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The Case for Evernote

by Hanno Strydom Strydom.Hanno@MacPhail.org

Searching for the Holy Grail of Lesson Notes
Studio teachers are always looking for the best way to manage their students’ lesson notes. How do you include enough information to clearly communicate the assignments for the week without spending too much lesson time in the process? What’s the best way to keep all of these notes organized? Do you keep duplicate copies in case students forget their notebooks and you can’t remember the details of their assignments? How can you avoid the tedium and wasted time of writing the same set of generic instructions over and over again?

Enter Evernote
These and other concerns had occupied a great deal of my time and energy when a colleague casually mentioned the web-based note taking tool, Evernote. Fast forward nine months and I honestly don’t know how I ever did lesson notes without Evernote!

So, what’s so special about Evernote?
  • My students' lesson notes are always organized and never get lost
  • With the option of cutting and pasting and adding pre-prepared resources to my students' notebooks with a single click, I no longer have to repeatedly re-write generic instructions, and I can provide much more detailed notes in less time
  • My students, their parents, and I can access, add to, and review lesson notes on any device, anytime, from anywhere
  • I can enrich my students' notes with multimedia components such as embedded audio, video, web links, PDF files, and photographs
  • My students and I have a detailed record of our work together, including a history of practice stats, a practice journal, and a portfolio of in-lesson audio recordings--a fabulous resource for documenting progress

My System Using Evernote
Lesson notes are entered into the template below, and typically include text, PDF files, audio recorded during the lesson, photographs, and links to online resources. The note also includes organizational details: date of the next lesson, upcoming performances, etc. Students use the Practice Tracker table at the bottom to document their practice;  notes and questions for the next lesson are written below that.

At the start of each lesson I copy the note from the previous week, rename it with the current date, clear the practice tracker check boxes, and update the dates. The notes and questions section is cleared once everything relevant has been discussed. During the lesson I then add to the existing notes, indicating new material with the current date, and deleting anything that no longer applies.

I keep a separate notebook that serves as a “filing cabinet” for the resources I regularly use, allowing me to simply copy these notes to student notebooks as needed; a handout, an audio recording, sheet music, a link to a video, etc.

If Evernote sounds like something you'd like to try, consider attending the upcoming Idea Exchange at which I'll be hosting a discussion with David Birrow, Jeremy Hanson and Josh Osborne about the ways in which we're using Evernote in our work.

I and several of the other Lab Techs would be glad to answer questions and would happily help any of our MacPhail colleagues with getting Evernote set up. Our contact information is on the Lab Tech page.

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