Being a passionate and inquisitive teacher in a digital, globally connected environment opens up so many opportunities for professional development. Like many teachers, I thrive on extending my knowledge in multiple areas, I want to know everything I can in order to make me better at my job and life in general. I am constantly seeking ways to inspire and better myself, other teachers at my school or in my wider PLN and importantly, students I engage with and teach. In an age of ‘infowhelm’ it can be hard to manage, truly engage in and learn from so much information.
That is unless you have the right tools.
I have said many times that I truly believe that using Evernote makes me a better teacher. Sometimes I receive funny looks, rolled eyes and “here she goes again” comments, especially when many don’t understand how powerful Evernote can be to manage all of this information. Other times, there are people who also thrive on learning and education in the same way as I do and want to know all they can about how and why Evernote is so amazing. For me, Evernote is more than just a file storage tool, it is exactly as Evernote describes it, my ‘external brain’ the place where I ‘remember everything’, store any of my thoughts, ideas or wonderings, a place where I can save information in a variety of formats from anywhere and have access to it in a matter of seconds on multiple devices. Wherever, whenever, however, I want.
Last year at the Evernote Conference in San Francisco, Evernote’s CEO Phil Libin spoke about ‘knowledge workers’, describing them as people who think for a living. These types of workers are driving economies, driving technology, making decisions, solving problems and driving innovation. Knowledge workers are people who, in their daily lives and work environments make decisions, communicate and collaborate with others and understand and meet the needs of their customers. Any modern, digitally connected, passionate teacher I know would have resonated with those comments. Our customers, however are our students. In order for me or any other teacher to meet the needs of our students, to prepare them for such a socially connected digital world and prepare them for jobs that don’t even exist yet- we need to take advantage of as much learning as possible.
Have you ever been to a professional learning day or conference and been so inspired that you just want to get back to school and start straight away? Yes- excellent! But what happens when you get back to school and things may not go to plan- days and weeks pass, you forget what you learnt, and the inspiration dwindles. It happens all the time. I see so many teachers go away for professional learning, talk about how much they loved the session, but do nothing with that new knowledge. Things stay the same, no change, no innovation. Their notes are written down in a book or stored in a word document that will get lost or never be opened again. I know this does not always happen, but from what I have seen it is a common occurrence.
Enter Evernote. How about we do something with all of that information. Take what you have learnt, have it accessible and put it into practice. Refer to it, make changes, add thoughts and ideas, receive feedback. Innovate. Develop. Learn. Repeat!
Evernote makes me a better teacher because it is a tool I use that enables me to successfully manage all of my learning. I want to share with you some ways I use Evernote to do this. There is a lot. My advice- choose one thing you are not already doing and have a go! Evernote is such a personal tool, everyone I know uses it differently, they have their own pro tips, tweaks and ideas. If the ways I use Evernote do not work for you, change it, make it work so it does. You won’t be sorry!
Evernote Web Clipper
First step- get the Evernote Web Clipper and clip this post. Once clipped, highlight the parts or ideas that resonated with you the most. Add to the note by identifying a couple of new things you want to try. The Web Clipper is a tool I use on a daily basis; it is especially wonderful in Chrome. I use the web clipper to save articles and websites to Evernote that I want to keep and refer to. I also use it for general bookmarking. I have a ‘Professional Learning’ Notebook Stack, within that stack I have Notebooks set up for different categories. I like my Notebook organisation, when I want to clip a page, I can select the Notebook easily and also add tags for further searching capabilities later. I clip and save many blog posts, news articles, and lesson ideas. Sometimes, if I want to get fancy, I’ll add an Evernote Reminder to the clipped note straight away to remind me to read it later or do something else with it. Reminders are a great feature- I am an extremely forgetful person, I love that I can be nudged to look at and act upon my clipped notes on given dates and times.
My Professional Learning Notebook Stack-
Another way I manage my love of collecting and reading inspiring and engaging articles and blog posts is Feedly. When reviewing my RSS feeds I can automatically send articles to Evernote that I want to save. When using Feedly, the notes are saved in my default Evernote Notebook, my ‘inbox’. I hate having notes in my inbox, so I ensure I make time to act upon those notes- I follow a ‘not so strict’ version of the GTD process (Getting Things Done by David Allen). When notes are in my inbox, I have to do something with them. This works well for me because instead of just sending things to Evernote to never look at again I choose to share it with others, add it to my session ideas, reflect on it and make some comments, write a blog about it…whatever is important for that article. Using this process ensures that what I am sending to Evernote is not just left stagnant, I am constantly changing things up and reviewing my notes and acting on my ideas or things I have learnt from others.
Twitter and IFTTT
I am a self-confessed Twitter aficionado. I love it. I describe Twitter as the BEST free professional development tool available for educators. I love that when scrolling through the Tweets from my PLN I can easily save favourites- this could be linked to posts, ideas, anything really. I use IFTTT to automate sending my favourites into Evernote. They go into a dedicated Notebook. Again, lots of people do this- but I always wonder what they do with those Tweets once they are in Evernote. I have set up a shortcut, not to the whole Notebook of Tweets, but a saved search. I used Evernote’s powerful descriptive search to search for my ‘twitter favourites since last week’, this brings up only the notes that are tagged with ‘twitter’ (which IFTTT automatically does) and were created in the last seven days…Cool, yes? What I have then done is saved that search and added it to my Shortcuts (thank you Troy Malone for that tip). All of my favourites are the easily accessible and the most recent ones are one click or tap away. Again, I make sure I do not just leave them there…Once a week, usually on a Friday afternoon before I go home, I go through the notes saved from this search and do something with them…Add them to my Tickler file or Next Actions, write more, read more, add a reminder- whatever suits for the given Tweet or context. I also do this for my latest pins on Pinterest.
Saving Kindle & iBook Notes and Highlights
It is very rare that you will see me read a hardcopy book these days; the only time I do this is when I am reading to children. All of my personal, professional development reading is either done on my iPad or iPhone using the Kindle or iBooks apps. Recently I read about how to save my notes and highlights to Evernote…which, as you could imagine, made me very happy. Vickie Davis (aka @coolcatteacher) has some great guides on how to do this on her blog here and here For anybody undertaking professional readings, using this process is great. I love that I have everything saved in Evernote for easy access. When I want to refer to a reading, I do not have to trawl through my notes in other apps or programs.
School Staff Meetings & Conferences
I know I live in a world where people still love paper, I suspect many still especially like photocopying many pages for people to read. Every school-based, staff professional development session we have, we are given handouts…And I hate them. This is commonly known as well, I also don’t take a pen to meetings. I use the Evernote document camera to snap an image of my handouts quickly, any notes I want to write I can add underneath or can quickly and easily annotate the images to make highlights or handwritten notes straight from my iPad.
This process works well for conferences too. Although with conferences I always save the conference agenda and use note links to link to my notes taken at each session.
Travel & Study Tours
Last year I travelled to America as part of a personal study tour and this year I am travelling again with the Australian Council for Computers in Education ISTE Study Tour (keep up to date with us on Twitter when we set off in June- #STACCE14). To keep track of the organisation leading up to this I have saved my itinery and calendar, all of my receipts. I use my unique Evernote email address to easily forward important emails straight into my study tour notebook. I have clipped all of the ISTE sessions I would like to attend, as well as the websites and information of some of the places I know we will be visiting. There are so many notes in this notebook and to add another layer of organisation I have used the ‘Table of Contents’ feature to create lists of note links so everything is easily accessible, I then pin those notes using Reminders. While I am away I will be using Evernote to take notes and write blog posts.
I am studying my Masters of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation) through Charles Sturt University. Evernote has been a saviour when it comes to organising my study and assignments for this. I previously wrote a blog post about how I use Evernote in study which you can read here. Reminders are the best too, great for important dates!
Performance and Development and Professional Learning Journal
I keep track of my professional learning goals and reflections in Evernote. In the past, I have found that if I don’t refer to my goals regularly, I can become sidetracked. Having my goals in Evernote allows me to regularly update and document my progress towards achieving them. I also use Evernote as my professional learning journal, allowing me to document my thoughts and reflections for ongoing professional learning.
There are so many ways Evernote can help you manage the information flow and allow you reflect, learn and develop.