Taking note: Notability, Evernote, Dropbox and Remember the Milk on iPad #pgce

As I am trying to think about my second PGCE assignment, and what topic I will use for an action research project on my second teaching placement, the ideal displacement activity is blogging about my reading and note taking methods that I use 😉

Taking notes in class


I use my iPad every day, I bought it instead of a laptop for my PGCE course and it hasn’t let me down. For day to day notes in lectures and seminars, I use Notability (which is on sale at the moment and well worth several times its current price of 69p). I like the pretty colours for organising notes into categories, it is easy to use and has lots of great features. I can :

  • quickly add and annotate photos (so I usually photograph the paper handouts we are given)
  • handwrite directly on the page – I use this a lot for maths, much quicker than trying to type equations or numbers on the iPad
  • draw figures – the new version supports handwriting on the page, so I find I am using this option less than I used to, but it is still useful for the pre-formatted shapes (circles, rectangles etc)
  • insert webclips – very useful to bung in a bookmarked screenshot of sites we discuss, or YouTube videos we are shown in class
  • easy pre-set formatting – you can add pre-set formats (e.g. size 20, blue, bold) to the tool bar to quickly make headings.
  • copy and paste – useful for getting text from slides if they are uploaded to Blackboard before the lecture, or I sometimes screenshot the slides from Dropbox and insert them into the text
  • taking photos of all the fun stuff we make or the activities we do

I export my notes as PDFs to Dropbox so I can refer to them on my desktop Mac if needed, or look them up on the iPod touch. I was concerned initially about not being able to produce nicely formatted editable text documents (notability exports as RTF or another RTF format which is only readable on a Mac) but I’ve found that the sort of notes I take are usually just for reference, and I can always strip out the text from a PDF if I really need it. The PDF ensures that the notes look as nice as they do when I write them, with all the photos and handwriting in place as I intended it.

Example page from Notability

Reading papers and taking notes

For my last assignment, I read a mix of books, journal articles and PDFs of book chapters given to us through the chapter digitisation system available from the library for courses. I got into a system of taking notes like this:

  • upload chapter to Dropbox in a ‘reading folder’
  • use ‘send link’ option in Dropbox (on iPad) to email link to Remember the Milk using the Smart Add in the email subject line to tag it for PGCE list/reading/Dropbox (useful because the filename of the PDF is often just a code if downloaded from a journal, so easy to forget what on earth it is in a file list)
  • when I am ready to read, I open GoodReader (for iPad £2.99) and sync to Dropbox folder
  • find the read and annotate, mostly using highlight/ pop up notes
  • email as PDF with summary to Evernote via email upload
  • tag and put uploaded notes into a single Evernote notebook

I found searching back through notes in Evernote really useful when I came to writing up, I could search for quotations, authors, terms and topics. It gave me an easy way to cross reference between different authors who were discussing similar subjects.

As Stuart would say, that was a boring post, but I hope it may be useful to someone 😉


6 thoughts on “Taking note: Notability, Evernote, Dropbox and Remember the Milk on iPad #pgce”

  1. Thanks Jo. V boring 😉 I didn’t really get into Notability because it doesn’t sync automatically – finding Evernote and Skitch good for most things (I’ve even ordered a stylus!). They don’t do everything Notability does (the formatting’s not as good) but the auto sync is a big thing. Loving GoodReader too – thanks for the tip!

    1. I tried a stylus and sometimes used it for drawing but very rarely. I got a pogo one which was cheap but functional. I can touch type and found the iPad smart cover in landscape was fine for typing with both hands on the ipad virtual keyboard.

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