Using Notability in the classroom

This post is going to look at a more general iPad app that is used both by myself on a day-to-day basis and by my students. This app is Notability. As in my last post I will discuss some of the features of the application and then look at some the practicalities.

The starting page of Notability, with the ability to organise your notes into different folders as well as the various export functions.

Notability, as the name might suggest, is a note taking application. And cutting to the chase a little, it is a really good one. Like most iPad users I started of using Notes for making ,well, notes. The lack of handwriting recognition and just the general clunkiness of it drove me to have a look at number of other Apps which included Penultimate, Notify and Evernote (which is its own case and has some excellent applications (as it can be independent of an iPad) once I get my head around it fully). Notability came out ahead in part because the students at my school had it in their starter App pack, and I thought it essential that I found out what I could do with it. Making and organising your notes is straightforward, as is exporting to various other applications (be it email, DropBox or attached to a Tweet).

Using the Magnify tool allows you to not fill a page with just a sentence…

When using Notability to make notes you have the option to use the keyboard (which is a little annoying as it covers half the screen as in most iPad Apps) or write using the pen function. This is easiest with a stylus (although my handwriting, which is bad at best, gets worse), although some of the students manage to very neat notes with their fingers. Initially I struggled with Notability as I had not figured out how to use the magnify tool which zooms into a section of the page you are writing on and allows you to write smaller text more easily.

It is fairly straightforward to insert an image and add a caption.

Notability easily takes images from your image roll and allows you to put them into your note, allowing you to resize it and edit certain features. It can also take direct links from the Internet and insert them into your text as an image.

This is a direct link to YouTube in my note.

Now to the part that I think most of my readers (and thanks for bothering to read my first post BTW) are interested in, which are the applications within the classroom. As a teacher I use it for general note taking but it really comes into its own when marking electronically submitted work on an iPad. Any Word/Pages file can be saved as a pdf (using the Pages app in my case, though I am sure other conversion tools are readily available) and imported into Notability where it is straightforward to mark on to the pdf. You can the send the student their marked work back whilst retaining a copy for your records.

None of the students in my school have had a great deal of training in using this app but they can do great things with it. I have seen students produce practical reports produced by Notability including images of the experimental set up and their results. One thing it cannot do yet is allow a video clip to be inserted into it directly, but you could imagine students uploading a video clip and sticking the direct link into their work. At the moment many students are still figuring out what their favourite method of taking notes is, but as it develops I am certain that many more exciting uses will come up. I will keep you up to date!

Pros: Easy to use, powerful note taking application with many export options

Cons: No video import, no graphing functions (students would have to produce a graph by hand or in Numbers (though that has its own issues) and import it into the app).

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About alexvandijk

I am a Biology teacher at an independent school in the UK. My main interest is the use of technology in science education, with a specific emphasis on iPads. All views expressed are my own.

3 responses to “Using Notability in the classroom”

  1. mauriceabarry says :

    Thanks for sharing. I will give it a try. It certainly looks better than evernote, which I currently use. As an aside, I hope I live to someday see a decent note taking utility that can handle math notation. Students in, chem, physics and math really have to just plain stick to pen and paper because electronic math recognition is still so crude.

  2. Carol Roth (@rothscience) says :

    Not sure if this is new or not but if you click the wrench you can change the background paper. Several types of graph paper are an option. It is a bit crude but does the job if you need it.

    Thanks for the post!

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