Tag Archives: Note Taking

Another new note taking App

19 Dec

As students perform more and more of their class work on the iPad we are really putting note taking apps through it. We have tried Goodreader, iAnnotate, NoteShelf, Remarks, Notability and now UPAD. So far none of them are perfect but we are now leaning towards UPAD. Remarks was our standard at the beginning of the year but we saw consistent problems with data corruption and deleted annotations. While we really like the typing features and the interface of Remarks we can’t stand by and watch our students keep losing work. We have moved to UPAD. It has a great handwriting engine, pretty good folder structure, decent typing tools and the ability to read PDFs and take free hand notes. Students have not lost data and are therefore trust UPAD with their work.

We are always looking for a new note taking app. If you have suggestions send them our way.
Requirements for a good note taking app…
1. Handwritten notes
2. Typing took
3. PDF reader
4. Free hand note taking section
5. Connect to either WebDAV and/or Dropbox
6. Folder structure that allows students to organize their notes
7. A way to open the notes in other PDF apps
8. Ability to change tools, colors and options quickly and easily.

I know there are more but at some point you have to stop!

Using Explain Everything for class notes? No…Animation Creator HD? YES

15 Nov

If you have read this post before see the additional information below with follow up and student examples.


We have used the iPad app Explain Everything for two different projects in my anatomy and physiology .

  1. Student created videos on specific topics: See my post here
  2. Teacher created videos to flip the classroom

These two uses have been very successful so far. The app is really good for what it is, explaining topics. Using Explain Everything makes sense for this type of activity because it records what you say, and what you write as you are saying it. It also allows you to import images, PowerPoint slides, and even webpages.

I am experimenting with changing the use of Explain Everything in my class. Instead of creating a video the students are going to create their in class notes using it. I am not sure exactly how this is going to work but we are going to see.

The Topic: Muscle Physiology

Students struggle with this topic because there are so many steps and moving parts. When students get finished with their notes they sometimes look down and see a big mess of positive calcium and sodium ions and they might not be able to determine where they started or where they finished. My hope is that by using Explain Everything students can duplicate slides and add the steps in. Each slide will then be a representation of one specific step.

It is my hope that at the end of class we will have time for the students to add their own audio explanations to the slides. How effective this way of taking notes is going to be…..I don’t know but time will hopefully tell me.

The Next Day….

Feedback on using this app for notes was not strong. It was a little clunky and the biggest issue was students not being able to add recordings in class. After my experience I discussed this problem with some other teachers before their class so they could try a different app. They used Animation Creator HD. It went great! Students left the classroom with more knowledge after the first day then they usually had after day three or four. In addition the homework was to watch their animation and use it to explain muscle contraction to someone in their family. Tomorrow I am going to have my class do this instead. Lastly I think we are going to export the animation to iMovie and have the students overlay their own audio explaining each step! (This might be the most import part of this activity)

Update after using Animation Creator HD

After using Animation Creator HD with my anatomy and physiology classes I can say that my students have not only learned the material but enjoyed making the animations. Students were engaged with the topic, the animation app and with each other during this process. You can see the an example of the animation created below.  I will continue to add more and more students examples as they turn them in.


Here are three examples with audio.  The students added the audio using iMovie for homework.  They had to talk fast to fit in the audio.  A better option would have been for us to go back and duplicate slides more so the animation went slower in certain areas.

When we finished with the animation I asked the students three question. They answer 0 for bad and 5 for awesome.

1. How did you like using this app? Average 4.5

2. Do you feel like you know muscle contraction significantly better then before this activity? Average 4.5/5

3. Would you like to use this note taking process again? 4/5



Remarks: Failing Us

11 Nov

In my classroom we have moved away from using Remarks as our note taking app because of two reasons. First the app corrupts PDF files at an unacceptable rate. Out of our 600 + students using Remarks we found that most of them have had more then two corrupt files in the first two months of school. The response from the App developers about this has been rather slow.

The second reason we have moved away from it is because students saw their annotations disappear from PDF documents. This also was a fairly regular occurrence. When trying to motivate students to learn, annotate, and answer questions on their iPads having their hard work just vanish was not helpful!

We are now testing many new note taking and PDF annotating apps including UPad, Notability and iAnnotate. If you have any ideas please let us know!