Microsoft Release Significant Update to OneNote for Macs and iOS

OneNoteBack in March this year I was incredibly excited to hear that Microsoft had finally released a version of OneNote for Apple MacBooks running OS X. However, it became immediately apparent this was “OneNote Lite” with heavily restricted functionality and I blogged about my frustrations here.

Early this morning I saw a tweet showing that Microsoft had released a crucial update that would bring the long-awaited functionality to Mac users, on both OS X and iOS platforms:

Full information can be found on this link but the key benefits are:

  1. Access your work or school notebooks on your Mac stored on OneDrive for Business or SharePoint Online (on Office 365).
  2. Open and insert files, including PDF files, into your notebook pages.
  3. View your password protected sections.
  4. Improved organization, capturing content, and sharing of notes.

The first point is critical for students at St Andrew’s College, many of whom bring a MacBook to school (numbers of Year 9 Students with Apple devices shown here).

I made a screencast for our students to use to help them connect to OneNote on their Macs:

This was also posted on the front page of our Moodle LMS for increased visibility.

In some ways this free update helps close the circle of functionality for our College – whilst not enjoying complete parity, MacBook users now have far greater ease of access to OneNote which is a tool that increasing numbers of our teachers are using in their classrooms.

A neat feature to see added to the iOS versions of OneNote would be inking – the ability to use a stylus within OneNote on the iPad or iPhone. Here’s hoping this is not too far away!

Collaborating With The World: From Twitter, to OneNote Online, to Lync, to Yammer!

This is a story of collaboration.

It’s also a success story – of starting with a problem causing frustration and then ending with a solution that was shared with a wider community for their benefit.

In between, a whole range of different technologies were used to facilitate the collaboration and problem solving sessions including Twitter, OneNote Online, Lync and Yammer

Given that the New Zealand curriculum places a strong emphasis on participating and contributingI thought I would share this story to show that teachers, and not just students, actively engage in collaboration.

Starting The Ball Rolling With Twitter:

It all started with a frustrated tweet by me which quickly got a reply from a recent connection and fellow fan of Microsoft OneNote I’ve made on Twitter, Marjolein Hoekstra who replied:

Marjolein is based in the Netherlands, and soon helpful ideas were coming in from Arizona in the United States courtesy of Ben Schorr:

The basic task I was trying to accomplish was sharing a “template” OneNote Notebook with students who could take their own copy of the NoteBook and then edit it, either within the desktop version of OneNote (for students with Windows 7 or Windows 8 computers) or via OneNote Online (for students that had an Apple Mac). This shouldn’t have been too difficult, but given the reduced functionality in the browswer based version of OneNote, it was proving challenging.

As you can see from the above tweets, I had been including Darrell Webster, a Sharepoint Trainer from ShareThePoint.com who joined the conversation with:

He then followed up his initial tweet with the key suggestion to move this conversation to a platform that supported more than 140 characters in one message that Twitter was restricting us to:

Extending The Conversation With OneNote Online:

Darrell quickly provided a link to a shared Microsoft OneNote Online notebook where we could all contribute more fully. I’ve included some pictures of this collaboration below:

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At this point, Ben signed off with an offer of further help if required:

Coming Up With Solutions Via Lync:

OneNote Online did a great job of helping Darrell and I understand what the real issues were, but then we wanted to extend this further to trying practical work around solutions. He sent me a Lync Online meeting request where his screen was shared and rather than just typing and sketching within OneNote, we were able to talk directly with each other as well.

Over the course of 40minutes we established what the issues were and some potential work arounds. During this, Darrell recorded the Lync session and later published it privately on YouTube so that Ben and Marjoelein could review it later (by this stage, both had gone to bed because of time zone differences).

 

Sharing a couple of screenshots of the Lync session does not do justice to the power of this tool. Keep in mind I was doing it all through a web browser on my MacBook Air – there was no desktop application involved.

With a possible solution in place, I went away to do some more experimentation, and then created a screencast tutorial of what definitely worked. This was aimed at my students so they could carry out the task at the start of Term 3, but also helped solidify my understanding and meant I could share it with Darrell, Marjolei and Ben easily.

Sharing the Success With Yammer:

Earlier this year a New Zealand Microsoft New Zealand Educators Yammer group had been created and it has quickly resulted in a number of experts and enthusiasts sharing information. Given the significant input I’d received from Darrell, I knew I had to share the results of our collaboration wider, and so I posted it into this Yammer group:

My post and screencast in Yammer

My post and screencast in Yammer

This got a couple of replies:

Feedback

Reflections:

In the end I got what I wanted – a relatively straight forward way to share a format-rich OneNote Notebook with a class of students so that they could edit their own individual copies. It’s not as straight forward as it probably should be, but there is simply no way I would have achieved this outcome without the significant contributions from people all over the world.

I also doubt whether we would have been able to collectively understand the details of the issue without the use of technology like OneNote Online and Lync. Sure, Twitter connected us and Yammer allowed me to share the successful outcome with others, but the bulk of the “heavy lifting” of this collaboration was all achieved through typing, drawing and eventually talking, over Lync and OneNote.

A big part of teaching is encouraging students to be resourceful and to collaborate with a wide range of people to achieve a successful outcome. It’s important that as educators, we can model how this can look in “real life”. I am passionate about education and the role that technology can play to facilitate this and I think this example demonstrates how easily expertise from all over the world can be accessed to achieve a great solution for our students.

Progress Update & Reflections on 1:1 Computing at St Andrew’s College Part 1 of 2

One of the motivating factors behind starting this blog was the imminent launch of St Andrew’s College inaugural BYOD or 1:1 Computing Programme for our 2014 Yr9 Cohort. The first term of schooling for 2014 has now finished and I took this opportunity to get some early feedback from the students of Yr9, their teachers and also their parents – a “360 survey” of sorts, to find out how the introduction of laptops as a mandatory tool in the classroom has gone.

As you can see from the video above, Mr David Bevin (our Head of Teaching and Learning) interviewed a number of Yr9 students to hear their experiences so far and they were overwhelmingly positive. The sentiments expressed in the interviews closely reflected those from the surveys and I will share some of this information below.

The Parent Voice – by the numbers:

  • 71% said their child was not previously allowed to bring a laptop/tablet to class in Yr8
  • 78% said this was the first time their child had ‘owned’ a laptop or been solely responsible for it.
  • The type of device brought by their children:
    • 47% an Apple Macbook Air or MacBook Pro
    • 51% a Windows 7 or Windows 8 laptop
    • 2% a Tablet

These answers all indicated that for most of our Yr9 students, owning / managing a laptop was a pretty new experience, especially in terms of being allowed to bring it to school. This is valuable information for us as a school as it is a timely reminder that there should be no assumptions that the students will be ‘experts’ with the devices. Whilst a number have clearly demonstrated advanced skills, many others have required support and guidance along the way.

The decision to require a “full operating system” (i.e. OS X or Windows 7 or 8) was validated when Microsoft changed their licensing to provide free MS Office to all students. This has allowed the teachers to plan and teach with confidence that all students can create documents in the common Office formats.

  • 94% of parents agreed or strongly agreed that their child is enjoying using their laptops in class
  • Class and homework usage:
    • 62% said their child used their laptop most classes each day
    • 38% said their child used their laptop at least 1-2 classes each day
    • 57% said their child used their laptop for homework related to most classes each day
    • 30% said their child used their laptop for homework related to 1-2 classes each day
  • 90% of parents agreed or strongly agreed that through conversations with their child they were feeling positive about taking their laptop to school each day

It is very pleasing that the parents are seeing the devices used regularly by their students in class, as in 2013 one of the concerns expressed in the lead up to the launch was whether the laptop would be actively used by teachers as part of the learning. Through the combination of the  use of Moodle as our Learning Management System and our professional development of teachers these devices are being used authentically in the learning both in, and out, of the classrooms.

The biggest shared concern from parents resulting from this survey was the handwriting skills their students would have in Yr11 when NCEA exams kicked in for them. There is so much talk in the media about this at the moment that the requirements for students may be quite different in a few years time, but nevertheless this is an area where teachers will need to still be working in opportunities for handwriting practice for their students (in fact, many of our NCEA teachers are already doing this – requiring students to hand write practice assessments before the preliminary internal exams).

UPDATE: Thanks to Mr G MacManus for linking me to the transcript of the address from Karen Poutasi, Chief Executive of NZQA, addressing how exams will change in the very near future.

Here is a great quote from a parent who completed the survey:

I was very concerned about giving our son a laptop for his own use. However my observation is that he is using it as the tool it is supposed to be … He only uses the device in the family area as is the rule … and we have been very impressed with the way it has been implemented across the school. It is clear to me how teachers are making use of this in the home learning environment … Overall though we are thrilled with how it is working. Our son is dilligently completing his home learning and project work on his own device and there have been very few issues so far.

In a followup post I will break down the feedback from staff and students on how Term 1, 2014 has gone in our Yr9 1:1 Computing Programme.

Microsoft Release OneNote for Mac

OneNoteI’ve been in two minds about writing a blog about Microsoft’s recent release of OneNote for Mac. On the one hand, this has been the biggest request on our “wish list” for a long time, yet on the other it falls short of being comparable in functionality to the Windows equivalent.

I’ve blogged in the past about how teachers are doing great things with OneNote at St Andrew’s College and consequently my ICT support team and teachers alike were excited with the announcement that OneNote had arrived for Mac at long last.

Students can download a version from the Mac App Store here and the price is great too: free.

The issue from our standpoint is synchronisation. As a College we have made a big push to have all students and staff using the OneDrive for Business (formerly SkyDrive Pro) feature of Office365 – this allows sharing of documents easily (through real time searching of the College Active Directory) and allows stronger management from an ICT perspective.

The new Microsoft OneNote for Mac only allows synchronisation of notebooks with the OneDrive Consumer service – a great thing, but unfortunately lacks the tight integration into the rest of the Office365 suite on offer at St Andrew’s College.

We hold out hope that this synchronisation with OneDrive for Business will come in a future release and, in doing so, give our students (approximately 50% of them use a Mac) equal access to the fantastic product that is OneNote.

Continue reading

What Devices Are Students Bringing To School?

With Week 3 completed at St Andrew’s College, classes are settling into routines, most problems are resolved from an ICT perspective, and it is a chance to reflect on a few things. One area of particular interest to me is this: just what devices are students actually bringing to St Andrew’s and connecting to the wireless network.

Analysing this is important because one of the key decisions that was made in 2013 was to allow students a degree of choice in what their primary device would be in the classroom. As a College, we partnered with Cyclone Computers and created a list of recommended models, but the underlying principal was this: students had to bring a device with a “full operating” system on it. By this we meant Windows 7 or 8, or on an Apple device, OS X.

The thinking behind this was quite simple: if a student had a full operating system, then most compatibility issues could be overcome, they could all run MS Office (especially important, since it is now free to all our students), and critically, teachers could plan with confidence that the activities they wanted to do in class would be supported by the devices the students had (by inference we were ruling out stripped down operating systems like iOS, Android, ChromeOS etc).

Additionally, the thinking was that if students had choice in the device they could bring, this would increase their sense of ownership and proficiency in using their laptop as well.

Using the new reporting tools from CloudPath (the company whose software we use to onboard devices to our wireless network and issue certificates) an overview of devices registered in the last month is quite informative:

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Devices by Type (Laptop / Mobile / Tablet)

What is interesting here is the high number of mobile devices, and the almost complete domination of Apple iPad’s in the Tablet sector. Some caveats exist however, some versions of Google’s Android software have difficulty with EAP-TLS authentication, as does Window’s Phone8, meaning we have tended to connect these devices via WPA2-PSK, instead of onboarding via Cloudpath.

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Devices by Manufacturer

Again, the popularity of Apple’s iPhone is apparent in the very high numbers of Apple products, and somewhat alarming, is the presence of Windows XP devices (despite it becoming End of Life very shortly).

From an ICT perspective, supporting a range of different devices can have it’s challenges. Having visibility like this about the devices our students and staff are bringing to the campus means we can target what resourcing is required within the ICT Department and where we may need to provide additional training and professional development to the ICT support team.

Microsoft Office – Free for all St Andrew’s College Students

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In October 2013 Microsoft made an announcement that qualifying institutions would be able to provide the full Office365 and Desktop Applications in the Office Suite to their students for free:

In an effort to help prepare students for the technology skills required in the workforce, Microsoft on Tuesday announced Student Advantage, a new benefit to qualifying institutions that brings Microsoft Office 365 Education to more students worldwide. Microsoft Office 365 Education, an always-up-to-date cloud productivity service, is currently used by 110 million students, faculty and staff around the world. Office 365 Education enables students to communicate and collaborate more efficiently, access assignments in shared workspaces, have notes synchronized in OneNote and have familiar Office applications such as Word, PowerPoint and Excel anywhere, across virtually any device.

St Andrew’s students are able to download a copy of the MS Office suite for their Windows (Win7 or Win8) or Apple devices (OS X) and a video outlining how to do this is provided:

Technology and Music – Let’s start at the very beginning

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As the first blog post that provides a look into how technology is being used in a classroom at St Andrew’s College, it seems appropriate to start with a department that has been utilising the power of computers in teaching and learning for a long time. This is, of course, the Music Department.

Sitting down and talking with Head of Department Mr Duncan Ferguson it is apparent that technology permeates all aspects of music composition these days. He notes:

Mixcraft (composition software) reinforces traditional teaching of the elements of music by giving students a visual representation of abstract ideas such as ‘texture’ and they can literally see the structure of a piece of music by looking at the timeline in the software.

This works particularly well for junior students who have perhaps not been previously exposed to musical theory. With more advanced senior students, the technology enables them to create quite outstanding work. An example of this is a requirement for a Level 3 (Yr13) Standard, simply called Making Music (3.4).

This standard requires students to take inspiration from an area of the Visual Arts and compose an accompanying musical piece. An example of student work comes from Harry Guy who focused on this task:

  • Compose an original piece of music inspired by a visual art work, which could be a painting, drawing, sculpture, photograph, or graphic art.

Check out Harry’s video talking through the connection between Michelangelo’s Last Judgement and his own composition:

Unsurprisingly, Harry’s interest and skills in composition started a number of years ago, Continue reading