10 ways Google Keep can help streamline life at school

Google Keep is like a bulletin board you can keep with you wherever you go. It's perfect for organizing ideas or quickly jotting down inspiration.

Google Keep is like a bulletin board you can keep with you wherever you go. It’s perfect for organizing ideas or quickly jotting down inspiration.

For a long time, I’ve been a list-maker and a note-taker. You should see my desk. It can get littered with them pretty easily.

The worst is when I would take down some valuable details and then leave the paper sitting on my desk at school. I have literally driven to school late at night to retrieve notes I forgot there.

Thankfully, I don’t see as many of those midnight runs in my future. I have learned and embraced Google Keep, and it’s one of my favorite Google tools to keep my educator life and my personal life straight.

Google Keep is like virtual sticky notes:

  • Create notes in your Google Keep with a headline and body text.
  • Add check boxes to make an instant checklist — perfect for a grocery list or a “grading to do” list.
  • Snap a picture to attach to a note. NINJA TRICK: If it’s linear typed text (like from a printed document), try the “Grab image text” tool. It will read your text and change it into typed words. Magic!
  • For ideas in your brain where text and photos won’t do them justice, draw a picture freehand using the drawing tool.
  • Color code your notes to organize them.
  • Attach a label to notes, keeping ideas for projects and classes all together.
  • Set reminders — based on time or your location via GPS — that will draw your attention back to that note when you need it.
  • Share notes with collaborators so all of you can view and edit them.

Check out all of the features in this screencast tutorial I created:

Google Keep is available on mobile apps (iOS and Android) and on your web browser (keep.google.com). There’s even an extension for it in Google Chrome.

The magic of Google Keep is that it syncs across all of your devices. You can take a quick note on the go of a new idea. Snap a picture with your phone and add it to a Keep note. When you pull up Keep on your computer, it’s all there. Keep syncs your notes to your Google account.

Recently, Google added Keep to its core G Suite/Google Apps products. Before, it wasn’t an official part of G Suite and there were some challenges in getting it in the hands of students. But now, there’s full support for it, and Google has done a nice job integrating it with Google Docs.

Google Keep isn’t just a nifty Google tool. It can help teachers and students in so many ways:

1. Organize a research paper or essay with notes. When students gather information for a big project, it can be hard for them to picture everything and put it in order mentally. Instead, they can put important ideas — or even individual facts — in separate Keep notes. In a new Google Doc, they click Tools > Keep notepad and drag their ideas and facts from Keep into the doc.

You can see how this might look in the image below from The Keyword blog from Google:


2. Save time by adding common comments from Keep. I learned this one from Eric Curts on his always fantastic Control Alt Achieve blog. When grading assignments in Docs, if you type comments, you probably find yourself typing the same comments over and over. Instead, create a checklist in Keep and type those commonly typed comments there. Go to Tools > Keep notepad to open Google Keep in a sidebar. When you need one of those comments, highlight and copy it from your Keep notepad and paste it into the comments. Why retype the same stuff over and over if you can copy/paste it?

3. Grab and save your whiteboard notes. I do this one a lot. If I’ve written a bunch of notes on my whiteboard, I can take a picture and save it to Google Keep. Students can do this, too.

4. Connect to-do lists with another person. Your sticky notes in Google Keep can be shared with others by entering names or e-mail addresses. Teachers can share important department notes. Students’ excuses of “My partner’s sick and he has all the notes” are eliminated.

5. Save websites to a note with one click. Ever find a great video or article and think, “I’d love to see this but I don’t have time now”? Use the Google Keep Chrome extension. Once added to your Google Chrome web browser, you can click the little lightbulb button in the top right corner of your browser to create a note with a link to that website. Type text in the note and give it a label right from the Chrome extension. Then check it out later.

6. Move big notes to Google Docs. Is one of your Google Keep notes getting too verbose? Use the “Copy to Google Doc” option to save it to your Google Drive, opening up more formatting options.

7. Record inspiration when it happens. Google Keep is available on a variety of platforms (see links above). When you need to jot down a genius idea, Google Keep is there. This is my most common use of Keep: I’ll grab my phone and type an idea before it escapes me. Then I’ll retrieve it or add to it later on my computer.

8. Search your ideas. One drawback of my paper notebook is that I can’t quickly search it if I know a good idea is in there — somewhere. Use the search bar at the top of Google Keep to search all of your notes — even the ones you’ve archived when you’re done with them. If the text is clear and easy to read, it will even search the text in your images!

9. Get reminders when and where you need them. Add a reminder to a Google Keep note so it will call your attention to it at a certain time or when you’re at a specific place. Your device needs to identify your location with GPS for the location feature to work. It’s pretty impressive when it does — when you’re walking in the school and your phone buzzes with a timely reminder.

10. Transcribe printed notes or words into text. Snap a photo of someone’s notes or a quote you need to transcribe. Choose “Grab image text” from the three dots at the bottom. Keep reads the text and changes it into editable text in your note. (Note: It struggles with handwritten text, especially if it’s small and it’s not in straight lines.)

Google Keep has great practical and time-saving benefits for students and teachers. If you haven’t tried it, I suggest downloading the app or heading to the Google Keep website now to start!

(Original post April 2, 2015. Post updated March 10, 2017.)

[reminder]Have you used Google Keep? What has been your experience with it? If you haven’t, how do you think it could help?[/reminder]

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