App of the Week: Evernote

Name: Evernote

Platform: iPhone/iPod Touch, iPad, Android, BlackBerry, Palm, Windows Mobile

Cost: Free for basic account; $5/month or $45/year for premium account

I have only recently become an Evernote user, having wanted to try it for a long time as a tool for researchers of all ages. As it stands now, I certainly don’t use it to its full capacity; that would require more time to immerse myself in it than I have. But I do believe that this app could be of use both to librarians and to teens. Here’s why.

When used on a smart phone, Evernote helps you capture information in a variety of ways. In short, those ways are:

* Text – type notes directly into Evernote using your phone

* Photos – take a picture of anything and save it – text, people, handwritten notes, you name it. Or, upload a photo from your library.

* Voice – record yourself, a song, a sound, someone else talking

On a Mac or PC, you have one more options for saving notes: clipping. When you’re online, highlight text and/or images and paste into a new note.

Once you’ve gathered all of this information, you can tag it. This step allows you to group notes together to form a comprehensive picture of your research. So, say you’re a student doing research on the Vietnam War. You can take notes from your reading directly into Evernote, clip information from websites, take a picture of your lecture notes, and even interview someone. Tag each note with “vietnamwar” and voila – all of your research in one place.

Even better, Evernote allows you to perform a keyword search of all of your notes, so even if they’re not tagged, type “vietnam” into the search field and see thumbnails of all the notes that contain that keyword. Evernote even searches the words inside of images (so cool). You can do this both on your phone and on a computer.

Install Evernote on your computer and your phone and every time you open up the application, it syncs. That way, you’ve got all of your information in one place – the cloud – and you can access it wherever you are.

Teens could use it for school research, for remembering things (take a picture of a CD at the mall so that you can remember to download it later!), for saving shopping information (take photos when you’re in the store, and clip information from your favorite shopping sites), for note-taking, for managing digital portfolios or inspirations, and more more more.

Librarians and educators could use it for much of the same. I use mine for keeping a to-do list, meeting notes, and information on the curriculum of each grade I teach. Within the notes for each grade, I highlight “to do” items and then tag those notes, along with my running task list, as “to do,” which allows me to clump all of those things into one spot.

While Evernote has a ton of uses, it really takes getting used to. For those of us who are used to keeping paper lists and notes, it’s hard to remember to go into Evernote to do these things instead. I’m also not sure that I’ll ever use the voice note feature, though for someone who’s better at verbal than written notes, that would be a great tool. And the clipping feature, which I think is Evernote’s most powerful tool, is not available in mobile form. But aside from that, Evernote’s ability to keep you organized is great. For teens, it’s a chance to keep information in a safe place that can be accessed from anywhere, which can eliminate compatibility problems. And if a teen can start taking sophisticated notes – web research, photos of pages in printed materials, and their own annotations – on a smart phone, that’s fabulous. Imagine how powerful this tool could be in the hands of students. Which is another reason to let cell phones into the schools…but that’s a post for another time!

About Sarah Ludwig

I am the Academic Technology Coordinator at Hamden Hall Country Day School in Hamden, CT. Prior to that, I was the head of teen, technology, and reference services at the Darien Library in Darien, CT. I started my library career as a school librarian at a small boarding school in Western Massachusetts.
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