I decided to try and build digital portfolios using Evernote in my Kindergarten classroom. I was thinking of doing this next year but though I’d give it a test run for the last trimester this year. That way if I found I didn’t work for me I would have all summer to find something else that might. We have about 4 weeks left in the trimester and I thought it would be a good time to reflect on how it’s been going.

If you’ve never heard of Evernote take a moment to check out this video.

This and other videos and testimonials can be found on the Evernote website. These users range from nurses to musicians to teachers on how they’ve found ways to get their organizational geek on. There’s definitely a wealth of information on the website so take a moment to check it out.

So if you’re still reading this post and haven’t been sucked into the wealth of examples on Evernote’s website I’ll attempt to explain how I use it in my classroom. Real quick side note… I will only attempt to learn and incorporate a new tool if it’s relatively easy to use, quick and efficient. In addition it has to add value to what I already do. If it doesn’t adhere to these qualifications I won’t use it.

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OK on with it already! The first thing I did was to download the Evernote application onto my computer as well as my iPhone and class set of iPads and iPods. I created a free Evernote account and signed in to said account on both my phone and my computer. Since Evernote is a “cloud” based service, theoretically you can access your information from anywhere. What that meant for me was that anytime I updated or added notes on my phone those changes would sync with my computer etc.

Next I created “notebooks” for each of my students. The idea is that everything that I wanted to document for each student would be kept in their respective “notebook”. I then started thinking about what I wanted to put in the portfolio. This is when I hit a bit of a hiccup. Like I said before, if it takes to much time I don’t want to do it. For example if I wanted to insert a piece of writing in a students notebook I would have to take that piece of paper to the scanner(with is at pretty much the farthest point in the school from my classroom) scan it, email it to myself, download it to my computer and then add it to a note. Not simple or efficient, so it was out.

In searching for a solution I did find a little something on the Evernote website about the ability to scan something and have it send directly to Evernote. In theory this sounds great… but the likelihood of making this a reality at my school is not likely.

Adding a Snapshot to a Note

The solution I came to is actually very simple and this is where an iPhone or iPod or iPad comes in handy. I realized that you could take actually picture of something from within a note while in the Evernote application. So whenever I want to add something such as a piece of paper I can just take a picture of it rather than scan it. I know I know… you’re like “DUH!” but it was sort of an epiphany to me. It made adding things to portfolios sooo quick and easy. I could whip out my phone, open Evernote, snap a pick, add some comments, tags and BAM, I’m done!

In my mind the beauty and power of using Evernote comes with the use of “tags”. Tags are a sort of label that you give to notes. Let’s say for example I am reading with one of my students named Budhi. We read a book that is a “Level C” book. When we’re done reading the book I can create a new note in that students notebook and either take a snapshot of the book or simply use the book title as the note title.

Possible Tags

I can take a couple notes about how the student did and what specific skills and strategies they may have struggled with. Now once I have done this I add some tags. I would add these tages: Budhi, Literacy, Level C, Reading, and possibly a couple others. What makes this is important is that at any time you could generate a search (or apply a filter depending on how you want to look at it) in Evernote and you will only see notes with those tags. Say for example I search for only notes tagged Budhi, level C, reading. I would only see the notes with those tags displayed. I could then these notes see his progress over time. I can also see if there are certain skills or strategies that he may be struggling to grasp with and I can address these specifically with him next time we meet to read.

This idea can be applied to any area of the curriculum. I am a big believer in process and I believe the flexibility Evernote provides (voice, text, images, etc) lends itself to really documenting the entire creation process, not just an end result.

Next year I was thinking of assigning each child a specific iPad. I would then creating a shared Evernote notebook on each students iPad where they could add notes. They could also see the notes that I have created. It would be a nice way for them to reflect on their own learning as the year progresses. (assuming they could read my notes) This would provide them with an opportunity to participate in the process as well as give them the occasion to possibly discover a new way to utilize Evernote as a digital portfolio tool. Their little minds work in such fascinating and unrestricted ways it wouldn’t surprise me if they repurposed the app in a truly enriching way.

I know many of you other educators are using Evernote to build digital portfolios. Please chime in and tell us how you utilize this tool!

***Update*** I’ve written more about how students can add content to their Evernote e-portfolios using Skitch on the iPad here.

17 Responses

  1. Hello Mr. Ben!
    Sounds like our great minds are thinking very much alike. I have been using Evernote for student portfolios all year – you can read about my system on my blog, here: https://missnightmutters.blogspot.ca/2011/11/scrapbook-is-not-verb-how-to-use.html.

    I actually like the photo technique better than scanning, because it does a better job of capturing the texture (both literal and figurative) of young children’s work. You can see the pencil strokes and eraser marks far more clearly, and art projects of any size can be easily included.

    Parent feedback on my kids’ portfolios has been wonderful – I am NEVER going back to paper scrapbooks!

    1. Thanks for your comment Miss Night! Also thanks for sharing your blog post as an additional resource. I’m glad to hear you have had such positive feedback from parents. It helps when parents are on board and supportive!

  2. This is great! I was also thinking to move towards digital portfolios next year with Evernote but hadn’t yet given it a test run. I was thinking to make one “parent” account, with a notebook for each student. My iPads are not 1:1 so I’d have the same account on each device. Every notebook would be accessible from any device, is that correct?

    I thought we could add their work created on the iPads themselves, photos of them working on something, audio recordings of their reading (you can really compare fluency overtime) Would love to know more as this progresses for you!

    1. Thanks so much for reading and commenting Elvina. I love your idea of using Evernote to capture audio of the students reading in order to track fluency improvement over time. Excellent!

  3. Hello this is Ron from Evernote. Thanks so much for putting together this blog post and sharing how you are using Evernote with your students. We really appreciate all of the support. If you have any questions or feedback let me know.

  4. This is amazing! The idea of using Evernote to build portfolios has never struck me. . My only acquantance with Evernote stems from my children, who use it to take notes in class and to do their homework on their ipads. They find Evernote immensely useful and a great alternative to plain old notes. I don’t think they’ve ever embraced its potential for organization the way you have by using tags and notebooks. I myself find that not being able to create notebooks while using Evernote the ipad/ phone quite restricting. To me one of the major advantages of Evernote its useffulness as a program from on the spot notetaking. The impossibilty of the on the spot organization is a major drawback. Sure, the problem can be circumvented by creating notebooks + tagging from a computer but my uber busy children never seem to get around to going back and organizing. Do you ever get frustrated by your inability to create notebooks directly from the ipad? Or feel like it cuts into your time to have to go back and organize?

    1. I was frustrated a bit with not being able to make notebooks etc from my phone… until I figured out how to do it! I rarely organize from my computer and do most of the organizing “on the fly”. That’s why I think it works so well for me. Try this, while viewing your list of Notebooks on an iPad/iPhone click the “+” sign. Create a new note and click the “i” icon (Note info) in the upper right hand corner of the screen. From there you will see a list of information first of which will be “Notebook”. If you click on “Notebook” you will have the opportunity to “Find or Create Notebook” and boom bam bing you can created a new Notebook from there. Let me know if this works for you.

  5. Hi Benjamin,

    I’ve downloaded Evernote onto my Mac notebook, and I occasionally look at the icon and think, “I’ve got to get familiar with this tool & put it to good use!” Your idea makes perfect sense. Why use a separate program for a digital portfolio when we can use a tool that’s already familiar to many of us?

    I’ll have to explore Evernote & pass this great tip onto teachers! I’m all for using tools that make our lives easier! Thanks again!

  6. Hi Ben. Great comprehensive post on how you use Evernote. Thinking more longitudinally, is it possible for you to transfer/share ownership of these portfolios with other people? Could you, for example, pass each child’s notebook on, year after year, and create a systematic, school-wide portfolio system using Evernote?

    1. Clint! Thanks for commenting. I have given this thought as well. As of right now I know you can export a Notebooks and I guess in theory the next teacher could import this file into their Evernote account and then add to it and so on and so forth. I know it’s possible to share Notebooks with people as well but I’m not aware of a way to transfer ownership other than exporting/importing. If it’s not possible yet I bet we’ll see this feature soon and possibly more flexibility with Notebooks/sharing in the near future as the folks at Evernote seem to have an interest in supporting it’s use in education.

      1. I am an Academic Interventionist for a K-5. I am planning a school wide implementation and I was thinking about each teacher setting up a notebook for each child with the grade attached to the name. For example, JaneSmithK and then the following year, JaneSmith1. So that the child would have a portfolio for each year. Can you save them so that they can be passed on?

        Thanks so much for giving me so much food for thought. No wonder I go to bed too late every night. Too much reading, thinking and planning!

  7. Well there I was searching the web for KG Evernote portfolio ideas and who pops up.. My very own IRL
    IRL2. So seems we are on the same page and as ever you have the techie side worked out.


    Why do we want to create eportfolios?
    How will they help children take control of documenting their learning?
    Who , how and when will we share these eportfolios.

    Old things in new ways… If it is in hard copy why scan it?
    Saying that loving the idea of children taking a picture of their creations and annotating it via say… Fotobabble to Evernote?

    New things new ways… How amazing would it be if our classes could share Eportfolios. They have started calling you the monkey class. Feel the connection growing already.Ok history tells us our classes just accept that technology connects them. It is me that thinks real time Skype and goggle doc story writing is mind blowing.

    On a personal note saw your tweet on mountaining biking . Had a great three hours out today, mind you it would seem so urban for you.

  8. Always great to have your input Zoe, as always you have raised some great ideas to ponder. Again it seems we are on the same page with the idea that the kids could take pictures of their creations, annotate, and then send to Evernote. I have been using Skitch to do just this!

    Looking forward to working with your class as are the kids. They are getting more interested in meeting the other “island dwellers”… maybe a Skype is in cards.


  9. I am wondering if anyone currently using Evernote has had success putting the work of building the portfolio in the student’s hands? I love the idea of having them be able to go back and review their work. I am even considering it as a workflow system. They upload their work into the shared notebook, and I review the work. I can give feedback with an auditory remark and it can become something they can reflect on at their leisure.

  10. Hello,
    When you create student notebooks under your evernote account, how are students able to move their work with them when they get to the next grade level?