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Technology Integration for teachers

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Technology Integration with Evernote: Setup and Overview

Evernote Integration:
A technology should be deep and extensive for integration into any classroom. By this I mean it should provide a variety of tools that allow it to be used in an extensive network. In education, this means it should provide all the necessary tools to be integrated into most, if not all, the content areas of instruction. There are a variety of tools that provide this level of integration and versatility. In order for a tool to reach this level of versatility it must exist without borders. By this I mean, it must be available in a variety of platforms and it must facilitate communication and collaboration. Above all, it must be easy and very intuitive to use.

As I said, there are a variety of tools that meet this objective. In this series of blogs I will focus on one application, Evernote. Before I begin, I should tell you that I don’t work for Evernote or get any compensation from Evernote in any way. My goal is to help educators understand how technology like Evernote can be used in classroom instruction.

Evernote is an application that does one thing and does it very well. It collects ideas and allows you to easily share those ideas with others. You can capture ideas in a variety of ways. It’s basic word processor helps to type your ideas. It uses your devices built in microphone to record your audio ideas, your device’s camera to take a picture, attach existing files from your computer, or capture web pages.

Sharing your ideas with Evernote is just as easy using traditional and social media. Email an idea to someone, post it on Facebook or Twitter. One of the options is to share a notebook with another Evernote user.

The Setup:
The first step is to look at any setup requirements. Evernote is free for the basic version. This is great because school districts are currently strapped for money. Cost is always the first roadblock that can end technology integration right in its tracks. This is why I always look at free or open source applications. Evernote works on a wide variety of platforms. This is because Evernote is an application that can be installed onto Apple, Windows and a wide variety of mobile devices. If you are a Linux district, a third party called Nevernote provides an application. Evernote doesn’t have to be installed. Evernote is a web application. Installed applications tie your device to Evernote on the web. You can log into Evernote’s web site and use it directly.

We can see right away the setup is going to be relatively easy. The application is available for all platforms. Download and install the client. Most teachers can usually do this easily enough. If you are part of a larger district you might have someone at your campus dedicated to do this job. Most districts today lock down computers so only a dedicated administrator can install or remove software. This is done for various security reasons. Our district is one such district. This could be a hurdle but it helps to coordinate with the computer administrator to get this done. Remember, he or she is just as busy and it helps to work together. If you are part of the emerging districts that have a policy of bring your own device, then installation is easily accommodated on your personal devices.

Why install? Isn’t it also web based? Yes, it is web based, and software installation is not required. Networks aren’t always reliable. With more users accessing a school’s network there are times that getting anything done can be painfully slow. Using the application gives some added benefits. The application saves a copy onto a device and syncs a copy onto the Evernote web account. With an application you and students always have access to information even without an Internet connection.

Creating an account for Evernote is quick and easy. All that is required is an email and the user to create a username and password. This account can be created within the application or on the Internet. A student can be up and running with Evernote in under a minute.

What can Evernote do?
This might have been the first question I addressed, but I saved it for this part. Evernote is a note taking application. It comes with basic word processing tools. For most integration purposes that’s all you will need. Students can insert images, audio, and attach files. Students can upload up to 60 MB each month. This might seem small, but most text notes can be measured in kilobytes.

At this point I think we need to redefine Evernote. This is important so you can understand what it can do in a classroom. Evernote is your student’s notebook. It is the notebook where students store their classroom notes, write journal entries, do their homework, and take a quiz, test or exam. This is also your teacher notebook. It is where you provide notes to students. Distribute and collect homework assignments, quizzes, tests and exams.

Now your asking yourself, how can Evernote help me do all that?

Evernote has another option that greatly extends its capabilities. Evernote has the option to create notebooks to organize all your word processing assignments. A student can have a math, science, or history notebook. Students can write their content notes within each notebook. Notebooks can be placed into stacks. Stacks are several notebooks grouped into a category. A student can have a science stack, which includes a notebook for notes, one for vocabulary lists, one for homework assignments and one for lab work.

As a teacher you can have a similar format. You can create notebooks for each of the content areas. In addition you can stack notebooks to include such things as a classroom syllabus, homework assignments, assessments, daily assignments and so on.

Thus far I’ve talked about how to organize information into notebooks and stacks. This is important because as a teacher this is how I would introduce Evernote to students in my classroom. Understanding the fundamentals is important because you will be using these basics over and over again. Once this set of fundamentals is in place you can take on the crucial process of collaboration.

Collaborative Mind Maps

Collaborative thinking maps with Mindmeister

I happened on this application while looking for a good mind mapping tool for my iPhone. I often need to organize my thoughts and projects for work and since I always carry my phone with me it seemed like the most logical thing. As soon as I downloaded the application I liked the simplicity and ease of use. Soon there after I found there was an online version.

The web site at mindmeister.com offers several paid options of this tool and one free option. The free option is great because it gives you the opportunity to explore the various features. Unlike most sites, this free trial has no expiration period. The free version has few limitations. There’s a limit of three mind maps that you can host online. Apart from this, the only other significant limitation is the ability to upload your own images.

The option to collaborate on mind maps is a feature that is available on the free version as well as the paid versions. I played with this option for a while and started to think about how this can be used in a classroom environment. It just so happened that for this summer training we wanted to focus on web 2.0 tools. After a brief demonstration to my colleagues, we all agreed it would be a perfect tool to demonstrate the collaborative features of the web.

I thought it would be a great idea to have the teachers collaborate on a mind map during the presentation. That’s just what I did. I invited the teachers at each session to create their free account. I demonstrated how to create a new mind map and enter the topic. They watched as I created parent nodes and then child nodes. The tool is very easy to use for the basics. You want to stick to the basics when introducing this to teachers and students. There’s plenty of time for fonts, colors and pictures later. It’s hard to get teachers and students back once they learn about all those options.

I briefly explained the collaborative component and invited a teacher to collaborate on this map. She gave me her email address and I entered it into the invite to collaborate box. After a few more clicks she was a collaborator. She clicked on the shared map in the main page using her computer and I asked her to add something to the map. She typed something away on her computer and in a few seconds that information appeared on my computer, which was connected to a projector and visible to everyone.

Let’s consider a classroom situation. A teacher with only one computer, projector and Internet access could start a basic collaborative lesson. At first there would be classroom participation the old fashioned way. Raise your hands please. Once the students catch on, they can come up and use the teacher’s computer to add content they have gathered in groups.

If you have a few more computers then you can take it to the next level. Create accounts for students or have them create accounts before you begin. Divide the students into groups and assign one or more computers per group. Keep it simple at first. One student per group will collaborate on the map. Start with one map for the whole class and assign one parent node per group. This makes it easy for the first collaborative map and keeps classroom management simple. On your computer, connected to a projector, develop the topic and as many parent nodes as you have groups. Each group will research information and update the node.

You might also want to develop a rubric. This will let your students know what criteria you will use to asses. This rubric can be used by your students to judge the efforts of other groups. Students can grade each group’s effort.

Your students are now using project based learning. They are directing their own learning. You are now facilitating this process with monitoring, support and classroom management.

Now that you are collaborating. Use the notes feature to provide feedback to your students. Have your students add an image to nodes. Use the link feature and have your students link to online references.

When you are done with a mind map, download it in it’s native format onto your computer. This way you can upload and use it again at a later date. You can also choose to export the mind map as a PDF document or as an image to use as part of a larger project.

This is just one example. I know you’ll have more creative ways to use this tool.

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