17 Reasons to Use Google Keep in Your Classroom

The virtual world is upon us whether we like it or not. That means we have to take the good with the bad – students are not easily focused on what traditional classrooms put in front of them. Their attention is increasingly being robbed from classwork by notifications and apps that offer more engagement.

I know these issues because I suffer, too. We're all wondering what people are doing all of the world, and it's great to learn from interacting with our friends online, watching YouTube videos, or listening to podcasts on the way to work. The trouble comes when this increase in information processing shifts our abilities away from staying on task and being responsible for our commitments.

Apps like Google Keep offer solutions to some of the problems faced by both students and teachers in the classroom. Here are some of the ways Keep can be used to alleviate the stress created by fast-paced schedules and online access to instructional materials.

1. Reminders (Time Management)

This one is my favorite. I use reminders on a regular basis for anything necessary. From remembering to bring $20 for a gift to picking up my son at school, I set reminders for whatever I cannot stand to miss.

Let's say your students need to reflect on their weekly work every Thursday night to prepare for a class meeting on Friday. They can choose the best time of day to receive the reminder and click the link to go directly to the Google form, doc, etc, so they can complete the task right away.

Students can benefit by setting reminders to work on assignments, bring in certain materials, or to attend tutorials. Sure, many of us can write these things down on a calendar, but the reminder feature on Keep can appear as a notification on your phone or pop up based on a GPS location. Plus, the reminder can contain the file the student needs to work on.

I mentioned above that we are dealing with media that are constantly robbing our students' attention. This goes both ways, too. We are dealing with trading time. The time in a day can be spent on different activities that add value to our lives. Reminders help keep me making the right choices in the long term, especially when I'd rather be doing something else.

2. Make Lists

It seems that many people run their days on to-do lists. Making a list in Google Keep includes check boxes and a strike-through when you check the box. The best part is the ability to archive the list or reuse it for routine tasks.

Students could use a list made from the directions for a project. Simply select the text you want to send to Keep, and right click to bring up the menu from which you can choose “Save to Keep.” There may be some work that needs to be done to format the note, but most of the job is done automatically.

3. Organizing Notes

I still remember the excitement of getting a new Trapper Keeper at the back-to-school sale. It was a binder with a simple wraparound piece to keep it closed. We kept notebooks, paper, folders, and a pencil bag inside. It had everything I needed inside.

This same childhood feeling came back to me after I started using Keep to organize my projects, ideas, notes, and websites I may need to reference routinely. It was just so easy to color code notes and write tags to filter the notes with one click.

If you’ve ever seen a student take a photo of your slide projected on the screen. This can be a very efficient way to collect the information, but it doesn’t matter if you can’t find it later or don’t spend much time processing it. By taking a photo (or screenshot) and labeling it, you’ve thought about bigger ideas that relate to the information. This is already a step ahead of most note-taking practices, especially those practices that are more on the side of recording information than distilling it into a note.

4. Setting Goals

We all talk about goal setting at one point or another. It’s the only way we learn how to manage all of our tasks and make progress on our aspirations. But how many times have you taught kids how to leverage tools like the reminder feature to avoid procrastination.

Sometimes it’s not the right time to do a task. Perhaps it doesn’t fit with our schedule or we are not emotionally fit to initiate and persist. This is exactly the organizational skills our students need to learn. When is the best time to complete a set of tasks for an assignment?

The best time to complete the task depends on the individual. The best time to schedule your time to complete all or some of an assignment is when the assignment is assigned. If I am assigned something on Tuesday to be completed by Thursday, I know that Tuesday night is the best time for me to complete some or all of the tasks. I can set a reminder to complete it at 7:30 p.m. and include a link to the materials in the Google Keep note. When it pops up on my phone, I’ll be at the right place and ready to work.

As students practice setting work completion goals in this way, they can begin to calibrate their time management. Essentially, using Keep in this way becomes a way to dial in the accuracy of their assumptions on their work habits.

5. Collaboration

Keeping people on the same page has never been so easy. The ability to collaborate is a standard of cloud computing and ultimately the best use of these platforms. For students working on group projects or cooperative learning activities, the ability to share notes is crucial to their work flow.

Google Keep allows you to share notes with other Google account holders. Simply select the collaboration icon at the bottom of the note. The owner of the note with be in parenthesis and account icons are visible for easy identification of collaborators.

I even collaborate with myself if it’s a reminder I don’t want to miss. Perhaps you have a Google account for school (or work) and a personal account, shared notes between accounts will ensure that you get reminders on your app. The app only shows one account at a time, so switching between accounts can affect your reminder visibility via the app.

6. Character Recognition

The text from an image is recognizable by Google Keep. If you upload an image to a note, click the three horizontal dots for more options. One of the options is to “Grab image text.” This tool places the image text in the note.

Grabbing image text can be helpful if you need to transcribe the image text or if you take a photo of a slide during a presentation and want the text in your note. The note text can then be used to add information to a Google Doc or Slides presentation (keep reading for more on this).

7. Bullets to slides

Let’s say you have to prepare for a presentation and you organize your ideas and materials in Google Keep. You can make a slide presentation from the information in a Keep note. The Keep icon is on the right sidebar of the Slides app waiting to be clicked. It opens your notes within Slides, allowing you to click the three vertical dots and add information to a slide.

This doesn’t just go for Slides, either. You can access your notes and add information to a Google doc, too. Perhaps you’re working on a lesson and you want to bring together ideas you’ve been collecting for an upcoming project. The information is ready when you are, including images and links.

8. Sketches

Drawings are great for sketching ideas and putting a more personal touch on a note. They can be made on both the browser and mobile apps. Although the drawing options are limited, it does include changes to the pen size, color, and backgrounds – grid, lines, dots, and none.

The drawings can be sent via email or text message. If you need to illustrate the directions or collect a sketch from someone, sometimes text messages are the easiest way to do it. The drawing is sent as a file, not a link to the Google Keep post.

If your class uses Google Drive, try sharing drawings to a folder in Team Drive to collect your students’ work. The folder in Drive can be viewed as a slideshow for discussion. This workflow would be good for a variety activities. For example, have one student face the screen and describe to a student facing away from the screen what to draw and where. Activities like this help students develop team skills, technology proficiency, and more detailed descriptions.

9. Drawings on Images

Google images is full of slides from slide presentations used by teachers and professors from all over the world. These slides are easy to save in Keep where annotations can be made with the drawing tools. Just like making a note with a drawing, you can draw or write on an image, like adding a star or check mark next to the points on a slide clipping that you want to focus your attention.

10. Reuse Comments

Making comments on student work is often a matter writing similar statements in different places. I store the rubric level descriptors in Google Keep notes so I can copy and paste into Google Doc comments. This saves time and establishes a routine with the students to refer to the rubric. As long as the level descriptors are specific enough, the feedback will be actionable.

11. Vocabulary

Quizlet is awesome. I love it for so many reasons, and Keep can be a more integrated way to organize vocabulary study. If students transfer the word list to a note, they can have the words to quickly reference as well as the link to a Quizlet deck in the same note.

Users can then label the note with the subject and the unit to further organize their study materials. Over the course of a few years, they may amass quite a few notes with lots of key information. Considering most of the learning materials traditional approaches would use get recycled or otherwise left behind, this is a game changer for long term resource organization.

12. Note Cards

This would have been perfect in grad school. I can’t tell you how many times I had to use the same research on different papers. If could have done a keyword search on my own term paper notecards, that would have been amazing.

Plus, paper note cards don’t have clickable links to resources. Sure, the tactile nature of paper cards is important to people. Take a photo of the paper note card and add it to a note in Google Keep. Then add the links and label accordingly or title it so you can search for it later. If you handwriting is neat enough, you could transcribe the note card to the Keep note and optimize the searchability of your notes.

13. Journaling

Writing in a journal is different than note-taking. It’s challenges the writer to make deeper connections with new information and prior knowledge to strengthen their understandings. It’s best used for concepts and big ideas, which is perfect for Google Keep.

In use #3 on this list, I suggest using color to organize notes. The colors could relate to themes. One of the powerful effects of journaling is the organization and reorganization of information into new and old groupings.

14. Curate Web Resources

If you have the Keep Google Chrome browser extension, you’ll be able to open Keep and save the URL without leaving the website you’re currently using. It lets you write a Keep note and label the note to organize it among your other notes. 

Students don’t do themselves any favors when they come across useful resources and close out of the tabs on their browser when they’ve found what they need. The process of finding what you need puts us in front of several useful resources. When you find one that looks good for a future question, save it with a relevant label and continue your search.

15. Transcribe Voice Recordings

The mobile app allows you to make a voice recording note. The note can be transcribed automatically, but you’ll still need to edit the note to fix the spelling and punctuation issues. But this shouldn’t stop you, especially if the spoken word flows better for you.

Students should be encouraged to write with voice recordings and transcription tools if they are not good typers or loose ideas because they write too slowly. I type really fast but still use the voice tools because it’s a different approach that maintains words on the page when my brain-to-hands connection is a little tired or uninspired.

16. Access Notes on All Devices

In the Mobile Age of the Internet, not much is more important than WiFi and access to our tools whenever and wherever we need to be productive. For many people, this means accessing information on different devices, depending on when and where we are working.

My students use Chromebooks during class and their phones for most of their connected productivity elsewhere. If they use Google Keep on their Chromebook to set a reminder for a homework assignment, for example, they can receive the reminder on their phone if the Keep app is installed and they are logged into the right Google account on the app.

17. Search Your Notes With Keywords

I can’t tell you how long I’ve been trying to train my father to use the search tool in Google Drive to find documents. He sees how quickly I find things, especially when they’re not labeled well or in the proper folders. The problem is that he’s in his sixties and it takes a lot of rewiring to get him to embrace the search tool as a primary means of finding files.

Our kids are more prepared to embrace the value in developing effective search skills. Like Google searches, Keep will search titles and the note content to serve you results that relate to your keywords. This means, using good keywords in the notes as well as meaningful titles is crucial to making highly searchable notes.

Why Google Keep?

The best part about using Keep with my students is the amount of connected learning skills they get to develop through productivity suites like G Suite Edu. It essentially does not matter if they take what they’ve learned and apply it to a Microsoft platform because the concepts about search engines and keywords are still the same. Plus, most of these tools do the same thing with slight variations or added features.

Google Keep is sticky notes for the mobile connected worker or learner. Evernote has more features and acts more like a notebook with editing tools, and OneNote is very much like a digital binder. These tools are great, but the integration Keep has with other apps is ideal for G Suite users. I guess if I worked for a company or school that used Microsoft, this list would be about OneNote. But I think the reasons would be very similar, if not the same.