Mohamed El-Ashiry takes a look at how Evernote can be used in the classroom
Portfolio assessment in the ESL classroom offers many benefits. On the Prince George’s County Public Schools’ website, a portfolio is defined as ‘a purposeful collection of student work that exhibits the student’s efforts, progress, and achievements in one or more areas of the curriculum’. Brown & Hudson (1998) have also described portfolios as a ‘family of assessments’. Some of the benefits of using portfolios, as described by Brown & Hudson (1998) include: (1) focusing student attention on learning processes; and (2) increasing student involvement in the learning processes. I have always been a fan of such ‘alternatives in assessment‘ because of the fact that they focus a lot more on the ‘process of learning’ as opposed to the ‘product of learning’ (Brown & Hudson, 1998).
Now that iPads and tablets are spreading into many educational institutions, I believe it’s important to think about the ways these devices can facilitate assessment in the classroom. Evernote is a great platform for students to collect evidence of their learning, and to share that with their teacher/s, and their families. Here are some of the many things my students do with Evernote on their tablets:
- Write text: Writing is a very important productive skill in any language classroom. The most obvious thing students can do with Evernote is write text, and writing is used extensively in the ESL classroom: essays, reports, observations, answers to questions etc…
- Gather screenshots of work done on online forms/quizzes: I often use Google Forms to prepare short quizzes and tests for students. I also prepare Google Forms for self-assessment and peer-assessment checklists/rubrics. The great thing about iPads/tablets is that students can take screenshots. I always remind my students to keep screenshots of their filled-in forms before they click ‘Submit’, and this can be added as evidence to their Evernote portfolios.
- Record audio-notes: Speaking is the other important productive skill in any language classroom. Since Evernote allows the recording of voice directly into a note, students can often be asked to record audio-notes of their oral reflections, pair-work discussions, oral-language practices etc…
- Add annotated pictures/photos from Skitch: I often ask my students to take photos of things around them and then label/annotate them, such as taking a photo of another student to label parts of the body, or taking photos of a kitchen to label different equipment and utensils. Skitch is a great free app that allows the annotation of photos and pictures, and it syncs directly with Evernote. Sometimes I also distribute observation checklists for students to fill-out as screenshots/pictures that they can annotate on Skitch and then add to their portfolios.
- Hyperlink uploaded videos: I use drama, role-plays and simulations a lot in my ESL classroom. These are great for practicing listening and speaking skills. The students are often asked to take video footage of their role-plays and upload them either to their Google Drive or a class YouTube channel. Once the videos are uploaded, they can easily be hyperlinked into their Evernote portfolios as evidence of learning.
- Hyperlink online slideshows: Students can often be asked to create presentations or slideshows in the language classroom. Slideshare and Prezi are two very popular Web 2.0 presentation tools in today’s classrooms. Again, these slideshows/presentations can be added as evidence of learning in Evernote as hyperlinks.
- Web-clip research notes: By simply installing the Evernote-Webclipper bookmarklet, students can clip parts of webpages they visit as part of a research assignment, and even clip full-pages for easy reference later. Students can also be asked to keep written or oral comments about or reflections on their research clippings into the same notes. Overall, this can make the research process easier for students.
- Collect photos: Students can add photos directly into their notes from Evernote, which can either be accessed from the iPad camera-roll, or taken directly from the Evernote camera. This can be a very useful feature for documenting photo evidence of a poster-task through every stage of its creation, or collecting photos during a field-trip to match a list of vocabulary items and so on.
- Create checklists: Checklists can be easily added to a note directly from the app. This can be a great feature for helping the students become more organized, or even brainstorming checklists for the success of an assigned project. The checklist feature in Evernote is also useful for asking students to set goals for their language learning, and create plans to achieve those goals. Goal-setting and reflection are very important parts of the portfolio assessment process.
- Share their portfolios easily: I have found that using Evernote to build portfolios also makes it easy to share the portfolio with others. Since I have a premium account on Evernote, I can create notebooks for groups of students to modify and edit. With a free account, sharing notebooks is also possible, but only allows viewing and not editing. In all cases, Evernote allows the sharing of notebooks using e-mail addresses, so whether or not the recipient can edit/modify notes will depend on the sender’s account (free or premium).
Seeing all of those things that students can do with Evernote on their tablets, I truly believe it facilitates the assessment process in the ESL classroom. I would normally conference with each student at the beginning of the teaching cycle, somewhere in the middle, and at the end. In those conferences, we review the student’s portfolio together, set goals for learning, and I allow the student to self-assess their portfolio using a pre-designed rubric (that all students are given at the beginning of the teaching cycle).
BROWN, J. D. and HUDSON, T. (1998), The Alternatives in Language Assessment. TESOL Quarterly, 32: 653–675.