Google or Evernote: Which Tool Do You Prefer for Capturing Student Learning?

This question, in so many words, was asked by Cathy Mere. She is wondering about the same thing that I am, and maybe you are too. Here is my response:


photo credit: melenita2012 via photopin cc

I have three reading interventionists in my building. One of them started using Evernote with her iPad this year. Her goal was to capture her students’ learning both with audio and images. She had a couple of challenging learners, and was looking to help them identify their own progress through self-assessment. She had her students listen to themselves read after recording them. This teacher also shared her students’ notebooks with our district’s lead interventionist via Evernote as an accountability piece.

She used Evernote because, I believe, that is what our building is using. Several training sessions were provided for all staff on this tool. When she shared a note with another teacher, everyone was using the same tool. I share this because when thinking about a digital tool to capture student learning, I believe it is important that the collaborators are at least familiar with the medium. However, we also have to use the tool that works for us, especially when trying to document learning in the middle of instruction.

I like Google; don’t get me wrong. It is such powerful technology for professional collaboration and documentation. Our whole staff uses Google Drive for meeting minutes and for our digital data wall. Many of the 4th and 5th graders also using Google for writing and presentations.

But I think the efficiencies only go so far with Google. Great for storage, creation and collaboration, but does it provide a way for teachers to methodically go back through student artifacts and find themes and patterns? Evernote does, because of it’s ability to tag notes and to put several related artifacts within one note.

At the same time…

I felt like our digital portfolios were really helpful with students assessing their own work, and parents seeing their work throughout the year, but what about staff being able to use these artifacts for their own learning?

To sum up, whatever tool we use to collect, organize, analyze, and reflect on student learning has to be meaningful and essential for all those involved in the process. This includes teachers. Our goal as reflective practitioners is to become better at our profession. It happens when we become students of our own instruction.

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 (

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