Thursday, May 30, 2013

Wrapping up the Epic @Evernote Experiment #EdChat

It is hard to believe that June is upon us and my Epic Evernote Experiment is coming to a close. I wanted to share some thoughts with you on how this worked out for me and my students this year and offer some suggestions for teachers considering integrating Evernote into their workflow.

Lesson Planning:

This was the first year that I moved all of my lesson plans to Evernote. Everything I did started in Evernote as a note. All of my units were outlined in Evernote and all of my projects were planned in Evernote. If it was an idea in my brain about school, it ended up in Evernote.

I was able to store all of my old handouts and notes as PDFs that became searchable parts of my Evernote environment. I loved having my lessons with me wherever I went. I would often add ideas on my phone while waiting for meetings, appointments or before I went to bed. I was able to lesson plan on the go and that is huge for me. I found myself on the go more than ever this year and it was nice to have my lessons with me so I can address any ideas I might have. Inspiration rarely hits me while I'm sitting at my desk, so Evernote was perfect for capturing my ideas whenever and wherever I had them. 


I created shared notebooks for student assignments. I personally invited each student to the notebook for their class. In that notebook, I placed the days' work. Almost every day, there was a new note explaining what the class work was going to be the next day. 

Students were able to access their work wherever they could access Evernote. The vast majority of my students have mobile devices of their own, so many of them would access Evernote on their cellphone. I had a significant drop in the number of students who claimed that they did not know what they assignment was the day before. It has been a huge time saver on my part. I no longer have to use class time to catch students up on what they missed. They know to go to Evernote to see what we did and what they need to make up. 


I was able to find a digital version of almost every piece of literature my class covered this year. I found them all online and saved these links in notes and shared them with the students. This allowed my students to leave their bulky textbook at home and read on the fly with their personal device. Most of the novels still needed to be passed out to the students, byt the vast majority of poems and short stories we cover are outside of copyright, so free digital version were available to my students. 

This was great for my students who wanted to see what the assignment was and complete it without ever having to leave the Evernote environment. Many students told me this was very helpful when they were going on vacation, sports trips and other long excursions where a large textbook and a notebook would not help them in a bus or car. Evernote gave them access to do their work when they wanted and that is a big win for me as a teacher. 

One final part of access has to do with parents. I placed the public link to the homework notebooks on my school website so parents could access the work as well. If a parent wanted, they could join the notebook from the public link I have posted and they can keep track of their child's work from anywhere they are. It's a nice bonus feature for parents that do not want to jump through hoops to get my teacher page and find the correct class for the assignments. 


One of the big pushes for me this year was to have my students create portfolios. I wanted them to create a digital record of their work so they could access it when they needed. This access would hopefully prompt better reflection on their writing and leave to improved skills and stronger writing as the year progressed. 

My students have been keeping all of their work in Evernote this year and I think it has worked well. All handwritten work can be scanned or captured using Evernote's camera function. The nice part of the photos being added is that they become a searchable part of the Evernote environment. This means students can search for specific comments I have left and see what they need to work on for their next assignment. 

Students have done a very good jon of keeping their portfolios together, but some needed constant reminders to put their items in their so I could review them later. I loved the ability to have these portfolios be a shared notebook that would allow me to create a note just for my comments. It allowed for a dialogue on their work that did not need to happen publicly in class. I did not use this feature as much as I would have liked, but I can see myself dedicating more time to it next year because I do think it is a valuable option for communicating with students about their work. 

Next Year - Reminders 

This new feature by Evernote allows users to set up notification reminders on notes. This is going to be awesome for next year. Students that have joined shared notebooks can get automatic reminders if I set them on their assignments. I can set the reminder for one minute before school gets out so they can remember to get what they need from their locker for an assignment they might have forgotten about. 

This little addition to the Evernote world is huge for education. Students could get a digital reminder for every assignment given to them if the teacher adds the reminder to the note. That is huge. All of those students that forgot work despite all of the this help, can get one more reminder before school gets out for the day. I was hoping for something like this and I'm excited to see this in practice next year.

Overall Assessment:

I loved moving to Evernote this year. For me, it makes the most sense. I love having everything in a central location and at my fingertips. I will not have to reinvent the wheel next year with my lessons and I can tweak work on Evernote whenever I want. I worked hard all year to leave notes to myself in the lessons I made so I can make the appropriate changes next year. Using Evernote for Lesson Planning is a no brainer and I can't wait to see what next year will look like knowing I do not have to start from scratch. 

As for the student use, I was very happy with how everything turned out. Students used Evernote to take class notes, plan projects and store their graded work. I would like to try and set up a way using Evernote's email for students to submit work digitally and directly into notebooks. I would also like to try using Skitch to grade their work as well. The kids loved using Evernote and many of them used it for other classes. It really had a positive impact on many of my students on how they take notes and organize their class life. 

Evernote is a perfect solution for a 1:1 environment. I used it my class and was able to almost become completely paperless. That is crazy to think about when you consider the fact that I am an English teacher. After only one year of trying this experiment out, I'm excited to see what I can accomplish nest year with the experience under my belt. 

If you are interested in trying to move Evernote into your educational world, check out my book, The Complete Guide to Evernote in Education. It is available on Kindle and the iBookstore. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Safe with Griffin 2 #EdTech

Here are some more great cases for iPads for those looking to keep their iPads safe at home and in the classroom as well as a excellent option for storage and syncing iOS devices.

NEW: Use the code THENERDYTEACHER for 20% off their purchase! This code is valid until 6/21.

Slim Folio

The Slim Folio ($39.99) is the perfect case for those of you looking for a sleek way to protect the iPad. The case folds open nicely and allows you to prop it up so you can type away in your next meeting. It fits nicely in the arm and the iPad slides in and out easily from the case. Nice access to the volume buttons and the camera is not obstructed by the case at all. This case is perfect for the person looking for a more formal iPad case.


The IntelliCase ($59.99) is a great case for those looking for a little more protection for their iPad. The protective polycarbonate shell does a wonderful job keeping both sides of the iPad nice and safe as it travels with you from place to place. The iPad wakes and sleeps on the opening and closing of the front cover. The iPad securely snaps into the case and can easily be removed if needed. There is easy access to all ports and buttons. It kept the slimness of the iPad than many people love in the first place. The IntelliCase is a perfect case for people looking for a slim and protective option for their iPad.

The SeeSaw ($34.99) is such a great case for younger students. It sits perfectly on a desk for students. No worries about students trying to prop up the iPad on their desk and it is safe if bumped around. The handle in the back and the spot for the stylus is perfect for the students who need to move around the room with their iPad. The fun colors and the soft exterior is perfect for students. The case sat nicely on my desk as I used it to read the notes in my Evernote account. The case drew a few odd looks from my students, but high school students are always weirded out by anything new.

Overall, I really liked this case and will be using it in my house with my 2 year old. It is perfect to let him sit comfortably at the table and use the iPad for his learning and silly games. It is one of the best children cases for iPad that I have ever used and strongly recommend it to people looking for an iPad case solution for younger students. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Safe with Griffin #EdTech

I'm happy to share with all of you a review of some great cases from Griffin. Below you will find my thoughts on some great products Griffin sent to me to review and share with my readers. Here is what I thought.

NEW: Use the code THENERDYTEACHER for 20% off their purchase! This code is valid until 6/21.

Survivor Case for iPad

I've always been curious about the heavy duty iPad cases. I wondered why people would need such protection for their iPads. Were these people using them as frisbees or cutting boards? Then I had a son. Everything made so much sense after that.

For those of you out there with young children and iPads, you know that you do need a military grade  case to keep everything safe. I felt very confident as little Leo ran across the kitchen with the iPad in his tiny hands to show me his new drawing. He dropped, bumped and drooled on the iPad and it was perfectly safe in the Survivor case. I couldn't be happier with the protection my iPad received while in the Survivor case. I do not expect my son to be running around with my iPad all of the time, but I do travel often with my iPad and the TSA can be rough with my bags. I have always been worried about what might happen to my iPad when I do travel. I did not worry one second while using the Survivor case.

Some people might think the $79.99 price tag is a bit steep, but the security of having a safe and secure iPad is worth the price. For people that travel and take their iPad all over with them, this is the perfect case for them. It adds some to the bulk of the iPad, but that is ok because it is going to keep it safe and that is what is most important.

The Survivor Case for the iPad Mini ($59.99) is just as awesome as the full size version and would be perfect for those who travel with their Mini.

For those that will be traveling often with the Survivor case, there is Survisor Harness Kit.

The Survisor Harness Kit is a great way to carry the iPad with you without taking it in and out of a backpack over and over again during a trip. The iPad hangs nicely across the chest and can be used while being worn. I wore it around the classroom one day to see how comfortable and easy to us it was and it was nice. Moving in and around the classroom and the hallways without having to hold the iPad as I needed to do other things was simple. Also, the rain cover was very nice as well as the spot to put a stylus. It has everything I could have needed as I used for the day. It's a nice addition to the Survivor case for those who travel and take their iPad everywhere with them. $49.99

These are two different stylus pens that worked great when I used them in class and at home. The #2 Pencil Stylus looks like a regular pencil and is great to use. Leo loved to use it to draw on the iPad and play his games. I like it because he will learn to use a pen and pencil and holding this stylus will not force him to hold it differently. It fit nicely into the Harness Kit and worked great on the iPad screen. $19.99

The Stylus + Pen was great in the classroom. Despite all of my efforts to be completely paperless, there are some things that still require my signature in real ink. This stylus allows me to just pop the top and sign or write what I need. It was nice to have when I needed it and I keep it in my pocket whenever I walk around with my iPad. $24.99

The last thing I wanted to share was these awesome headphones. What I love about these headphones, besides the adorable design, is the fact that it keeps the sound at 85DB. This is perfect for keeping ears safe from loud music and games. I wish all of my students had these in class. I can often hear their music int he hallways as they pass between classes. These headphones are just the right thing for classrooms. Young students who want to sit quietly and listen to books, work on projects or any other audio required items will love these headphones and parents and teachers will feel good knowing they're not letting the students melt their brains with loud music. For $19.99, these are perfect for anyone with young kids who are worried about their hearing health. 

In a few days, I will be sharing my review of Slim Folio, IntelliCase, SeeSaw, and the Griffin Multidock.

Monday, May 13, 2013

This is what standardized tests fail to assess #EdChat #PBLChat

Since I made the switch to Project Based Learning, I am always amazed at the different projects I receive from my talented students. These projects manage to show me a depth of understanding that a multiple choice test could never reproduce.

Recently, students were asked to create their own project and rubric for The Great Gatsby. I received some really good projects, but this one struck me as something really special. All projects needed to be approved before the students were allowed to start work, but I never expected this when my students asked to write a song for the book. Here is Maddie V's completed project,

Maddie wrote the music, played the piano and wrote the lyrics for this song. She did all of this while rehearsing and performing in the school's Spring Musical. For me, this is one of the best projects I have ever received for this unit. She gave me permission to post this on my website and tweet it out. I had to share this with all of the other teachers out there wondering about the value of projects over tests. 

There is no doubt that Maddie could take a test on Gatsby and get an A. She is very bright and it would have been very easy for her. However, what would she have walked away with after acing the exam? With the project, she still has an A, but she has something she accomplished. A beautiful song she will have with her the rest of her life. When she thinks about Gatsby or the green light, she can think about a song she wrote and shared with the world. I'm always looking for reasons why people should dump their tests, and this is one of the best examples to date. 

Maddie is going to go on and do some amazing things out there. How many kids are not being given the chance to express what they have learned because the multiple choice test is the "best" way a teacher can think of to assess? As teacher, we need to look for better ways to get the most out of our students. For me, projects have opened my eyes to the very different talents my students have and they have made me look at assessments in a different light. I hope this song is a light bulb for teachers considering Project Based Learning in the future. 

If you liked the song, take a moment and leave Maddie a comment on YouTube or send her a tweet at @MADdy_skillz.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Chemistry Class and a @LivescribeK12 Sky Pen #EdChat #SciChat

Here is a post from Jessica Haggerty (@gpschemistry) who is a Chemistry teacher at Grosse Pointe South High School. I gave her a Sky Pen and was curious how it would work in her classroom. Here are her thoughts. 

I use the Livscribe Sky Pen almost daily in my chemistry classroom.  Especially during units heavy in problem solving, it is extraordinarily helpful for students who were absent for lessons or students who need extra reinforcement when working at home to have access to the lesson at home.  Before using the Sky Pen, handing a copy of the notes where I had solved a long problem to a student left them only confused searching for how I got from one step to another and where I took specific numbers from.  The learning that can take place where they can listen to an explanation and solve the problem without me being present is incredible. 

Personally, one of the greatest things about the Livescribe Sky Pen for me is that when I am unable to be in class for a day, I do not have to “miss” a day in my curriculum.  I can go through the lesson at home the night before and have the lesson ready for my substitute teacher the next day.  It allows me to stay up with my curriculum even if I have to miss days.  On the same note, it allows me to give the students more supplemental material and reviews that they can view on their own time. 

The students have become accustomed to having their lessons online and regularly use them.  Many have even come to me, seniors especially, about purchasing their own pen to take to college as a resource.  I highly recommend using the Livescribe Sky Pen to all educators, especially in the math and sciences.

Here are some examples that Jessica has created using her Sky Pen:

brought to you by Livescribe

Jessica Haggerty is in her 4th year of teaching and teaches honors and regular Chemistry. She has a Chemistry degree and a masters in teaching and curriculum with a technology endorsement. You can follow her on Twitter at @gpschemistry