If you’re a teacher, you know this story.
It’s Sunday night, and you have a pit in your stomach because you still haven’t found a good article for your students to read tomorrow.
And then, after perhaps too long, you find it! And then you’re happy. That is, until you realize, again, that you have to spend 10-20 minutes formatting it to make it ready for student consumption.
Despite recent trends that favor readability (including Readability!), the Internet is still a mucky place for typography and design. There are ads, weird spacing, and random things that happen.
A quick example. Take a look at this New York Times article on climate change. It’s pretty nifty: It includes a photo essay, a video, and a colorful map. There’s nothing that can replicate the online version. But most teachers want to convert as much of the online experience into print, without taking with them all of the article’s sidebars, comments, and advertisements.
If you press Print on this article (whether from the webpage or your computer), you lose all the visuals. All you get is text. Now, I’m not an enemy of text. Text is my friend. But if I’m a teacher, I’d like at least one photograph to accompany the text. If I’m lucky, I’d also like the body font to be big enough for my students to read. And if possible, it would be great if I could shorten or modify the text (like Newsela does!) for English Learners and students with special needs.
Before going on, an important pause: I understand that some people may find that last sentence controversial. It’s an infringement of copyright (and maybe fair use even?), many say, to cut or modify an article. That might be true. On the other side, there may be people who ask, “Mark, why don’t you just copy and paste to a Word document? That seems easy, right?” Yes, it seems easy, but with many websites, it isn’t. I’ve found that it’s hard to strip away all the distractions, and it takes too much time. That time would be better spent thinking about my lesson.
The past several months, I’ve found a really easy way to render news articles beautifully and to make them easy to modify, if necessary. What’s great is that the process does not require any additional tools. I already use them. You may already use them, too!
My “hack” is Pocket + Evernote. Here’s what happens:
1. If I find an article I like, I save it to my Pocket. It looks like this. (Notice how nice and big and clean the text is.)
2. On Pocket, I then clip it to Evernote. It looks like this. (Notice that Evernote makes things look similar to Pocket. What’s extra cool is that Evernote prompts you to “view original” in case you want to.)
Also, you might not get the video on Evernote, but you still keep the photos. An example:
3. On Evernote, I can also modify the text, as if we’re in a Word document. Because all the craziness has already been stripped away, it’s a much faster process than copying and pasting and cutting.
4. After I’m happy with my changes, I press Print, and that’s that. Seriously, one of the best things is keeping the body font large. Maybe it doesn’t need to be 22-point, but your students will be so happy if you cranked up the normal 12-point to maybe 14- or 16.
And that’s that! If you’re a teacher out there who already includes a lot of news and nonfiction in your classroom, this Pocket + Evernote tip might be extremely helpful. Even if you don’t yet use Pocket and Evernote, I still think that you should consider it. It’ll save you time and anxiety.
Please let me know your thoughts by leaving a brilliant insight.