Digital Notetaking to Stimulate Their Minds

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I am not a teacher, but an awakener. – Robert Frost

Many students take notes, because the teacher requires it, but many do not know how to take notes effectively. Students also don’t know how to preserve paper notes well. The ink gets smeared, the paper gets tattered, and their isn’t a quick and easy way to categorize or search paper notes. With digital tools and apps, students can create beautifully illustrated notes that support their cognitive development and stimulate their minds. The right tools and apps make research quick, engaging, and interactive by allowing students to bookmark, curate, tag, categorize, and annotate. One of the reflection activities in my new book, The 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers, is to visually map an idea. Visual mapping, or sketch noting, is similar to mindmapping/concept mapping. At the center of these notes students highlight a concept then draw branches that provide information about the concept. Students do not have to be artists. Instead, they are encouraged to be creative and allow their minds to explore the concept through different branches. With digital tools and apps, students can choose the font, color, or background. They can include stickers, images, links, videos, drawings, and documents. My students are required to include research (links, videos, etc.) and examples of how the concept impacts them. They can keep these notes in the cloud so they can access them anywhere or on the go and they can also share them with others or create notes collaboratively with their peers. See examples in the slide share below and find the resources, web tools, and apps in the bookmarks at the end of this post.

Free Brainstorming Apps

Below are some great apps and tools for digital note-taking. Keep scrolling to find the bookmarks with the rest of the  resources.

  • Linoit web/iOS/Android App– Online sticky note board. Include links, images, video, and audio as well as change the size and color of your fonts. Has various background options and other attractive options. It’s embeddable as well. More stable than Padlet.
  • Padlet web/iOS/Android– Online sticky note board with beautiful templates and backgrounds.  Include links, images, video, text (160 characters) and audio as well as change the size and color of your fonts. Has various background options and other attractive options. It’s embeddable as well. Drag and drop files. Print as pdf and offline.
  • Popplet web/iOS App– The browser tool provides collaborative mindmapping. Students can support text with images from Flickr or Youtube videos. They can upload their own images or draw on their iPads. Embeddable.
  • Google Drive for all devices- I can document all events offline and it automatically updates when I get an Internet connection. Integrate with apps to do more. Test out the Research tool that shows students different resources with the MLA, APA, or Chicago citation.
  • Evernote web/iOS/Android– take notes, draw, add audio and tag, categorize, and search your notes. Use the app offline and it will update the notes when you get an Internet connection.
  • Sketchnote with Paper 53, Adobe Illustrate, or the Bamboo Paper app for Android.
  • Click here for a Sketchnoting video tutorial by Sylvia Duckworth!
  • Skitch iOS– annotate images and websites with capturing and doodle and text tools.
  • Diigo web/iOS/Android– bookmark, categorize, join groups, bookmark on other social networks using hashtags, annotate websites, add sticky notes and highlight text.
  • Lucid Chart web/iPad app– Collaborate with others and create flow charts, concept maps, and more. Drag and drop options. Add text. Send as a pdf or image.
  • Inkflow iOS app– Sketch & write ideas then move them around and organize them.
  • PenUltimate iPad app– Draw & write on notebook paper on your iPad. The writing becomes searchable, stored, and categorized with Evernote.
  • EduCreations web/iPad app– Interactive whiteboard and screen recording app. Ability to include images taken and from the web and narrate with audio. Create a 9 minute video that can be edited and embedded. Students can record their note-taking to playback later in case they want to revisit ideas they voiced.


Get students to create visual notes for a test or essay.

If you enjoyed these ideas, you may want to get your copy of The 30 Goals for Teachers or my $5.99 ebook, Learning to Go, which has digital/mobile activities for any device and editable/printable handouts and rubrics. Subscribe for FREE to receive regular updates!

Notetaking, by shellyterrell
Included in the Digital Ideas Advent Calendar! Scroll the image below and each day discover free web tools, apps, and resources.

Shelly Terrell

Shelly Sanchez Terrell (@ShellTerrell) is an award winning digital innovator, an international speaker/consultant, and the author of Hacking Digital Learning with EdTech Missions, The 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers, and Learning to Go. She has trained teachers and taught English language learners in over 20 countries as an invited guest expert by organizations, like the US Embassy, UNESCO Bangkok, Cultura Inglesa of Brazil, the British Council in Tel Aviv, IATEFL Slovenia, HUPE Croatia, ISTEK Turkey, and Venezuela TESOL. She has been recognized by several organizations and publications as a leader in the movement of teacher driven professional development as the founder and organizer of various online conferences, Twitter chats, and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Two of the projects she co-organized were shortlisted for ELTons, #ELTChat and the Virtual Round Table Language and Technology online conference. She was named Woman of the Year by the National Association of Professional Women, awarded a Bammy Award as a founder of #Edchat, and named as one of the 10 Most Influential People in EdTech by Tech & Learning. Her greatest joy is being the mother of baby Savannah and Rosco the pug. Shelly has an Honors BA in English with a Minor in Communication and a specialization in Electronic Media from UTSA, a Masters in Curriculum Instruction ESL from the University of Phoenix, and a CELTA from CELT Athens. She regularly shares her tips for effective technology integration via Twitter (@ShellTerrell),, and on her blog,, which has won several awards and recognitions as one of the top ESL, Edtech and Elearning blogs. Find over 400 of her slide presentations at

One comment

  1. Hi Shelly, great blog! I had no idea that apps like that existed and could help students take notes. Note taking for students is definitely a difficult task. I usually make not guides to help them catch the important content from the lesson but I will now have to try out one of these apps.

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