This post first appeared in the August 2014 edition of the College’s Regulus Magazine
It started as a way to help her students organise their notes, but Year 11 Dean and English teacher Jacqueline Yoder quickly found that Microsoft’s OneNote had a lot more potential.
“It has an extensive collaborative capability which allows students access to all my folders, and lets me see their work,” she says.
By using OneNote, an electronic version of a traditional binder, Jacqueline can access students’ online exercise books so if a student has a question she can see what they are working on and make suggestions, especially if she notes they are going off track.
“I didn’t want a place just for storing documents. I wanted kids to interact, not to struggle to use their devices, and to have a ring binder in the sky.”
With some help from Director of ICT, Sam McNeill, Jacqueline created a folder on OneDrive to which she uploads everything.
“My two English classes don’t have books they only use OneNote – that’s their method of storing all of their work and assessments.”
Jacqueline also does all her marking online making her classroom effectively paperless.
“The students hand in nothing. I do a lot of colour coding in my feedback so they get back a far more visually enhanced assignment. I am also experimenting with oral feedback.”
This involves inserting a video into her feedback providing a medium for more detailed analysis. It’s a different way of marking and works for students who struggle with English and find it difficult to read a marking schedule.
But does it make better English students?
“The evidence of my first trial group who have gone into Year 11 is that teachers say they are doing very well at NCEA. OneNote doesn’t replace teaching, it’s a tool to help students organise their work so they can find everything they need. It gives me a way of providing more informative feedback on a regular basis because I can literally comment immediately.”
It’s this combination of staying organised and engaging feedback consistently over time rather than
just at the end of an assignment, that Jacqueline says makes the difference.
Another attraction is the software’s collaborative potential. Because work is stored in the cloud, it offers opportunities for students to work together. Jacqueline’s Māori students are working on shared presentations and movies.
While the thought of adopting technology can be daunting, Professional Learning Groups are available. Jacqueline is keen to share the knowledge among StAC teachers that the software is more than just a word processor.
“It makes learning seamless. When it’s time to write reports I have all the information at my fingertips through those shared notebooks. Parents have real time access to their child’s learning so they can see what they’ve done during the day. It’s a triangle of student, teacher, parent, which is a powerful way to make learning happen.”
For Jacqueline, using technology such as OneNote is about the student owning the learning – transferring the ownership of the learning from being teacher centred to student centred.
“It’s a move from where the teacher owns all the information on the student in a folder to the student having the ownership of the learning and being able to access to look and learn from it in real time.”
Increasing use of technology also fits in with the school’s commitment to lifelong learning.
“Because technology is evolving all the time, you can’t think you’ve ever mastered something. It’s exciting to push the system and discover where it will take you next.”
Rector Christine Leighton says it is exciting to see how St Andrew’s teachers are embracing opportunities through e-Learning.
“Teacher voices are really powerful and to be able to share that voice with other teachers, as well as parents and greater numbers of students is very effective. Teaching is not staying enclosed in a classroom.”