Now that more and more classrooms are becoming digital it seems there’s a market for note taking apps over writing long hand. While there is some practical value to handwritten notes, like being able to use the margins and free space to jot down anything that seems helpful, many students now are proficient or extremely proficient when it comes to typing skills and may even be faster note taking through an app than through long hand. Students are living their lives through computers and tablets, so it only makes sense to eliminate the bulk of paper notebooks from their backpacks in favor of their multipurpose tablet. These 5 note taking apps go above and beyond the default notepad and make retaining information from the classroom both fun and extremely organized.
Two of the biggest obstacle when it comes to paper and the classroom are the notebooks and the agenda. Every student usually has between 5 and 7 spiral bound notebooks or binders in their locker or backpack making their haul home weigh upwards of 20 pounds if textbooks are included. On top of that an agenda is necessary to keep track of homework assignments, specialty classes, exam schedules, and field trips. inClass is an app that merges the classroom calendar and the ability to take notes for every class. This app allows the student to upload their entire semester schedule including each syllabus. Each class is color coded and through the features in the iPhone or iPad can also remind a student when exams are coming up and assignments are due. On the notetaking side, inClass offers classic text notes but also has audio, video, and photo notes available. This seems the most practical because students can not only take notes but integrate everything into their schedule and stay on task, all without the use of cumbersome notepads or agendas they forget at home.
Catch Notes takes the to do list and amplifies it. Using color to separate categories this app organizes everything from assignments to ideas and even works as a personal notebook. The overall idea is to use the app to “catch” your notes as they happen, whether you jot them down on the bus, or record them after you’ve finished your shower, Catch Notes offers both text and audio notes as well as photo notes all on the go from any smartphone. Notes can be synced across devices from catch.com and moved into “Spaces” to be shared among friends. This app could be applied to group projects as well as homework help all through the internet. While it may be difficult for students to use this for in class note taking, due to the simplicity, it can still work very well by keeping all the notes in one place. This app is acceptable for note taking in classes, but may be better used as an addition to handwritten notes due to the simple notepad style format.
One reason some students struggle in the classroom is because they can’t keep up with the lecture. Many students struggle to pay attention, keep their focus, and keep their hand flowing as the class continues. Some students aren’t sure which information is the most important and should be written down, and which is just filler like extra examples or background information they won’t be tested on. Super Note is perfect for those students looking for a way to record their lectures and keep them organized beyond using a tape or digital recorder, or the simple app on their phone or tablet. Super Note allows for recording of whole lectures, during which the student and type on the app or create a to do list. This app would be the perfect companion for the student who knows they need extra time in the classroom but doesn’t have time to go to each office hours or stay after school. By recording the lecture and attempting to take notes the student can relisten to the lecture and fill in where they missed. This is also great for students who would like to hear everything again, or feels their notes are missing something when they go to study for a test. This app keeps every recording organized and categorized through color coding, which is perfect for a student with a busy schedule and multiple classes.
With some many students having access to an iPad it makes sense that there’s an app available that turns the iPad or any tablet into a digital notebook. So many students lose or forget their notebooks, not to mention the weight of carrying several notebooks for each class. Note Taker HD creates a digital notebook through the tablet, allowing the student to write on the screen just like they would on a piece of notebook paper. The pages expand depending on how much space is available and even allows for diagrams to be placed inside the pages. PDFs can also be annotated within the screen, making those college assignments through BlackBoard even easier to read and prepare for the next lecture. Writing can be done with your finger or an approved stylus for the device, rendering the screen almost exactly like a sheet of paper but without the smudging or tearing that comes with overuse. This app is great for any student looking to take notes on one device and keep everything together instead of lugging a backpack full of paper.
Students looking for a more notebookesque look to their notes should try Penultimate. This app allows students to write on the screen and have their notes look like they’re straight from a notebook. There are several paper styles available, and through swiping at the bottom students can flip through their notes just like they would through a traditional notebook. Ink colors and styles are available which are great for students who would like to color code terms, examples, and the like without having to carry several different pens with them at all times. Pages can also be viewed in multiple sets, with up to six pages per screen which makes finding the information quickly a breeze. Photos can also be added and written on, which will work well for students who are provided with slides and are looking for a digital way to take notes. Penultimate offers multiple notebooks as well which makes using the tablet for note taking that much easier. The color capabilities and functions in this app makes it a great choice for those looking for a lot from their tablet in the classroom.
Samantha Kotey is the editor for AvatarGeneration and has a background in educational technology and virtual worlds. A mom of two, she is passionate about all things related to toys and technology.