Monthly Archives: April 2012

An App with great artistic potential

Online portfolios are not only about documenting, reflecting upon and presenting your work. For them to really become a living tool for students, they also need to be a place of “on going” work. If the portfolio can be the place where actual work is being created then the portfolio becomes a part of the ongoing learning.

One of the apps that I have begun to play around with allows for this kind ongoing creation. Paper by Fifty Three is just one of those apps. I like it because it is an app that allows for drawing, writing and a version of water color painting. It has the potential to be used both to “plan” and for more creative final work. In the drawing below I made a drawing of a possible automata design (we are building automata toys in my class). This kind of sketching is something that I do with my students on paper, but Paper is an app that would allow you to use an ipad instead. This drawing can then be sent to Evernote. Once it is in Evernote it can be retrieved and looked at again when students are actually in the building phase.



Multiple Email addresses with One gmail account!!

One of the time consuming issues around setting up the Evernote accounts as I have done it in the past is the need to create individual e-mail accounts for students. To have an Evernote account you need to have an email account and if a large group of students don’t have accounts (or you want to control them) it takes some time. The process below definitely is less time consuming and makes it possible to more easily access all the student e-mail accounts if there is a need.

Multiple Google Email Addresses – One Gmail Account

Google Gmail is a very slick, free email product. One Gmail feature that you may not be aware of is that multiple Google email addresses can be created from one Gmail account. These bonus email addresses are easy to create and manage and can take a few different forms.

Multiple Google Email Addresses from One Gmail Account

Having multiple Gmail addresses can provide a range of uses including easily separating personal and business email and tracking incoming email from specific subscriptions and mailing list. There are three main methods for expanding the number of usable Google email addresses that you can have from a single Gmail account:

Using the domain.
Using the “dot” or period in your email name.
Using the plus sign “+” at the end of your name and adding extra characters.
Using the “” Domain Name
Let’s start with the use of the domain name. With every Gmail account you actually get a second email address – one is the regular address while the second address has as the domain. So Gmail will actually see as the same as All email messages that are sent to will be delivered to your

Using a Dot or Period in the Email name

Another interesting facet of Gmail addresses is what is sometimes referred to as “Dot Blindness”. In an interesting twist Gmail does not recognize dots, ”.”or periods as characters in Google email address user names. This means that Gmail “sees” or as the same address as You can also use multiple “dots” in the username such as

The same “dot blindness” also applies to email addresses using the domain name with or being routed to the same Inbox as

Using the Plus Sign and Additional Characters
The third trick for extending the use of your Gmail account is the ability to add extra characters to the end of your username by inserting a plus sign, “+” after your name. Google does not recognize these characters but Gmail search filters do. The characters after the plus sign can be either letters or numbers. So or will end up in the same Inbox as

Test these out for yourself and see what works best for you. All the variations below are from the same Google email account and will all end up in the Gmail Inbox:

Benefits of Multiple Google Email Address from One Gmail Account

So you say, “OK, these Google email address tips are interesting, but what would I use all these variations for”? One use is to track where mail is coming from. When you sign up for a newsletter subscription or mailing list you can create a specific email address by using the plus sign and some specific characters or “dot” pattern. You can then track incoming email based on the specific email name that you created.

For example, you sign up for a subscription to a newsletter using and then in addition to the newsletter you signed up for you start receiving email from a number of other different sources to that specific address. This could indicate that the specific mailing list might have been compromised or even sold.

Another use of these address variations is for sorting out spam or unwanted email from a specific Google email address. By using Gmail filters you can automatically direct mail to a specific address, such as to the spam folder.

Variations on your address can also be used to separate out personal and business messages and automatically identify each with a different label and sorted to a different folder.

Simplified Google Email Address Management

Having multiple Google email addresses is a useful tool for addressing a number of different email needs. The benefits of having a centralized email account that can easily process a number of different email addresses without having to go out and set up numerous new accounts with additional usernames and passwords can be a real plus. And they are all managed from a single Gmail account.

Evernote Premium for Schools

As Trillium begins to move toward school-wide (k-12) implementation of online portfolios using Evernote some of the administrative “kinks” are being worked out.

#1. One of the main questions people tend to ask me about creating accounts concerns the legal age requirement. When creating an account you are prompted to check off a box that indicates that you are at least 13 years old. Of course this is a problem if you want to make accounts with students that are younger. The good news (which I just recently received from the Evernote team) is that COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) rules around use provide the ability for schools to act as agents between Evernote and the children’s family. If a parent signs a permission form (which states how Evernote will be used) the school can check off the “I am 13” box for students.

#2. Evernote has created Premium for Schools administrative tools which allow the school to have a level of administrative control. (See below image) Having premium accounts allows for sharing of notes between all students (which allows them to easily collaborate with one another), provides a larger storage capacity per month and a higher level of tech support. Schools receive a discounted monthly fee ($2.50 rather than a typical $5.00) which may be prohibitive for some schools. (For Trillium that would cost about $10,000 per year for 360 students). However, that cost could also be passed to the families ($2.50 per month) which could be clumped together into a $30 fee payed at the beginning of the year or spread out in chunks. Of course a normal account is free so all schools, no matter their financial standing, could open accounts.


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Documenting and Sharing Student Writing

Beyond using portfolios as a place to store finished work, Evernote allows my students to use it as a place for ongoing work.

This week my students have been working on book reviews for works of fiction they have been reading in book clubs. As they move through the writing process (pre-writing, drafting, conferencing, revising, editing, publishing) I am having them use Evernote to share their work with me. I spend a lot of time helping students become good critics of the writing of their peers. We do that in authentic ways where classmates can really help each other become better writers. That means that students are conferencing with each other at least once as they move toward publishing. Of course I want to have the opportunity to read kids work, but I tend to wait until they have already meet with peers.

Kids can often become frustrated in the writing process when they have to be constantly rewriting their work. This is where word processing comes into play with my students. I always ask students to write a first draft by hand. Most kids are not really fast on the keyboard so I want to make sure their ideas don’t get bogged down by the speed of their typing. However, once they have done a first draft and received feedback they like to get on the computer to type their revisions. In that way they also don’t have to do as much rewriting after I give feedback.

So I can see the work they do and give them feedback (without having to collect everyone’s papers) I have students put their revisions on Evernote using the Evernote word processing option. I also ask them to photograph their first draft so I can see the changes that they have already made. In this way it is easy for me to look at all the work they have done so far and offer changes and suggestions. I do this on a piece of paper that they can hold when they go back to their writing. Additionally students can photograph my suggestions as well. This ongoing documentation is a great way to show student growth along the path of a single piece of writing. When portfolios are “alive” in this way they become valuable tools for students, teachers and parents.

Below is an example of a student’s first draft (in photo) and their typed revision ready for me to look over.


Q&A from a University Staff Member

I get a lot of questions about my work with Evernote and I like to use them as blog entries. I imagine that many people out there have similar questions and I hope this format is helpful. This list of questions comes from an Information Technology Specialist at a University here in the United States.

What did the on-boarding process look like? Was the conversation with the teachers more of a “you must use Evernote,” was it more of a drawn out gentle coaxing, or was it somewhere in between?

The adoption of new systems and technology in schools is always a tricky proposal. You have the gung-ho folks who are eager to try and incorporate new technology and ideas. You have the group that need a little hand holding, support and guidance. You have the people who need a lot of support and hand-holding, and you have the people that are completely resistant and will never go along with it. Of course, there are many types of people in between, but for the sake of this conversation I have broken it down into 4 “categories”. The situation at Trillium has been no different. Fortunately at Trillium we don’t have anyone who is in adamant opposition to e-portfolios. This has to do with the fact that portfolios are part of the conversation here and staff are supposed to be keeping some kind of portfolio of student work.

The initial decision about adopting online portfolios (years ago) was a staff decision. I presented the idea as a way to simplify the storage of student work and the staff voted to go along with it. Unfortunately, at that time, the support stopped there. Without the adequate technology and support the implementation of the system wasn’t going to go anywhere.

Having adequate support (both technological and personnel) is vital for any adoption of technology. From experience it never works when you say “YOU MUST USE (fill in the blank here) “.

This year Trillium went through a renewal process with the Portland School District (which happens every 5 years) and Evernote Portfolios was something that stood out and really got people excited. It is being seen as a way that Trillium stands out as a school and also is an area where we can bring innovation to schools around the district. With that encouragement the Trillium School Board and administration decided to give this work its full support. At this point the school is no longer talking about “if” but “how” Evernote will be implemented.

The school will be putting time and resources behind this work (including technology, training, support, etc) which I believe will allow it to succeed. Part of that work is that I have been doing small presentations to groups of teachers to show them how great it really is. It doesn’t take much to wow people because it is SO user friendly and is an amazing way to share and store student work/learning.

I will be working with a small group of teachers who wish to pilot the program in their classrooms this spring. They will receive an itouch and lexmark scanner for their classrooms as well as training and support from me. The idea being that this group of teachers from all age levels (primary, intermediate, middle and high school) will then be the trainers for their teams next year. In that way we are building grassroots understanding, support, and excitement.

In addition, I am slowing building up the use of the portfolios. People will start with the basics, learning how to document work. Then we will move to more complex uses such as reflection and presentation. Again, we will be providing support along the way. So far this has been a two school year process and I am assuming it will be one more year until the school as a whole is taking full advantage of what the Evernote as Portfolio has to offer.

I am sure it could have happened in a shorter amount of time, but there needs to be the support in place to make it work.

What’s your experience with students and their work after they leave your school? Do you get a sense that they are still using Evernote at the same capacity as they did at Trillium?

We just started using Evernote for Portfolios last fall with students in the intermediate grades (3rd-5th). Next year we are hoping to have all students using Evernote as a portfolio tool. I haven’t begun any tracking student of student us beyond the school. I hope to be able to start answering that question in the coming years as high school students begin to use Evernote. Ideally it would be great to start connecting with local colleges and universities in Oregon (where many of our students go) to see if they are interested in the use of portfolios in this manner. My greater vision is that this tool would be a way for secondary and post-secondary schools to become more connected. Wouldn’t it be great if students could carry their portfolios with them to university? What would happen if college professors could begin to see the work that students did before they entered college? What kind of reflection could students be doing on their own learning if they had access to work from the time they were in the primary classroom. What an opportunity to see, understand, reflect upon and share ones growth as a learner.

Are there any “discoveries” or unexpected findings that your students or teachers have found in their use of Evernote?

The way I have set things up is that I want the students to use the technology and find what works. I think we are making discoveries all the time. I started using the audio recording and the camera to document reading samples at the beginning of the year and months later. That was a great discovery in HOW the technology supports documentation. Because Evernote is constantly improving the way you can interface with its platform, there are always new things to learn. Most of those things are being discovered by me at this point. We are at pretty basic use at this point, but I assume when some of the older students begin to use the technology they will make some new discoveries of how to use it in new and useful ways.

Evernote is free, but I imagine there is a cost for all of the supporting technology. What are all of the tools you’re using in the school to support the Evernote portfolios? In other words, if one were to build an environment such as yours from the ground up, what would it cost?

The great thing about the technology is that it is fairly cheap. In my classroom I have one Lexmark Scanner ($150) and 3 ipod touches (about $250 each for the larger gigabit storage). However, we have also acquired donations from people who are no longer using their older model smartphones. An old iphone donated from a family works just as well as an itouch because you don’t need a phone plan for it to work. Also, the lexmark scanner can hold up to 75 individual Evernote accounts, which means one scanner could be used by 2 or 3 classrooms. You could get started with a lexmark and one itouch for $400. Plus, most schools have laptops and desktops already that allow students to access their accounts, type using the Evernote wordprocess, etc.

At Trillium we are committed under $4000 dollars for a school that is k-12. That is pretty cheap for technology that has such a great application.

The great thing about this technology is that it is getting cheaper all the time AND students already have it. How many students are walking around with smartphones and itouches? The technology is already in the hands of many students which makes it a very accessible direction to go.

Using Evernote for Conferences-Part 2

With the success of using Evernote for conferences in the fall we are heading into the second round of conferences this year with the kids having more control over the preparation.

In November I had the students pick out three items that they wanted to share with their parents and then at the conference I helped type in their goals. This time I wanted the kids to have more control of the goal setting process in their portfolios. With that in mind I included a pre-conference planning time which included an opportunity to not only think and write about goals in the areas of Independence, Community Membership and Academic Fluencies (our schools base framework) but also time to actually input the goals into Evernote. In this way they are taking an additional level of responsibility for their own learning.

Whereas the Fall conference goal setting time was really driven by my questions, this time around they will be taking the lead with their parents and me by presenting the goals they are setting for the remaining months of school. As they are confident using Evernote this additional step didn’t cause much of a problem. What it does however is it puts them more fully in the driver seat around the work that they do at school, which is always my goal. Building deeper levels of independence for their own learning is a value that using online portfolios really supports. They thought about the goals, they wrote the goals (with my support), they typed the goals into their account and they will present the goals. At the conference there will be time to discuss and make changes (based on the feedback from parents and myself) but already they have time and personal energy invested into the process and this will help to support them be more successful.

Of course we did also have an opportunity to reflect on the last round of goals because each student did some reflection back in February. We will use this reflection as part of our conversation.

Below are several images of steps along the way, including the students working in the computer lab to prepare for the conference as well as an example of a planning sheet and a reflection sheet from the fall goals.