Review by Marianne Rogowski, Common Sense Education | Updated May 2019
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Notebook - Take Notes, Sync

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Curate and organize all kinds of content into customizable notebooks

Subjects & skills
  • English Language Arts

  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Creativity
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
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Pros: Full-featured and free, the tool comes with an intuitive, beautiful interface and syncs across all of your devices.

Cons: There are occasional syncing issues, and the placement of the drawing tool is a bit awkward.

Bottom Line: From the novice to the super-organized student, Notebook's versatility is a rare free find.

Tools like Notebook - Take Notes, Sync offer an engaging way to teach students how to organize their content, keep track of assignments, and gather research. Mesh together short stories or poetry with images to teach elements of literature and imagery. Teach kids how to create and combine resources into stacks for a research paper or project, making connections that will aid in their understanding of a topic. Expand your reach by using a tool like Loom or Screencastify to create a screen recording explaining the rock cycle, and send students your YouTube link to add to their class notebook. 

Save the paper and give the copier a rest: Send kids a notebook with a scanned copy of the Gettysburg Address, a short video explaining the context, photographs, and letters from the Civil War. Ask them to record and share an audio note with a peer, explaining the connections they make. 

Looking for an interactive notebook of your own? Curate your own collections of lesson ideas, web clips, checklists, or voice memos for tomorrow or some other day. Just don't wait too long: It's easy to forget about all the amazing resources you'll come across, but if it's worth saving, then it should be worth revisiting.

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Notebook - Take Notes, Sync is a free online and mobile digital notebook that lets students curate original content, web clips, voice memos, and more. Notes are formatted differently depending on the content -- as recipe cards, straight links, checklists, drawings, annotated images, etc. And since notes sync across an unlimited number of devices, it's a pretty seamless transition from desktop to tablet to mobile device and back.

The interface is well designed and colorful and has so many customization options that kids might get lost in them. Students can color-code notes, assign tags, and then organize content into pre-designed or uploaded notebooks, which they can password-protect if they choose. Notes are sharable via link, email, or social media, or one or more of the developer's paid tools.

While some kids are born organizers and others struggle no matter how many tools they have, Notebook - Take Notes, Sync will help them benefit from developing skills like information literacy, copyright protocol, and writing coherent notes. It's easy to save almost anything with Notebook, but kids will need help processing what they've gathered.

Any notebook, digital or otherwise, is only going to be as good as what kids put into it, but this one might engage students a little more than other similar tools -- not just for the aesthetic appeal of differently formatted notecards, but also because the customizable notebooks look and feel like separate entities. Be aware of what might be lurking within, though. On the surface, notebooks may look benign, but teachers should pay attention to what kind of content kids are gathering. They'll need adult guidance as they learn to differentiate between what's appropriate and what should go right into the trash. You'll also want to teach them the power of letting go -- perhaps with the aid of some advice from organization expert Marie Kondo -- as it relates to their digital lives.

Unfortunately, students can't collaborate on notes, and there are some formatting issues with spacing and some inconsistencies with regular and boldface print. Also, kids might experience syncing issues from time to time. Small glitches aside, students will love the look and feel of this tool as they build their digital collections.

Overall Rating

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

Kids will like the colorful notes, the customizable covers, and the ability to curate and modify content in many forms.

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

While students may need help learning organization and information literacy skills, this tool provides an attractive platform from which to learn them.

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

Text, drawing, and voice notes provide support for a variety of learners. A good bit of help is available from the developer and the community forums.

Common Sense Reviewer
Marianne Rogowski Media specialist/librarian

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