OneNote To Rule Them All

JYO OneNote

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.”

Year 8 Students Engage With #kidsbookchat

This morning Mrs Bridget Preston’s Year 8 class joined in with a multi-school Twitter chat focusing on books. This was organised by a Year 8 class at Selwyn House and was set to run similar to the #mathschatnz and #scitchatnz sessions, with a number of questions being posed for students to answer.

There were seven questions up for discussion that had been posted on the blog of the Selwyn House class site and these were:

  1. Q1: What is the best book you have read this year
  2. Q2: Who is your favourite author at the moment?
  3. Q3: What is your favourite genre?
  4. Q4: Do you have a class read aloud/ novel at the moment? What is it?
  5. Q5: What is your favourite spot for reading?
  6. Q6: How do you find books to read?
  7. Q7: Recommend some titles you’d like to share.

The students in Mrs Preston’s class were excited to be participating in this form of dialogue, and soon grasped the key skills of including the hashtag #kidsbookchat in each tweet, and also starting their replies with the question number they were answering.

I’ve collected a few of the hundreds of tweets that were sent during this 40minute chat and you can scroll through them below (the first tweets are at the bottom):

Throughout the chat Mrs Preston was engaging with the students, reminding them of the need to maintain appropriate replies in their tweets and also making the connection how this is a great way for the students to find out new titles to read. When it came to question six (how do you find good books to read?), many of the students tweeted our fantastic library manager Mrs Kennedy was a great source for finding new books. Many of them even included her Twitter handle showing they grasped this form of communication very quickly.

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A number of the students were tweeting from their own devices – a range of  laptops and tablets – and had set themselves up on a variety of furniture in the classroom, some even getting comfortable on beanbags. The attention and focus from students was high throughout the session with a number saying towards the end “This was so cool” or “this was great fun!”

During the debrief later in the afternoon Mrs Preston stressed the elements of trust involved in an activity like this, not posting silly or off-topic tweets. One thing the students requested was the ability to include their first name or initials in their tweets, rather than having all replies coming from @StAC_8C. When asked directly what sort of learning takes place from an activity like this some of their responses included:

  • Being open to new learning
  • Managing impulses and staying on task/showing appropriate behaviour
  • Learning how to use twitter/twitter handles and hashtags
  • Gained new knowledge about books – what books to read
  • Taking on a role and responsibility within the chat
  • Communicating with other students around NZ
  • Sharing their knowledge of books

They expressed an interest to run their own Twitter chat on a different topic at a later point in the year.

It is always pleasing to see a new initiative work out successfully and for the students to be able to identify their learning from an activity like this. This class is also going to try their first Mystery Skype later this week as well – more fun and engaging learning opportunities powered by technology.

UPDATE: This #kidsbookchat has been summarised in the following Storify recount as well.

Trialling Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Tablets In The Classroom

Six SurfacePro3 for use in classrooms at St Andrew's College

Six SurfacePro3 for use in classrooms at St Andrew’s College

With the official New Zealand launch of the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 last week, St Andrew’s College took delivery of six of these units with a very clear focus to get them into the classroom and finding innovative ways of using them in teaching and learning.

Having purchased a number of the original Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2 devices, excellent examples of teaching with these in the classroom have already emerged, such as Mr Hilliam’s math lessons blogged about here. Over the course of 2014 a number of teachers, in both the Preparatory and Secondary schools, have been asking for Tablet style devices to trial in their classes.

The various angles of the HP360 stand in action

The various angles of the HP360 stand in action

We have explored a range of different units, including the HP X2 and HP 360 – the latter really impressed us with the innovative design that allowed for the keyboard to flip right around behind the screen and also serve as a built in stand.

In the end, the biggest difference between these devices and the Surface Pro 3 came down to the inking (writing) ability on the screen. The earlier iterations of the Surface Pro had shown the accuracy in this technology from Microsoft was significantly ahead of the other Windows 8.1 devices and iPads. Small things, like the ability to rest your palm on the screen and still be able to write without the palm interfering with the touch, really stood out.

Pro 3 Writing

Microsoft’s website says:

Behold the most natural writing and drawing experience on a tablet thanks to the new Surface Pen. Use the Pen to mark up presentations, sign documents or enjoy art apps. You can also open a blank OneNote document with a click of the Surface Pen to instantly capture your next idea–even if your device is in sleep mode.

OneNote is used extensively at St Andrew’s, so the instant click on the end of the pen to open a notebook will appeal to our teachers and students.

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The use of Tablet style devices does create some challenges for the ICT team here – reduced storage on the devices means teachers will need to become more familiar with Cloud / Network storage for starters. Additionally, if a teacher currently has a laptop failure e.g. a cracked screen, they come to the ICT helpdesk where the hard drive is removed, placed into a spare laptop, and they carry on as normal very quickly.

Given we can not directly service these devices, there is potential for some delays for our staff if they have not stored their content off the device.

Another part of this trial will be getting our staff to use the web interface of our Student Management System, Synergetic, instead of relying on the client application. The trend in development for this product is towards the web interface and if this trial is successful, it may open up possibilities for even wider device choice amongst staff.

Finally, we are listing the Surface Pro 3 as part of our recommended devices for 2015 for students at the College. The ongoing testing of these devices by the teachers should present additional compelling reasons why this device is an excellent fit for a student in the classroom.