For the past few years I’ve attempted my different strategies and tech tools for effective digital notes. Trying to parallel Cornell paper notes in the digital world was the goal. I’ve used templates, shared Google forms and documents, with much more work for students than value in the end. This was before the addon AutoCrat was shared with me and there was a new angle.
From the beginning using AutoCrat was easy and effective to empower students and communicate progress with parents. My list of forms started with academic advisory updates, adding summative retakes, retake follow ups and parent volunteer information for field trips. Each format was simple to create, appreciated by users and loved by parents. In addition, when sharing these forms with other teachers, they found the tool to be equally efficient and effective.
So connecting my quest for student friendly digital notes with AutoCrat was a natural fit, especially when I stumbled onto sharing an editable Google document to Google Drive. As with all my AutoCrat creations, I start with the document. I kept referring to the paper version of Cornell notes I use when teaching students how to take traditional notes. Creating a document with inserted table for data fields went well and was visually appealing. Since I am spatially limited, my talented teaching team assisted with some needed modifications.
I created the document, form and AutoCrat merge for my first classroom attempt, with the start of our next chapter. Students recognized the connection to traditional notes and most said it was user friendly. The only problem that occurred was to have them enter their email address so they would receive the document in Gmail and as would be expected, many didn’t get it right. Thus their notes were hung in error mode on my end. The class realized quickly they could share a copy with each other, but that defeated the power of owning from start to finish in their drive. I was able to remove the email field and just grab the $username script, which was their school email address.
With the bugs fixed it was time for the next session of concept notes. Students were given the choice of taking traditional paper or new digital form. Overall, just over 60% of the students used this new digital notes option. The beauty was in giving the class choice and not a one size fits all model. In addition, students needing a para professional scribe received the same type of digital notes via Gmail just like their classmates. This session of notes went as smooth as I had observed since digitizing my classroom in the summer of 2013.
Of course the proof is in the pudding and the chapter concepts test would be my tool to compare to past classes. After all four sections submitted their tests, the results put a smile the face of many students. The average for all classes had increased by just under 6% from last year’s results and 8% increase the year before that. Those are numbers I love to see and more important is students had a better understanding of the material and feeling success. Yes, there were still some retakes, but that number was way lower from previous years and the gap to getting the standards much smaller.
I highly recommend using the addon AutoCrat tool as a digital note taking option for students. The class really liked having a choice as to which tool they could use. It’s not perfect and digital distraction tabs are still present if I don’t move about the room, monitoring the learning. Anytime a student can take more ownership in their learning, everybody wins. I have created a "how to" video in my
"Tools" tab above.