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!

Behind The Scenes at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games with Moodle

Mr Bradley Shaw, member of the BlackSticks at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow

Mr Bradley Shaw, member of the BlackSticks at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow

Mr Bradley Shaw, our very own Year 8 teacher in the Preparatory School, has been selected to represent New Zealand at the upcoming 2014 Commonwealth Games hosted in Glasgow.

Already a proficient user of Moodle and OneNote in his classes, he contacted me asking if I could help set up a dedicated Moodle page that he could keep updated throughout the Commonwealth Games. Due to the strict social media policies in place by many of the teams competing at the Games, Mr Shaw could not blog on a publicly accessible page, or use social media such as Facebook or Twitter either.

However, by setting up a password protected Moodle course here that requires students to enter an enrolment key, he would be able to keep students and staff updated and provide a unique “behind the scenes” view of life as an athlete at a world class sporting event. I was keen to support this as it ties in with part of our wider strategy of creating globally connected Digital Citizens of our students. The Moodle course has two forums in it currently where students can:

  • Ask questions of Mr Shaw (or other athletes he may be able to track down) of what life is like at the Games, and
  • Send messages of support to the BlackSticks and other teams that Mr Shaw can pass along.
Live Twitter feed on the #Glasgow2014 hashtag

Live Twitter feed on the #Glasgow2014 hashtag

There is also a photo gallery plugin where new images will be posted from time to time. I also embedded a Twitter feed on the hashtag of #Glasgow2014 to ensure regular updates of images, results and news from the Games directly within the Moodle Course (see this blog post about embedding content such as Twitter feeds into Moodle) Additionally, I noticed that Hockey New Zealand has a Twitter account where they post results from games so I embedded that too:

Live updates from the @BlackSticks Twitter handle that will give game scores and results.

Live updates from the @BlackSticks Twitter handle that will give game scores and results.

I always like to see Moodle being used for non-academic purposes as it highlights the versatility of this Learning Management System, and we have a number of co-curricular courses such as this one being used now. Here’s wishing the Black Sticks and Mr Shaw all the best at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games!

Wolfram Interactive Models Bring Learning To Life

I was recently reminded by Stephen McConnachie at Middleton Grange School of the excellent Wolfram Demonstration Models available online and I have explored the ability to embed these directly into Moodle, our Learning Management System.

These interactive models allow students and teachers to directly manipulate animations to increase understanding of complex ideas such as insulin molecular structure, radial engine design and how microwave ovens work. Wolfram Demonstrations uses CDF Technology (Computable Document Format) to deploy the interactive demonstrations to any standard web browser – a plugin approximately 230MB in size.

Once the plugin is installed, a user can manipulate the model directly within the browser as this video shows:

The full video above shows the three stages of using these demonstrations:

  1. The installation of the CDF plugin
  2. The obtaining of the embed code for the selected model from the Demonstrations page
  3. Inserting the embed code into Moodle (or any other page that supports iFrames)

The Wolfram Demonstrations pages were created to support Wolfram Mathematica users. Anyone wishing to create their own demonstration model must submit their examples to Wolfram Research where a full vetting for accuracy and completeness takes place.

So far, High School students, teachers, professors, researchers, lawyers and hobbyists have all submitted to the ~9600 examples. Below is a screenshot of some of the demonstrations:

Featured DemonstrationsThe other strong feature of Wolfram Demonstrations is the cross-curricular range of models as evidenced here:

Curriculum areas that have Wolfram Demonstration Models available.

Curriculum areas that have Wolfram Demonstration Models available.

These demonstrations represent an excellent additional resource that teachers can take advantage of, particularly when trying to aid student understanding of complex ideas. I will be promoting these to our staff and beyond for inclusion into Moodle courses within the College.

Bringing It All Together: The Power Of Embedding Content

One of the common complaints I hear from teachers in schools where computers/tablets are common place in the classroom is that students are easily distracted when browsing websites they’ve been directed to by the teacher. One way to address this is by where ever possible, choosing content that can be embedded directly into your Learning Management System, which in our case is Moodle.

Prior to the introduction of Moodle at St Andrew’s College in 2012, a number of teaching staff had various blogs, wikis and websites around the internet where students would be directed to find content useful for their learning. One of the initial attractions of Moodle was that it would centralise the sharing of resources for all teachers and students, whilst still providing a convenient launching point to locate relevant content elsewhere on the internet.

Increasingly, however, content can now be embedded from the source provider directly into Moodle meaning students do not need to leave the Learning Management System at all which increases engagement and reduces the chance of distraction by clicking off to other websites.

When sourcing great eLearning content from around the internet, I immediately look to see if it allows sharing through embedding, and where it does I always promote this option to our staff rather than simply linking to an external website from Moodle.

Embedding YouTube

One of the most popular resources to embed into Moodle is YouTube video clips and I created a video tutorial for our staff showing them how to do this:

At St Andrew’s College we have a Staff PD area within our Moodle site, and I’ve embedded all our video tutorials into a section of this site so that our staff can follow along with screencast tutorials like the one above.

Embedding ETV

Another valuable video source is ETV which more of our staff are finding the benefits of:

(I mentioned ETV embedding in this earlier post explaining various Moodle functions too)

Embedding Twitter

I’ve been posting recently about the merits of Twitter for Staff Professional Development and increasingly I’m seeing interesting uses by teachers of Twitter in the classroom. One way to achieve this is to embed a twitter feed directly into Moodle – again, a video tutorial showing how to do this:

Having recently returned from the outstanding EduTech conference in Brisbane, the Twitter hashtag of #eduTECH continues to be very active and remains a good source of links and advice. Embedding this into Moodle, or indeed this blog, is achievable with minimal effort:

Increasingly, more and more content is capable of being shared through embedding which is great news for teachers wanting to make their Learning Management Systems more engaging and interactive. A colleague recently tipped me off to using Wolfram Alpha maths resources that can be embedded into Moodle and I’ve demonstrated this briefly here:

Embedding Wolfram Alpha

There are so many other tools that can be embedded such as FotoBabble, Padlet and not to forget Google Docs / Presentations and Office365 WebApps that also allow for sharing through embedding into Moodle or other Learning Management Systems.

Feel free to share other great online resources that can be embedded in the comments below.

In the end, you want your students focusing on the content you’ve selected for that particular part of a lesson and by embedding the content you’re making it easier for them to access the content and stay on task.

Hosting The CORE Education eFellows of 2014 at St Andrew’s College

2014 eFellows from CORE Education listening to presentations at St Andrew's College

2014 eFellows from CORE Education listening to presentations at St Andrew’s College

CORE Education is well known in New Zealand for delivering major educational events such as ULearn, Learning@School Roadshow and the Emerging Leaders Summit.  Earlier this month I was asked by Margot McKeegan and John Fenaughty if they could bring their 2014 eFellows to St Andrew’s College to learn more about eLearning in our classrooms.

This struck me as a good opportunity for some of our teachers to meet the eFellows, teachers from around New Zealand recognised for their commitment to eLearning and the successful implementation of it in their classrooms. Additionally, it was a perfect chance for the great work our teachers are doing to be shared with a wider audience, with hopefully some of the connections made today growing with shared professional development over the coming months.

The morning started with a warm welcome from our Rector, Mrs Christine Leighton, and then I provided a broad overview of the move to 1:1 Computing at St Andrew’s, what eLearning in the classroom can look like, as well as some of the main platforms we use such as Moodle and OneNote / Office365. The following teachers then shared some aspects from their teaching and learning:

  • Dr Jeni Curtis talked about use of OneNote and Moodle, particularly with her Yr9 BYOD class. This blog post would give a good summary of her discussion today.

    Tam Yuill Proctor presenting to the 2014 eFellows from CORE Education

    Tam Yuill Proctor presenting to the 2014 eFellows from CORE Education

  • Mrs Nicola Richards talked about integrating the SOLO Thinking Taxonomy into her PE and Health teaching, along with her aim to have a “paperless” class with her Yr9 students. This blog post would give a good overview of her chat today.
  • Mr Matt Nicoll chatted about his personal reflective blog, approach to his classroom blogs with his students and also some of the practicalities of recording his teaching moments. This blog post is worth reading if you’re interested in this and he was also interviewed for NZ Science Teacher on this subject too.
  • Ms Tam Yuill Proctor talked about how technology has impacted on her teaching, particularly with the Yr9 Cohort 1:1 programme, along with some of the MLE furniture she is trialling in her classroom. This blog post shows some of the innovative use of technology she has used in a Level 3 English “Digital Narratives” assessment.
  • Ms Rachael Hoddinott gave an interesting perspective from the Preparatory School, calling herself a “self taught dabbler” in eLearning! She demonstrated her regular use of Moodle, Socrative, LiveBinders, and OneDrive as part of the Office365 suite. Teaching extension maths to Yr7 students, she is also in charge of the GATE group involved in the Future Problem Solvers competition, and she explained how technology facilitated the sharing of resources even when students didn’t always meet regularly.

It is great to be able to facilitate the sharing of knowledge amongst progressive teachers like this and hopefully there will be more opportunities like this in the future!

Matt Nicoll presenting to the 2014 eFellows from CORE Education

Matt Nicoll presenting to the 2014 eFellows from CORE Education

Teaching the Teachers: Professional Development Between Schools


I was invited to speak today with staff from Catholic Cathedral College who were part of a Professional Learning Group (PLG) that is focusing on the impact of technology in the area of literacy.

Unfortunately, I could not be physically present after having knee surgery, so made use of Skype and Screenflow to record the videoconference that took place instead. A wide ranging discussion took place over the next hour and I’ve edited this down to the following:

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.

Increasing Student Engagement & Enthusiasm for Writing with MS OneNote

I had the privilege of meeting with Dr Jeni Curtis today to discuss her use of Microsoft OneNote in her Yr9 English class, and discuss how this was one of the key tools she was using to achieve her aim of a paperless environment in her classroom. I was aware that a number of staff at St Andrew’s College were exploring the different ways that OneNote could be used in their teaching and, after seeing some unsolicited parent feedback to Dr Curtis, I knew I needed to write a blog about it.

OneNote is sometimes described as ‘the hidden jewel’ in the Microsoft Office Suite and for those unfamiliar with the programme, it can best be described as an electronic version of the traditional ring-binder, replete with the coloured tabs/dividers down the side. Since all students at St Andrew’s College have access to a free copy of MS Office (along with the web-apps via Office365), the decision to use OneNote by Dr Curtis made perfect sense.

The Setup:

All students initially required some assistance with setting up their OneNote notebooks for English and then sharing this with Dr Curtis. Critically, they were able to set the sharing permissions so that she could both read and edit their notebooks. Once completed, it meant that as the teacher, Dr Curtis could look at the student’s equivalent of traditional “exercise books” at anytime, allowing direct feedback and comments.

Additionally, Dr Curtis shared a “read only” OneNote notebook with the students where they could see useful materials for the courses, explanations of various terms as well as expectations for them around homework and other activities.

The First Task – An Introductory Letter & A Video Response:

The first task for the Yr9 English students in their steps towards a paperless classroom was to write an introduction letter to Dr Curtis using their shared OneNote notebook. What they didn’t expect was that they would receive a personalised video response from Dr Curtis that they could all watch directly within OneNote itself.

Video Response to Introductory Letter

Video Response to Introductory Letter

This certainly left an impression on the students of the class, and was actually achieved relatively easily through the neat feature of OneNote that allows for the recording of audio and video notes directly within a notebook. This innovative idea for marking homework and giving feedback was appreciated not only by the students, but also by the parents, with one taking the time out to email Dr Curtis the following congratulations:

I must congratulate you with using One Note for marking the children’s writing. Callum showed me the video clip commenting on one of his assignments. It was really impressive and useful. It is such a great use of technology and had helped Wayne and I appreciate the use of technology in classroom environment. We were a bit unsure with 1:1 computer concept to begin with.

I hope Callum is working hard in your class. I had seen his shifts of interests from not liking writing to enjoying writing in the last 2 assignments, which is wonderful.

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Identifying Prior Learning With

Today I introduced my Yr9 Religious Education students to an overview of the Old Testament. I recognised there would be a wide range of prior knowledge and so I wanted a fun and interactive way of identifying what the students actually knew at this point.

I decided to use the great tools from and posed the question:

If you were asked to explain what the Bible was to someone who had never heard of it, what would you tell them?

As a starting “Do Now” activity, this worked effectively, because the students needed to come in quietly, get out their laptops, connect to Moodle and then click the link on our class site to, before answering their questions. The students were engaged immediately, especially when they saw their answers starting to scroll up the projector screen at the front of the classroom.

I had chosen to allow the students to provide their answers anonymously for two reasons:

  1. For those that didn’t know much about the Bible, they would not feel uncomfortable due to their limited knowledge.
  2. An opportunity for me to talk about Digital Citizenship and remind the students their replies needed to be responsibly worded.

I then gave the class the opportunity to vote for the answer they liked the best, requiring them to read through the 27 responses and then select what they felt was the best explanation. Here are the top answers with the amount of votes each received to the left:

Student responses to the question "How would you explain the Bible to someone that had never heard of it

Student responses to the question “How would you explain the Bible to someone that had never heard of it (click to enlarge)

The lesson continued with the students watching a short animated DVD explaining the broad sweep of the Old Testament, before they were required to work in groups of 3, using their laptops to identify the four main sections of the Old Testament and share some verses from within these sections in a Moodle Forum.

Instructions students needed to follow to complete the task

Instructions students needed to follow to complete the task (click to enlarge)

This was experimental for this class – they had to carefully follow a few instructions, move around the room into their groups, and then quickly locate the information they required. I was pleased that this mostly went without a hitch, although it took slightly longer than I anticipated, so I could not use the “Exit Pass” functionality in to receive student reflections on the lesson.

I think that as students become more familiar with some of these activities, such as logging into Moodle, looking for the task they are required to start, then speed and fluency will increase, making these viable activities for both in class and completion at home.

The different groups and how many replies they made with their answers

The different groups and how many replies they made with their answers (click to enlarge)

One of the things I particularly like about this is the record of learning that is retained – the work completed by each student is recorded in one place, their name automatically associated with it, and where appropriate, becomes a great resource for revision when assessment requires it.

I am going to continue to explore different ways Moodle and Socrative can be used in combination in lessons with this class.

Digital Citizenship

Different Facets of Digital Citizenship at St Andrew's College

Different Facets of Digital Citizenship at St Andrew’s College

I have published a copy of our Digital Citizenship statement here for you to view.

Andrew Churches from Kristin School and Netsafe NZ have contributed significantly to current thinking in this area, and we have incorporated the main ideas into our approach at St Andrew’s College. These are:

  • Respect and Protect yourself online
  • Respect and Protect others online
  • Respect and Protect the intellectual property rights of others online.

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