Combining OneNote & Moodle For Assessment Submissions

OneNoteOne of the great things about Microsoft OneNote is the ease with which teachers can provide feedback to students on their work, helping them to develop their ideas towards the submission of assessment. This was explained in detail by Ms Helaina Coote, our Head of Department for English, in this earlier blog post.

moodleHowever, as the internal assessment season ramps up in 2015 a number of teachers have approached Tom Adams and I about how to “lock” OneNote notebooks to prevent students modifying content after the submission date. Whilst there are some work arounds, such as password protecting sections or moving them to a “read only” section in a teacher’s OneNote notebook, these are not always easy or intuitive as I explained in this post comparing the strengths and weaknesses of Moodle and OneNote.

Together, Tom and I thought about a better workflow for teachers and students to use and settled on the following simple process:

  1. The teacher creates an “Assignment” task in Moodle setting the due date to be when all students need to have the assessment completed and handed in by.
    1. The option to allow “late” submissions exists within Moodle too, clearly showing to the teacher in red how many hours/days overdue the submission was. This could be useful in scenarios where students were away for legitimate reasons.
  2. The student exports either their page, section or entire OneNote Notebook into a PDF file on their local computer.
  3. The student goes to their Moodle course, clicks on the assignment and then drag ‘n’ drops the PDF file for upload and submission.
    1. The teacher can optionally include to have all students “sign” the authenticity agreement by clicking the “accept” each time they submit an assessment.
  4. Once the due date is reached, the teacher can bulk download all of the submissions for offline marking, moderation storage purposes or printing and returning.

The ease of this process is outlined in this six minute video showing all of the above:

By using this process, a number of things can happen:

  • There can be no dispute about when the assignment was submitted
  • There can be no “losing” the submission because it’s stored on Moodle
  • All assignments are stored in one place with a single click to download all assignments into a folder for marking / moderation.
    • This also reduces the need for the Teacher to “harvest” the submissions from a variety of sources that students may have submitted by e.g. email, printed and left at the teacher’s desk or office etc.
  • Students can be required to “sign” the authenticity statement for every assessment they submit within Moodle.
  • Moodle supports the use of http://turnitin.com/ – an online tool for verifying the authenticity and originality of a submission. Whilst this costs, it would allow students to improve their work before a final submission and also support teachers in ensuring the submission is the original work of the student.

turnitinTransBack400pxOn the St Andrew’s College website we share a number of reasons why we use technology in our classrooms, with one of them being preparing students for tertiary study and the workforce. The vast majority of tertiary institutes now require students to submit assessment online – by teaching our students to manage their time and to become accustomed to this form of assessment submission, they are being prepared for life beyond St Andrew’s.

At this stage, there is no formal requirement for students to only submit their assessment via Moodle in this way. However, with the obvious benefits outlined above, along with the potential to include Turn It In to further assist in the originality and authenticity of student work, it is an idea that we presented to the combined Heads of Department meeting this week. There will be further discussion over the coming weeks and it may be something that we trial later this year.

Guest Post: Excel-lent! A Smart(ie) Take On OneNote & Excel In Maths

This post was originally written by Ms Briony Marks, a teacher in our Preparatory School, on her teaching blog that you can read here. I liked the post so much, and her natural integration of technology into a Year 6 Maths lesson, that I gained permission to reblog it here – enjoy.

The setup of the class OneNote & the W.A.L.T. for the lesson.

The setup of the class OneNote & the W.A.L.T. for the lesson.

Now that the school year is well and truly underway a few of my summer pipeline plans are taking form inside my classroom which is exciting, and it feels like a long wait is over!

As a member of the eLearning professional learning group in the Preparatory School I have been trying to integrate the useful and purposeful use of computers and the Internet into my lessons and I am endeavouring to document my reflections as I go along to feed back to the rest of the group.

Last week I set up a class OneNote to use with my Year 6 and Year 7 Maths groups using the Class NoteBook Creator App (I think I’ll do a blog on this once they are underway and being used in the longer term – I’ll share how I’m using it and how effective it is in a class without their own devices). We finally got started using it in our maths lessons this week and I was really pleasantly surprised with the results.

Student graphs showing analysis of their Smartie investigations (note the feedback comments from Ms Marks to the right of the graphs)

With my Year 6 class we were undertaking the age-old Smartie statistical investigation. I decided, like many teachers, to use this opportunity to introduce the class to Microsoft Excel. My aims were to show students how to use AutoSum; to see if they could understand the benefit of this function and the advantage over using a calculator and to make simple graphs. Next week we will be adding the results of other groups to take a Mean and use a comparative graph feature to support our analysis of the results.

There were plenty of resources on the Internet (TES.co.uk had a plethora!); wonderfully detailed PowerPoints or Word documents with screen shots and arrows showing the students a step by step method. I chose my favourites and adapted them slightly (one needed modernising to the Excel 2013 we run on our school netbooks and other details such as where to save and open the Spreadsheet were made more suitable for the school systems).

instructions

Example of OneNote NoteBook with the Excel instructions printed into it

What I chose to do next was not particularly intentional but it worked fantastically. I copied the Powerpoint into our Content Library on our class OneNote. Once those students who were savvy were online they took themselves through what was essentially a step by step tutorial, with minimal assistance, and self-taught how to use Excel.

This allowed me the opportunity to work with a smaller group of students who were not so familiar with OneNote or Excel.

Children assist each other before I can get a look in!

Children assist each other before I can get a look in!

The children were able to help each other and often a question was asked and before I could get to the child to assist, another member of the class had jumped up to show them where to find the answers on OneNote or how to do it.

I can’t wait for the next lesson and to see how they deal with the next set of skills.

 

St Andrew’s Teachers Named Microsoft Innovative Educators

JYO

Earlier this year Microsoft advertised the availability of nine positions throughout New Zealand for teachers interested in being recognised as innovative educators in their use of Microsoft products. St Andrew’s College was the only school to have two staff members selected into this programme:

BHIThe evaluation criteria to be selected included:

  • Ready to share your passion for Microsoft with peers, both face to face, and through social media, blogs and videos
  • A creative, innovative technology advocate
  • An educator interested in developing strategies to benefit and share with other educators
  • Energised, with a friendly and outgoing personality
  • Able to work autonomously and within a team
  • Display confident and articulate presentation and written communication skills
  • Full-time educator in Y1-13 or in a higher education faculty of education
  • #1 fan of Windows devices and services – 3+ years’ experience on a Windows device using Microsoft Office and other key Microsoft applications
A training session in Microsoft's Sydney Offices

A training session in Microsoft’s Sydney Offices

Each applicant was required to submit a written application, and those short listed were interviewed via Skype and needed to present a 5 slide Powerpoint. Having been selected, Mrs Yoder and Mr Hilliam were presented with a new Surface Pro 3 to keep, along with a number of other rewards, including an all expenses paid trip to Sydney, Australia for an intensive weekend with other Innovative Educators from around New Zealand and Australia.

Mr Hilliam has written a reflection on the weekend in Sydney that can be read in full here, but a small quote is:

It is amazing that there are so many incredibly passionate teachers out there who are showing incredible competency in how to become more competent! These teachers all know they need to continually update their practice and push the boundaries to improve the success of their students …

I had a wonderful time, met some wonderful people and was left inspired by some wonderful ideas. I can’t implement everything all at once, but I will start with something small.

Mrs Yoder added:

It was incredibly exciting to attend the forum with a group of teachers who were constantly seeking out innovation in their teaching practice through collaboration and embracing new ideas within e-learning.

As part of the weekend they were able to tour the Microsoft offices and see their flexible working environment:

It is very pleasing to see these two teachers recognised for their efforts in successfully integrating technology into their teaching practice and their stories are ones that we have shared regularly already. Mr Hilliam’s work with OneNote, Miracast and a Surface Pro was blogged about here, along with his experimentations with Office Mix in the classroom.

Meanwhile, Mrs Yoder was an original innovator with OneNote at the College, heavily influencing other English teachers such as Dr Jeni Curtis which was blogged about here and more recently an article was published on her teaching practice in the College Regulus Magazine.

With the creation of a new role of eLearning Integrator at St Andrew’s starting in 2015, our goal is very much to take the practice of our innovators and make it commonplace across all our classrooms.

Freemium: Students Can Be The Winners On The Day

freemium

This post was written as part of the Connected Educators Month 2014 and was first published on the Christchurch Connected Educators blog.

In my role as Director of ICT at St Andrew’s College I get to see lots of great products in the ICT sector, both the latest hardware (such as new tablets aimed at education) and software (cloud based productivity suites are the in thing currently for schools). I also get to step back from the coal face from time to time and observe some of the bigger trends happening in ICT & Education and there are two obvious ones:

  1. BYOD – Bring Your Own Device. More and more schools are exploring how they can allow (or in some cases require) students to bring a laptop/tablet/smartphone to school and use it as a tool for their education. There are literally tens of thousands of blogs about this, so I’m not going to write about that today.
  2. Freemium – Defined as “a business model, especially on the Internet, whereby basic services are provided free of charge while more advanced features must be paid for” This is a growing trend in education and, as the blog title suggests, students will be the ultimate winners from this.

The concept of Freemium is probably best known as starting within the Apple App Store and it has spread rapidly from there. Developers, keen for you to try out their apps, give away a limited feature set, be that the first few levels of a game for example, and if you love it, you pay the full price for the app.

How Is This Impacting Schools?

Major players in ICT have long recognised that exposing students to their products early on increases the chances of them continuing to use their products when they leave school. Earlier this year I attended a conference where Francis Valintine from The Mindlab by Unitec named five companies that are likely to dominate education in the near future. These were (in no particular order):

  • Apple
  • Facebook
  • Microsoft
  • Amazon
  • Google

office-logo_v3Many New Zealand schools are already availing themselves of the Ministry of Education negotiated contract with Microsoft allowing for very affordable access to Office365 and associated products. Other schools have gone for the free option of Google Apps For Education (GAFE). Both products are excellent, and allow schools to deliver Enterprise quality email, cloud collaboration services, online storage and backup options and a huge range of additional features from third party developers that plug in to these core products. It has massively reduced the workload for school ICT technicians; for example not having to run a local mail server and spam filter for students and staff.

Google-Apps-for-EducationBen Kepes, writing for Forbes.com, described the Google/Apple/Microsoft rush for education as a “war” – they are certainly battling for the hearts and minds of students, hoping that their loyalty to a product will continue on into tertiary study and, ultimately, the workplace. Indeed, I’ve even come across ICT technicians from different schools exclaiming incredulously “What? You’ve gone with [product x]?? I can’t believe it when [product y] gives you 10x that storage space for free!!”

And so it goes on …

Should We Be Concerned?

The answer to that question is not a clear cut yes or no – it’s more like a “maybe.” With more and more companies offering free or heavily discounted products to schools, we should in theory be seeing increased choice around what tools are used for the best educational outcomes. Paradoxically, however, the opposite is happening as each major vendor creates an ecosystem where their products play nicest together. As these ecosystems grow ever more encompassing there becomes less compelling reasons for schools to explore great products outside of those provided within the ecosystem.

To highlight just how much focus these vendors are pushing a widening product set, many traditional software only companies are now releasing hardware products to complete their ecosystem:

  • Microsoft: with a long history of operating systems and office suites, they are now offering hardware like the Surface Pro 3 tablet
  • Google: started out as a search engine and then developed a mobile operating system called Android and then ChromeOS for running on laptops. They have now released their own ChromeBook called Pixel
  • Apple: already a hardware and software company, they needed a cloud based productivity suite to complete their ecosystem and introduced iCloud

Ultimately, schools have to make a choice which ecosystem they enter and straddling two at once becomes challenging. Towards the end of Term 3 I organised some of our staff at St Andrew’s College to present to senior leaders from a range of schools throughout New Zealand on how we are using Microsoft OneNote in Maths and English. Afterwards, a number of the guests from other schools asked how they too could implement OneNote in their schools, only to realise they were a GAFE school and didn’t have the Microsoft licensing to affordably do this.

Therein lies the problem.

It’s not that Office365 is better than Google Apps for Education – both are tremendous products and as schools, we should all be incredibly grateful we have access to these. It’s more that in being spoilt for choice for free or heavily subsidised product offerings, it’s not always easy to explore the best products across multiple ecosystems.

Conclusion:

I wrote in a recent blog post that great integration of technology in a classroom should see it fade into the background:

Whilst the phrase “ubiquitousness of technology” is over used, this lesson did demonstrate that when used effectively, the technology is not at the forefront of the lesson. It was not gimmicky or flashy, instead it provided functional improvement to what was already a great lesson.

moodleSchools are in an incredible position that they’ve never really experienced before where major players in ICT are literally giving away their products to them or using a freemium model for base services. On top of that, there is the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) community offerings such as the very popular learning management system (LMS) called Moodle.

At a time of such rich pickings, our focus should not be solely on [product x] or [product y], but squarely on the teaching and learning practices that authentically integrate whatever the chosen technology is into the lesson.

When this occurs, the students will indeed be winners on the day.

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.

Trading In The Whiteboard for MS OneNote and a Surface Pro

MS OneNote projecting onto whiteboard via MS Surface Pro and Miracast

MS OneNote projecting onto whiteboard via MS Surface Pro and Miracast

This morning I was invited by Mr Ben Hilliam to sit in and observe one of his Year 9 Math classes. I was keen to do this as I knew the Maths Department had been experimenting with the combination of MS Onenote, a Microsoft Surface and a Miracast device to wirelessly broadcast the screen of the tablet through the classroom projector.

The following video is a screencast of Mr Hilliam’s first 6 minutes of the lesson. He is writing on the Surface Pro directly, and using MS OneNote to record his voice and handwriting in the background:

All students in this Year 9 class have read only access to this OneNote notebook so they can revise at anytime, and in this instance the lessons were being recorded for a student that was absent for the week. Once uploaded to YouTube, the link is inserted into the Notebook for student access.

The various technology components involved in this lesson

The various technology components involved in this lesson

What impressed me about this section of the lesson was the ease of the technology – it essentially existed in the background and in many ways, it was a direct substitute for the role of a whiteboard. Mr Hilliam was still asking students questions back and forward and they were still coming up and pointing to places on the graph on the projected image on the whiteboard to indicate their answers. The big difference however was that this was being recorded digitally for later revision.

Towards the end of last year we undertook training for a lot of 2014 Year 9 teachers and introduced them to the SAMR model. I recently came across a new poster for this:

Explaining the SAMR model through coffee

Explaining the SAMR model through coffee

The teaching in this Year 9 Math class falls clearly in the augmentation range – the teaching is not obviously different however the technology operating in the background provides massive functional improvement. Students, both those absent and physically present in the class, can all revise the concepts being taught at anytime.

Here are some photos of the students at work practicing the concepts that had been taught:

A student reviewing the MS OneNote content recorded moments earlier by Mr Hilliam, and then practicing in his exercise book.

A student reviewing the MS OneNote content recorded moments earlier by Mr Hilliam, and then practicing in his exercise book.

Students around the room making using of their laptops to review / rewind the concepts as taught and recorded from the start of the lesson

Students around the room making using of their laptops to review / rewind the concepts as taught and recorded from the start of the lesson

Whilst the phrase “ubiquitousness of technology” is over used, this lesson did demonstrate that when used effectively, the technology is not at the forefront of the lesson. It was not gimmicky or flashy, instead it provided functional improvement to what was already a great lesson.

I am excited to see how other curriculum areas make use of technology like this in their classrooms and will blog about these in the future. As the Director of ICT it’s important for me to support initiatives like this that trial how new technologies can be used in the classroom. On my recent trip to Edutech 2014 I trialled a MS Surface Pro 3, some of the only demonstration units outside of the USA, and was very impressed. I have pre-ordered one for our staff to trial once it is released and am interested to see at what point in the future touch screen devices like this may replace the traditional laptops given to staff.

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.

Staff Professional Development: Office365 with Cyclone

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During the 2014 start of year Teachers’ Only Days, Arnika Brown from Cyclone ran a session with teachers from the Preparatory School at St Andrew’s College, focusing on some of the features of 21st Century Learning. The purpose of this was building on the existing knowledge of Microsoft Office365 that they already possessed and to provide some new and interesting ways to integrate technology into their classrooms.

Arnika Brown from Cyclone Computers instructing teachers in the Preparatory School at St Andrew's College

Arnika Brown from Cyclone instructing teachers in the Preparatory School at St Andrew’s College

Part of this was showing the teachers how they could create a OneNote Notebook in Office365 and share this amongst themselves. This was intended as  a quick-fire lesson in online collaboration, and being a very hands on session it was well received by the staff in attendance. The outcome from this day was a decision to bring Arnika back in 2014 and work with the teachers individually in their classrooms to help with the integration of Office365 with their students.

This started primarily with the Middle School Syndicate, helping the students navigate their way around their account and perform actions such as:

  • Checking their email
  • Creating and sharing documents with each other using the Office 365 Web Apps
  • Updating their profile information and picture
Different Facets of Digital Citizenship at St Andrew's College

Different Facets of Digital Citizenship at St Andrew’s College

It was pleasing to learn how these sessions extended to conversations around Digital Citizenship and ways that the students could be responsible and remain safe using these tools, particularly an email address. The students benefited from this instruction and guidance, but with a need for more dedicated time with the teachers a decision was made between Arnika and Mrs Vicki Pettit (Head of Education) to change the focus of future sessions.

This resulted in the following sessions occurring one-on-one with the teachers, as they were given release time for their classes as they up-skilled and planned strategically how to authentically integrate the technology into their pedagogy.

Most of these teachers set their goal for this time to explore the use of ePortfolios – a way for the students in the class to share their work and learning both with the teacher and their parents (for more on OneNote see earlier posts here and here).  Ms Brown noted:

Because St Andrew’s uses SSO (Single Sign On) for all teachers and staff, it is easy for the students to use both the browser version of OneNote and the full client Application which is more feature-rich. This means the students can take advantage of the ease of inserting video and audio recordings of their work and it will automatically synchronise online so they, or their parents, can view it at home.

As other Syndicates heard about the work being done by the Middle School teachers, Arnika’s assistance was made available to them as well. A good example is the Junior Department where some of the more powerful features of Office365 were less relevant for the Yr1-3 students. Consequently, the goals set by these teachers was to explore how they could use OneNote to collaboratively plan their units of work and increase the ease of sharing this content.

Despite being the Director of ICT, I was particularly pleased to hear Arnika talking about some of the non-ICT focus of these sessions as well. I am a big believer in not simply using technology in the classroom for the sake of it, and it is important to not just “shoe-horn” the technology in where it may actually impede the learning. Consequently, when Arnika talked about how the focus on correct spelling and punctuation was stressed to students, it was very pleasing. Additionally, there remained an emphasis during these sessions on students producing “professional” quality work – the best they could do. Continue reading

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.

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.