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!