6 Reasons to Use Evernote With Special Needs Students


     If you have not heard of Evernote, it is a personal productivity tool that is free on the web.  In addition to its many useful features, Evernote syncs to all of the student’s devices (tablet, phone, laptop) so they can have their information at their fingertips wherever they are. 

     As I use Evernote myself, I keep finding tools that would work perfectly to meet accessibility needs of special needs students. 

     Evernote can serve as a catchall for all of the resources that students find on the web.  This is important because we know that if an organization system is too difficult or cumbersome, students will not be successful.  They need a straightforward and concrete system that will allow them to find the information that they need quickly and efficiently. 

As a student with special needs moves through the grades in school, they need to begin to understand their disability and find tools that make learning easier.  As they build their toolbox, they rely on others less and themselves more.  Evernote has some great accessibility features that make is an outstanding tool for the toolbox!

     Believe me, as I find more features in Evernote that provide accessibility for all students, I will share them out but here are 6 to start with:

1.  Web Clipper– Evernote’s Web Clipper is an Chrome app that allows students to “clip” the article, page or picture that they are currently looking at on the web, tag it and put it in their Evernote files. This tool will be ideal when students are researching topics, they can clip them, tag them under the project name and access them when they are ready to create the project.  This feature is also a great option for capturing the steps of a process, directions for an experiment or assignment instructions.  Web Clipper is also a great bookmarking tool.  When students find websites that they return to time and time again (game sites, Khan Academy, Spelling City, Thesaurus.com, etc.…), they can clip the page, tag it and all of their favorites are easily found in a note or notebook.

2.  Notes and Notebooks– Students with special needs struggle with organization.  They need a system that allows them to find information in a way that fits their learning style.  In Evernote, students can save information in notes or put those notes in notebooks.  Their approach will depend on their organizational style.  They may need to try one way and see what works.  Whichever method they choose will only be made easier with Evernote’s clean and uncluttered layout.  I instantly knew that I wanted to use this tool with special needs students because the entire user interface is free of distractions and extremely easy to navigate.

3.  Edit:  This is genius!  Once a note is saved, it’s font, text color and size can be altered to meet the need of the reader.  Do you have a student with a visual impairment and need to boost the font size up to 30?  Not a problem.  Is the student having trouble reading the Times New Roman font in the article?  Change it to Arial!  Change the color of the words that the child had trouble reading to come back and practice later.  There is even a highlighter!  No more do you have to copy and paste an article into a word processing program, fool around with the formatting just to make the print accessible for students with special learning needs.  Evernote got it right!

4.  Text to speech— This is a great feature to allow struggling readers a way to learn information from an article or web resource independently.  The student simply has to highlight any text to be read aloud, right click, choose speech and start speaking.  No need to have a teacher read the passage aloud!  A computerized voice starts reading what was highlighted!  I realize that computerized voices are not ideal but when there is no one else there to read a word that a child does not know, it is a great feature! 

  5.  Record audio– I cannot believe this feature is on the free version of Evernote!  By simply clicking on the icon of a microphone, audio can be recorded and attached to any note.  Text can be read aloud for a student, students can add notes about why they clipped a particular item and how they will use it later.  They can record ideas that they are having while or after they read a selection.  Teachers can add guiding questions for students to consider while they are reading an article.  The possibilities are endless!

6.  Skitch– Skitch allows students ways to “mark up” a note to highlight important information.  In addition to highlighting, students can bring attention to key points by surrounding it with colored boxes, circles, adding arrows pointing to it and adding text notes to it.  They could write themselves a note to “Look Here!” and add an arrow so they remember to use a particular part of the article in a project. This app allows students to take control of their learning and definitely makes it more exciting than simply using a highlighter. Skitch is an add on Evernote app that is free for 30 days. 

     So are you ready to try Evernote with your special needs students this school year?  I would love to hear how you are using it working with students of various learning styles.  Be sure to add a comment and share how you are using this great tool with your students!




Google Apps Cheat Sheet

Google Billboard Sign

One goal of every parent and teacher should be to help children add valuable resources to their “toolbox”.  This toolbox will enable them to be as independent as possible when learning new material.  Students must learn to be self-sufficient when they get “stuck” and know that it is their responsibility to continue to search for the next step to solve the problem.   When they have a toolbox of resources to choose from, they begin to problem solve and think critically about which tools can help them solve particular problems.

There are many tools out there, which can leave parents, teachers and students alike a bit overwhelmed with where to start developing a toolbox.  One place to start is by getting to know the free apps of Google.  You may not have known that Google has a free version of each of the apps in the Microsoft Office suite.  It will be a bit of practice to learn to use them as they have subtle differences from their Microsoft Office counterparts.  However, to ease the transition, instructors at the Google Teacher Academy have created Google Apps Crib Sheets.  All of them are located here http://bit.ly/18iFqSl .

Not only do these crib sheets teach how to use each tool, they also give ideas and examples of using the tool in educational settings.  This allows users to see how others have applied the tool for solving a problem or completing a project.

Do you currently use Google Apps with your students or children?  How are you using them?  If you are just getting started, please share how you are starting to use them with your children.



WANTED: Parents Using Technology With Their Special Needs Children

Parents Teaching With Technology

Are you a parent teaching with technology?

Have you found a free or low-cost tech tool/s that works for a special need of your child?

If so, I would love to interview you so other parents benefit from your expertise!

I am setting up interviews for a 2013-2014 podcast that will be available at no cost to other parents.

 To sign up, please click here.

Do not assume that other parents know what you know!  You may have stumbled on a way to use technology to help your child learn that could truly help another parent teach their special needs child.

 Have faith in your abilities!

If you know of other parents that would be interested in being interviewed, I would appreciate it if your would pass this along to them.

I look forward to hearing from you!


Resources Every Teacher Needs to Know About

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* Learn about the latest technologies helping other teachers excel?

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* Stay in tune with what matters most in today’s schools?
* Feel up-to-speed on the “latest and greatest” strategies and tools?

If you answered YES to any of the above, join me inside the hottest education resource: SimpleK12’s Teacher Learning Community.

==> Create a FREE Basic Membership Today.

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4 Sites to Rein In Distractible/Anxious Kids (and Adults!)

4 Sites to Reign In Distractible/Anxious Kids

Are you, your children or your students highly distractible when trying to get work done?  Or are there anxiety issues?  There are many websites out there that offer realistic sounds designed for relaxation and focus.  I have showcased 4 of my favorites here:

Site #1:  www.soundrown.com —8 sounds  Coffee shop, waves, rain, fountain, kids, crickets, train, white noise

Ideas for use:

1.  Concentration-kids/ adults listen while working- blocks out noises if you don’t like listening to music.

2.  Calming down- have kids put the headphones on listen and take a much needed time out

3.  Travel training or foreshadowing Prepare for a trip to the coffee shop.  They will be ready for the types of noises one hears at a coffee shop (grinding, pounding, lots of conversation, etc. ) Also, preparing for a train trip.  It is unfortunate that you cannot emulate the rocking motion to accompany the sound of click clacking along the tracks.

Site #2:  www.Rainymood.com – Great rain site.  Thunder and everything.  I only wish drops on glass on screen were synchronized with rain sounds.  That would be awesome auditorily and visually.

Idea for use:

1.  If kids are afraid of thunderstorms, you can use this site to have the child listen in a safe environment.  These sound effects pair great with the “angels are bowling” story that parents typically tell to soothe fears of thunder.  At the time of a real thunderstorm kids can often be so worked up that there is no soothing them. Becoming familiar of the sounds before the storm can help make the real storm a bit less scary.

Site # 3:  http://www.naturesoundplayer.com/  This sound site has 8 sounds . This site is great because you can combine sounds.  I was listening to crickets and a crackling fire.

Idea for use:

1.  This could be very motivating for kids to “self regulate”.  The ultimate goal with finding sounds that work to help kids regulate their anxiety and emotions is for them to begin to use them independently.  They need to understand how it feels when their anxiety starts and make healthy choices to soothe themselves.  This is an important life skill.  This site makes choosing sounds fun because there can be endless combinations!

Site #4:  http://coffitivity.com/  For all of us out there that love to work at a coffee shop.  Well, you can have the sounds even when you cannot get away.  The genius’ at Coffitivity have figured it out.  They recommend that listeners combine the coffee shop sound with their music.  They also include the research showing how these sounds increase creativity.

Idea for use:

1.  This could be a great site to use to get kids used to various sounds that you would not only hear in a coffee shop, but at a restaurant, a store and even school.  I could see parents using this site as an opportunity to prepare their kids for a particular outing or for the first day of school.

No matter which of these sites are used, the key is that students that are distractible or have anxiety issues are learning how to help themselves.  As adults, we want to teach them to recognize their distractibiltiy or anxiety and to independently reach into their “toolbox” or strategies and choose one to get them back on track as soon as possible.

I would love to hear how you are using any one of these sites.  Please leave a comment to share your experience with them.