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.


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