Friday, September 13, 2013

Using Evernote, Kindle, and GoodReader to Make Your College Studies Paperless

How can your “back-to-graduate school” or even undergraduate experience be paperless? It is actually done quite easily by committing to a few simple principles and with a few web tools, desktop apps and tablet applications.

Recently, I began working on my EdD, and I made a vow that I was going to avoid the stacks of 3-ring binders, file folders, and textbooks from my previous graduate degree experiences. I still have the notebooks filled with reams of paper stacked in my attic from my two masters degrees and my EdS degree. At some point, I will go through those and place them in the recycling bin, but looking at it now, it seems all a waste. As an administrator, I already try to remain as paperless as possible in my school office, and I wanted to do the same for my current slate of graduate classes under my doctoral in education program.

To begin the process of going paperless, I committed to the following principles:
  • Use no 3-ring binders, no file folders.
  • Avoid printing anything if possible.
  • Purchase only e-copies of textbooks where available.
  • Store all classroom resources in the cloud where they are not as susceptible to loss.
  • If it's scannable, scan it and then recycle it.
  • Utilize technological solutions to help me do all of the above.
With these procedures and a few desktop and web applications, my goal is to avoid killing a forest of trees and avoid having stacks of three-ring binders stuffed with paper at the end of this graduate degree experience.

Basically, three applications serve as my lines of defense in this fight to stay paperless.

The first line of defense in my battle to stay paperless is Evernote. With Evernote, I can place all of my class work in the cloud, by notebook, and access it with any device with Internet connectivity. I simply created an Evernote notebook for each of my classes. In those notebooks, I placed electronic copies of all course documents like the syllabus, handouts, copies of articles, etc. Since PDF is the easiest format to access across most devices, I upload most of these items in PDF format. I have also created an "EdD Task List" for the semester in Evernote too. The end result is I have all electronic copies of class notes, reading notes, articles that have been assigned, links to web resources, and much more in a single notebook. The beauty of this system is that I can access these course notebooks on my laptop, my iPad, my iPhone, my Kindle, and even my work computer as well. This all means I won’t have a stack of three ring binders stacked in my attic upon completing the program. And, because it’s stored in the cloud, I have an automatic backup system too.

Evernote Desktop

The second line of defense in my battle to stay paperless in graduate school are e-reader apps. I use Kindle’s app the most, mainly because that’s where I purchase e-copies of my textbooks that are available. So far, in two classes, I have only had to purchase two books that were not e-books. I purchased e-copies of several others. Using the Kindle app across multiple devices also means I have anytime/anywhere access to those books too. I can access them using the Kindle app on my PC, my iPad, my Kindle, and even use the Chrome Kindle Web app. I can highlight text, insert notes, and copy and paste quotes with automatic citations inserted into any document. Using the e-reader apps such as Kindle means I’m not going to have a stack of books to store at the end of this graduate experience. Two other advantages to the Kindle app, are the abilities to email documents to my Kindle account to read, and the use of the Chrome app  “Send to Kindle." This app allows users to send web articles to their Kindle accounts with the click of a couple of buttons. Both of these functions mean that I can send relevant articles to my Kindle account and access them across devices too.

Send to Kindle App

My final line of defense in the battle to stay paperless while in graduate school are two iPad apps. I say two, because I like both of them so well, I can’t decide which I like better. Those two apps are Goodreader and iAnnotate PDF. These apps both do the same thing: they allow users to read and annotate PDF documents. The only difference I can tell so far are the interfaces. Both seem to have the same features and capabilities. This means those journal articles I collect for class and my dissertation can be stored in my Dropbox or some other cloud service, and then brought into these apps to be read. I can also highlight, underline, and insert comments. These apps give me the ability to read assigned documents and research on my iPad. For those with Android devices, I always liked EZ PDF Reader. It does the same things.

GoodReader for iPad

iAnnotate for iPad

So far, I am basically staying paperless. With the right processes, the right electronic devices, the right software, and a cloud service, being paperless can be an attainable goal.


  1. Having the right mind set is also important - all the tools in the world won't help you if you're not mentally committed.

  2. Wow! This is just a great commitment. I find there is something reassuring about hard copies of documents, but you're right - you then end up with piles of useless paper. Good luck on your paperless journey!

  3. I recently completed my Ed.D. and found Mendeley to be a priceless tool for collecting and referencing research articles. My dissertation was done in paperless mode due to this program. It may duplicate the features of some of your suggestions, but I loved the search features, inserting references, and the ability to develop at least the beginnings of a reference list.