One of the most popular categories of iOS apps is that of notetaking, for obvious reasons. It is one of the areas where nearly all the benefits of working digitally come together to provide real enhancement of the teaching/learning process. There are several really good ones – Penultimate is beautiful for handwriting, Soundnote is great for recording audio notes that are mapped to typed notes, Smartnote lets you add all kinds of widgets and graphics to enhance your notes. But far and away the most useful, most comprehensive notetaking app I have ever used is Underscore Notify – I know I’m making this sound like I work for them – not the case. I’m just one grateful educator. Here’s a quick overview of its features:
- Type notes anywhere on screen; multiple font and text colour etc options
- draw, highlight etc again with multiple pen and colour options
- import PDF files or other documents to annotate and highlight
- import images as backgrounds or to illustrate notes
- use the built-in web browser to clip webpages straight into your notes
- use the built-in maps function to clip google maps straight into your notes
- add audio recordings to your notes
- built-in web server – you can share your screen live to anyone with a web browser
- VGA out- you can display your screen live as you create your notes or present pre-made pages
- hand-writing recognition (with PhatPad in-app purchase) – translates handwritten notes into typed text.
Of course just having all these features is no good if the app is too messy or complicated for them to be easily used, but Notify has a great inbuilt help function and tutorials (although these load from a website) meaning that it doesn’t take to long to puzzle out all of its extensive functions.
The obvious use of this app is for notetaking right? And certainly from the features above you can see how powerful it would be. But here is my usage scenario to illustrate how I think Notify can be by a teacher:
Because the VGA out / web-server allows you to share your screen, I have enjoyed success using Notify to present and facilitate a teaching session. I draft up a series of pages (slides) as an outline and fill them with some images, info etc, but as the session goes on, Notify allows me to add in web pages, maps, extra documents, whatever that enrich and extend the lesson – all right within the one app and immediately viewable by everyone who is participating. The dynamics that this allows fits in very well with my ideas of how the 21st century classroom should operate – flexible and adaptable.
Even better, its US$1.99 price AND the fact that its universal (pay once for the iPad and iPod touch version) makes it a no-brainer to download and try. It does experience crashes on my iPad (probably due to low memory), but seemed to always have saved my work when I restarted. The sheer number of features does give it a learning curve also, but as I’ve said, the help and tutorials sections are very good. Overall, 8/10