Sunday, June 23, 2013

Digital Science Notebooks using iPads: Google Drive/Blogger vs. Evernote?

My students had been using a class set of iPads for a semester last school year.  Many times, students would ask, "Why are we still using paper?"  My goal for this school year is to  become a paperless (or near paperless) classroom.  I don't think I can do this 100% just yet, some students don't have an easy time accessing technology outside of my class, so I have to provide paper instructions, but I want to head in that direction.  

For the last few months I have been thinking about how I can have my students keep a digital science notebook.  Ideally, it would include class notes (from their watching of flip class videos I have created), lab reports, analysis of reading and current events, and reflections on what they are learning.  (I have had them keep a spiral notebook containing all of this in the past.)

Last year, I had students use Google Drive, Blogger, and Schoology for a lot of their work.  Students would write papers in google docs, then submit them to Schoology for me to grade, or post the work on their blog.  Sometimes they would share their google docs with me when I used the scripts Autocrat or Doctopus.  If students wrote something by hand, they would take a photo of it in google drive, then submit it to Schoology.   So I wasn't really collecting anything on paper, but I was still giving them handouts with instructions.   In addition, many times students were still doing their work on paper.  (I gave my students the option on how to complete their assignments.  Some students still did not feel comfortable creating and doing all assignments on the iPads, so they always had the choice to create things on paper.)

I really liked using Schoology to collect all the assignments.  I could give students feedback, they could resubmit their work, and there was no way for me to loose a paper or for the student to say "I swear I turned it in" because everything is timestamped when submitted online.  I could also assign grades in Schoology and I could grade assignments anywhere.  Schoology also lets my students have structured online conversations, and it is great for exams.  My students can take multiple choice, fill in the blank, as well as essay type exams.  It was easy for me to grade the exams, and I didn't have to carry around stacks of essays to read, it was all online.

This year, I want to utilize the digital science notebook a little more. I want it to be a portfolio of their best work.  When students turn things in using Schoology, they have access to all of their assignments, but it isn't as easy as flipping through a notebook.  I want students to have everything in one spot which is easily accessible.  I want my students to reference their work and not just forget it is there.  So I have been looking at using Evernote for this or utilizing Google Drive a little differently where students can post links to their work with reflections on a blog.  

Here are some comparison from my research.

Using iPads
·      Just one app to use
·      Searchable (can search for typed and handwritten text)
·      Can take photos from within app and record audio

·      Students can’t share folder (Teacher has a premium acct and shares w/ each student, but students can’t share or collaborate w/ others)
·     I could get a business account for my students, but it costs about $30/student/year.
Google Drive & Blogger
·      Students can share with others to collaborate and comment
·      Blog is public to the world.  When students publish on the web where the world can see, they tend to take their work more seriously.
·      Students can easily add youtube videos which they have created in iMovie or Explain Everything to their blog.
·      Have to use multiple programs (Drive app – only allows docs and spreadsheet, drive on browser using desktop view – allows you to add pics and additional things than the app, blogger app – most reliable to use when on the iPad, blogger on browser – to create an account)
·      Documents can’t be searched like Evernote
·     Using the Drive app, students can only share docs with an email, they can't get the link to share and post the link.

At this point, I am thinking I like the ease of using Evernote on the iPads.  I love that everything (taking pics and recording audio) can be done right in the app.  But I really want the students to be able to collaborate and share with a larger audience.  So even though it will require a few more steps in some cases, I think I am going to have my students set up blogs and continue to use Google Drive.

I will still be able to have students turn in some assignments using Schoology, but I can have   important assignments shared on their blogs.  I want to try to minimize the number of apps/tech I use.  I don't want to overwhelm my students.  However, I think that the blogs will allow my students to share and get feedback from peers and others across the world.

If you have any experience with this, or suggestions, ideas, etc. please share with me.  I am still not entirely convinced I have made the best decision, and wold love feedback.


  1. Use diigo: (scroll down to the collaboration subhead)

    Smaller Groups inside of a Class group in Edmodo

  2. I have not used it...but would LiveBinders work for their digital portfolio?