I will admit that until last summer I was an Evernote sceptic. The app had languished unused on my various Apple devices and it wasn’t until this autumn that I began to appreciate the power of this tool.
I had spent last year trying to escape the chaos of multiple paper and electronic systems by using standalone teachers’ planner applications on my iPad. I stuck with Planbook for some time, finding it worked well in isolation but didn’t mesh at all well with other digital resources and I found switching back and forth to my calandar frustratingly clunky.
Enter Evernote. It is an online synch-able productivity tool that helps capture and store everything from webclips and images to text and audio. If you are on the road to GTD nirvana, Evernote certainly helps with the capture stage. In terms of word-processing power it is very basic indeed, but the structure of notebooks worked perfectly for the setup I was after. Even bigger bonus: admin rights weren’t needed on my PC at school to install the application on my desktop. I set up a notebook for each class I teach in the first instance. I also have the Evernote app installed on my iPhone and iPad.
In MS Word (we are at school after all…!) I set up a simple collection of weekly template grids to act as the framework for my planning. Each one has a space for the learning activities, homework and any reminders for each week. It’s not fancy: the aim for me was at-a-glance simplicity. Life is too short for filling in endless boxes for the sake of it! Since you can’t make or alter grids in Evernote so after a little trial and error copying across from Word I had a simple format that worked pretty well.
I used a simple block of colour to remind me when homework needs setting. One of my personal goals for the year had been to prioritise the setting of higher quality and more engaging homeworks and putting this front-and-centre in the planning process has certainly helped.
After 6 weeks of running this system I would never go back to a paper planner, or an isolated planning app. I love that for my Year 13, web research can easily be captured with the Evernote web clipping tool. Quickly dropping images into a new note was invaluable when I was working on Vichy propaganda with them, and after looking at the images together on the board, I was two clicks away from emailing the note directly to my students. Simple and seamless. I can add screenshots from my IWB, photos, scribbles… anything!
Having weekly plans like this is conducive to good organisation too: I aim to have my whole week planned out and resourced by the preceding Thursday afternoon. It makes me think more holistically about how one lesson seams into another. If everything doesn’t get covered, I just select and drag to move text between sections of the grid.
I’ve taken it a step further by adding reference materials and handy aide-memoires to my notebooks too, including copies of our programmes of study and a record of exactly when each set of books has been marked.
I love that I can access and edit all my plans from *anywhere* thanks to my iPhone. Evernote has now found its way into my holy trinity of productivity along with Todo/Toodledo and Google Calendar.
I am looking forward to taking this to the next level, adding further evidence from student work and making it a professional archive / portfolio for clippings of good practice. I’d like to convert some members of my team so when we share parallel classes we could plan collaboratively using Evernote.
How are you using Evernote in school?