Review by Patricia Monticello Kievlan, Common Sense Education | Updated May 2018
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Notability

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Flexible note-taking tool empowers learners of all abilities

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • English Language Arts

Skills
  • Communication & Collaboration
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
6–12
Great for:
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (36 Reviews)

Pros: With multiple note-taking, sharing, and organization options, this is a great tool for app-enabled note-taking.

Cons: Some features are trickier to use than others, and the audio files can get big.

Bottom Line: An excellent tool that lets students make their notes thorough and useful in the way that best suits their learning styles and abilities.

Having students take notes isn't the only way to use Notability in the classroom; it's a great tool for teachers too. For example, before an exam, you might create a review sheet and email it to students, or pre-annotate classroom readings to focus students' attention and model close reading. Students can use Notability to organize and store notes for a unit and then share these stored notes with students who were absent or those who need help reviewing for an exam. Notability can be an asset for collaborative learning and group projects as well, since students can brainstorm ideas, take research notes, and then quickly share them with their group members. 

Kids with learning and attention differences will love Notability's flexibility. Work with your students to come up with strategies for using the note-taking and audio-recording features to capture what's going on in class and help kids focus their efforts on understanding rather than writing furiously. Get creative with the audio features; they're a terrific way to collaborate with your students. Use the app to annotate a student's submitted paper or assignment and narrate your annotations as you go, giving students a guided tour of your feedback. 

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Notability is a full-featured note-taking app for iOS that helps students take notes they'll want to review, revisit, and actively use. If there's a chart in the textbook they want to reference quickly, they can snap a picture and add it to their notes. If a concept is better explained by drawing a picture, they can do it right there, too. On a single page of notes, students can type, write, draw, highlight, record audio, cut, paste, and even insert content captured from websites. When they're finished, students can organize notes for later easy access. The audio recording feature is especially flexible. If you play from the start of the recording, the notes you took darken and fill in as the recording continues, letting you see the notes appear as you wrote them. Similarly, you can tap on any point of the note (whether it's writing, typing, or a photo) and jump to that point in the audio recording.

Students can also use Notability to organize their notes, tagging them by color and organizing them by tags or categories. Users can also share their notes across a variety of platforms (like Google Drive, Dropbox, and Box), via email or iTunes, or across devices through the Notability app itself. 

Notability equips all students to take high-impact notes. While note-taking may be a way for students to get down important information, not all students benefit from the note-taking process. Notability recognizes that students have different learning needs and note-taking preferences. Students can choose to record as they talk or record their teachers' lectures and make minimal written notes ("test review starts here!") to help them jump to appropriate points in the audio recording when they revisit their notes later. Students can also record themselves sharing key information or record a conversation with a teacher when they received feedback or reviewed for an assessment. Learners who respond better to images or drawings can add photographs and drawings to their notes, while learners who excel with charts and diagrams can create such images with a stylus or with their finger. 

Keep in mind that not all of these options work for everyone, and it might be overwhelming if you try to use them all at once. It's up to students and their teachers to develop thoughtful, efficient strategies for using the app's many capabilities in the most efficient, most meaningful way possible. 

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

This app's rich options might just make students and teachers fall in love with note-taking, doodling, highlighting, and recording audio.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

With best-in-class audio features plus lots of ways to take, share, and save notes, this tool is a great fit for students with a range of learning needs and at a range of grade levels. Teachers will love it, too.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Before taking any notes of their own, students can practice using the note-taking features. The wide variety of features helps accommodate students with physical and learning disabilities.


Common Sense Reviewer
Patricia Monticello Kievlan Foundation/nonprofit member

Teacher Reviews

(See all 36 reviews) (36 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Marla Kay D. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Forest Lake Education Center
Longwood, United States
A great tool that interfaces well with Schoology!
Students and teachers like using Notability for several reasons. It is a great tool for note taking, and we use it to deliver scanned documents, and paper activities for students. Using Notability, students can write on the document using their tablets, and teachers can annotate on the document as well. Using Notability, teachers can grade right on their tablets instead of taking stacks of papers home. ...
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