Harry Wong
Dec 2017
Vol 14 No 4

Technology in Education – Apps for Notetaking & Writing

By Susan Fitzell

Whether Students can Write or Not!

technology-in-education_notability-300x300Some learners are naturally good at taking notes. Yet, some students just can’t seem to figure out what is important and what is not, what to write and what to leave out. And then, there are students who simply can’t listen and write at the same time. So, to have those students take notes while the teacher is talking is counterproductive.

Copying large amounts of notes during class time is also not the best use of a teachers’ instructional time. There is so much to do in so little time that the time spent waiting for students to finish copying is a waste of valuable time.

So, consider how these technology in education solutions might simplify and speed up the note-taking process as well as increase the accuracy of notes.

The iPad provides app choices for note-taking through the following inputs:


  • Audio
  • Handwriting/Drawing
  • Text


One of the best features included in most of these apps is the ability to highlight, illustrate, and add pictures to notes. When students can accent their notes and their writing in different colors and make key words, letters, and other critical information stand out by writing it, bolding it, or underlining it in a different color, they will remember it better.

Adding visuals via photos and hand-drawn figures or mind maps takes the note-taking process up another level.

Phraseology – A fabulous writing app for Apple devices that also determines reading level

Phraseology is a simple, distraction-free text writer that is incredibly powerful. I’m excited about the app because it allows the writer to draft paragraphs and move them around the document afterwards with the ease of drag and drop.

It also provides the writer with the reading level of their writing. Consider having students use complex sentence structure and multi-syllabic words to raise the reading level of what they are writing. It becomes a game and is a practical reality check for students to self-assess their writing.

*** Sometimes, with apps that save to the cloud, writing may be lost after an update. To be safe, copy and paste drafts and completed articles to another word processor, then save. ***


AudioNote – Available for Apple, Android, and the PC, AudioNote lets students record their notes so they can replay them!

This works like the LiveScribe pen. It can type or write text while recording, then play back notes with audio tagged to the notes. It will record as a student types and play back from specific words. The key is that the student MUST be within 10 feet of the speaker.

Check the law in your state regarding “right to know” for recording peoples’ conversation before using recording devices in the classroom.

PenUltimate – For students and adults who prefer to write their notes. PenUltimate writes and prints better than all the other Apple writing apps I tested.

PenUltimate now syncs with Evernote and that is a huge bonus for Evernote users.

Notability – Now that this app records as well as organizes – it’s a powerful productivity tool!

A note-taking app that is very popular and user–friendly. It includes a user guide to help you learn the app. It is a simple-looking app without a lot of visual images, but works very efficiently.

One of the things I liked about Notability’s user guide is that it is short, clear, and to the point (about three pages). A key feature is the ability to annotate on top of content you have added.

It’s great to use in the classroom to create tests or class notes and add to them directly from the screen as you’re presenting the notes to the class.

For multiple how-to videos, type “Notability” in your YouTube search box.

Ideas for Using Note-Taking Technology Apps in Education:

  1. Have students who struggle to take accurate notes use AudioNote so that what they miss in notes they can review with the audio recording.
  2. Encourage students to capture the essence and details of a lesson by alternating between typing notes, recording the speaker – as well as their own thoughts – and illustrating their notes with the drawing tools.
  1. Periodically, while students are taking notes, stop and ask a question. Have students record the question and the response using the audio recorder.
  1. Use the note-taking app recorder to record an interview. Teach students to type/write key points and trust the audio capture to support a follow-on assignment.

About the author
Susan Fitzell OCT15Susan Gingras Fitzell, M. Ed, CSP specializes in transforming teaching from whole class instruction that teaches to the middle to instruction that structures and enhances lessons to reach every student, whether gifted or struggling. She’s a dynamic, nationally recognized presenter, author of nine books for teachers and parents, and an educational consultant. Susan speaks from experience in the classroom! Her work focuses on building caring school communities and helping students and teachers succeed in the inclusive classroom.

Visit Susan Fitzell’s web site:

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This entry was posted on Sunday, May 1st, 2016 and is filed under *ISSUES, May/June 2016, Susan Fitzell. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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