Powerful Project-Based Learning with Evernote

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On July 13, 2013, Posted by , In Musings, By ,, , With No Comments

How do you effectively follow the learning journey of 136 students working on a 5 week long project? Moreover, how can you quickly verify they are locating credible sources of information, synthesising this information and then using it to create original work?

These are challenges I face on a recurring basis as a coordinator of MYP Technology and for the past three years I’ve been effectively meeting these challenges using Evernote and Moodle.

In this post I detail some practical tips and tricks for harnessing these technologies.

Show Them Success

Right from the get go it’s imperative you setup a sample workbook in Evernote that students can reference.  I make sure that all of the possible notes follow a numbering convention that is aligned to the stages of the project.  This keeps things streamlined making it easy to scan, assess and feedback.  My sample notebooks contain various scaffolds to assist students such as leading sentences for critical evaluation of web clippings and actual assessment rubrics.

Once I have everything setup correctly, I will perform two important tasks;

  1. Share the notebook publicly and post the link to our class moodle (as a graphic of course!)
  2. Export the notebook as a file and post a link to this on moodle (again…as a graphic)

I will use the shared notebook with them in class as an introduction aid and the students can download, import and customize the sample notebook.  Since this is the third year I have been using Evernote I now have a great collection of student samples that students can refer to and I’ll ask them to review the samples in table groups and them post their thoughts on a group forum for class discussion.  They really appreciate having the opportunity to see the journey their peers have taken and the forum provides you as a teacher an excellent way to capture their thoughts and suggestions for improvement.

Trap Issues Early

Next you want to ensure you have access to everyones notebooks and this is where Moodle is king, especially when you are talking about 136 notebook submissions!

Once the students imported the sample notebooks they will then share them and submit the public link to a pre-prepared Online Assignment on Moodle.  I will have have the submission screen visible on the class projector so we can all see the submissions in real-time.  I’ll then open each submission (link to their notebook) in new tabs (Cmd + Click on Mac) to verify the link is correct and everything is in order.

In my experience this is essential at the beginning as you don’t want to waste (busy) time after class following up on incorrect or non submissions.  I use Groups in Moodle to logically divide the entire grade into sections which makes it super easy to locate, monitor and support large numbers of students.

Check In, Often

Establishing regular checkpoints is critical for deeper learning with projects.  I publish a Google Calendar inside our Moodle course with designated class visits and where possible I will review student notebooks prior to class.  This allows me to quickly identify those students that are not making progress, send them a message of encouragement and then work directly with them in class.   The process also allows you to see information sources students have reviewed that may be beneficially for all and have those students share them verbally with their peers.  I’ll also asks students to do a peer review in class of significant stages against the relevant rubric the day before that stage is due.

Make Learning Transparent

The Moodle assignment activity allows you as a teacher to mark against multiple criteria and more importantly, lets the student have a running record of their learning and progress.  One of the six MYP Criteria asks for students to evaluate their process, personal performance and potential impact of their work. With the Evernote notebook submitted as a Moodle online assignment, students find it easy to keep track of their learning using the Moodle Grade book and I’ve noticed that in many cases this has deepened their overall reflection on the project.

If you’ve read this far, I hope this post gives you an idea for the use of these technologies for facilitating projects.  Please do leave a comment if you have further questions or suggestions.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by premasagar

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