Following on from the last case study on the eportfolio system Mahara, this case study looks at Evernote as an alternative. Evernote is a free ‘Cloud Based’ repository and organisational tool. It is a flexible digital, online notebook which gives you a single place to create or compile all your notes, web clippings, snapshots or documents to create your own repository for documenting, research and reflection. Content can be synchronised on a computer/ipad/mobile phone and supports a number of operating system platforms (including Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Chrome OS, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and WebOS) with online synchronisation and backup services.
Personal journey using Evernote
A colleague John Marsden reintroduced me to Evernote at the ‘Using OERs in HE in FE: degrees of edupunk?’ Conference in June 2012. I had looked at it before then but it was John demonstrating how he had been using it that encouraged and inspired me to give it another go. My Evernote has four notebooks each one for a different purpose and each one containing many ‘notes’ which contain images, pdf’s, text, audio, emails sent directly to them as well as content shared by others. I use it to store creative ideas for my own practical work so it functions a bit like a sketchbook as well as an e-portfolio which contains reflection posts as well as ‘evidence’ of my learning for my MA course (Online Distance Education) with the Open University. Finding the right way to organise content and evidence is really important and needs to fit in with how you like to research, store and retrieve information. I use the tagging system to catergorise individual notes within each notebook making retrieval of related content easy.
I have experimented with recording my voice directly into an Evernote note using my IPhone mainly to record thoughts and content for my essays or to record moments quickly. It has also been a convenient way whilst driving to ramble on to myself in a fairly unselfconscious way making it easy to revisit and extract the good stuff! Using the IPhone or IPad enables you take photographs, tag and store directly into Evernote.
I have also found that my own learning and development on reflection has emerged through my teaching: by teaching students I am consolidating my own learning, and agree that ‘one of the best ways to learn something is, after all, to teach others’ (Seely Brown and Adler 2008, p. 18). I began to use my Evernote as a repository and reflection tool/e-portfolio as a teaching resource for different research modules I teach on and also introduced Evernote to staff as development training as well as for a students on the BA English course who are required to maintain a journal of reflection for one of their modules.
Context in Classroom
All students were introduced to different tools to use as journals by tutor Karen Coe. I went into Karen’s session and introduced her student to Evernote, showing them how I was using it for my own learning as well as demonstrating the main features it has. Student Adam Connell took to using Evernote as his main journal and repository and was happy to feed back to me his experiences of using it to help me with an essay I was writing. I asked Adam:
- How have you approached reflection writing/keeping a journal in the past?
- What benefits did you find Evernote having over other methods of recording reflection?
- Did you use different ways to record your reflection – audio, images, attachments etc?
- What difficulties did you come across when using Evernote for the purpose of journal/reflection?
- Did it concern you that it was part of your assessment (if it is)?
- Was it initially a barrier that Evernote is a digital tool – did you have the skills/confidence at the start?
- Do you think that Evernote helped you to keep a journal/write your reflection – if so how?
Adam’s response to these questions:
No problem at all regarding giving the feedback. Even though I have been using it for a few months now, I still only use the basic aspects of Evernote at the moment. After we discussed the various methods in class (which came in very handy by the way!), this method seemed to suit me more than the other options.
This was the first time that I have ever attempted a journal in my life, it is something that I have always been interested in but always put off for some reason or other. I have decided to keep things simple and just write whatever that is in my head as that particular moment. I actually find it therapeutic and after reflecting on my day/week I feel all the better for it!
As stated above, at the moment I am keeping things simple at the moment and will start adding images, audio etc. as and when. I like the idea of being able to do this and this will definitely become a prominent feature of my journal.
I have not really come across any difficulties at the moment, it is very easy to use (well what I am using it for anyway), but it will be much appreciated if I could email/call/drop in when I do have difficulties for some guidance.
I will admit, that whilst I thought that doing a journal was a good idea in theory, I was worried about the amount of time it would take on top of my other things (assignments, homework, revision etc.) but it does not take that long to input so it is not a problem. I have no worries about my journal being assessed because as Karen has stated to us, it is a new thing so as long as I do not do anything radical is should be fine.
In fact, I am going to use this as part of my reflection, so thanks!
In response to this I sent Adam a screen shot of how I had used some of his feedback in my essay and how he had been acknowledged and credited in my assignment:
Using eportfolios for PDP is excellent preparation for the independence and reflection required for WBL: ‘the structure of an e-portfolio appears to reflect cognitive processes in that elements of learning are chosen, combined and communicated according to purpose’ (Raiker, 2009). Jenny Moon (2005 p.2) suggests that ‘where the learner is able to consider his/her own learning behaviour, metacognitive ability is associated with effective learning. This was apparent in some feedback a student gave regarding their use of Evernote as a reflection tool. On being asked about using Evernote he stated ‘I have no worries about my journal being assessed…in fact, I am going to use this as part of my reflection, so thanks!’ (Connell, 2013). Andrea Raiker (2010) considers how ‘e-portfolios supporting and structuring PDP processes can enable transformative learning resulting in reformed knowledge leading to new structures of thought, affecting esteem and efficacy’.
With thanks to Chris Niblett and Adam Connell for permission to use their comments.
Beetham, H. (2005) ‘E-portfolios in post-16 learning in the UK: developments, issues and opportunities’ (online), JISC. Available from: http://www.jisc.ac.uk/uploaded_documents/e-portfolio_ped.doc
Connell, A. (2013) Email to Joanna Neil, 07 January 2013 17:46