Thing 27: Note-Taking Tools & Skills

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Do you already have a great method for keeping track of notes, lists, action items, research material and all those other pesky little (and big!) things you need to keep track of?

How about your students? Do they have good note-taking skills?  And the tools that help them stay organized?

I suspect that most of us get along with a mix of online and paper-based note taking tools. And switch methods depending on the situation. Taking notes in a lecture is very different than taking notes while doing research for an essay or project.

I confess, I often do my grocery lists on the back of old envelopes, though increasingly I use Google Keep as well.  If I’m at a conference, I often just use paper and pen to take notes and sketch ideas during a session.  And as I move through my work day, I use online note taking tools to keep track of great articles, resources, ideas and tools that I want to refer back to various client projects, images that I think I can use in blog posts, notes for household projects and so much more. I’d be lost without online note-taking tools. How about you?

Use this lesson to examine what you’re already doing and explore other tools to see if your current strategy is the best it can be. And consider which tools might work best for the students in your school, keeping in mind that they might want to try a variety of tools to see what works best for them.



  • EvernoteMicrosoft OneNote and Google Keep – These are the big 3 of note-taking and store-everything kind of tools. Each one has different strengths and weaknesses. But all 3 are can help you quickly capture and organize your notes, ideas, web page content and more. All have mobile, Web and Chromebook apps to keep you synchronized across all your devices.
  • Google Keep is simple to use and integrates beautifully with other Google tools. Though it lacks many of the formatting options of tools like Evernote and OneNote, you might not even miss those features since it has so many other options. (good video overview
    • It has a web clipper to quickly save content from a web page, the URL of the page comes along with the content. Great for students doing research, they won’t lose the source info.
    • Photos can be stored in notes, handy for adding screenshots and more.
    • But you can’t attach other types of files like a PDF or an audio file to your notes.
    • Notes can be color coded to help organize them. Creating labels for topics or categories can also help organize your notes.
    • Best of all, you can drag and drop Keep notes into Google Docs, Slides and Drawings. Look under the TOOLS menu to open your Keep notes in the sidebar.
    • FREE. Works on web, mobile, Chromebook.
  • Evernote, and Microsoft OneNote both have more formatting and organizing features than Keep.
    • Like Keep, they both have handy “web clippers” that help you save content from a web page quickly and easily.
    • Both have options to email content to them, a handy feature if you receive lots of emails that you need to file for future projects.
    • OneNote is free, which gives it quite an edge over  Evernote.  Evernote used to have a very good free option, but that free version has been downgraded, leaving a lot of users unhappy and looking for a new tool. (Personally, I’ve been an Evernote fangirl for a long time and pay for the premium service. To be totally transparent, the link above is a referral link.)
  • Simplenote – Another free tool with apps for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and Linux. Truly simple, text only, no multimedia. Options to share notes and collaborate with other Simplenote users. Notes can also be published for anyone to see. Create tags to organize content.  Nice distraction free option.
  • Padlet* – This tool can be used for so many things and note-taking is one of them. Students can create share Padlet boards to gather notes, images, text clipped from web pages and more. Or they can use their own boards individually. Boards can be shared with teachers, so they can monitor progress.  Free accounts get 3 boards. Educator plans with unlimited student accounts are available for $99.  *Padlet referral code should get you one extra free board.
  • The 10 Best Note-Taking Apps for Your Personal and Professional Life – More tools to explore.
  • Nimbus Note – New to me, haven’t tested it yet. What do you think?
  • 7 Reasons You Need to Try Voice Typing in Google Docs  Do you have students who struggle with typing or writing? Maybe Voice Typing in Google Docs can help them get their thoughts written down. Kasey Bell shares tips on how to use it.
  • Cybrary Man’s Note Taking resource page – Links to lots of additional resources.


Activities – Some ideas and activities to consider for this lesson:

  • Consider what your current note-taking system is. What are it’s strengths? What do you want to improve.
  • Try out a new tool. How does it compare with what you’re currently doing?
  • What tools might work for students? How might you you introduce and integrate them into current projects?
  • Explore other tools you’re interested in or other aspects of this topic. As long as you’re learning something new!

Your Blog Post

  • Reflect on any articles you read. What new ideas did you glean?
  • Share your experiences and ideas about the tools you explored.
  • How could they help you professionally? Personally? How might you use them with your students?


  • Write & publish your blog post.
  • Copy the URL (webpage address) for your post.
  • Return to your Google Classroom, find the assignment page for the lesson you just completed and follow the directions for turning in and sharing your work.

*Only for students participating in the workshop for PD credit hours through the Google Classroom.

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