Digital Writing with iPads: Googly Tip #1 = Using Google Keep for Research

What I’m Thinking About:

My school district went 1:1 with iPads this fall. After of years of struggling to schedule time with the Chromebook cart or in the computer lab, my students finally have consistent, daily access to technology.

The main challenge, and this is for teachers more than students, has been learning how iPads work with Google Apps. Fortunately, I can tell you that, yes, students can use iPads to do pretty much anything we need them to. Second, in some ways, students can do even more with iPads than they could have with Chromebooks—but I’ll leave that for a different post.

I’m thinking that my next series of blog posts will be Googly Tips for iPad Users. In the midst of the Chromebook craze, some of us are working with iOS. So, I will focus on the best tips and strategies I’ve come across over the past few months—my “aha moments.” None of these tips are likely to be huge, earth-shattering changes to the way I teach. Instead, my goal is to isolate 5 or 6 strategies to make my students’ digital writing lives a little bit easier.

I’ll start with Google Keep, my favorite tool for bookmarking and task organization. If this sounds boring or repetitive to you, trust me, Keep has a lot to offer.  Basically, it helps me organize my life: My Keep includes task lists, articles I want to read but didn’t have time for, ideas to explore later, projects I’m collaborating on with colleagues, notes about student progress—the possibilities are endless.

You can also use Keep to keep track of and organize research. Before I explain how, think about this scenario: I just had a flashback to how I taught research when I started teaching, almost 20 years ago.  When it was time for the yearly research project, I spent at least a week, maybe more, teaching students how to keep track of research using a system of 3 x 5 cards. You know what I’m talking about. Students numbered source cards with the source information and then they were required to use a single index card for each individual fact, quote, or paraphrased detail. Each index card was numbered with according to the source. Then, when the research part was finished, the writer was supposed to organize the cards based on how the information would be rolled out in the research paper. I’m confusing myself just trying to retell the experience here. If I lost you, don’t worry about it. I am happy to leave that process behind.

Googly Tip #1: Using Google Keep for Research

(iPad Version)


NOTE:  Download Google Keep from the App store if you haven’t done so already. All of the G Suite Apps (e.g., Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drive, etc.) are separate apps on iOS. You have to download them separately. I also recommend downloading Google Chrome and Google Photos.

1) Bookmark Web-Based Articles

  • Think of a topic to research. Since this is practice, think of something fun. My go-to topic is Boston Terriers. I just can’t get enough of the cuteness (see below).
  • Using Chrome or Safari on your iPad, search by key term until you find an article you like.
  • Press the share button (square with an arrow) and choose Keep. If you don’t see Keep, scroll to the end of the list and press the three horizontal dots above More. Slide the tab for Keep to on.

  • When the Keep window pops open, notice the URL for your site is already listed. Where it says Notes, type the name of the article and/or web site. If there is author listed, it doesn’t hurt to type that too. This will make it easier to cite sources later.
  • Next, you can use a label or a hashtag to tag article. For example, if I am researching dogs and this is an article about Boston Terriers, I can type #BostonTerrier to make it easier to find later. If you prefer labels, open Google Keep and create the labels you want to use to organize your research (see Getting Organized). Remember, you can keep adding to labels as you go.

  • Continue with your research, posting various articles to Keep. You don’t have to leave your browser until you are finished.
  • After you have posted a few articles, open Google Keep. You will see a thumbnail image and article title posted below each note.
  • To open the article, simply press the square with arrow icon next to the title (see red arrow below).

2) Get Organized

  • To organize your research, open a note and press the three horizontal dots. From there, add a color. If this is an extensive research project, try color-coding the different types of information or different types of sources. Another idea is to make the current research project all one color to differentiate it from other kinds of notes.
  • If you want to add labels, press the three horizontal dots and Labels. Type your new one over Enter label name.
  • You can also add a collaborator by pressing the three horizontal dots and Collaborators. Whoever you add will automatically have your note in his or her Google Keep. What a great opportunity for group and partner work!
  • If there is one note you will go back to often, press the pin icon at the top. This will pin the note to the top of your Keep.

3) Add Commentary

Finding evidence and organizing it is only half the battle. Writers need to explain the evidence and how it relates to the topic. You can use Keep to paraphrase the salient points and to jot down initial thoughts for how the evidence will be used in the writing. Here’s how:

  • Type Your Thoughts: Simply select the note and start typing some ideas. If you need a way to start, try, “This evidence makes me wonder…” or “This article may be about…” The main objective is to process the information in order to decide what it means and how it fits into the overall project.
  • Record  Your Voice or Make a Sketch: Press the + icon (lower left) and Recording. Add your own verbal commentary and observations.  You can also press the + icon and Drawing to make a quick sketch to go with your note.

4) Keep Track of Print Sources

Keep is a great option for keeping track of traditional, print sources (i.e., good, old-fashioned books) because simply take a photo of what you need:

  • Start a new note. Press the + icon and Take photo.
  • Snap a photo of the cover, title page, and verso page. NOTE: The verso page usually holds the copyright date, publisher, and city of publication, information you need to complete the works cited.
  • If using a small portion of the print source, snap a photo of the page or section you plan to use.
  • Add a voice recording or simply type what you want to remember from that source.

And If You Are Not on an iPad…

I use Google Keep all day long. It is my main platform to keep track of professional learning. It is easy to add articles and links from my iPad because of the Share button. On my laptop, I installed the Google Keep Chrome extension.  This extension works just like the share button on the iPad. If I see an article or site I want to save for later, I simply click the extension button and proceed the same way I would on my iPad.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s