Saturday, February 8, 2014

Notability: Not Just Any Note-Taking Application

Blogging for us today is Christy Steffen, Technology Instructional Coach at Noblesville High School.

A brief search of the iOS App Store for note-taking applications will overwhelm even the most tech savvy individuals. There are hundreds of applications, with wildly varying prices. Your search for an excellent application at a decent price, is over! While I usually choose free, this app is worth the money ($2.99 or $1.49 if you purchase 20 or more). Our district purchased this application for all 2100 students in grades 10-12. This is one of only four paid apps purchased for all students (iMovie, Pages, and Keynote are the other three). Why is Notability worth it? It is simple to use, has a great organizational structure, advanced features for those who want them, and integrates with Google Drive.

Teachers and students were able to use this application with minimal instruction. Teachers were offered a one hour after school training if they needed it. The students have had instruction from their teachers as well their peers. To add a note, one simply chooses the pencil and it creates a new note. The name of the note automatically populates the date and time but it can be changed with a simple click. Once in the note, you can handwrite or type. 

Organization is always important but becomes dire when a student has seven subjects to keep track. Most of our students have created a folder for each class. The folder can be named and the color can be changed. There is also a setting to change the icon for a good visual cue. Dividers are helpful to group different types of folders. Many of our students have dividers for each day since we are on a block schedule. Below is a quick tip from our Tech Team on changing the theme. This helps to meet the needs of each individual student.

I am learning new advanced features all the time. From the application you can go to the web and clip a page. When you bring it into a note, it can be annotated and highlights can be made. The background can also change to graph paper or other lined papers if needed. Pictures and pdf can also be imported for use in a note. There is also the ability to record audio while taking notes. This is especially helpful for students who have difficulty handwriting/typing all the notes during a lecture. They can replay the notes for review at home. The advanced features satisfy our really tech savvy students.

Teaching our students to save, save, save, and backup data is very important. Technology has advanced tremendously but there are still glitches. No one wants to lose their hard work! Notability has several options for back-up. We recommend Google Drive because we are a Google Apps school district. The video below shows how to backup to Google Drive. It is important to note that the iCloud interface is not a backup solution. It simply syncs your notes to other iOS devices. If your iPad is wiped it will not bring them back from the "cloud." Google Drive saves them as PDF and they can be accessed from the web or brought back to Notability.

It is difficult to find an application that will meet the needs of over 2000 different learners, but Notability seems to do that for the vast majority of our students and teachers. Note-taking will always be an important part of education and it is imperative that an application is found to assist with digital note-taking in a 1:1 environment.

Download and try out Notability today.

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