I’ve been using iPads in my classroom for almost two months now. As much as I’m trying try “modify” and “redesign” learning with the iPad, I’ll be honest in saying most of the day-to-day work involves Notability. I wasn’t a huge fan of Notability at first. However, I’m becoming more of a fan as I see just what it’s capable of doing. Sure, students can add typed text and handwritten notes to PDFs, but there’s so much more.
1. Add pictures
This may not sound like a huge deal, but it’s become very handy in my science classroom. Not only can they insert images, but they can crop the photo from within the app itself. We have already had a few science investigations where students must make observations, collect data, and analyze that data. They intuitively take photos to document their observations. They have taken pictures of density columns, white powders (to help identify them at a later date), bowling balls floating in water, etc. The best part, something I’m not accustomed to, is they then refer back to those images as evidence for the lab. We use a “claim, evidence, reasoning” framework for science labs. When referring to data as evidence, students will take a screen shot of their data tables and/or their graphs, crop the photos, then highlight the specific data they want to use. It works very well.
2. Back up to Google Drive
I know many Sherwood teachers already know about this feature, but I just learned it a few weeks ago. One potential drawback to using an app like Notability is that if the iPad gets lost/stolen or destroyed, the data may be lost. There is a way to have all of their notes automatically backed up Google Drive! It’s easy to set up (see link below for instructions), and students can set up a folder to save everything to. They can also decide whether to save everything as a “note” or a PDF file. When I had my students set this up two weeks ago, I noticed about half of them had already done this in 5th or 6th grade. We created a new “8th grade” folder so they were organized. One of the best parts about this is that it automatically creates subfolders based on notebooks in Notability. If they have a different notebook for ELA, Math, Social Studies, and Science, then those four subfolders would automatically be created. Then, just like the good ‘ol Ronco rotisserie, you just set it and forget it!
3. Add or delete pages
This may not be a feature that gets used very often, but it’s very useful when it is needed. I gave my students a lab handout as a PDF last week that was still formatted the same as last year. As a result, there were two pages of “class data tables” where students used to copy data down from other groups in class. Since all class data was shared this year using Google Spreadsheets, those two pages were no longer needed. Students asked if they could delete the pages from the PDF. I said yes, not really believing they could do that. Sure enough, they could. I have also seen a few students add on a page if they need more space to answer a question or add more photos/drawings.
4. Merge PDFs
I just stumbled upon this feature a few days ago. The 8th grade science teachers are having students research a manufactured object. They must research the materials that are used to make that object, focusing on the intensive properties of those materials, to determine why those specific materials are used. Students will communicate their learning by writing a magazine article. As teachers, we hope to combine all of these articles together into a digital magazine of sorts that can then be shared with parents. After looking into many options, the easiest way of doing this (I think) is to have all students share their final PDF with the teacher, who can then use Notability to easily merge them all together.