Jump to content

Seeking advice: Evernote for Middle School Research


Recommended Posts

I'm getting ready to start our annual term paper project with my 5th graders. In the past, students used index cards to manage all their research. They divide their topic (King Tut, for example) into three guiding questions (How did he die? What do we know about his tomb? What did he do as pharaoh?) and document all their research on color-coded cards, one fact per card, with a letter to indicate which source the fact came from.

By the end of the research phase, most kids have 150-200 notes. The next task is to spread the cards out, group and stack them by commonalities, and label each stack with a Post-It. These stacks will become the paragraphs of their papers. Pretty standard middle-grade research process.

This year, I'm allowing some of my students to work digitally, sans notecards. Evernote seems like the perfect tool for gathering research information, but I'm still fuzzy on how to best structure things. Here's what I'm wondering about:

  • How do you think the kids should organize their notes? A new note for every fact? A new note for every source? While I like the idea of one fact per physical index card, I'm not sure that would work well with Evernote. Each note needs to be sourced, so I don't think having a note for each guiding question would work either.

  • After the research phase, how would a kid go about organizing, grouping, rearranging, and outlining their facts? This is easy to do with physical cards, but seems tricky within Evernote, especially if there is more than one fact within a note. Is there anything out there that can be used to manipulate and rearranged exported notes?

Thanks in advance for your suggestions,


Link to comment

This is a great use for Evernote. We've heard from lots of teachers who have introduced Evernote as a research tool to their students and saw great results. As far as the specifics it's really up to you to decide what works best for your scenario. The structure seems to make sense to me. Your students can add a source to each note (even add URL, DATE, ETC) after they get a larger set of notes they can organize them by notebook and notebook stacks. Let me know if you have any other questions. This blog post might be useful. http://blog.evernote.com/2011/01/05/how-my-students-started-using-evernote-education-series/

Link to comment

I guess the organizational structure is going to depend on what the final expectation will be concerning the "cards". I always start with the end at the beginning. Since you will be grading, what will be your look-fors for a good grade? Traditionally, it has been answering the 3 big questions, having "x" number of cards, color-coded systems, etc. With EN, that could significantly change. Most of the time, students read a source, collect facts and then organize around the 3 questions. So from the EN point of view, they could have a notebook for each source, a new note for each fact and then tab the note with the corresponding question it answers. In the end, they could sort all notes by either question it answers or by source. They could even take a picture of the book, pictures from within books (really helps with the language impaired kiddos) etc to help comprehension. For students with written language issues but okay verbal communication, the recordable note is really nice.

Once all notes are done and an outline is developed, each section of the outline could be given a number. Each note could then have one additional tab which would be numeric that would correspond to the section of the outline.

I think that this is a really good exploration of the practical use of technology. Our students are going to inherit a world that is in the "clouds". For students that are in the free/reduced lunch/poverty sub-group, they are going to have a lot of catching up to do since they often do not have access to utilitarian technologies and their apps.

Link to comment

Thanks for the advice and suggestions. I was excited about using Evernote to manage our research.

I was thinking of printing the kids notes onto index cards after the research phase so we could have the best of both worlds (Evernote for collecting info, tangible cards for sorting), but it seems as if printing was completely neglected by the developers. Even the most basic options for printing notes are missing. Honestly, this is quite disappointing.

I don't think I can have my kids use an application (however great it may be) that has no reliable way for extracting their information. I'm going to keep investigating solutions, but it looks like Evernote is not the answer. Oh well, I was hoping for this to be our go-to app as we begin our 1-to-1 deployment.

If there's something I've missed, like some secret way of doing crazy things like printing the titles of notes, please, please let me know.

Link to comment
  • Level 5*

evernote is great for collecting stuff, but a little tricky for creating it. as a writer, i find scrivener (mac) to be the best digital notecard solution. evernote's inability to move things around freely is a real impediment.

but, i you want to try it, tags might be the way to go. students can apply multiple tags to a piece o information, so they can instantly sort things according to the categories (questions) you have them asking. this is notecards on steroids.

evernote's web clipping ability is also an impressive. a few minutes with wikipedia and they'd have several notes in each category all ready to go.

note titles? i don't print anything anymore, but if that is what you want to do, you could just copy/paste it inside (that's what i do). my note "titles" are yymmdd keyword keyword. the "real" title is inside for me anyhow.

again, i don't print, but i you "export" the notes in html format, you'd gain some more print options with the browser.

Link to comment

Thanks for mentioning Scrivener. I had previously written it off as it's not free, but, in a roundabout way, I think it will be the key to my solution.

Here's my proposed workflow:

  1. Kids use Evernote to gather all information. We're going for high granularity/sortability, so the less info in a note the better. In other words, we're trying to emulate the "1 fact per card" modality. We'll use tags to identify sources and code by guiding question.
  2. Kids share their research notebook with me.
  3. After the research phase, I will create real-life, tangible notecards for each student. This is where things get interesting. For each kid:

    1. Copy all notes from student's shared notebook into my "Temporary Holding" notebook.
    2. Use Applescript to export all copied notes to .rtfd files.
    3. Import all rtfd files into Scrivener.
    4. Use Scrivener's "Auto Generate Synopses" feature to populate cards in Corkboard view.
    5. Print contents of Corkboard view onto index cards.
    6. Profit.

      The process is definitely a little clunky, but only on my end. To the students, everything should seem pretty smooth and intuitive.
      Thanks to everyone for helping me work through this. If anyone sees any ways to improve this workflow, I'd love to hear about it.
Link to comment
  • Level 5*

Sounds like you have worked it out well. Scrivener is free for thirty days, so you might want to consider that, but I actually think you have taken the right approach by handling it on your end. I like Scrivener, but I think it is a little daunting for the uninitiated.

So, going back to your goal of generating notecards. You may want to look into Index Card on the iPad for this or future projects. I am not aware of any way to use this efficiently with Evernote, but it is a cool program (for the notecard inclined) to keep in mind. Could you export their Evernote notes as HTML files and then import them into Index Card/Scrivener? I don't know. It does play friendly with Scrivener, so there just might be a way for you to make this work in your case (http://www.denvog.co...html#ImportDocs). The developers are friendly, and you may want to drop them an email to explore the possibilities.


Link to comment


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...