Evernote as an Educational Tool

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ETEC 510 - Created by Yves Mainville & Shaun Pepper, 2012

Evernote infographic

Evernote is a is a cloud based 'note' archiving tool that facilitates the capture of data in many forms, syncs with a central account and allows access to the archived data from a myriad of devices at any time. The Evernote company promotes their product as your 'external brain' in that you essentially clip, sync, organize and archive any piece of data you come across. It further enhances the 'note' retrieval process by allowing the user to tag the notes and organize them to his liking. The service and client tools also allows for a variety of customizations and external service integrations that make it a very powerful educational tool.
'Remember everything.'


Evernote is a cloud based 'notetaking' application, created by the Evernote company, that has widely become known as a very sophisticated and powerful data gathering and organization tool. The initial launch of Evernote was in June 24th, 2008[1] as a web service. Since this time, the Evernote service has evolved into a 'suite of tools and services' that includes application versions for various platforms and devices, a cloud-based synchronization service and includes a wide array of service integration options with third party tools and applications[2]. Since its inception, the user base has grown to over 13.5 million registered users, and another 600,000+ registered premium users [3].

The appeal of using Evernote is the way in which the user can gather information. From within the application on a device, the user can compose text, capture an image from a the device's camera or connected peripheral, capture audio from the microphone or embedding just about any kind of object from the file system. There is no required 'formal' input process when inserting data into the Evernote collection, making it an ideal way of gathering data for research, and thus the reason why the company markets the Evernote Suite as a tool that functions like your 'external brain'. A further enhancement to the data gathering options is the ability to 'clip' information to a note from outside the application using web browser plugins or third party services such as twitter, email and the like. The user can clip information from the Web by capturing text, audio and images, either by selecting the content and clipping it to a note, capturing the entire the page or simply capturing the URL. These clippings are then synchronized via the Evernote web service, adding the information to the user's existing collection.



Capturing & Clipping

Evernote supports data collection from their website (once logged into your account), desktop clients for Mac and Windows, iPhone, Android, Email, Tweets and even text messages. What really makes Evernote standout is the ability to collect multimedia items as 'notes'. You can snap a photo, record audio and capture text directly into a note from the Evernote client application, but it gets particularly useful when you can do these captures your smart phone, from Twitter, email and so on.

Capture options in the Mac version of Evernote (capturing withing the Evernote application
Clipping options in the Firefox addOn module (capturing outside the Evernote application

Tagging & Categorizing

One of the most useful features of Evernote is the ease with which archived information can be located. For this to be practical and effective in the long run, it is important to properly 'organize' collected information. This is done with the tagging features built into the Evernote application and Web Clippers. When information is captured or clipped to a note, users can assign a title and appropriate tags to the submission. This in turn gives greater flexibility in searching and locating informations with the notes and notebooks. This proves to a powerful categorization system because it alleviates the need to maintain a hierarchical organization system, as this would reduce the ease of use and overall effectiveness of the application. In his article, 31 Ninja tricks for Making evernote More Awesome, Brett Kelly [4] writes about some creative and powerful tagging techniques that significantly enhance the archiving features of Evernote.

Sharing & Collaboration

Taking advantage of its connectivity and integrated cloud service, Evernote offers powerful sharing and collaboration features. For instance, when the user has an interesting piece of data that they would like to share, they can simply post to Facebook or Twitter or even send as an email from within the note. Keeping inline with its ease-of-use design and principles, the user only needs to click a button within the Evernote application to quickly and easily share the note with a colleague or a social audience.

Capture options in the Mac version of Evernote (capturing withing the Evernote application

As the image above shows, sharing information is simply a matter of a couple of clicks from within the note. However, this method is a read-only type of sharing where you broadcast your piece of information. For Premium account users, they also have the option of sharing complete notebooks with specific individuals. The user can grant modify-access or read-only access to the Notebook, essentially using the application as collaborative groupware. A short article[5] on the wikiHow website demonstrates just how easy it is to create and share a Notebook in Evernote.

Scanning / OCR

The tagging feature of Evernote makes for efficient searching and retrieval of archived notes. Evernote has further improved this feature by integrating proprietary scanning and OCR capabilities to its service. When users synchronize information, the Evernote servers will scan and index the information to make searching even more effective. PDFs that are generated from typewritten text will be scanned and indexed, JPG images that have handwritten content [6] detectable by the Evernote servers will be OCRed and and indexed as well. Thus, additional keywords generated from the synchronized content will improve the search results when the user is attempting to retrieve specific content.

Saved Searches

When a user finds themselves repeatedly searching for the same information using keywords or perhaps spent a considerable amount of time looking for specific information within the collection of Notebooks, the search can be 'saved' so that intent can be filtered and organized quickly using the search repeatedly in the future. An impressive application of this feature in a productive context is demonstrated by Rudd Hein[7] as he explains how to set up a sophisticated GTD system using Evernotes Saved Searches feature.

How to use Evernote

Using Evernote : A Primer

  • How can Evernote help you ?:

Using Evernote : Tutorials

Using Evernote : Guides

Educational Uses

With a solid grasp of how Evernote works, via desktop, mobile device and web, we can see that there is phenomenal potential of how Evernote can be used in education. With so many possibilities at hand for the student, the educator and the group as a whole, we will break these down into 3 distinct contexts and explore how Evernote can be used effectively in each.

In the classroom

In the classroom context, Evernote can maximize existing technologies, further enhancing the learning process for the student. Such a case would be in BYOD environments, where students could effectively research, share end even collaborate using a variety of devices. The student could begin collecting information using his home computer, comment and tag the information found earlier with their smartphone while riding the bus to school, then use his laptop or one of the class tablets to collaborate with peers on an assignment. Evernote's cloud service facilitates access to the notes and notebooks created by the student via any available device, therefore leveraging the learning accessibility of these technologies. In this specific context, Evernote clearly supports the many initiatives to adapt and evolve in pedagogy to integrate 21st century skills. Although Evernote is making significant noise in business and education circles with what it offers in the way of data collection and organization of personal data, users who have mastered its interface and workflows are now looking at maximizing their collective creativity and collaboration efforts by integrating third party applications such as twitter, Facebook and collective sharing of 'notes'.

A case study : The Montclair Kimberly Academy and their 1:1 program

For the student

As a student, Evernote is a fantastic tool that blends in seamlessly with the way the student 'thinks' and can significantly ease the burden of organizing the data a student must manage. One of the most significant advantages the Evernote application offers the student is the way in which information is gathered. Traditionally, software applications were rigid in the way information was collected and 'input into a database. With Evernote, the student can capture images, text and audio, all in one location and all mixed together and can further extend their research by clipping information from the web. The tagging and categorization features of Evernote make retrieval of the notes a simple task. In a learning world where pedagogical paradigms are shifting and learning is becoming student-centered, Evernote supports and encourages this approach by allowing students to personalize their research (tagging), their processes (Desktp PC to Mobile devices) and ultimately their learning. Student Ryan Kessler explains in this blog post how Evernote significantly changed his scholarship. In this particular case, we see how this student uses Evernote with third party technologies:

  • Droidscan to scan documents into Evernote with a smartphone
  • Nozbe tin integrate calendaring into notes
  • tarpipe to publish content to social streams

From a process and workflow perspective, he used Evernote to:

  • Stay focused using various Notebooks
  • Organize his management of information, effectively creating his own personalized workflow for learning
  • Replace his thumb drives and reducing the number of items he brought to school; notes, book pages, journals - all uploaded into his 'Evernote cloud' and accessed from the web, smartphone and PCs as required.
  • Collaborate with peers using Evernote email and clip tedious forum discussions into one location
  • Compile notes from whiteboards, books and handwritten notes into study guides
  • Learn a new language using the audio capture and perfect an accent, recall pronunciation, etc.

For the educator

Information gathering and assessment
It would seem even more fitting to categorize Evernote as a teacher's ideal digital companion. Where a teacher has a professional duty to collect and assess an incredible amount of data from his students to track learning progress, Evernote can streamline this into a far more efficient process than traditional practiced. Russ Goerend details in this blog post how he uses Evernote to capture the increasingly individualized formative assessment process for each of his students. As discussed earlier, we see how Evernote supports the relatively new initiatives in pedagogy with its ability to capture all kinds of information, be it audio, text or images. This post explains how he is differentiating his instruction by integrating the use of his iPad and using Evernote to capture, via audio notes, the discussions with his students (for formative assessment). For many educators, the new pedagogy paradigm is an imposing and daunting task when the educator is struggling to adapt his traditional teaching practices with the demands of individualized learning and differentiated instruction. The use of Evernote is this context is a very good example of how this adaptation can take place to better meet the needs of the student and to align instruction practices with educational research.

More examples of educators using Evernote for effective instruction:

Professional Development
If Evernote is an effective tool to help the student manage his learning, it goes without saying that is equally effective for the educator and his professional development. We have discussed above the need to evolve instruction practices to better meet student needs. Steven Hayes writes in a short but thought-provoking blog post that asks what teachers will do differently when students arrive with mobile devices. The essence of of this article is the thinking that must take place amongst educators, especially those who have not reflected on their teaching practice and how it fits in the new teaching paradigm. There is so much information, so much research, so much professional development that is taking place that it is overwhelming to the educator that is uncertain where to begin. It would certainly be most effective to first equip these educators with a powerful tool like Evernote so that they could effectively:

  • understand the way the student functions, learns and operates
  • gather information, clips and data, using Evernote to manage their own personal PLN and professional development
  • manage their classes (class workflows, Notebook sharing, etc.), engage students (notebook workflows, note sharing, differentiated instruction) and facilitate assessment
  • track their personal development (i.e. tags: must_read lists), collaborate with colleagues, participate in social networks

More examples of teachers using Evernote for professional development and evolving instructional practices:


  1. Libin, Phil (June 24th, 2008). Evernote Public Launch. Our Notes. Retrieved February 12th, 2012 from http://blog.evernote.com/2008/06/24/evernote-public-launch
  2. Evernote (2012). Welcome to the Evernote trunk.Trunk. Retrieved march 3rd, 2012 from http://www.evernote.com/about/intl/en/trunk
  3. De Raff, Arjan (2011), History of Evernote. Infographic List. Retrieved on February 24th, 2012 from http://infographiclist.com/2011/10/20/history-of-evernote-infographic
  4. Kelly, Brett (2010). 31 Ninja tricks for Making evernote More Awesome, Bridging the Nerd Gap. Retrieved February 21th, 2012 from http://nerdgap.com/31-evernote-tricks-for-newbies-who-want-to-be-ninjas
  5. Open Source Initiative Contributor (2011). How to Share a Notebook in Evernote, wikiHow. Retrieved on February 28th, 2012 from http://www.wikihow.com/Share-a-Notebook-in-Evernote
  6. Evernote (2011). How can I find my handwritten notes in Evernote? KnowledgeBase. Retrieved March 4th, 2012 from https://support.evernote.com/ics/support/KBAnswer.asp?questionID=2387&hitOffset=210+207+192+25&docID=18069
  7. Hein, Rudd (2009). Evernote GTD How to. ruddhein.com . Retreived March 4th, 2012 from http://ruudhein.com/evernote-gtd

Stop Motion Animation


  1. Evernote (2012). Evernote For Schools Site: Resource for Using Evernote in Education. Retrieved from http://blog.evernote.com/2012/02/14/evernote-for-schools-site-resource-for-using-evernote-in-education/
  2. Evernote (2011). Evernote at 1:1 Schools: Conversation With The Montclair Kimberley Academy. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pW_ii9SelKI
  3. Pirillo, Chris (2011). How Evernote Made Me a Better Blogger. Lockergnome. Retrieved February 21, 2012 from http://www.lockergnome.com/social/2011/12/09/how-evernote-made-me-a-better-blogger
  4. IronMaiden1272 (2010). Evernote in the classroom. Retrieved March 1, 2012, from http://youtu.be/9XgSrBqUydQ?hd=1
  5. theunquietlibrary (2010). Why I love Evernote: The Student Perspective. Retrieved March 1, 2012, from http://youtu.be/ueQUoeXBfHU
  6. Plommer, Cameron (2010). How to Use Evernote Tutorial Series. Retrieved March 3, 2012, from http://cameronplommer.com/2011/01/everything-you-need-to-know-about-evernote
  7. De Raff, Arjan (2011). History of Evernote [INFOGRAFIC]. Retreived on March 3, 2012, from http://infographiclist.com/2011/10/20/history-of-evernote-infographic
  8. Lambert, Rich (2012). Evernote – an attempt at the definitive summary of teacher uses!. Retrieved on February 28th, 2012 from http://richlambert.edublogs.org/author/richlambert
  9. Spink, Bec (2012). Evernote - A Teacher's Perspective. Retreived on March 4th, 2012, from http://missspinkontech.global2.vic.edu.au/2012/02/04/evernote-a-teachers-perspective
  10. Goins, Jeff (2011). How to Capture your Ideas Using Evernote. Retrieved on March 2nd, 2012, from http://goinswriter.com/capture-ideas-evernote
  11. Anna (2010). Evernote Review. Productivity 501. Retrieved on March 3, 2102, from http://www.productivity501.com/evernote-review/6307
  12. Falconer, Joel (2012). 7 Ways to Use Evernote. Lifehack. Retreived on February 21, 2102, from http://www.lifehack.org/articles/technology/7-ways-to-use-evernote.html
  13. Evernote (2010). Evernote For Mac User Guide. pp. 20-24, Retrieved from http://www.evernote.com/about/support/Evernote-Mac-Guide.pdf
  14. Kelly, Brett (2010). 31 Ninja Tricks for Making Evernote More Awesome. Bridging the Nerd Gap. Retrieved on February 28, 2012, from http://nerdgap.com/31-evernote-tricks-for-newbies-who-want-to-be-ninjas
  15. Open Source Contributors, (2011). How to Share a Notebook in Evernote". wikiHow. Retrieved from http://www.wikihow.com/Share-a-Notebook-in-Evernote
  16. teachinglearninguoit (2011). Learn 2 Learn. Retrieved on March 2, 2012, from http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL0F3F0B25F892CE52&feature=plcp
  17. Goerend, Russ (2010). Capturing the process of student learning. Learning is life. Retrieved on March 3, 2012 from http://russgoerend.com/2010/12/in-early-september-i-wrote-post-about.html

Additional Resources