Dec 30

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Have Students Use Google Drive to take Paperless Notes

What’s the point in having a $200, $300, or even $400 device in your students hands if they don’t use it but as a fancy video player or over sized Google searcher?  Taking notes has been a conundrum for me in my class ever since we started BYOT and now with 1-to-1 Chromebooks. I’ve tried everything from Evernote to giving the students my notes with blanks they had to fill in, to challenging them to find a good way to do notes. All of the had their pro’s and con’s. The biggest issue for me is that I want my students to be able to take advantage of cloud based organization – thus removing the “I lost it” excuse and giving them better access to the notes to study by. Here’s the best solution I’ve found (thus far)…

Google Drive makes organization a breeze and for the eternally unorganized it has what can only be called a super awesome search so you can still find what you need in seconds.  So there is my answer to what service to use, but how to take the “art” of note taking with all of its sketches, highlighting, scribbles, and what not from pencil and paper to the paperless classroom is now the question.  Google has that answer too, as it turns out.

I teach High School Freshman, so I still need to give them some direction and instruction on how to take effective and useful notes.  Fortunately our district is an AVID district and the my answer was basically handed to me in the form of Cornell Notes.  I have made a note taking sheet template in a Google Doc and linked it from my teacher website.  Students can easily go there, make a copy and rock and roll on notes for the day (for any class for that matter).

Cornell Notes Template

Cornell Notes is an AVID strategy that teachers and students find very effective for taking and using notes.

Ok, great – they can type and organize notes, but I teach science, math, art, or whatever, and I want them to have some diagrams/pictures/drawings/formula/ect… in their notes.  Well, Google has that covered too.  Below I show you an example of using Research tools to add an image of the formula in the notes complete with automatic citation for further study.  No need to figure out how to use formatting tricks or take more than a few seconds to search, click and drag and then move on with the notes.


screenshot-docs.google.com 2014-12-30 17-49-36


Well, that’s pretty cool, but I want my students to draw and arrange the parts of an atom in their notes with labels.  Google has you covered too.  Below is just that example.  I prepare the notes template before class and share it with the students using Google Classroom.  The students double click the picture, it pops up the drawing editor, and they can click and drag the parts to the right place.

screenshot-docs.google.com 2014-12-30 18-00-02


On the same token the student can create their own drawings in the document using the same methods.  Click insert -> drawing and make a quick sketch or diagram using the preset shapes in a matter of seconds.

The key to all of this is you absolutely have to teach your students how to use the tools you expect them to take advantage of.  I suggest starting with just one or two things at first and slowly building over the first week or two of the class so that students won’t get overwhelmed with how to use everything and have the act of note taking take away from the content of the class.  This also allows you to better learn the tools as you slowly incorporate them too!!

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