From 8th January – 22nd March I chose one class, my First Year class (aged11-12) to give up using exercise books, reading books and textbooks. Instead, they would use only digital mediums that were available to them through an iPad that they were supplied with during each lesson.
Evernote would do two of the key things I really needed – it allows my students to curate their work (which can be produced in a multitude of mediums) in an orderly, logical fashion, and, perhaps most exciting, it allowed me to observe their work as they created it, through shared notebooks. In addition to this, we have utilized other parts of the Evernote family by using Skitch and Penultimate which automatically sync drawings and handwritten notes amongst other things) straight to your main Evernote folders.
The answer is, yes. As a result of this experiment I have had to adapt and adjust the way things have been done in the past. The most obvious change is the way I have approached my marking of their work. I felt that if I had gone to the trouble of setting up a digital portfolio of their work, then asking them to print it off each time I wanted to mark it would be a backwards step, especially given that I had access to the work whenever I wanted it. So, I marked the work on my computer. For each note that they created, I had a corresponding Text box on a Pages document. As I read the work in Evernote, I made both formative and summative assessment of the work as I saw it. The flaw in this plan at the moment, is that I’m not physically putting ‘pen to paper’ in order to correct work, instead I’m pointing out errors through my comments. Whilst I don’t see this as a particularly bad thing, it is something I am going to experiment with in this second half of term using a PDF annotating app, which will allow me to open up their work in a secondary app and make actual corrections to the work. That said, the summary sheet that accompanied this scheme of work was very well received by parents; there was a sense that this document gave them the clearest possible indication of how their child was progressing in the subject and was more accessible than trying to look through an exercise book. I have also got the impression (though I will attempt tot collect data on this) that parents have been quite heavily involved at home with regards to discussing and using Evernote and the iPads in general, which has had a very positive impact on how the whole ‘experiment’ has been received.
Evernote, the related apps and then the iPad in general have allowed my students to produce more varied work than they would have without it. There notes are organised, unlike their exercise books. There is far less missing work, there are no missed deadlines and they feel that this work is more important to them.
In this next four week period these same students will continue in this trial. I will collect data from them about their own perception of how their learning has been challenged/improved and how they would hope to progress from this point. They will be studying A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which they will read as an iBook. They will continue to curate their notes in Evernote, but in this second half of the trial I hope to challenge them to use a wider variety of apps, come to me with their own recommendations, and maintain the high standard of curation that they have started. I hope to address the difficulty of marking, so that I can feedback in a wider variety of ways and I hope to continue to produce work in as many different mediums as possible. Already they have created a short film of the opening of the play using Puppet Pals, and I’m looking forward to seeing how things progress.