Website review by Patricia Monticello Kievlan, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2021

Notion

Cool, customizable tool turns notebooks into workspaces

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Grades
9–12
Subjects & Skills
Communication & Collaboration, Creativity

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Pros: Intuitive design. Cleverly combines notes, wikis, and workflow in one.

Cons: Students could get tripped up tweaking their workspaces. The embedding function needs work.

Bottom Line: With some scaffolding, this could be a great way to capture, organize, and share info without juggling a class site, notebook, to-do list, and more.

Notion works great as a personal organization and productivity system as well as a collaborative workspace. It's super intuitive, so the best way to learn is to jump in. The templates for creating reading lists, clipping online media, and managing to-do lists are exceptionally good and offer a quick sense of the wide range of possibilities. Consider how you might adapt one of those templates for your class. Could you create a spot to save cool articles or books you want to recommend to each other? One built-in template features a rating system for helping people decide what movie or TV show to watch next. Teachers could challenge students to come up with a fun way to rate books or articles they find, either in a whimsical way or with other factors that emphasize critical thinking and hone digital literacy. 

Educators and students can use the Personal Pro plan for free; take advantage of the plan's collaboration features to create shared review documents that include links to videos, articles, and other resources to help students revisit key concepts. Consider assigning a rotating note-taker for class discussions; you could use Notion as a running notes document where students could organize, expand upon, and store notes in a single location for easy shared access. Also, if your students develop portfolios, consider inviting your students to use Notion as a potential tool for sharing and organizing their work, or as a shared workspace for research and project development. 

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Notion is a productivity tool that helps people organize tasks, take notes, clip media from the web, and more. Its developers describe it as a one-stop space for teams to collaborate, replacing other individual tools for saving documents, managing task lists, and sharing knowledge. While it might look like a notebook at first glance, it's more akin to a wiki and can even begin to operate more like a website.

Once you create a workspace, you can create a new page from scratch or by duplicating one of more than 50 built-in templates, and you can share pages with collaborators who can edit them in real time. In addition to taking notes, organizing pages into folders, and linking between pages, users can take advantage of a ton of "content blocks" (like tables) that they can drop into pages. People can set up personal accounts for free; Personal Pro accounts and team accounts have more features (like more storage and more collaborators in a workspace) and come with a subscription price. 

While Notion wasn't developed for schools specifically, students and educators can create a personal account using their school email address and get upgraded to a Personal Pro account for free. With an upgraded account, teachers and students can create pages and share them with an unlimited number of collaborators, such as a group of students or other teachers. 

If your existing classroom website is clunky and you're in the market for a better option, this could be a worthy choice for creating an approachable, flexible web portal to use with your students as they take notes, create portfolios, or store task lists. Though Notion wasn't built for learning, it has strong potential as a classroom tool. The built-in templates offer lots of inventive inspiration for how you might make the most of its features, from collecting links to taking collaborative notes to creating simple spreadsheets and databases. The developer homepage notes that Notion can replace other commonly used productivity tools as a one-stop shop for collaboration, and it's easy to see how that might work for teachers. It's also appealing to consider how this tool could make tasks like creating a spreadsheet seem a little less daunting for a high school audience. 

Keep in mind that this isn't an instant-messaging or real-time communication platform. The developer's website even says that Notion is "the missing half of [workplace messaging giant] Slack," and it's intended as a long-term storage space for information rather than a communication tool. Even so, it's a solid collaborative workspace, and the web and app versions of the tool sync swiftly and easily. 

The tool's main drawback might be that it's just a bit too open-ended for a high school audience. Students might enjoy the freedom and flexibility of customizing pages, but they also might get bogged down in all the choices and in tweaking the design over and over. And let's be clear: Emojis and customization options are a ton of fun, but they could be a distracting diversion for even the most focused adult. Embedding content, such as Google Drive files, is also not ideal. Currently, you need to copy a link and then paste into Notion. It'd be nice to browse Google Drive from within Notion. Overall, though, Notion has the potential to be a great fit for certain teachers and students looking for a flexible way to create, organize, and store information. However, it'll work best with some solid templates and expectations in place to make sure things stay organized and on task.

Overall Rating

Engagement

Thoughtful design and intuitive setup help teachers and students customize their workspace and start writing and planning right away.

Pedagogy

Though this tool wasn't built for schools, it has great potential for setting priorities, managing tasks, and organizing information.

Support

Tons of built-in templates (including for learning), how-to text, and startup videos make it easy to maximize flexible features. The embedding feature needs some work.


Common Sense reviewer
Patricia Monticello Kievlan Foundation/nonprofit member

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Featured review by
John s. ,
Good Tool for produtivity
I use it for Homework assignments
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