Evernote could have saved this student’s life.

“My brother peed on my science notebook.”  The student was frantic.  Science is serious, and they have a serious notebook full of labs, tables of contents, and lots of things.  She had a little brother with autism who destroyed the work.

“You should digitize it,” I said.  “Then, it’ll be safe for all eternity.”

I love Evernote.

I never understood Evernote’s power until one day when it seemed like God himself came down from the heavens and tried to organize me.   Since then, it’s saved my world many times over.  I use it in work and my personal life–everything from organizing tax receipts and collaborating on research to collecting recipes and account information.

Are you a “Let me leave this tab open until I read/resolve/do it” kind of person?

Do you bookmark, save, and clip things only to become distracted?

Are you a researcher who gets so bogged down in what you have in front of you never seem to make headway?

Evernote could just save you, too.

Evernote is an organization and productivity tool for mobile and desktop.  It syncs between devices, allowing you to bring your notes and research with you.  The free app does plenty–you may never need to upgrade to the paid.  If you start to appreciate the magic of Evernote as much as I do, you will be okay with donating a couple bucks to the cause of organization and internal peace.

What Evernote Can Do for You:

Evernote is organized into notebooks.  You can save things that are bogging you down now for easy recall later.  I have notebooks for pretty much every area in my life.  I store things neatly and when it serves me, I look through the notebooks, rather than getting distracted by all the tabs on my desktop.

You can create notebooks by project or topic, then save your materials as notes or take notes like you would on a paper notebook.

When combined with the Google Chrome clipper and Evernote’s Scannable app, Evernote’s a lifesaver.  I simply hit the little elephant icon in Chrome and Evernote will save the page I’m on into any notebook I choose, allow me to tag it, title it, and put comments.  Scannable lets me scan papers into any Evernote notebook.  I have notebooks for bills, statements, and accounts.   This prevents papers from taking over my life.

Scannable allows me to email, text, or share the things I scan in addition to putting them in notebooks, and it’s lightening fast and simple to use.

How to use Evernote:

  • Use tags:  Tags allow you to add identifiers to your note. “recipes” “vegetarian” “school” “research” are all appropriate tags.  Be careful–if you have too many tags, you’ll forget how you tagged things, resulting in two similar tags for items you want categorized in the same space.  Make sure you’re one with your tags, and tag the items you save as you go.  Saving this for later is a recipe for disaster.
  • Create new notebooks:  If a new subject pops up, make a notebook for it.  I was dumping all receipts in “taxes” but then I realized I should have individual tax years and categories.  This helps me from having to look at old things and recategorize them later on.
  • Create stacks:  On the Evernote desktop version, it’s super easy to slide notebooks on top of each other to create “stacks.”  Imagine stacks as a pile of notebooks for each larger subject.  All the notebooks for one subject go in one stack.
  • Create dated notes:  I use Evernote to keep track of call notes and updates, creating one note per subject in a specific work file, keeping most recent notes on top.  This helps me remember all the things I need will be in that file–before Evernote, there was a danger of some things being in email, some in a Word doc, some in Google Docs.  Now, even if I’ve started something in another space, I can import it into that Evernote file.
  • Share:  Evernote is not the space you want to be for real-time collaboration–for that, I use Google docs.  However, when I take notes at a conference, or create a research file I want to share with a partner, or make Google docs, I can save in the appropriate notebook, then share individual notes or share the whole notebook with a colleague.


Don’t just clip everything you like randomly.  If you do this, you’ll end up with the digital equivalent of my desk.  No one wants that.  When you are clipping or saving something to Evernote, organize it as you go.

Evernote free vs paid:

The free version will get you started just fine.  You get 60MB upload per month, and it syncs across the mobile and desktop apps.  If you become a serious user, there are two levels to upgrade to,now.  Evernote Plus is $2.99/month or $24 a year, and lets you upload 1GB each month, get a passcode on your phone, upload emails to Evernote, and access your notes when you’re offline.  Evernote Premium, at $5.99/month or $49.99/year gives you unlimited uploads, the ability to search PDFs by keyword, which I love given the amount of stuff I dump into Evernote, and a bunch of sharing features that are easier with the paid versions.

Evernote seems to know everything I do.  Whether I’m on Google or in the platform itself, it shares boxes that it deems similar to what I’m working on.  This has saved me once or twice, as I’ve mislabeled or forgotten to tag notes, yet I’ve still been able to find them.

What does this mean for students?

  • Students can digitize entire notebooks using the Scannable app and Evernote.  They will never have a lost notebook again.
  • Notebooks are now mobile.  With Evernote’s ability to sync, a student with a smartphone has all his or her notes available at all times.
  • Students can share notes or contribute to a single notebook, bringing the power of the crowd to learning.
  • Students can organize better, adding tables of contents, key words, and searchable terms.  No longer do you have those crumpled papers in the bottom of backpacks or below bananas in lockers.  They’re live.
  • The work is backed up.  “You lost my paper,” doesn’t fly anymore.  If I did, a kid can show me the copy and I can restore their good grade.
  • Students learn documentation.  Documentation is a professional skill, one I learned after college in my first job.  Teaching students to constantly check and document their work, grades, college applications is important.
  • Students start thinking on a higher level.  People aren’t just copying notes off a board anymore, they’re researching, sharing, evaluating, and collaborating.  This gives a space for higher-level assignments.

If you’re looking for a tool to organize you and students, search no further.  What I’ve shared here is the tip of the iceberg–Evernote 101.  Evernote integrates with pretty much every app you use or will use.  There’s a whole app center here.

This may just redefine the way you approach research, organization–and the old-school notebook.  Use Evernote to back things up, but also to organize, eliminate distraction, and to take learning to a whole new level.


[Photo credit:  Lifehacker.org]