© 2017 Martin Willis

App Guide: Good Notes 5 - an app that has changed my approach to teaching Maths

I introduced some of our iPad using teachers to GoodNotes towards the end of last session and after a successful trial, have implemented the app into all of our classrooms that no longer use an interactive Smart Board. Basically, Good Notes 5 is a note-taking app that lets you take handwritten notes in digital notebooks and annotate imported PDF documents. I like that it allows teachers to demonstrate writing in their teaching using their iPad and Screen Mirroring.

It was clearly designed to be used by students, as the app easily allows you to replace all the physical paper in your life on which you would usually write on with a pen. I am sure that I am not in the minority when I say that I love an app that utilises folders and allows me to create folders within folders to organise and store all of my resources... perhaps that’s why I have taken to this app so quickly!

The central elements to organise information in GoodNotes are notebooks and documents. Digital notebooks are much like paper notebooks, with individual pages and a cover. Yet, unlike any paper notebook, GoodNotes allows you to create an unlimited number of notebooks with infinite pages each. You can add all sorts of information to a single page and create rich, multimedia notes: Handwriting, typed text, images, sketches, photos, screenshots, and more. At the same time, using the app is as simple and straightforward as writing on paper. Just pick up a stylus and start writing.

You can import all your PDF documents into the app, to annotate, edit, and highlight them right on your device. We recommend importing all the documents that will eventually need any handwritten annotation or highlight. With the ability to search for your handwriting and other texts, you'll always find what you need quickly.

Using Good Notes 5 has encouraged our teachers to see the benefits of ‘app—smashing’ and the most frequent way in which I see this happening is with Showbie. I can create content-rich lesson structures in Good Notes 5 with instruction and activities and then export them as PDF files straight into Showbie. Once in my lesson, I tend to sit at the back of the room or amongst my students and teach the lesson within Good Notes, using Screen Mirroring to demonstrate how to approach and complete the different tasks, teaching instruction when required. My class can follow along, or be given a period of time to complete a set number of pages within the PDF document. Of course, because they are completing tasks within Showbie, I get all of their work instantly filed and ready to be assessed.

I am aware that this is far from revolutionary, indeed it is nothing more than a flipped-classroom approach. However it is time-saving and has had significant impact. I really like that when used with Showbie, I know that my students basically have a bank of our lesson activities which they can go back to and revisit whenever they choose or need to. Indeed, there is nothing to say that the teaching resources need to be prepared in advance. Sometimes, I create a notebook during the course of the lesson and then share this as a PDF into Showbie.

It isn’t a cheap app and therefore it is unlikely one that many schools will be deploying to student devices, but I certainly think it is one which should sit in the dock of any teacher using iPads effectively in their classroom - definitely worth checking out.

If you would like to see an example of how I use this in my classroom, use the link below to access the PDF lesson which I created for a lesson I am teaching this week. The aim of the lesson is to re-introduce the concept of fractions and to assess existing understanding.