Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Writer's Notebook: Going Digital

For the first time I'm participating in Teacher's Write hosted by Kate Messner.  This event runs from June-August, and I'm looking forward to learning from this large writing community.  I will be participating in this event from Merely Day by Day.  This week we are talking about writer's notebooks.  As a teacher of writing, I know the time spent writing makes a difference in my day to day conversations with young writers.  Keeping a notebook gives me a place to play a bit.  

Writer's Notebooks
One of the biggest obstacles for me lately has been a struggle between bound notebooks and digital notebooks, a struggle in finding a place for ideas (read more about it here).  In the past I used a writer's notebook, but I am slowly finding tech to be "at my fingertips."  My goal for the event is to find a way to collect ideas --- a way that works.  

In my writer's notebook I like to:
  • collect ideas
  • write about my family 
  • write poetry
  • record memories
  • create lists
  • play with words (synonyms mostly)
  • collect interesting words (usually from reading)
  • collect lines from poems and books that make me stop 
  • record phrases
  • make webs
  • store articles
  • really....anything goes

Digital Notebooks
In order to determine whether it is best to collect ideas in a paper notebook or using a digital tool --- or some combination of the two --- I will be searching for a digital application that works much like a paper notebook, but I think there might be some things a digital application can do that a notebook cannot.  I'm hoping to find an app that:
  • is "journal-like"
  • has typing features like font color changes, size changes, bolding, ability to add bullets, etc. 
  • allows tagging (color coding would be a nice plus)
  • can link with Evernote (preferably sync with EN, most could be emailed too)
  • allows images to be inserted
  • allows linking
  • audio recording would be a plus
  • has drawing/handwriting capabilities
  • is available on both the iPad and iPhone
  • has cloud storage 

Apps to Try
Over the weeks to come I will be trying to find the app that works for capturing ideas.  I may find that the notebook is still the best place for keeping ideas or that some type of balance between the notebook and a digital app can work.  We'll see.  Here are a few apps I'm going to explore first:

GhostWriter:  I use GhostWriter in my classroom for form recording because it allows you to create your own paper, take a picture, and then write on it.  It has been perfect for data collection with students in the process of RtI.  I suppose it also has potential as a writer's notebook.  I work with it a lot and find it to be a bit glitchy.  It's typing feature is sometimes difficult to manage and moving between text styles can be challenging.  It's worth a closer look as a writer's notebook.  

NoteShelf:  Noteshelf reminds me of Ghostwriter.  I like it's journal-like look, the way you can choose paper styles, and the ability to add different topics of notebooks.  It would be easy to have a notebook of quotes, booklists, poetry, memories, and other topics most recorded.  While I haven't yet discovered recording abilities within it, I do so ways to write, type, draw, and insert images.  

Penultimate:  Penultimate is in the Evernote Trunk as notes from this app can be stored in Evernote.  This app looks perfect for writing and drawing, but I'm still not sure how you can type in it.  It does allow images to be inserted on pages.  

Moleskine:  Yesterday during a conversation on Twitter, Dawn Little reminded me of MoleSkine.  I put it on my iPhone and find it works much like a real MoleSkine.  It is perfect for lists, quick notes, short jots.  I haven't tried to share it with Evernote yet, but I'll be interested to see how that works.    

iDo Notepad:  I already use iDo Notepad when I'm on the go. I especially like it for working on writing a poem before putting it on my blog.  It is mostly a typing app, but it is easy to work with and allows some variation in fonts.  

Right now these are the five contenders for the job.  I'm sure there's an app out there I haven't even heard about yet that might work.  Please recommend away.  I'll let you know what I discover.  While Evernote will not really work for me as a writer's notebook (the place I write), it will be THE PERFECT place to store it all.  I've started a Writer's Notebook board on Pinterest to help me organize my search.  I look forward to continuing conversations like this one in the weeks to come.


  1. Thank you so much for sharing your thinking about digital journals. I am also working towards implementing my digital WNB also. Excellent reflection :)

    1. Thanks, Maria. Let me know if you find something you really like.


  2. Great post -- thanks for the app previews! I am trying Moleskine -- I love them old-school, and WOW you get a lot in a free app from them, so I'm loving them even more!

    And we'll see about Penultimate and EN.

    1. You'll have to tell me what you learn about Moleskine. So far I have found it to be just like the little book I used to carry....a great place for quick thoughts.

  3. Smart Notes (recommended by a teacher at my school) might be worth checking out. Simple Note is one I quite like using, too. Not sure if it connects with Evernote.

    1. Thanks, Deb. I'll give both apps a closer look after your recommendation.

  4. Love the post -- as always, you have thoughtfully investigated and then shared your thinking so we all can learn. I just wanted to mention that someone also posted My Journal and I really liked its possibilities, though it didn't have EN connectivity. Can't wait to hear how it goes with digital notebooks.

    1. Karen you said it best~ Cathy does a wonderful job thinking things through & sharing! I find myself reading this and thinking, Yes, Yes, Yes I want that too! I may not have known I wanted it until Cathy posted but, she makes GREAT points! So nice to have thoughtful friends who share with us all!

      Off to explore the apps!

    2. You both crack me up. You know it's the collaborative thinking and learning we all do that keeps us learning. I think it is the community that has pushed my thinking on this. Of course, I am having a bit of a notebook crisis and need to get it figured out. I'm leaning toward Noteshelf right now. I love the way I can add photos, text, writing, and drawing. It has a nice look when you are done though I wish I could view a double page spread and add audio.

      I was enjoying the app the other day when I said to Cortney, the problem is "How will I keep it?". Eventually the technology will outpace itself and all may be lost. She replied, "And paper won't fade? Get lost? Be discarded?" Hmmmmm.


    3. I loved Jen Ms comment at Merely Day by Day...."maybe it's AND and not OR." I'm thinking she's right.

  5. Cathy you captured what I've been wrestling with too. A teacher friend of mine calls it paper or plastic; the plastic being digital media. I love both. I love working with pen and paper and colored pencil and markers or paint in a journal, but the ease and accessibility and weightlessness of the digital realm have a strong pull. Thanks for sharing the apps and your thinking!

    1. Lee Ann,
      Paper or plastic? Perfectly stated. You might try Noteshelf. It has that paper/pencil/colored pencil/paint feel. Let me know if you discover an app --- or a system --- that works for our paper or plastic dilemma.


  6. Love these ideas! Thanks for sharing what you have found and your thoughts. I can't wait to explore more!