Monday, January 31, 2011

Evernote - Review for ED 617

This blog post is acting as a supplementary source for my software review on Evernote that I composed for my ED 617 class.  Please feel free to click any of the images to enlarge them.

Evernote is an organizational software tool developed by an independent, privately held company sharing the same name, Evernote Corporation.  Their website can be found at

I had a very hard time trying to describe the overall functionality of Evernote on my own, so I'll use this description taken from to act as a starting ground.

"Evernote is a suite of software and services designed for notetaking and archiving...A "note" can be a piece of formattable text, a full webpage or webpage excerpt, a photograph, a voice memo, or a handwritten "ink" note. Notes can also have file attachments. Notes can then be sorted into folders, tagged, annotated, edited, given comments, and searched." 

This description does a good job at summing up what the software can do, but you really have to see it to understand and appreciate it.  So, I took some screenshots that I'm going to share throughout my review.
Taking what I've gathered from the reading, Evernote doesn't quite fit into any "Instructional Software" category, but it has lots of potential for use in the classroom.  I suppose that you could best categorize Evernote into the "Planning and Organizing Tools" category as described in the text in Chapter 5 starting on page 153, however, the software offers so much that it doesn't fit any mold exactly.  I'll do my best to describe some of the basic functionality that I've played around with and share some thoughts on how this could be incorporated into instruction.
To start off, Evernote is basically a great tool where you can take "notes" and save them in one place.  For me, my "notes" are usually based on class assignments and projects that I have going on.  Discovering Evernote is going to assist me tremendously in keeping track of the tasks that I need to accomplish as well as the items that I have already completed.
This is what Evernote looks like.  To the left of the screen, you will notice you can set up a list of "Notebooks."  I created a separate notebook for each one of my classes this semester.  For each notebook, you have the option of creating new "notes."  These can be created with the program's text input feature, you can copy and paste text and images from anywhere, and you can even upload handwritten lists and photographs of chalkboards, a peer's handwritten notes, a business card, or basically anything you need to organize and file away for future use.  You'll notice that I have created some notes dealing with Module 2 to help me complete the assignments as well as a general course schedule that I copied directly from D2L and pasted right into Evernote.  You'll also notice a search functionality in the top right-hand corner of the window.  This allows for quick and efficient browsing of your "notes."  You can even search handwritten text...
Another one of my favorite features of the program that I've discovered is the ability to insert "ToDo checkboxes" into your notes.  This is very helpful for keeping track of what assignments and tasks have been completed.
Another feature that Evernote offers is the ability to upload a new note via email.  Each user is given a defined email address that you can send notes to without having to log-in to the website or open the program at all.  I found this to be useful if you save the email address to your phone contacts, so that if you snap a picture and send it to that email address, it will show up in your new notes the next time to access the web version of Evernote or the software itself.
One great feature that has lots of potential for classroom use is the ability to share notebooks with other users.  Basically, this could be used in a similar capacity to a collaborative wiki, where students can add to a "note" and share ideas and collectively work together outside of the physical classroom setting.

If we categorize Evernote into the "Planning and Organizing Tools" category as described in the text, the software should be able to "help teachers and students conceptualize, organize, and communicate their ideas."  Also, the purpose and benefits associated with this type of software are listed in the text as "Help organize ideas for writing; help organize, plan, and schedule activities."  I believe that Evernote does a very good job of doing so, and here are a few reasons why.
One advantage of Evernote is the multi-platform functionality, meaning you can download and run this software on Windows, Mac OS X, iPhone/iPod Touch, iPad, Android, BlackBerry, Palm, and Windows Mobile devices.  So, in a school setting with different computer setups, Evernote can be supported on pretty much every machine.  This makes using all the great features of Evernote to help stay organized even simpler.  It is also really nice because I can see my "notes" right from my iPod Touch without having to be near my computer.
But, probably one of the greatest advantages of Evernote is the web based functionality that can be accessed from any computer, as long as it has access to the internet.  So, If you need to access your "notebooks" from a public computer, all you have to do is sign-in to the Evernote website, and you will see all of your notes, and the software doesn't even need to be present on the computer.
This could be very useful for students that use a number of computers to complete academic work throughout the day.  I've found that staying organized is one of the most important steps that any student can take if they want to be successful, and Evernote can help.

Based upon my reading of the textbook, I'd say that a major disadvantage of Evernote is the lack of a mapping/outlining function.  Sure, other software can be used in conjunction with Evernote to create flow charts, outline maps, and other brainstorming graphics, but it would be nice if you could do so right in the program itself.  An addition of this sort of feature would definitely add to the overall academic and classroom value of the software.

The basic version of Evernote is available for free on all platforms.  This gives you an immense amount of function that can be used virtually anywhere.  However, there is an option to upgrade Evernote to the "Premium" version which allows users to upload larger files, it integrates more file types, and has advanced security.  Also, it enhances the PDF searching, recognizes images faster, and gets rid of the ads.  Premium service costs $5 per month or $45 per year.

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