As more and more teachers embrace the powers of Student-Driven Inquiry, Triangulated Evidence, and Assessment for Learning practices as outlined in the Growing Success document, a new need has surfaced. Actually, it isn’t really a new need, but rather a current need has been underlined.
In a Student-Driven Inquiry environment, students’ learning is driven by interest. In this type of learning structure, students research, collect, synthesize, and analyze information, then work with their peers or alone to share their new understandings.
Triangulated Evidence is a more balanced approach to assessment. While traditional assessment involved lots of products (tests, essays, letters, presentations), assessment that takes into account Triangulated Evidence assesses looks at a balanced body of work including Products, Observations, and Conversations.
In an Assessment for Learning environment, the classroom is always focussed on Learning Goals. Success Criteria is developed and refined over time by the students and teacher, to help focus the efforts of the class, and to provide speaking points for peer-assessment, self-assessment, and teacher feedback.
In each of these environments, the need that seems to be highlighted is how to best collect and organize this Triangulated Evidence for easy analyzing and retrieval, and to support future teacher moves and lesson planning.
I believe Evernote provides a simple solution to these needs.
First of all, Evernote tics an important box for me as it is cross-platform and multi-platform, allowing you to use it on your PC, Mac, iPad, iPod, iPhone, Blackberry, Windowsphone, and Android Tablet or phone, and works efficiently with Chrome, Firefox and Safari browsers. This is important as it allows users to gather evidence on the fly regardless of the device they may have.
The first step in using Evernote to help you address your assessment needs, after signing up for an account of course, is to create a ‘Notebook’ for each of your students. Evernote will also have created a Notebook for you, as well, where you can keep other things. More on that later.
Within each Notebook, you are able to store a collection of ‘Notes’ about each student. Each Note can be named, dated, and even tagged for location. Evernote can also be easily linked with the calendar on your device to include information about where you currently are and will note the subject of the calendar event. The Notes can take the form of any combination of text based anecdotal notes, audio recordings, pictures, and hyperlinks ( <—– very important feature). All the previously mentioned things can appear and be housed in the same single note within any of your Notebooks. My favourite feature of Evernote, as opposed to other Note-Taking apps, is that you can also ‘tag’ each note with a single or multiples tage to help you further define the content of the Note. This is important if you want to harness the full power of the PC and Mac desktop versions of Evernote to search through your notes to quickly and easily locate and sort your data to use it to inform your teaching practice and to Evaluate your students, when necessary. Some examples of ‘tags’ are Subject-related such as: Math, Number Sense, Probability, Visual Art, Procedural Writing, Media Literacy, etc. Some examples of Process-related tags are: Cooperation, Peer-assessment, Goal Setting, Inquiry, etc.
In practice, this means you can carry your device about the class with you and use it in place of a clipboard or paper notebook to gather a myriad of assessment data. When you open the App, Evernote also allows you to simply name a new Note then worry about what Notebook it goes in later. This allows you to quickly get to gathering your evidence.
While there is no native video recording option in Evernote, there are simple ways around it so that you can also store video within a Note. The first step is to record video using the standard recording app on your device. Next, you can either upload the video to your Dropbox, Youtube, or Vimeo account. In each of these instances, you can make the video private and therefore not searchable, and only accessible with a link. You can then paste the private link to the video in the appropriate Note, in the appropriate, Notebook.
The one caveat, to this fantastic App and solution, is that Evernote only allows 60 MB of data per month on a free account. This is more than enough if the majority of your Notes are of a text nature. However, you can quickly reach your limit if you take a lot of pictures and audio recordings. This obstacle can be overcome if you become proficient with the video trick I outlined above. The other simple solution, is to pay the very reasonable $5 per month for unlimited data uploads. Problem solved.
One last feature I wanted to highlight is the ability to share Notebooks with other users. This is handy if you teach on rotary and you want multiple teachers to have access to create and review Notes on the same students.
I mentioned earlier that I would write about your own personal Notebook that is created automatically for you. You can use this Notebook for web clippings, bookmarks, saving and cataloging important emails, taking pics of handouts from in-services, etc…