Going digital with Evernote to deliver individualized learning

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Coaching Story: Dixon Hall

We caught up with coaching client Maxine Brown-Simpson of Dixon Hall to see how moving her curriculum to a digital platform improved learning and her program.

Tell us a bit about your program.

Our program delivers literacy and basic skills for a wide group of learners who are working to upgrade their skills in math, English and basic computers. We are in the Regent Park Community Centre and serve a wide range of learners from a large catchment area.

How did you connect with AlphaPlus technology coaching services?

In 2014 we connected to work on a project to see how we could improve our programs using technology. Initially, they made a few suggestions including Google Drive, but we didn’t think it would be a good fit for our learners. Because we have a vast, multi-level group and a broad spectrum of abilities, we thought those (Google Drive) would be too challenging for the lower-level learners.

Why did you implement Evernote instead of Google Drive?

I needed a platform that all learners would feel comfortable using with minimal assistance on an ongoing basis. When we looked at Evernote, it presented that platform. It allowed us to move from a highly paper-based operation to a more technology-based operation.

How are you using Evernote in your classroom today?

I operate a single account. That way the learners don’t actually have an account and don’t have to manage it. Using my account, I create and assign a notebook to each learner. That means individual learners have their own notebook. Then I create a link the learners can use to access their own notebook in class, which includes lessons, test, videos and other learning material in English, math and basic computer skills.

How were you delivering learning modules before Evernote?

Prior to Evernote, I actually had a paper file folder for each learner. On Mondays I don’t have the learners come in, so I would be photocopying lessons for them and putting them in that paper folder for each learner. Each one had a folder with their name, and I had a filing cabinet where learners picked up their folder before class. So instead of doing that manually, now it’s done through Evernote.

Has moving to a digital platform impacted learners at Dixon Hall?

Yes! When we implemented Evernote, I was able to give both introverted and extroverted learners equal, individualized attention in a new way: by including videos and personalized learning tools in the notebook for each student. For example, if someone needed explanations or examples, I would source videos and other materials just for them and include them in their individual notebook, and they could go through the videos and get instructions from me.

Can they reach out with questions and interact with you through Evernote?

Yes. They can reach out to me at any time. Also, we have included a lot of online assessments. So they’re not just learning to use the tool but also to assess themselves. I noticed since we took on using Evernote, there is an increased sense of independence. Learners now get to decide what they work on each day and at what pace because I have uploaded quite the variety of activities to each notebook.

Has the independent learning and assessment been a big motivator for learners?

Absolutely! What makes it motivating for them is that they’re able to redo these assessments until they meet the competency. So that motivates them and they’re not afraid to try. They can see where they are at, and then they call me for help and redo the assessment to see if they improved.
It really helps with test anxiety as well because they are seated individually at a computer. Nobody knows what each other is doing. It gives them a lot of confidence to know that they do it as slowly or as quickly as they want to. So there’s more success in terms of really learning rather than just doing exercises.

You and your learners are doing an Evernote workshop at the Metro Toronto Movement for Literacy (MTML) Learners’ Conference. Tell us about what attendees can expect.

Our goal in this presentation is to get our learners to share their experience so that the other participants will be interested in seeing how Evernote can be useful in their program. I’ll have the learners share their experience of before and after implementation. We’ll have a notebook prepared for the conference, and our learners will guide the participants in the workshop in logging in, navigating the resources and showing them how they use it. The learners who are presenting are going to be posting activities from each of their notebooks so they can go around to assist the participants. Essentially, the learners will show one exercise they use and give participants something they can relate to.

What do you want others to know about technology coaching with AlphaPlus?

My greatest thing is this: I want to see it duplicated in programs, especially lower-level programs where some learners do not feel comfortable to function very independently and/or are not comfortable in a group setting. There is some hesitancy because practitioners are concerned about the work involved in implementing it. I would like to emphasize: Yes, it does take a bit of time at the outset but it is encouraging when you see the results.

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