Lose the Binder: Use Evernote in Your Classroom

It’s been almost three weeks since my first ISTE conference and the wheels continue to turn or better said, spin wildly! This is by far the largest and most inspiring education conference I have ever been to and has resulted in creating new life in my ed tech world. While I spend a lot of time reading blogs and professional articles and following extremely inspiring educators on Twitter, I was able to take all the ideas I have been gathering and really plant some solid seeds into next year’s plan for my classroom. Another plus, was actually meeting and networking with some of the very same teachers I follow and network with on Twitter.
     Now I have been formulating all of the ideas into my head for long enough and it is about time to put them down on my blog. This will be a series of blog entries because as I sit here and think about everything I want to write about I find myself overwhelmed with writer’s block. So as a cure to this, I am posting in smaller chunks. I hope you enjoy and can take at least one new piece of edtech awesomeness away with you!
Lose the Binder: Use Evernote in Your Classroom
Remember the good ol’ days of getting your brand new Trapper Keeper? You stuffed it full of tabs, pencils pouches, and fresh clean college ruled paper. Then after a year of sub-organization, with papers falling out, you place that Trapper Keeper on the bookshelf never to be looked at again. Now imagine the world for our students where Trapper Keepers and binders were considered a blast from the past. Imagine a world where your students carried their digital binder from grade to grade collecting work from their past years of schooling. Essentially, collecting a history of learning and a digital portfolio all at the same time. That time has come and Evernote is that digital binder of the future.
     If you use Evernote for your personal use, then you know all too well how wonderfully simple and amazing the Evernote app is. When I first began using Evernote, I downloaded it so I could take notes there rather than using the iPhone/iPad’s built in notes. I was amazed how easily it synced with my iPad, iPod, iPhone, and desktop. Then as I began to dig deeper into Evernote’s capabilities I began to see the potential of this app in the classroom.
Here are the functions that make Evernote amazing for use in a classroom:
  • Note taking (word processing)
  • List maker
  • Audio recording
  • Snapshots (take pictures)
  • Tag notes for searching and filing ease
  • With the Premium version you are able to search items in all notebooks (including words in images and handwritten words)
  • With the Premium version, students can share work with you (but not in real time like in Google Docs)
     The first thing that came to mind was to use Evernote as my student’s word processing tool. I have a 1:1 iPod classroom and this made writing and publishing of student work a fun and easy process. However, after listening to Nick Provenzano (@thenerdyteacher) speak about his full integration of Evernote into his high school English class (at #ISTE12) I was inspired on a whole new level. He is part of a 1:1 iPad program and claims that once he introduced Evernote to his students they took to it immediately and wanted to use it for all of their classes for note-taking and word processing. He explained how Evernote is like a binder that a student can carry with them from year to year. Each year a student can collect all of their learning in one location and essentially, indirectly or purposely, compile a digital portfolio.
     Nick has so fully integrated Evernote into his teaching that he is now paperless! He has scanned all of his assignments and teaching tools and has them stored in notebooks in Evernote. Nick said last school year he made only 240 copies! In addition, instead of carrying home crates of writing projects to grade each day, he just walks on out with his iPad. That is truly phenomenal.
Instantly my mind was turning with new ideas to integrate Evernote into my classroom. Here they are:
  • Have students create notebooks for their projects. They can then email me their entire notebook as their final project.
  • Create digital writing portfolios
  • Use Evernote to capture pictures of their artwork (from our art program). Students can include either a written reflection about their piece or an audio recording.
  • Students can use the audio recording to record their final fluency practice. This can be turned in with a written reflection (using a kid-friendly rubric).
  • With the premium version (teacher only) I will have students share their writing with me. I will then be able to comment on their work or attach an audio recording of my reflection of their work. Imagine the time I will save and the documentation I will be able to gather!
  • Students can access their work on their iPods, in the computer lab, and even on their devices at home.
  • Students can email their work to you.
  • Teach my students to take notes using Evernote fully utilizing snapshots.
  • Use Evernote to document my Daily 5 reading conferences. I can even use the audio recording to record students reading aloud. Read this blog for more information: Evernote as a Reading 1 on 1 Conference Tool 
Great Evernote links from other amazing educators:

If you have more ideas to add, please add them into the comment area! I love hearing what everyone else is doing.
Thank you,
Jo-Ann Fox

iPods During Writing? Support the Word Choice Trait


Most people think word choice is just adding good adjectives. Actually, you can quickly change the quality of writing simply by trading out overused verbs for strong, active verbs. For example, you can trade out the word “run” for “bound” and enhance a sentence greatly!

Effective writing uses active verbs, considers precise language, and utilizes words that give exactness to details.

Here are some great app resources you can use to enhance word choice in your classroom:

 Dictionary.com App

The Dictionary.com app is great writing resource. The Dictionary.com app not only has a dictionary, but it also has a thesaurus that my second graders can easily use. Perhaps the most amazing thing about the Dictionary.com app is that it allows you to say the word and it will find it for you! This is great for kids who don’t know how to spell a word they want to use in their writing or if they need to find a better word to use by utilizing the thesaurus. Another great feature is the ability to create a favorite list of words. After a child searches a word, they can push the star icon to add their word to their favorite list which they can access by touching the favorite button at the bottom on the screen. A child can easily switch back and forth between dictionary and thesaurus by touching the orange T or blue D on the right.There is a free and paid version of this app.

 My Words App:

I learned of this app when I was researching apps for students with Autism. This app is a customizable picture and sound dictionary. You can create word lists and add pictures.  You can also record the word being said. This is a great tool for students to use as a personal collection of excellent words to use during the writing block.

 Simple Mind


I have mentioned this app in many different posts as this app is adaptable to so many things! This is a great tool to create mind maps that show synonyms for overused words like “cute.” Here is an example of how it can be used:

This blog entry is part of a series focusing on integrating iPods during the writing block with a focus on the use of the 6 +1 Traits of writing. Please return to find out about specific apps I use to support the other traits of good writing.

Please share other ideas to utilize iPods to support word choice!


iPods During Writing? Support the Organization Trait

Organization Writing Trait on iPod

The Organization Trait refers to the overall structure of the writing. Organized writing has a clear sequence of events and pulls the reader easily from the beginning to the end. A good piece of writing has a strong lead or hook that draws a reader into the story. Each supporting details continuously flows from one event to the next. Finally, the story comes to a clear and memorable ending.

Since I teach second grade, I have found that creating a writing frame has helped my students successfully write an organized paragraph. We use the following frame:

  • Topic Sentence or Hook
  • Detail
  • -another detail of support.
  • Detail
  • -another detail of support.
  • Detail
  • -another detail of support.
  • Conclusion

This has become routine in my classroom. Many of my students have become so natural with this frame, they no longer need the support. But many of my reluctant writers still need the structure.

Apps to Support the Organization Trait

Notes (built in)


My students use the built in Notes app to create their own frame to help guide them through their writing piece. When they have finished, they can copy and paste their writing to Edmodo to share their writing or they can simply email their “note” to me. This sounds so simple, but my students love being able to type their writing versus using pencil and paper. Writing engagement has skyrocketed by simply adding the use of notes in my classroom!

Edmodo provides a way for my students to share their writing with each other. My students can log in to Edmodo and read everyone’s published piece of writing and leave a comment. Of course, you need to develop an good sense of digital citizenship with your students if you plan to allow them to leave a comment on Edmodo or any other social networking type of site. My students enjoy giving others compliments. Their compliments should use the 6 +1 Traits of writing language, such as, “Great word choice when you chose the word ‘minute’ instead of small.”

Here is a sample of the writing frame my students can set up for themselves before they write. During the revision and editing process they simply delete the T’s, D’s, etc.


This blog entry is part of a series focusing on integrating iPods during the writing block with a focus on the use of the 6 +1 Traits of writing. Please return to find out about specific apps I use to support the other traits of good writing.

Please share other ideas to utilize iPods to support organization!


Use Google Forms and Go Paperless!


If you are looking to spend less time waiting in the copy machine line and more time planning engaging and innovative lessons, keep reading! You won’t have to visit the Apple Store in order to use one of the best strategies with your classroom set of iPods and iPads. All you need is a Google account and your teacher creativity. So have I kept you in suspense long enough? No? Well, perhaps I should mention that you will also be helping the environment by going paperless.

One of my very talented and tech savvy colleagues, Chia Grossmann, has become an expert with using Google forms in her classroom.  I have utilized her idea of creating a simple Google “Response Form” that can be used over and over in all curricular areas. Chia’s “Response Form” is a simple form to create, since it only has a place for the student number, name, and a written response area.

Here is what the “Response Form” looks like:

Keep reading if you would like step-by-step directions to create this form:

If you have never created a Google form, the process is rather simple. First and foremost, you must have a Google account. If you don’t have one already… get one. You won’t be sorry.

Then once you have logged into your Google account, click on “Documents” at the top of the page. Then click “Create.”


Once you click on Create you will see a pull down menu. Select “Forms.” An untitled form will pop up, along with the first question ready for you to edit.

Title your form “Response Form.” You can add directions about the form below the title if you like. I typed, “Please remember to write complete sentences.” My advice is leave the directions very vague because you will want to use this form for many different activities.

Now we will begin to edit question 1. This will be for student numbers (if you use nick-numbers). Title it “Student Number.” I am not including any “Help Text.” We are going to change the question type to “Choose from a list.” Now begin typing. Chia recommends typing the first name on the list as Anonymous. Then add student numbers. When you have finished, click the box next to “Make this a required question.” Last, click “done.”


 Now we will make question 2. Select “Add item” at the top of the screen (it is next to the green plus sign). You will get another pull down menu. This time select “text.” Title it “Name.” Click the box next to “Make this a required question” and click on “done.”

Now for the last step for question 3. Select “Add item” again and this time on the pull down menu, select “Paragraph text.” Title it “Response.” Click the box next to “Make this a required question.” Last, click “done.”

Now you have a completed form! If you like to make things fancy then select a new theme at the top of the window. I selected the “blue bird” theme and this is what my live form will look like. When you select apply, it will take you back to your “edit form” page. You won’t see the your cutesy theme, but don’t worry it is still there.

Now that your form is compete you have several options. You can email this form to yourself so you have a link to it. But this is what I do… I copy the link at the very bottom of the page. Then I visit a QR code maker website and create a QR code for my students to get to the form quickly. I have also put a link to the form on my school webpage. Either way, you need some way for your students to link to this form on their iPods.

Once your students have accessed the “live form” on their iPods, have them make a web clip of this link (hold home key and sleep button at the same time). This way you can have your students access this same form over and over for a variety of different activities. I bet your next questions is how do you use this form with students?

This is the part where teacher creativity and innovation takes over. Here are some quick ideas for you to mull over:

  • Have students respond to a question about a book you are reading.
  • Have students write an opinion about a topic or story you are reading.
  • Have students share facts they learned from their social studies or science lesson.
  • Have students share with you their topic sentence for their new piece of writing.
  • Have students write a “7 up” sentence.
  • Have students explain how they solved a problem in math.
  • Use this as your way for students to “TATTLE.”
  • Use this form as an exit ticket.

After your students have completed their “Response Form” from an assignment you have given them, their responses will appear in the form of a spreadsheet. To access this spreadsheet, go back to your original “edit form.” Up at the top right hand corner is a tab that says “See responses.” Select “spreadsheet.” You will then see the responses from your students. In the following picture you can see the answers that I filled in on the form.

When my students are completing a “response form” assignment, I will quite often display the spreadsheet on the docucam so everyone can review others’ responses. However, I do slide the form over so the names and numbers cannot be seen so that the responses are still private. If you do this, keep hitting the refresh button to update the form as students submit their work.

If you want to save this work on the spreadsheet, select “file” from the menu bar and download it to your desktop or make a copy. When the assignment is completed and you have saved your spreadsheet, then delete the information on the spreadsheet so you can reuse this same form for another assignment.

I bet you can think of at least a thousand ways to use this simple Google form in your classroom. Not only will you be able to receive valuable written responses from your students, you will be helping to save thousands of trees by  going paperless! I would love if you would share your ideas with everyone. Don’t be shy to reply!

Jo-Ann Fox

Thank you for inspiring me, Chia Grossmann!


SimpleMind+: Digital Mind Maps for the Classroom


App Type: Creative App

Grade Level: all

Skill Level: Easy/Beginners level

Common Core Standards: This app can be used to cover just about any standard.

iOS Device: iPod, iPhone, iPad

Cost:  SimpleMind+ is free (for the version on the iPhone, iPod, and iPad). SimpleMind (full version) is $6.99. Also, there is a desktop version of the software that can be purchased for your computer. You do not need to purchase the desktop version to use this app effectively in the classroom (I have not purchased this).

SimpleMind+ is a mind mapping app. If your school site is using the Thinking Maps program, SimpleMind+ creates a “bubble map.” This creative app can be integrated in every academic area from language arts, to math, to social studies and science.

Students are able to easily save their map creations within the app so they can refer back to their maps later. However, they are disappointed when they can’t print their maps. While I am not a huge advocate for printing all student creations (we are trying to save some trees by using iPods), students can take a screen shot (to make a screen shot simply hold down the home key and the sleep button at the same time) of their map, save it to their camera roll, then email it to you.

I have used this map in my classroom mostly in the area of writing. As a prewriting activity, my second graders can create a mind map about their writing topic. However, this app is easily adaptable for any academic area. Here are some examples of what you can do with this app:

Language Arts:

  • Describe a character from a story.
  • Describe the setting of a story.
  • Describe the events of a story.
  • Create a map of facts gathered from reading an expository text.
  • Vocabulary development: write the vocabulary word in the middle and branch out with the meaning, parts of speech, synonym, antonym, and use it in a sentence.
  • Create a map of a phonics skill (such as words that have ow or ou, etc.).


  • Brainstorm details for your writing topic.
  • Create a mind map of alternative words for words that are used too often (like good, fun, etc.).

Science/Social Studies:

  • Create maps of the topics of study.
  • Create maps using science and social studies vocabulary.


  • Create a mind map of math vocabulary.
  • Use to describe shapes.
  • Create a map that shows the key words for problem solving.

For the purpose of the classroom you can easily use the free version, SimpleMind+. If you want to be able to have more control with the editing features such as color choice and linking maps together, then the paid version would be better for you. I would love for the app developers of this software to add a feature that allows you to insert pictures into the mind maps.

I hope you enjoy using this app creatively in your classroom! Please share with me any other ways you can use this app with your class. Thank you!

Jo-Ann Fox


Best Uses for iBooks: Turn Your Keynote or Power Point into an iBook


This is one of the best digital learning tools for your iPods! You can easily turn any Keynote or Power Point presentation into an iBook. Imagine the possibility of creating your own books for your students to access. Even better, your students can write their own books and publish them onto iBooks for everyone to read. The possibilities of using your Keynote or Power Point presentations as iBooks are endless and the process is simple (once you get the hang of it). Anyone can do this.

First make sure you have downloaded iBooks into your iTunes account and onto your iPod or iPhone. It comes built in with the iPad (and also has some newer capabilities that differ from the iPod/iPhone version). This is a free app: iBook Link.

Next, create a Keynote or Power Point presentation on your computer (preferably on your syncing computer). You can add pictures, text, and as many pages as you like. When your presentation is finished (and saved) you are going to turn your presentation into a pdf file. Here is how to do that:

1. While your Keynote or Power Point is open, go to file and select print.

2. At the bottom of your print window you will see a pull down screen that says PDF. Click on it.
3. You will then select “save as PDF.”
4. Name it, select the location where it will be saved (I usually select desktop), and click save. You will want your title to end in .pdf

Now you have that Keynote or Power Point saved onto your desktop as a PDF file. Now open up your iTunes. Simply click on that PDF file you made of the Keynote or Power Point presentation and drag it to the “Library” section. When the Library section turns blue, drop the PDF file in place and that file will go straight into iBooks (if you have downloaded that into your iTunes library as previously mentioned). Now sync your iPod, iPad, or iPhone and your Keynote or Power Point will be accessible in your iBooks bookshelf.

However, when you open up your iBooks on your iPod you may not see your Keynote or Power Point right away on the bookshelf. You will probably see an empty bookshelf (if you have never used iBooks before) or you will see books you have already purchased. In my picture you can see a book on my bookshelf that I have purchased in the past.

To find your Keynote or Power Point PDF file, click on the word “Books” on the menu bar at the top. When you click on “Books” you will be given two choices: Books or PDFs.

Select PDFs and viola! Your Keynote or Power Point book will be there waiting for you.

You could spend hours creating personalized books for your students. You can create books using their vocabulary in reading. You can create books that review phonics skills. You can create books reviewing social studies or science facts. You can create social stories for your students with special needs to access. You can create an iBook of a class book the class created together. This part is left up to your teacher creativity!

You are probably thinking, “Ha! When do I have time to build all these Keynotes!” But have no fear. The great news is that there are many teachers out there with plenty of spare time to do all the creating for you (wink wink)! Do a simple Google search using keywords such as “Power Points for teachers” or “Houghton Mifflin Power Points.” You will be amazed with how many results you get. One resource that I have been accessing is Pete’s Power Points. http://www.pppst.com/ This site is full of educational Power Points from all academic areas.

I have been downloading Keynotes onto my students’ iPods regularly and they love reading the books I make. We have been using them to review phonics skills, grammar skills, and to review vocabulary. I have seen an increase in my students’ understanding our vocabulary words since using iBooks in their iPods. I can’t wait to go to the next level and teach my students how to create their own Keynote presentations so they can publish their own stories to share with the class.

Jo-Ann Fox