Comparing Evernote and Google Drive for iPad

Comparing the possibilities of Evernote and Google Drive for the iPad.

Comparing the possibilities of Evernote and Google Drive for the iPad.

After my last post I have been asked by people to give some sense of how I considered the Google Drive shift.  Here is a visual that I created for the faculty at my school to help compare the use of the various tools along the portfolios process.  You can see that in the first two steps that Evernote and Google Drive can act in much the same way.


Stepping away from Evernote Portfolio blogging

On October 31, 2011 I wrote my first blog post here on WordPress.  I had been experimenting with Evernote as a tool for the creation of Student E-Portfolios for almost a full year and wanted to start sharing out the work that I had done.  (I have since begun to refer to them as digital portfolios).  I was excited by the possibilities of the software coupled with the new camera ready Apple iPhone.  Previous to that I had been experimenting with a server based application called E-Pearl but the move toward mobile technology made that obsolete pretty quickly.

During the 2010-2011 school  I had experimented with Evernote for several months on my own before bringing it to my students in early January 2011.  I had reached out to Evernote to share what I was doing and they responded with enthusiasm and interest.  They were a new company (it had been less then 3 years since they had launched an open beta) and they were still figuring out their direction and market.  They had a market of integrated apps as well as an education component on their website.  In those early days I was just an email or a phone call away from talking to someone that could impact my work.  Their team was even asking for suggestions about how they could be better integrated with software and hardware partnerships.  In 2012 they invited me to come to the Evernote Developer conference and do a day-long workshop with educators as well as present a keynote during the conference itself.

Over the past 5 years Evernote has expanded significantly.  In May of 2014 Evernote had over 100 million users and the application was being used by people in all categories of work and play and across the globe.  As a documenting tool it is a shear joy to use.  However, as Evernote has grown as a company its ability to focus on the educational users has dramatically declined while its focus on Evernote Business seems to be its driving force.

I have had the opportunity to share my work using Evernote in many educational settings, including supporting three different schools in their use of it for digital portfolios.  I have always been a user and to some degree an evangelist (I’ve been one of Evernote’s Education Ambassadors for several years) and I continue to believe that it is one of the best tools that students and teachers can use to document, reflect upon and share their work.  However, as the Educational Technology Coordinator for a k-12 school in Portland Oregon my goal is to find the best tools for the community I am in.  After a two year experiment with using Evernote (in the elementary school) I have made the suggestion to move away from Evernote and focus on the use of Google Drive as the primary documentation tool and digital platform for the school.

When I was originally looking for ways to use the new mobile technology in the classroom I had looked closely at what Google had to offer.  Their suite of tools was impressive but always a bit disjointed for what I thought would work in the classroom.  There were just too many tools (docs, calendars, sites, etc). I wanted something simple and all inclusive.  Evernote did and continues to do that very well.  But 5 years is a long time in the world of technology and a lot has changed with Google.  Most of it, as far as education, has been for the better.  While Evernote hasn’t focused much on the educational market, Google has.

Recent changes in the way Google Drive works and how the mobile apps interact with it have made it possible to shift away from Evernote.  My school uses Google Apps for Education so we already are using all of the Google Tools anyway across the school.  Evernote has always been seen as an “additional” tool that requires another log in, more management (which hasn’t been easy) and if we want to use video (which a lot of people do) more money.    Evernote’s notes, notebooks and stacks are still much more dynamic than Google Drive folders (and more importantly they allow the user to upload multiple artifacts into one note) but overall they can no longer compete with the needs the school has for storage and integration.  As an educator and technology leader I  need to find ways to make the adoption of digital portfolios easier for everyone.  To get everyone to accept the use of Evernote could take years.  We already have Google Drive so that is an easy sell to a teaching faculty of over 175 people.

Plus, Google Drive is now integrated with a lot of the apps that teachers are using (like Book Creator, Explain Everything, Notability and iMovie) so uploading from iPads and laptops is very easy.

Because of this new direction I don’t have a lot of reason to continue blogging about my use of Evernote for Portfolios.  There are hundreds if not thousands of teachers across the globe who ARE committed to Evernote and will do a much better job of documenting their work and their learning.

It has been a good 5 year ride, but I need to sign off and move on to new things.  My goal has always been to support students in their ability to document, reflect  upon and share they learning.  For a long time I have felt like Evernote was the best tool for that.  I think it still is amazing, but I can’t be tied to a piece of technology when my focus is on the needs of students and teachers.

I look forward to seeing what others do and how Evernote evolves into the future.


Rob van Nood

Adding Video to Evernote Account (an update)

Here is an updated method of adding video to your Evernote account.  I comes from from John Marshall’s blog.

I regularly use Evernote to Video Journal. I like to record entries of around 5 minutes with the front facing camera on the iPhone. The problem is that the iOS versions of Evernote do not allow you to import video directly. Also the iOS photo app won’t let you email video longer than 30 seconds – so you can’t use your handy Evernote email address either. And even if you could manage to get your video to email, they are large and you’d bump into Evernote’s attachment size limits – or worse, use your entire quota if you are a free user. So what can be done?
For starters, you need to compress the video to something much smaller than the default size the iPhone records. Even that low res front facing camera creates files too large for Evernote to handle. I find that for video journal purposes low quality video is just fine – I’m more interested in saving space since I record a lot of it. I used to have a convoluted process that involved the Dropbox app compressing my video and syncing to my Windows machine which had an import folder setup to pull the video directly into Evernote. It all worked fine until Dropbox updated their app and took out the video compression feature breaking my process. I eventually figured out how to roll backDropbox, but shortly after my Windows machine died. Since then I’ve been limping along manually copying my videos from Dropbox to Evernote on my Mac and being very careful not to accidentally update the Dropbox app. Well I finally got tired of all this and decided to try and figure out if I could get the whole process working on the iPhone directly. As it turns out yes you can. There are multiple ways in fact, some easier than others, and all but one will cost you some money.
My Preferred Method
After trying out all of the methods mentioned in this post, I settled in on this method as my favorite. It requires the fewest steps and gets the video directly into the Evernote app without having to email it or round-trip it over the network.
I’m using and app called Video Slimmer. It is designed for both iPhone and iPad and is $1.99 US on the App Store. Here is the process:
  1. Record your video. (Keep it short, I tend to record around 5 minutes, you can do more depending on your compression, but 10 minutes is probably max).
  2. Open Video Slimmer.
  3. Set your video compression settings. For free accounts I recommend going with ‘Good Quality(50%), Smaller size’ and a video size of 240p. This will typically produce a smaller video of around 1mb per minute (Based on the front facing camera on the iPhone 4s). I believe the Evernote max attachment size is 25mb for free, but the real issue is the 60mb monthly limit. You can do the math on how much video you can upload a month. For premium users you can increase the quality up to 100mb per note. I generally just turn it up a small amount to around 2mb per minute average. I use: Better Quality(68%), Medium with a video size of 240p.
  4. Under Video Source – hit + and select your video.
  5. Tap ‘Slim Now!’ and after a short while your video will be compressed. The app shows the original and slimmed sizes.
  6. Tap the ‘share’ button and choose ‘Open in..’. From the share menu choose ‘Open in Evernote’.
That’s it, your compressed video is now in Evernote ready to be titled, tagged and bagged. Bonus: Using this method has two fortunate side effects: 1. The video is converted from .mov to mp4 which makes it a bit more compatible with other devices and allows it to be played directly in the Evernote Web client. 2. My portrait video is rotated properly so that the thumbnails on iOS are now correct and my video is no longer sideways when played in Windows Media Player. (Previously I had to open my videos in Quicktime on Windows in order to see them properly).
The Free Method
So what if you’re too cheap to spend the 1.99? Well it will take more steps, more time, and some bandwidth, but I found a way to do it for free. It involves the free Dropbox app (and an account of course). And since the Dropbox app doesn’t compress video anymore, you also need to get a free app called Video Compressor. Finally you’ll need an internet connection of some sort.
  1. Record your video.
  2. Fire up Video Compressor. You’ll be impressed when the title of the app says: “Vidoe Compressor”. Don’t be scared, the app works like a champ.
  3. Tap the Low Quality button and choose your video. – This will compress it to around 1mb per minute (again assuming a front facing camera on the iPhone 4S), and save it back to your camera roll.
  4. Open up Dropbox and upload this new, smaller, video to a folder.
  5. After it uploads, open the Video and ‘Star’ it. Now backup and go to your favorites tab and wait for it to download. (Yes it needs to round trip up to the server and back 😐 ).
  6. When it is done downloading, open it again, and tap on the little lower right hand icon (I think it is supposed to mean save), and tap ‘Open In..’. From the Share menu choose ‘Open in Evernote’.
  7. When you are done saving from Evernote, go back and delete the file from dropbox and optionally your camera roll.
And of course after saving it in Evernote – it will travel back up the tube again and onto the server. It’s not the most elegant solution, but it works, and it is free. You might want to wait until you are on WiFi though.
Alternate Method #3 – GoodReader
This method is similar to the Dropbox method but uses GoodReader. It’s not free, but if you already own it you’ll save on the dropbox round trip. You also need the Free Video Compressor app.
  1. Record your video.
  2. Fire up Video Compressor.
  3. Tap the Low Quality button and choose your video. The compressed version will save back to your camera roll.
  4. Open up GoodReader and choose ‘Import pictures’
  5. Choose the new, smaller video from the Camera Roll.
  6. Go to the ‘Downloads’ folder, tap ‘Actions’, select the video.
  7. Tap ‘Open in…’ at the bottom of the screen and choose ‘Open in Evernote’.
  8. When you are done saving from Evernote, go back and delete the file from GoodReader and optionally your camera roll.
Alternate Method #4 – Email it
Ok, I said you couldn’t email a video over 30 seconds long. Well what I meant was the built in iOS photos app and email client won’t. Don’t bother trying the Gmail app either – it won’t let you select any videos. It turns out that there are some apps out there that let you mail longer videos and will even try and compress them for you. I won’t give you the full steps here, but the basic idea is that you choose the video, let it compress it, and then send it to your special Evernote email address. I tried two apps for this. The first was Video Email. It is $1.99 US. I found the app to be a little clunky but it worked. On the lowest quality setting the video seemed to be around 2mb per minute. Also note that it seems to want to limit the max attachment size to 15mb. The second app is called InstaMail. This one is $0.99 US. It only has one video compression setting and it really won’t get the job done, so you should run your video though Video Compressor first. After that it works easy enough.
So as you have seen, if you are willing to jump through a hoop or two and possibly shell out 2 bucks, you can get low quality video into Evernote on iOS. It’s not perfect, but until Evernote decides to let the app import video directly it’s all we have.

Why Digital Portfolios

This is a short video I made that helps educators think about why they might want to bring digital portfolios to their schools.

6 Crucial Elements to Consider When Developing Digital Portfolios

#1. Portfolios need to be in the hands of the student.  From my own experience, and from research that I have followed, one of the biggest determinants in portfolio success (read that as “authentically integrated into a student’s learning”) is the autonomy of the student to create and manage it.  When school’s institutionalize it too much it becomes “just another thing that schools make us do.”  In addition, it shouldn’t become another thing teachers need to run.  A big part of this revolves around making sure that students see and use portfolios beyond the classroom.  They begin to document, reflect upon and share the learning that is happening in all aspects of life.  When that is happening in an authentic way you know that portfolios have really taken hold.  How we support students to be more in control of the entire portfolio process?

#2.  The use of tools that allow for easy documentation, storage of artifacts, reflection, assessment and presentation is crucial. (including text, audio, video, photos, and a variety of digital documents).  Use of mobile technology is key here.  “In-the-moment” documentation makes for much easier ongoing reflection.   The tools that are chosen should also be intimately tied to the long term vision of portfolios (see #5).  In an increasingly digital educational landscape making sure the “back end” is in place and strong is crucial.  There are no silver bullet tools that do EVERYTHING well, but a school should thoughtfully consider what specific digital tools will be most effective.  That could also mean that the school chooses some of the technology and student chooses some (especially as students get older).  Technology should sink into the background for it to be really effective.  What are the resources that are needed to ensure the larger vision?

#3.  Students are taught how to use the tools and are supported in developing reflection skills and personalized organizational structures.  Kids might get the technology quickly but the development of reflection skills and the ability to organize and think deeply about the artifacts they choose takes real work on our part as educators.  While the portfolios should be in the hands of the students educators need to see themselves as critical resource to ensure their success.  What do students need to know to integrate portfolios into their lives and how do we support them?

#4.  Portfolios are seen as both a place for process AND product.    That means there are levels of documentation (the collection of artifacts), there are levels of reflection (both short term and long term. This included assessment from teachers) and there are levels of presentation (the outward facing aspect that is shared with peers, family, as well as prospective schools or employers).  The most vital part in this process, and the one that ensures that the real power of portfolios is realized, lies in the opportunity and ability of students to reflect upon their learning.  As John Dewey said “we don’t learn from experience we learn from reflecting on experience.”  When students, teachers and families can reflect on long term growth, the big patterns and understandings emerge.   What mechanism are set up across a school to ensure both of the these aspects of portfolios are considered?

#5.   There is a clear and thoughtful long term vision and strategy for the development and implementation of portfolios.  When only individual teachers support student development of portfolios it doesn’t tend to have long term impact as it isn’t integrated into a student’s way of learning across their learning environments.  Real success requires larger institutional support and direction.   How can we support the portfolios process from early age to adult life?

#6.  Families are included in the conversation from the start.   A well thought out and developed portfolio program has the power to transform the educational conversation as the real work of students can be seen, shared and talked about.  In my years of using digital portfolios with students I have witnessed the significant impact that these tools have in the ways that parents think about the work that their children are doing.  In many regards it fosters a real dialogue about the learning that is happening every day.  In addition portfolios that allow for documentation of work outside the classroom allows teachers to see the abilities and knowledge of students in a broader, deeper way.  How do we open up the conversation to encourage all stakeholders in a child’s education to be involved in the conversation about their learning?

Using the Annotate Feature to Provide Feedback

One of my favorite features in Evernote, when it comes to collaborating and providing feedback to students, is the annotate button.  When an artifact is shared it can then be annotated using the tools found in Skitch.  You can annotate any note as a PDF or photo which allows you to write and draw directly on the work itself.  Once you are done annotating Evernote creates a new note with the entire annotation, a break down of each annotation and the name of the person who gave the annotation.  It keeps the original notes title but adds Annotated to it so it is easy to see what work has been give feedback.  At the same time it keeps the original work so it doesn’t need to be redone after all the annotating.

This is what it looks like after you have saved the annotated work.

        This is what it looks like after you have saved the annotated work.

You can also see the annotated work as a whole.

You can also see the annotated work as a whole.

Using Merge, Table of Contents and Presentation Options






Two really great tools that appear when you command click on multiple notes are merge and Create Table of Contents Note.  The first one allows you to merge several notes all into one note.  This is very useful when a student has created multiple artifacts on one topic over time and wants to bring them all together.  After you have chosen your notes to merge and clicked the button a new note will be created.   The individual notes will be placed in the trash.  If you want to have the merged note AND the individual notes, just go into the trash and restore the individual notes. 

When you press the Create Table of Contents Note button your selected notes will be linked together in a new note titled “Table of Contents” which you can rename.  This tool is helpful for presentations and if you want to have easy and quick access to all the notes you have made on a specific topic.  Below the table of contents you will see snapshots of the related notes.  Having access to these snapshots is helpful in reminding you of what is in each link, especially if you haven’t referred to the notes in some time.

If you are a Premium user you have access to the presentation mode which can be accessed in the upper corner of the display window.  This allows you or students to create basic presentation in an uncluttered way show just what is in each note.  This is great for student led conferences.