I heard about and played around with Google Keep sometime last year, but this note-taking application didn’t become my new favorite tool until just recently. Upgraded in February, Keep joined the G-Suite for Education applications at that time, and I am thrilled to have access to it. Here are some ways I am using it in my teaching life:
1. PD and Meeting Notes
Over the years I have used various organizational strategies for keeping professional development and meeting notes. For a while, I used a binder with a new section for each meeting or PD topic. Later, I used file folders to keep everything separate and organized. Most recently, I started using one notebook for everything, so that I had a sort of chronological record of my experience and learning. None of these systems was perfect–the binder became cumbersome, in a hurry I’d grab the wrong file, and finding notes from meetings when I couldn’t remember the date was a memory-challenge. Google Keep is great because it allows me to organize my notes with LABELS so that they are easy to sort. Notes can be color-coded, shared with collaborators, or even sent via email and text. Additionally, images and pictures may be added, and all notes are SEARCHABLE using different filtering options or even a keyword search.
2. School To-Dos
I am a bit of a post-it note addict, especially when it comes to maintaining a to-do list. Unfortunately, post-its sometimes lose their stick and leave me in a lurch. Or even worse, they stay at school when I go home for the day, and for the life of me I cannot remember the thing I was supposed to do. One late night of times past I risked setting off the school alarm to retrieve a post-it reminder from my desk–it was truly a desperate moment. Now I use Google Keep to track most of my to-dos, especially the long-term ones. I use the “show checkboxes” organizational option and gain great satisfaction from checking and thus crossing off completed items. Because I have installed the Keep app on my phone, my notes are always with me.
3. Student Research Notes
I must admit that I am sometimes that teacher, the one who forces her students to try a new tool she loves in hopes they too find it valuable. Per district policy, all English 11 students are required to write a 10-page career research paper. In years past, I have had students organize research notes in a variety of ways, sometimes using a graphic organizer of sorts or even old-school notecards like I used back in the day. This year, students are organizing their research notes using Keep, including the Keep Extension and the Google Doc Keep Tool.
The Keep Extension is separately installed to our Chrome browsers and is useful in the initial note-taking phase of our project. When students locate strong online sources relevant to their topic, they click the Keep Extension image to the left of their browser and a little window opens in the top right corner of their screen. Students can then type or even cut and paste notes from the document. A link to the source is automatically saved to the notes.
After closing this little window, students may access their notes by going to the Keep application (at keep.goggle.com) OR–and this is my favorite part of the whole process–they can even access their notes through a Google Doc by clicking Tools > Keep Notepad. When they do this, their most recent notes open in a sidebar on the right. They can then copy and paste or compose from their notes.
So far, my students seem to appreciate this tool though I have had to model its flow a few times.
4. Student Writing Feedback
I have also streamlined my process for providing student writing feedback using the last process described above. I got this idea from Gerard Dawson’s blog. Basically, as I read student writing for the purpose of recommending revisions, I pull up a pre-existing list of comments in the Keep notepad in Google Docs. I can then cut and paste the comments from the notepad to a comment in Google Docs. I typically try to focus on just one or two writing skills at a time. For example, I have comments organized into categories including organization, style, usage, grammar, and mechanics, and I only use a couple of them at one time. I can quickly and easily add a link to a re-teaching tool, and it also saves typing time.
I so appreciate the versatility of Google Keep. From the Chromebook to my phone to a desktop computer, everything seamlessly syncs so that I have easy access to all of my notes and lists at any time. If you aren’t already a Keep user, I recommend checking it out. I also welcome any new ideas for classroom use.
Looking for more detailed Google Keep how-tos? Here is a great resource from Shake Up Learning.