Sunday, November 30, 2014

How Evernote Improves Organization In and Out of the Classroom

By Sean Scarpiello

Over the past few years, Evernote, an educational app designed to improve organization and collaboration in the classroom has continued to thrive and grow. Originally it started as an app with the ability to easily archive notes, Evernote has expanded to ease the jobs of both teachers and students. Evernote has now given students and teachers more benefits by adding additional utilities. The best part of all  is this free app is available to students on all different devices such as: smart phones, tablets, and laptops for Windows, Mac and Android. While there is a free version of Evernote, students and teachers may pay a small amount to gain access to more memory and utilities for education.

When you sign up for Evernote, users have access to really helpful programs. StudyBlue allows students to easily create flash cards, which can be used for studying large amounts of information quickly. Also, RefMe enables students to cite literature easily as well as bibliographies  and other assignments. Biscuit is another interesting program that allows students to improve their use of language while increasing their vocabulary, through word lists and dictionary tools.

One of the most interesting apps of Evernote is called eHighlighter, which truly improves the organization of students in and out of the classroom. Students can simply take a photo of their notes or the class blackboard and upload their photo to eHighlighter.  The app will then archive the students notes. Essentially, the notes within the photo are translated into text as if it were typed into a computer. eHighlighter then enables students to go back and review their notes by running searches  of specific key words within the notes. This allows students to easily find and review specific parts of their notes relating to specific class topics. As these notes are available in a digital media, students have full access to clearly written notes on their phone, tablet, or laptop. Furthermore, eHighlighter's features are not limited to class notes. Students can  take pictures of textbook passages, figures, graphs, homework assignments, and even confusing math problems worked out on a blackboard. eHighlighter then organizes all of these notes and rewrites the notes clearly  to be easily accessible. Another program in Evernote called Azendoo, allows students to take a photo of class notes or a worksheet  which is also converted into a digital file. Then, students can complete the worksheet on any of their devices and  email the completed document to their teacher. This allows students to not only easily complete and turn in their homework, but also save a copy  if there is a problem later on or for review when studying for a test.

Evernote even has an app that improves the educational experience of difficult math concepts which can often be awkward to learn on a computer. Through a program called Scalar, students have access to a digital notebook which helps map out and store the entire process of solving lengthy math equations. Scalar even includes a calculator for crunching numbers and other features where numbers can be color coded or crossed out to help students visualize solving math problems. Later, students can return to their account on any tablet, phone, or laptop and review all of the steps required to solve long and abstract math equations. Further, they have a copy of the math notes that are clear and easy to read.

Overall, Evernote has a number of innovative and extremely useful programs that improve the organization and collaboration of students in the classroom. In addition to Evernotes programs such as StudyBlue, RefMe, eHighlighter, Azendoo, and Scalar, have even more programs that student and teachers can benefit from in and out of the classroom. Plus, all of the data in a student’s account can be accessed from any device using the internet  in a clear and easy to read format. Most of all, Evernote is fantastic because it's technology is available at no cost and helps more students through the implementation of technology in education.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

An Old Fashioned Alternative to Education Apps

By Sean Scarpiello

These days, young students have easy access to all kinds of technology. Some schools have tablets and laptops for their students, while many students have access to a tablet or computer at home. With so much technology at their fingertips, students are always on their device. Yet while there is a growing availability of educational apps and programs on these devices, there are so many other apps that draw in young minds. For many grade school students, games like Angry Birds or Candy Crush are seconds away. For high school and college students, these games along with social media apps are available with the tap of their finger.

Looking back to when I was a child, video games were only accessible on a TV or desktop computer and socializing with friends meant meeting up in the neighborhood. Since there are so many other activities to take part in on their devices, many young students flock to games and social media when they are both at home, on the go, or relaxing. One way that this is a concern is  all of this technology takes away from one of the best ways to learn- reading a book. In the past, a lot of my peers in school would read for fun. If we were on a bus, in a car, at home, or on a beach we would relax by reading. When I look around now, it seems like people are too plugged into the internet and do not relax by reading a book. While it now seems like an old fashioned way to learn, reading is proven to increase vocabulary, develop writing skills, improve critical thinking, and so much more.

This lack of reading is already a huge problem. Some surveys now show that around 80% of college students change their major. When I was recently talking to a friend who was facing difficulty settling on a major, I asked him what he enjoys reading. His response was that he doesn’t really read anything. He never sat down to read a book for leisure or to learn about something that interests him. And while this is just one example, this lack of reading among young students is pervasive. The reason for this could be traced back to such easy availability to technology. Instead of curling up with a book on a rainy day, young students are relaxing by staring at their phones, playing the latest version of mindless games or viewing social media.

How can this be changed? Teachers in schools should get students to read more about individual interests. I had a reading teacher in middle school that had a huge bookshelf with books on all kinds of topics. We were required to read 20 minutes each day, but we were able to choose what we wanted to read. He had everything from science fiction to biographies. If at any point we became bored or uninterested in a book, it was perfectly acceptable to pick out a new book. In other classes, I observed many of my classmates hating to read the assigned pages from the book the teacher chose in the beginning of the year. Therefore, when we were able to choose what we wanted to read about, there was much less resistance to reading and more emphasis on learning.

Overall, while it is important to introduce the latest technologies into the classroom to improve education, sometimes the old fashioned ways still work the best. By having students  put their phones down to read a book, students can develop their own interests. In addition  reading will improve  their thinking, writing, and so much more.