracks, turned to them and then said, “No, wait, go get something to keep track of this information. I don’t care if it’s a notebook, a Google Collection, Evernote, or some random app on your phone.”

What does it mean to take notes in the digital age? When most of us were in school, we had a 3-ring binders for major subjects, spiral bound notebooks for labs, vocabulary, and math problems in addition to a few of those hard cover journals covered in black squiggles.

However, last week, when Beth asked another student what he had done with his notebook, he said, “I forgot it, but can just use my phone.”

If notebooks can now synch between devices, is there a role for paper in this most essential academic proess? In his most recent blog post, Co-Director, Tom Daccord, questioned the realities of moving beyond the textbook. Meanwhile, Greg Kulowiec has been documenting a paperless research process. All the while, we have been working with a group of educators preparing for a 1:1 iPad environment and discussing the implications of moving to either a paperless or hybrid learning environment.

This concept of going paperless also presented itself at the recent EdCamp Social Studies conference this past weekend at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, PA. Much of the conversation about going paperless has revolved around tools, programs, apps, and logistics. However, if you have ever tried to decipher middle school student scrawl, or spent an afternoon excavating lockers and backpacks in search of worksheets and notes, you may be ready for a change. While there is certainly a valid argument that at an elementary, and even middle or high school level, there are some students who need the tactile experience of putting pencil to paper in order to brainstorm or problem solve as well as the times when large pieces of paper and markers or crayons can be the perfect brainstorming tool.

In The Paperless Classroom…What, How & Why, Greg raises a critical point.

“Too often in an attempt to integrate technology into our classrooms, we start with the “What”, proceed to the “How” and rarely get to the “Why”. Here is “what” we are going to do today, this is “how” we are going to do it…and oh yeah, this is “why” it matters…if we are lucky we get to the why.”

So why paperless? Why digital note taking? Can paper….

  • Create a backup of itself and make itself available both at home and at school?
  • Incorporate pictures of the white board, or of a worksheet, or of a digital artifact in order to support the note taking process?
  • Include audio of class discussion, verbal directions from a teacher, or oral questions from another student?
  • Link directly to web content?
  • Include video to provide an alternative version of the material?
  • Check spelling and grammar?
  • Quickly reference a dictionary, encyclopedia, or thesaurus?
  • Read a student’s notes back to them?
  • Connect with another student’s notebook in order to increase collaboration and share resources?

As Beth titled her post, the future may have teachers shouting, “Go Get a Notebook! No, Wait, Go Get a Means for Aggregating Information!”

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Go Get a Notebook! No, Wait, Go Get a Means for Aggregating Information

It’s sailing season. We started back on the 28th of February, which can only mean one thing: I’m on the run. I’ve also become sucked into Twitter, Diigo, Facebook, my Google Reader, Pinterest, and a host of other online tools thanks to my colleagues at EdTechTeacher. So, while I’ve been writing frantically on a myriad of other tools, this blog has been lacking any articles for the past few weeks.

Back to my post…. On Tuesday, I worked with a group of new sailors. We covered some essential concepts on land – namely, parts of the boat and sail. While this may seem trivial, you try explaining to a cold, wet, 14-year old to “pull the purple line on the left side of that white thing you’re sitting on” over 10 knots of breeze and an outboard engine. About half-way through our lesson, I looked at my groups slightly glassed over expressions and said, “go get a notebook and write all of this down.”

As the words came out of my mouth, I stopped in my tracks, turned to them and then said, “No, wait, go get something to keep track of this information. I don’t care if it’s a notebook, a Google Collection, Evernote, or apps on your phone.”

Welcome to coaching in the 21st Century! To be honest, I think I would prefer that they get organized on their phone. This way, they could have all of the PDFs, Google Docs, photos, videos, notes, animations, etc. that we send them all in one place. My only criteria for how they aggregate all of this information is that it has to be mobile. When we travel, I want them to have access to a rule book, a play book, the team racing call book, a boat set-up checklist, and a host of other things. A 3-ring binder can do most of this, but a device could be even better.

Lately, I’ve had the pleasure of working with Richard Byrne of Free Technology for Teachers. Yesterday, he published a presentation file, Best of the Web 2012. It’s embedded below. The presentation covers 70 tools in 60 minutes – even more impressive than the 30 tools in 40 minutes that he discussed during our EdTechTeacher webinar a few weeks ago. I’ve added it to this post as proof for why I’ve reconsidered the concept of the sailing notebook. Personally, I think I would use Evernote

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iRead, iLearn, iPad…

I’ve admitted this before. I did not instantly love the iPad. For the first few months, I used my iPad more as a clipboard than any sort of mobile device. However, as the device – and my thinking – evolved, I started to become an advocate for it. One of the main reasons for my launch onto the iPad bandwagon had to do with its ability to differentiate learning experiences for students. In addition to providing instant Internet access and a host of learning tools, it gave students an opportunity to customize their own learning.

I started making a Top 10 List of ways that the iPad can be used to make learning more accessible to students, but it turned into more of a Top 8 … (I went with quality over quantity and combined a few items.)

  1. Reading – instant access to dictionaries, annotation tools, and audio make reading on the iPad a whole new experience.Thanks to speak selection, all ePubs, web pages, notes, etc., can be read aloud to support struggling readers.
  2. Note taking – beyond basic text, notes can now include photos, videos, and audio recordings, plus they can be emailed, published, and shared. Whether using the Notes app, or something more robust such as Evernote, SoundNote, or PaperDesk, students have the flexibility to choose a note taking tool that best meets their learning style.
  3. Organization – believe it or not, but “there’s an app for that!” Whether using the built-in apps such as Calendar or Reminders to keep track of due dates, assignments, projects, and appointments, or mind mapping apps such as Popplet, students no longer have to keep track of their organizational materials as well as the organizational process.
  4. Audio recording – just the fact that the iPad has a microphone and recording capabilities opens up possibilities for students and teachers. Without requiring multiple devices or massive files, students can think out loud, orally pre-write, and record class notes. Teachers can give oral directions to supplement written ones, or provide audio commentary.
  5. Research – with a host of note taking, annotation, and citation apps available, students can focus more on the analysis and synthesis of information rather than the collation and organization of materials.
  6. Studying – from flash card apps (I really like StudyBlue and A+ Flashcards) to screen casting tools, students can interact with materials and construct their own knowledge from the content provided.
  7. Digital Textbooks – I know that some folks still feel that paper textbooks are invaluable, but when you rethink the paradigm of what a text could be, then digital content is an amazing vehicle for multimodal communication. Using dotEpub or Joliprint also allows teachers to rapidly and easily create digital content for students that can be annotated, shared, heard…..
  8. Multimodal presentation – students no longer have to rely solely on paper to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding. Videos, podcasts, screencasts, and a host of other options now exist on just one device.

Recently, I had a conversation with a group of educators who wanted to know why I thought they should invest in iPads. To quote Douglas Kiang, the true value of the iPad comes from the Asymmetrical Impact, meaning that it greatly benefits those students who are not usually reached through traditional, standard channels. The iPad puts the power of learning in the hands of the students. So, after over two years of wondering about the value of the iPad, I have found it, jumped firmly on board the bandwagon, and plan to hold on for the ride.

For even more proof, take a look at Doug’s presentation from BLC2011.