App review by
Patricia Monticello Kievlan, Common Sense Media
MarginNote App Poster Image
Cool annotation tool has an overwhelming array of features.

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The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Kids can learn note-taking and annotating skills while practicing solid study habits. They can use the highlighting tools to systematically categorize information in things they read to create flash cards and mind maps, and they can annotate to summarize and analyze what they've read. Because the tutorial materials are hard to grasp, some kids might have trouble navigating all the features, but once they get started, they might find that MarginNote makes it easier to make sense of texts and capture their thinking.

Ease of Play

Intro guides move fast, and volume of content is initially overwhelming. How-to information is written in imperfect English, which makes it more difficult to follow.

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that MarginNote is an app for importing texts and annotating them. It's probably best used by high school students and older, and it works well as a tool to delve deeply into longer texts such as short stories, book chapters, or whole books. Users can use the highlighting and annotation tools to make notes, build mind maps, and create flash cards. Then they can share their creations via the cloud or simply review them on their own devices.

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What's it about?

MARGINNOTE is a tool for reading, annotating, and studying long-form texts. Users can import ePub and PDF texts and then annotate them with typed text or highlighting in different colors. They then can display their highlighted text in the form of an outline, flash cards (blue words on one side, yellow words on the other), or as a mind map that shows how highlighted terms are related to one another. Users can automatically generate the flash cards and mind map and then reconfigure them. Once they've read, annotated, and highlighted, users can review their notes and share them beyond the app to cloud storage, to another iOS device, or to a range of other apps for flash cards, for mind-mapping, or as a PDF.

Is it any good?

This note-taking tool helps users keep track of their thinking in some really versatile and convenient ways, but the instructions to use it are a barrier to getting down to business. The how-to text and help overlays are extremely confusing: Some are written in less-than-fluent English and consequently obscure the app's core functions and how to use them. Though the developers have created some tutorials that auto-play and have preloaded the app with some instructions, a broader intro in simple language would be a big help. Once you get the hang of it, though, there's tremendous potential to use technology to thoughtfully annotate, sort, and analyze a text. Though the developer's claims of revolutionizing note-taking might be overstated, the app is still a simple way to transform annotations into study-ready resources -- and it's a lot cheaper than other programs that do the same thing.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about skills for taking notes when you read. Why do we take notes? What's worth writing down, and how can you use what you write down for later study?

  • Talk about which study methods work for your kids. Use the highlighting features to experiment with creating flash cards and mind maps. See how those two organizational tools can help kids develop their understanding of a topic.

App details

  • Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
  • Subjects: Language & Reading: reading comprehension, text analysis, using supporting evidence, writing clearly
  • Skills: Self-Direction: self-reflection, work to achieve goals
    Communication: asking questions, conveying messages effectively
  • Price: Full version $5.99
  • Pricing structure: Free to try, Paid
  • Release date: August 24, 2015
  • Category: Education
  • Size: 50.90 MB
  • Publisher: Sun Min
  • Version: 2.0.2
  • Minimum software requirements: Requires iOS 7.0 or later.
  • Last updated: November 11, 2020

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