How I Made A Database of Lesson Ideas With Evernote

How I Made A Database of Lesson Ideas With Evernote

I finally downloaded Evernote this past June.  I knew it was an organization tool but I wasn’t really sure exactly what it did.  My goal was to try and solve a few problems I found myself running into as an educator.

Resources Everywhere

One issue I kept running into as a teacher was having resources all over the place.  If I remembered that I saw a great idea for a geography lesson, I didn’t remember if I pinned it on Pinterest, read it in an email, favorited it on Twitter, bookmarked the website, saw it on a worksheet, read it in a book, or jotted it down.

I tried a few things like a working Word document where I jotted down various ideas, buy it became a cumbersome process to open up the document whenever I found something interesting on the internet, and not really doable if I found something on my mobile.  Copying and pasting the link into my document was easy enough, but a page full of links becomes a bit unusable.

Not Reflecting As Much As I’d Like

Additionally, I like to reflect on what is and isn’t working in my class. I usually do that in a Word document as well.  When working with a big open canvas like Word, I start feeling like I need to have enough to say to fill the space.  I also start trying to make it look nice and it starts to become more of a chore that I just end up not reflecting very often.

Evernote is beginning to help me solve some of these problems.

My Notebooks

I started by creating a couple education notebooks.  I started with two but it evolved into five.

  • Lesson Ideas – actual things I could try in class
  • Classroom Management – tips, ideas, and methods of management
  • Education Reform / Pedagogy – things on how students learn, creativity in the classroom, current trends in education, motivation, etc.
  • Classroom Reflections – my own reflections of what’s working and what’s not working
  • Other Education Ideas – anything else that doesn’t fit into the above like technology club ideas, research on schools in a city that I’ll be moving to in a year, teacher discounts, etc.

Compiling Resources

I then started to compile the many different resources I’ve pinned / favorited / marked / etc, starting with my Pinterest boards.  My problem with Pinterest was that the only real way I was searching through my pins was by scrolling through, or maybe typing the title if I remembered it.

One of my first pins was a fun writing idea.  I went to the original website and used the Evernote Web Clipper to put it in Evernote.  If you’ve never used Evernote before, the Web Clipper doesn’t just save a link, it basically takes that whole webpage and you can view it later in Evernote without even being connected to the internet.  I put that particular writing idea in my Lesson Ideas notebook, and the real beauty is in the tagging.  I would tag it by subject and any specifics.  This particular writing idea would be tagged ‘ELAR’ and ‘writing process.’  So now in several months when we’re beginning a writing process unit and I’ve completely forgotten that I ever even found this resource, I can search anything with the tag ‘writing process’ and see what resources I’ve accumulated!

After bringing my pins into Evernote, I then went through my favorited tweets. Many of them were great articles on education reform and technology integration.  Our school is getting a class set of iPad’s this next year so any websites I found about incorporating the iPad, I clipped and tagged ‘iPad’ as well as the subject and content – ‘iPad’ ‘science’ ‘inherited traits’

A Clean Inbox

As I started looking through my emails for resources, I figured why not just clean my inbox out completely; I wanted it down to zero.  I learned that you could send emails into Evernote, but I didn’t feel it was necessary to bring ALL my important emails into Evernote. I created some folders in Outlook to archive old messages that I wanted to keep (a few ‘how to’ emails from our technologist, encouraging emails from parents and admin, and account information that had my username and password for various services).  If it was something that could fit nicely into any of my notebooks, I forwarded it to Evernote.

I found an email from another teacher with tips on teaching reading comprehension.  I wanted to put it in my ‘Other Education Ideas’ with the tags ‘ELAR’ and ‘Reading Comprehension’ so I forwarded the email and in the subject line I wrote:

Comprehension Tips @Other Education Ideas #ELAR #Reading Comprehension

I sent it to my given Evernote email address and it was placed in the correct folder with the given tags.

Reflection Hub

After sifting through all that email and clearing out my inbox, I found those Word documents where I reflected on the things going on in class.  I copied and pasted each of those into a new note and put it in the Classroom Reflections notebook.  Evernote lets you change the creation date to the actual date that the reflection was written; it may be a reflection from 9/2012, but I created the Evernote note on 7/2013, which could pose some problems if I wanted to search by date.  Changing the creation date solves that problem!  I also titled each one of them by the year it was, the marking period, and the content of the reflection (1st Year – 3rd 9 Weeks – A Few New Faces In Class).  The reflection process will be streamlined since I almost always have Evernote open; it takes little effort to just start a new note and write a few things to reflect on.

Books Contain Ideas Too !

I also got really excited when I was reading  a book and it gave a great geometry lesson example.  I took a picture of the page, put it in ‘Lesson Ideas’ and tagged it ‘Math’ and ‘Geometry’ as well as the title of the book so if I want to see all the notes I took from that book, I could just search that tag.

Still Learning

I feel I’m still just scratching the surface with what I can do with Evernote. Just creating a database of resources has been a very exciting start.  I’m even thinking about taking a photo of the table of contents of some great workbooks I have but have never used.  When I do a search on ‘division games,’ Evernote’s photo reader can actually see if any of those table of contents pictures have the words ‘division games’ in it.  That may or may not be super helpful, but I could tag the photos with the content since Evernote won’t realize that GROUPING EXTRAVAGANZA! is actually a division game.

How has Evernote helped you organize your professional life ? 🙂

By Thom H Gibson

I help middle school STEM teachers create meaningful & memorable experiences for their students. Teacher, podcaster, YouTuber. Two-time teacher of the year

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