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