Welcome to the third, in a series of posts, in which I’ll share ways for teachers to work smarter, not harder, using technology tools that will actually “save” time. Today we’re going to take a look at EVERNOTE.
One of our primary challenges as teachers is to provide feedback to our students in a timely, consistent manner. We know that keeping up with marking assignments and then giving the students the feedback they need to grow as learners, is paramount to their success. In fact, in John Haddie’s (http://visible-learning.org/hattie-ranking-influences-effect-sizes-learning-achievement/) research on how classroom practices are related to student achievement, he ranks formative evaluation and student feedback as very effective means to increase student learning. The problem, however, is that the mountains of marking quickly add up. How do we keep up, keep our sanity, and get some sleep, too? Have no fear, Evernote can help.
Using the Evernote application on your smartphone or any tablet is the first step to keeping a record of a student’s work, identifying their specific need for feedback and then getting teaching them in a timely manner. Let’s start with the formative evaluation. You’ve just started a new unit in math on measuring area. So you hand out a short one-page quiz asking the students to find the area of certain shapes. Your goal is to find out who does and does/or does not have any idea about how to measure area. How does Evernote make this process quick?
*Step 1: The first thing I would do in Evernote is to create a marking key for the quiz. Nothing new. We always do that anyway, but the next step is to put that key into Evernote. Just take a scan or photo of it with your phone and tag it with: assessment, marking key, math, formative quiz, area, etc. . Tags make any information that you put into Evernote sortable, so come up with tags that fit any way you might want to call up that information in the future. Make your key, and make a “note” of it using your phone or tablet’s camera. Now you can call it up quickly when the students hand in the assignment.
* Step 2: Students have now handed in the formative quiz. You now have the marking key handy in your phone, tablet or on your computer because Evernote syncs everything. That’s nice! Now using that key, take a good look at the assignments. You don’t even have to put in the checkmarks, but at a glance you can see who has it, who needs a little help and who needs a lot of help. Sort the student papers into piles according to the concepts that you see achieved. For example you may see that a few students are actually finding the perimeter instead of the area, another group might just be adding the two sides instead of multiplying, put them together.
* Step 3: Once your piles are made, think of tags and a note that explains each. Then take a scan of each student’s assignment in that group. For example, I might make a scan of Bill, Susan, Cash, John, and Tori’s assignments because they were all finding perimeter instead of area. I would scan each separately but provide the same name for each. I might call each of the notes: Finding Perimeter Instead of Area and then add the tags: assessment, student name, math, area, feedback. It takes me all of about 30 seconds to add those tags. But now I can find their formative assessment by searching for any of the above tags. If I type in Susan, math, assessment, the doc will come up. If you have a notebook set up for each student, you can also file that work in their notebook as a student portfolio and/or to share it with parents, who may help with the follow up.)
* Step 4: Follow up with tailored teaching. At the top of every note in Evernote, there is a nice little alarm clock icon. If you click on that it will allow you to schedule a time to get a reminder to follow up or take action regarding this note. If you set it for 7:00 am, then it will email you a reminder the next morning that you need to meet with that group of students to provide a mini lesson on the difference between area and perimeter. During math class, you get the others working on their tasks for the day and then you are pulling this small group for a lesson, specifically tailored to their learning needs. You can do the same for the other piles, which were recorded as notes. If you are using a Daily 5 Math approach, then Evernote can act as the “pensive” or student record of work.
Using Evernote and your phone or tablet, you have just accomplished many learning objectives and can rest assured that you are using “best practices” in your classroom. You have used formative assessment to guide further instruction, differentiated instruction based on individual learning needs, and neatly filed away a record of student work that can be searched and “recalled” whenever needed. Best of all, you achieved all of these outcomes in about the same time that it would have taken you to just mark all those assignments, write notes to students and hand them back with no guarantee that the students would have actually looked through them and paid attention to your notes. Furthermore, you now have had a record of their actual work.
If you try this method in your classroom, I would love to hear from you. How did it work for you?
Next time I’ll cover how you can share certain notebooks with class members, parents and or the general public. If you haven’t already, I invite you to subscribe to our newsletter and this website so you won’t miss a post.
Remember, time saved as we “work”, leaves more time to “play” with those we love.