When I started requesting digital materials in high school (read more about why digital materials here), I wanted a way to be able to access assignments on my iPad, not just my laptop. While my laptop is awesome (read my laptop post here), it cannot be balanced in one hand or be carried around the classroom easily. Luckily, my school’s educational technology specialist helped me set up Notability, and I continue to use it in college. Here's why you need to use Notability in the classroom, how to set it up, and how it revolutionized how I receive accessible large print materials for my IEP and disability services file in college- read more about setting that up Disability Services here.
What is Notability?
Notability is an iPad app that allows users to draw, write, and annotate documents and photos. While the content of the original file can’t be altered from within the app, it’s a great solution for completing assignments in the classroom. It costs a one-time fee of $9.99 but is completely worth it. Download it here on the App Store.
Notability can link to different cloud storage apps to retrieve documents. I have accounts with Google Drive, OneDrive, and Dropbox, and I’ve never had any issues retrieving documents from here. Content can also be imported from other sources such as web browsers and emails- just select the share button and copy it to Notability.
There are several different color themes to choose from, though some of them are paid- I prefer to use the dark theme. When a document is open, the user can choose to type, draw, or highlight on top of the document, and changes are saved automatically.
While the app doesn’t use dynamic text, Notability’s layout is quick to master, even if there isn’t large print. I had trouble using the toolbar zoomed in, so I would recommend connecting to an external display when first learning how to use it. However, documents and photos can easily be enlarged from within the app, and most functions can be accomplished with three taps on the screen- no complex menus here. Read more about what makes an accessible app accessible here.
There are several different pen and highlighter colors to choose from, and the size can change as well. Users can also add photos, sticky notes, figures, gifs, and even web clips to their document. Paper color can be changed within settings too. Notability supports most file types- I request files as PDFs, .doc, or .png.
What I’ve used it for
I use Notability inside and outside the classroom. Some examples include:
- Doing a chemistry assignment with complex symbols
- Filling out a testing form
- Writing out my thought process for a math problem
- Doing a science lab- read more about science projects here
- Typing on a history worksheet
- Making my music easier to read- more on making music accessible here
- Inputting a map of the Metro system and annotating it- read more about the Metro cars here
A note on shared folders
When I was in high school, the educational technology specialist created a shared folder that my teachers could add work to, and I would save the finished assignments to this folder. This worked very well, though we ran into occasional issues, such as when two files had the same name, or when a teacher would put something in the wrong folder, or delete it by mistake. This system worked very well though, and everyone found it easy to use.
How my professors have reacted
My teachers and professors love Notability. It’s easy to just drop an assignment in the folder or email it to me, and just have me send it back. When I use it for exams, I submit the finished assignment, the professor confirms it is submitted, and then they watch me delete the file off my iPad.
Integrating with Microsoft
Notability integrates wonderfully with the Microsoft apps on my iPad, and I've found that is my favorite way to use it. I’ve scanned PDFs in using Office Lens (review here) and annotated them with Notability. I’ve also made documents more accessible in Word (designing accessible documents here) before importing them into Notability.
I love Notability and can’t believe I hadn’t written a whole post about how awesome it is yet (read my first Noteability post here). Every student should use it, especially those who receive accessible materials!