OneNote Class Notebook Creator Is Here!

It’s easy to forget that Microsoft’s Office365 was only launched in early 2013 and was the successor in the education sector to Microsoft’s Live@Edu product, which St Andrew’s College had been running since 2010.

Google-Apps-for-EducationThe incumbent cloud collaboration suite for many New Zealand schools is Google Apps For Education, and with the launch of Office365, Microsoft had significant ground to make up. We encouraged many teachers to take advantage of the benefits of the collaborative, cloud based documents – in particular many embraced OneNote with their students. There were challenges and even confusion at times – Microsoft’s cloud based storage changed names from Skydrive to Skydrive Pro, then to OneDrive before settling on OneDrive For Business.

Additionally, there was no native application on Apple’s OS X or iOS (that finally changed, after a false start in March, with a significant release in July), meaning many of our students had to rely on the web browser version of OneNote Online. Throughout all of this, many of our most innovative teachers continued to persevere as they could see the potential for their students. A number of these stories were picked up by Microsoft New Zealand Education and blogged about over here, reinforcing we were definitely on the right track.

Realistically, however, many of our teachers found the process of setting up OneNote notebooks, sharing them with their students, followed by the reciprocal process of students sharing their notebooks back to the teacher, just too difficult. There were no easy shortcuts to circumvent this process – that is until now.

notebook creatorAt the start of October Microsoft released an app for Office365 called The OneNote Class Notebook Creator – I had first seen a beta version of this at the Edutech Conference I attended in Brisbane in June. This tool is the missing ingredient in making the setup of a class OneNote notebook incredibly easy as it allows the classroom teacher to:

  • Create a “read only” section in the NoteBook where they could add notes, slides, files, images and links that students could easily see within their notebook.
  • Create a “collaborative” section where both the teacher and all students in the class can contribute information and ideas to – each student’s contribution can be seen with their initials beside their additions to the notebook.
  • Create private subsections for each student. These are visible only to the to the individual student and the teacher, with both having read/write permissions into the notebook. This effectively creates sub-notebooks for each student within the one master notebook allowing the teacher to see a student’s work and provide feedback directly into their notebook.

In practice, this means that there is only a single notebook for each class, whereas currently the teachers using OneNote with their students share their “master” notebook, and receive access to an individual notebook back from each student.

To encourage our staff to start using this fantastic tool, I’ve created a screencast showing just how easy it is to set this up:

Setting up a new OneNote Notebook with the Class Notebook Creator Tool

This is a huge step forward for Office365 schools, and I know of some New Zealand schools that are now going to be using OneNote as their only Learning Management System (LMS). Whilst I personally believe OneNote is not an all encompassing, feature-rich LMS, the ease of use for staff and students alike along with the familiar MS Office interface makes it a very powerful tool in the classroom. The Class Notebook Creator tool allows for a single link to be shared with students, either via email or on the class Moodle site, and from there students can open the NoteBook directly into their App or Browser.

haparaGoogle Apps for Education, with their jump start on Microsoft in this sector, have seen some valuable third party apps designed – perhaps none better than Hapara, founded originally in New Zealand (hapara is Māori for “dawn” or “daybreak”). This product allows teachers to get an overview of activity amongst their students and their use of various Google Docs.

It would be awesome if there are extensions to the OneNote Class Notebook Creator as well to enhance the feature set on offer currently. Regardless, this new tool is guaranteed to assist with uptake of OneNote amongst teachers since they can now easily create and share a single NoteBook with their entire class.

Forging Global Connections – Mystery Skype to Singapore

On Friday 23rd May Yr3 students engaged in an eLearning first for St Andrew’s College – a Mystery Skype!

Mrs Jane Egden agreed at short notice from me to help out a request I’d seen on Twitter from Mr Craig Kemp, a Senior Teacher and ICT Specialist at Avondale Grammar in Singapore for a Yr2 or Yr3 class to engage in a Mystery Skype session. The object of a Mystery Skype is

An educational game, invented by teachers, played by two classrooms on Skype. The aim of the game is to guess the location of the other classroom by asking each other questions.

In preparation for the Mystery Skype, Mrs Egden had discussed what sort of questions would be good to ask to find out where the other class was – this is what the students came up with:

Image

With the session scheduled to kick off at 1:30pm, the fantastic ICT support team at St Andrew’s set up a HD webcam in the classroom linked to the projector, and arranged chairs for the students to sit in front of so they would be visible on the webcam to the class in Singapore. Meanwhile, Mr Kemp and I had exchanged tweets showing both classes eagerly anticipating the start of the Mystery Skype:

Armed with atlases, globes and a little help from Google, the students were underway with their questions, both classes trying to “win” by correctly guessing the country of the other. Mr David Jensen from our wonderful Film and Media department filmed the action:

In the end, Avondale’s questions of “What continent are you in” and “What is the most popular sport” allowed them to correctly narrow down to New Zealand, whilst probing questions like “Are you south of China” helped our students locate Singapore.

Throughout the 30minute session, there was high engagement and excitement by all students, and as they popped outside for a quick play at the conclusion, a number requested “can we do this again soon?” A successful initial Mystery Skype for all, confirmed by Mr Kemp’s tweet shortly afterwards:

I have written previously about the benefits of harnessing Skype to pull experts into our classrooms, and I am delighted at the prospect that through this initial Mystery Skype, these two classrooms may be able to reconnect and share other learning experiences with each other. Ultimately, it is these types of learning experiences that excite me so much about the possibilities of technology in education. It is easy to expand the horizons of our students through connecting them with others all around the world, whilst keeping the learning engaging, relevant and fun.

I am looking forward to introducing other teachers at St Andrew’s to the rewarding experience of Mystery Skype sessions.

Here is a link to a different Mystery Skype from Skype’s own webpage: