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Digital note-taking tools experiment


Research, observation, content gathering are the foundation skills of reporters. In this lesson, students will apply research, observation and note-taking skills to synthesize a new method of news gathering with digital note-taking apps such as Evernote and Google Keep. Students will practice using the features of both apps and appraise the features for their style of note-taking. Students need a general knowledge of the reporting process— idea, research, interviews, reporting, observation and producing.


  • Students will understand the features of Evernote and Google Keep as a digital note-taking tool.
  • Students will experiment with the features of Evernote and Google Keep as a digital note-taking tool.
  • Students will evaluate Evernote and Google Keep to develop the best digital tool for their style of note-taking.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.


90-120 minutes


Evernote & Google account

Smart device with Evernote and Google Keep apps

Slideshow: Digital note-taking

Assignment: Digital note-taking app experiment

Rubric: Digital note-taking experiment rubric

Additional Resources: JEA Curriculum journalistic research and note-taking practice lessons

Lesson step-by-step

Note: This lesson is best used following the JEA Curriculum lessons journalistic research and note-taking practice  

1. Warm up (5-10 minutes)

Begin the lesson by asking students how do they keep track of all their responsibilities— school work, notes, paperwork, practice schedules, organization/club information. Ask as busy as they are, how do they keep themselves together and organized? Now ask them to connect their organization style and skills to how they handle their job as reporters. When they research a story, where does the research go? Where are their notes? What tools do they need to have to work with? Are they using a notepad, scratch paper, a computer, their device?

Ask them would they be open to a digital tool that can combine all the ways they do research, take notes and keep themselves organization that still allows them to use paper, computer and smart device, plus keep their notes easily accessible at all times?

2. Presentation (20-30 minutes)

Show the digital note-taking presentation. The presentation provides a general overview of the features of Evernote and Google Keep. Both apps take accounts to set up and allow for syncing between devices. Both have a mobile app as well as a web version. Evernote has a desktop install option. An important point to emphasize with both apps is the organization structure is up to the user. Organizational structure like naming conventions, hierarchy, color coding are all up to the students to establish for what works best for them. As you are presenting, ask them how they see themselves applying the feature? What labeling could they use to ease in keyword searches? How can these apps be helpful while they are researching, in the field reporting or returning to the newsroom to write and produce?

Following your district’s acceptable use policy and bring-your-own-device policy, ensure students have access to Google accounts. They need to establish an Evernote account online using an email address. Then ask students to download the Google Keep app and Evernote app to their mobile device.

3. Experiment (50+ minutes)

In preparation for this note-taking app experiment, develop a list of 6-8 general story assignments relevant to your school that the students report on using the apps. The story assignments need to have elements that allow for research, interviewing, reporting and capturing photos and audio so they can use multiple features of the apps. Differentiation: You may choose to have the story assignments all something students can complete during the class period, or you may elect to have students report outside of class for homework. The story assignments are for practice purposes only.

Example ideas for general story assignments:

  1. Research the top skills colleges want high school students to gain before they graduate. Interview classmates if they agree/disagree and what classes help them gain those skills.
  2. Research your school’s dress code. Interview classmates about how the dress code does or does not show gender bias.
  3. Interview a classmate concerning their pet(s). Research the animal. Complete a class survey about pets.
  4. Interview a classmate about their spirit week outfits. Where do they get inspiration? How do they create the outfit? Do they purchase items for the outfit or make some of the items themselves?
  5. Interview a classmate about their must haves for school and their favorite school supplies.
  6. Research the school cafeteria menu. Interview people at lunch about their favorite meals. Interview the cafeteria employees about the popular lunch items.
  7. Research the role of the school library in the digital age. Interview the librarian and students.
  8. Differentiation: Have students develop their own story ideas.

Differentiation: For the Digital Note Taking App Experiment worksheet, you may elect to have the students report on a single story subject using both apps, or a different story topic for each app. If you want the students to do a different story topic for each app, make sure for experiment purposes both story ideas call for the same elements: research, reporting, interviewing, note taking, photos and/or audio capture.

Give all students a Digital Note Taking App Experiment worksheet. Instruct students to choose one or two story topics. The story topics will allow the students to test the features of Evernote and Google Keep. Through the reporting process, students need to use the apps for organization of research, reference, note taking, audio/video and photos. The objective of the experiment is for the students to test the functionality, features and practicality of the app. The reporting is secondary, but the reporting does need to be comprehensive in order to test the app. Share with students Evernote and Google Keep are popular digital tools. There are many blogs, resources and tutorials available online for them to reference.

Depending on your preference for the reporting to be an in-class assignment or homework assignment, class time may be used on setting up the notes, research and interviews with classmates. Instruct students to complete the experiment.

In class, give the students at least an hour to complete the experiment including time for researching, interviewing and reporting. The goal of the experiment is to develop practical uses of Evernote or Google Keep in the reporting process. There are no right or wrong answers to the experiment. Encourage the students to be realistic with their findings and if they can really see themselves using Evernote or Google Keep.

4. Discussion and reflection (20-30 minutes) 

After students have completed the experiment, follow up with a class discussion of the findings and the conclusions they have developed. Use the Digital Note Taking Experiment Rubric to evaluate their experiment.


Have the student develop their experiment into a presentation and present their findings to the class. (Evernote has a presentation feature.)

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