Three Ways to Use Evernote in Action Research

We are very familiar with Evernote in our school. Our staff collects, organizes and shares out student work in the form of digital portfolios with this application via iPads. Parents can see their son’s or daughter’s progress as it is happening. Our portfolio night in April has now become a Showcase Night. Evernote’s ability to easily capture images, audio, and text makes it a necessary tool for ongoing assessment, student reflection, and responsive instruction.

But what about our own learning as professionals? Can the data and artifacts we collect help us become even more reflective about our practice? These are some of the questions we are trying to answer, in lieu of Wisconsin’s new Educator Effectiveness Plan. While teachers’ Student Learning Objectives will be measured by local and state quantitative assessments, the Professional Practice Goal is based more on qualitative data.

I was introduced to the book The Reflective Educator’s Guide to Classroom Research: Learning to Teach and Teaching to Learn Through Practitioner Inquiry, 2nd Edition (Corwin, 2009) by Nancy Fitchman Dana and Diane Yendol-Hoppey from the Connected Coaching course I took last summer with Lani Ritter Hall. The authors provide a clear template of how teachers can become students of their own practice. They include several reasons for action research, such as being a powerful tool for professional development and expanding the knowledge of teaching in important ways.

In addition, Dana and Yendol-Hoppey see action research as an important vehicle for raising teachers’ voices in education reform. “While both the process-product and qualitative research paradigms have generated valuable insights into the teaching and learning process, they have not included the voices of the people closest to the children – classroom teachers” (3).

To measure one’s own practice and make improvements, several pieces of artifacts are needed to reflect on the day-to-day instruction. The authors offer several strategies for capturing our own instruction and student learning. The first strategy, Field Notes, involves scripting dialogue and conversations, recording questions the students and/or teacher asks, or noting what students are doing at particular time intervals.

Where Evernote Comes In

For scripting dialogue and conversations, I would use a Moleskine Evernote notebook. The advantage is, once you have scripted what you hear, you can scan in your notes into a specific Evernote notebook. Your handwriting is then readable if searching for specific terms. These notebooks can be assigned to a student, or to a subquestion from a teacher’s main wondering in their action research.

Evernote Snapshot 20140528 075017

The second idea from the authors when taking field notes is to have some sticky notes on your lanyard with a pen. If you want to capture student learning while teaching and don’t have a notebook around, write down what happened on the note. Evernote and Post-It have teamed up to create scannable stickies. When using an iPad or iPhone, there is an option to take a picture of a Post-It Note within Evernote. Just like the Moleskine notebooks, what you write becomes readable and searchable.

A final strategy for field notes is recording audio of students having a conversation and/or of yourself teaching.

Evernote Snapshot 20140528 075025

The authors recommend that whoever is being recorded is comfortable with the process. When this was written, iPads were not in the picture. That is why this tool, along with Evernote, can be so powerful. Students are very comfortable with these devices. Plus, the microphones are hidden.

For a more comprehensive field note, a peer observer could record audio of student conversations, while he/she also scripted specific parts of the dialogue, such as coding the level of questions asked by each learner.

How do you see technology such as Evernote augmenting action research in the classroom? Please share in the comments.

Note: All notes derive from the aforementioned resource and were written in a Moleskine Evernote notebook. All doodles are from yours truly.

Author: Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is an 18-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th-grade teacher in Rudolph, WI. He now serves as an elementary principal for the Mineral Point Unified School District ( Matt also teaches online graduate courses in curriculum design and instructional leadership for the University of Wisconsin-Superior. He tweets @ReadByExample and writes for ASCD ( and Lead Literacy (

4 thoughts on “Three Ways to Use Evernote in Action Research”

    1. Hi Jeff. My thinking is that only the content on the notes would be scanned in. If it is an actual artifact, such as student writing, you would use the Document setting when scanning it into Evernote.

      There are also Smart Stickers for the Moleskine Evernote notebooks. When Evernote “reads” the document with a certain color sticker, it puts that document into a preassigned notebook. It can be a time saver, although I have found that Evernote doesn’t always remember what notebook you assigned each sticker to (ironic, right?).


  1. Matt,
    You have such a good handle on the way to move from Post-Its and Moleskin into Evernote. I’m still trying wrap my head around all of it. I’d like to see all of this in action.

    You’ve made some interesting points when considering using Evernote for action research. I’m wondering how this would go if I chose a question(s) at the beginning of the year and tagged notes that would relate for later synthesis. Scripting dialogue can be time-consuming. I’m thinking there has to be an app that would do that quickly as you sit beside a student. Maybe?

    Right now, my Evernote application has basically two years worth of information. I really need to clean it out. I know I would like to keep some things: examples of student work to use as mentors, notes which reflect important shifts, snippets of work that create a picture of the work done in the classroom. Where to begin?



    1. As you know Cathy, I responded to part of your inquiry here:

      For scripting dialogue, I am wondering if you would be able to invite a colleague into your classroom and script? They could type up the dialogue occurring within Evernote, while also recording audio in case they miss anything.

      Wow, two years worth of data. I am jealous! I just started collected my teachers’ learning artifacts this year within Evernote. You have an amazing opportunity to develop some baseline understandings about your students with all of this data.

      Going back to your initial question, what if your current wondering and subquestions (based on your passions and classroom setting) drove your research? Through this lens, you could organize your data around these themes. You would have a clear understanding of your school’s and students’ current reality as you move forward.

      I write like I know what I am talking about…this is all based on the current reading I have done. I have yet to put these practices into formal action. Besides the title I mentioned above, I also liked The Power of Questions by Falk and Blumenreich (Heinemann, 2005). It is very straight-forward and written with teacher practitioners in mind. For a more succinct resource, check out Digging Deeper into Action Research by Fitchman Dana (Corwin, 2013). It is all of 86 pages, and comes with templates and a DVD of action research in, well, action. 🙂


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