Monday, April 7, 2014

Tool Review:

This morning I found a video from YouTube that featured Dr. Ruben Puentedura, the man behind the SAMR model, and I really wanted to watch it and take notes. For some reason, 1999 me surfaced and I grabbed a notepad and pen. Within the first 52 seconds of the video, I realized I was being an idiot. I had already paused and gone back twice because I was trying to jot down his exact words for something. And I couldn't write fast enough. But I can type faster!


I had shared this tool in an Ed Tech Newsletter a while back, but never really had a good chance to use it. Today was the day. 

Logging into is easy with a Google account - the two sync together. Once you "connect to Google Drive" on the homepage, a folder shows up in your Google Drive account. Any files are saved there. When you are ready to start taking notes on a video, you can either go to or click the CREATE button in Google Drive and choose VideoNotes:  

Once logged in, this screen appears:

Easy to use.  I copied and pasted the URL of the YouTube video into the box on the left and it loaded the video. I hit the play button and started watching, listening, and typing time-stamped notes in the box on the right.  Any time I moved my cursor up a line, the video went back to the time stamped on the line.  I could easily pause the video by hitting CTRL+Space in the midst of typing to let me catch up when needed. My work automatically saved into the folder in Google Drive.

As I was using it, I loved it. I was very  Then I tried to manipulate my notes because frankly, they aren't easy to read in the interface. They are quite ugly:

A sample of my notes from today.  Pardon any typos, as I planned on editing later.
Here come the cons. 

Though the files are saved in Google Drive, the notes files will only open in the interface, not as a Google Doc. At this time, the only way to get the notes out of the interface that I've shown above is to export them to Everote. I know Evernote is a great tool and app, and I want to explore it more as a cloud-based answer to OneNote, but it perplexes me that the connection to Google is so limited. When I saw on the main page that the tool was connected to Google Drive, I assumed I would be able to view my notes within the Google Docs apps. Not so.

I created an Evernote account, exported the notes to Evernote, then copied and pasted them into a Google Doc from there so I could revisit and manipulate them, but that was a bit tedious. Yes, I could have done pretty much the same manipulations in Evernote, but as a Google Docs user, I wanted my notes saved there. This is a big issue for me. I want to encourage my colleagues to try and encourage their students to use it. Most of them have Google accounts at this point. Few of them will know Evernote and I don't like complicating the process by adding another account that they will possibly only use for this purpose. I really hope and Google figure out something soon.

Once I managed to get my notes into my Google Doc, I was able to edit them, reorganize by adding bullet points and formatting, color-code sections, make key terms bold, etc. The visual learner in me appreciated being able to do that.  And it allowed me a chance to review what I had typed.  Each line of my notes, though, still contained the time stamp in the form of a plus sign hyperlink that would take me to my file and start the video. Awesome.  And as you can see below, much easier on the eye.

A sample of my notes once I copied them into a Google Doc and manipulated them.
Overall, for students to be able to use to take notes on flipped lessons or other important content, they need to be able to manipulate what they type. And I would love for them to be able to do so in Google.  For now, we will survive with Evernote or my work-around.

Another slightly nit-picky critique. Now that I have connected to Google Drive, every time I visit the page/tool (and I've looked at it a lot over the course of the day), it creates a new "untitled note" in my Google Drive folder. I hadn't realized this, nor how I could change the title of the file, and opened my folder to find my notes only to see FIVE "untitled notes" files listed.  Oops.  I'd rather be required to name the file in order for it to be saved, or I will end up with a lot of sample "untitled file"s in my folder as I show people the website.  Maybe I should just stop visiting the site, though....

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