Microsoft OneNote Usage At St Andrew’s College

This post was originally written for publication at the official Microsoft OneNote In Education blog.

2014 was a year that saw significant increases in usage of Microsoft OneNote at St Andrew’s College and there were a number of factors that contributed to this, including:

  • Continued promotion of OneNote by earlier adopter teachers such as Mrs Jacqueline Yoder which led to uptake amongst her fellow teachers in the English Department and beyond. Her story was eventually published in the College quarterly magazine in an article entitled OneNote To Rule Them All.
  • The transition from Microsoft Live@Edu to Office365 that occurred at the end of 2013 allowed for tighter integration of cloud hosting of OneNote notebooks, thus increasing both the access to notebooks from any device as well as promoting true collaboration between students and teachers.
  • The release of the more fully featured OneNote for Mac application was significant as this allowed students at St Andrew’s that owned an Apple Mac to be able to connect to Notebooks hosted in OneDrive for Business. Approximately 50% of our students in the 1:1 laptop programme brought a Mac to school so it was imperative that they could use OneNote natively on their laptops.
  • The ongoing trials with the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 highlighted the benefits of a pen / touch interface when using OneNote, with teachers committing to using OneNote more effectively in the classroom, in anticipation of getting a Surface Pro 3 in 2015.
  • The release of the OneNote Class Notebook Creator tool finally showed an easier way to create notebooks for teachers where every student could easily see and share content. Prior to this tool, teachers were receiving up to 27 shared notebooks from students per class making it unwieldy to manage class notebooks.
  • Ongoing professional development sessions were being offered to staff both formally and informally, allowing them to learn how to use OneNote in their classrooms more effectively or for collaboration with other teachers in their Departments or Syndicates.

Old to NewWhilst the above reasons have all contributed to increased usage of OneNote amongst staff and students I believe that one of the biggest reasons for the success of OneNote is the interface. The layout is reminiscent of a traditional ring binder folder with coloured tabs that all students and teachers can relate to. Additionally, the “blank canvas” approach to the notebooks means users are not confined to dimensions of a page and can arrange content, text, images, hyperlinks and comments anywhere they choose. This freedom is appealing, whilst still being supported by optional page templates and the ability to insert lists, to-do items and other organisational elements. As Mrs Yoder noted for her English students:

“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.”

Curriculum Areas Where OneNote Is Being Used:

St Andrew’s College is the equivalent of a K12 school and one of the most pleasing aspects of the Office365 deployment has been the uptake amongst our Preparatory School. Whilst this has mostly been in the Years 5-8 classes (students aged approximately 9-12yrs old), some of the usage has been incredible. Below is some examples of OneNote usage across the school in different curriculum areas:

Preparatory School

ePortfolio in OneNoteMr Wilj Dekkers joined the College in 2013 and immediately embraced the benefits of using OneNote with his Year 6 students both in class and also for their home learning (homework). I was talking to some of his students in late November after nearly a year of using OneNote and their ease and confidence in using the programme was evident. A student called Hamish commented:

OneNote is really good because we can all go on it at the same time – we have even done debates on it!

Another called Izzy noted that whilst the other Year 6 classes were using traditional exercise books for their home learning, they weren’t:

We have not done one piece of home learning in a book all year – it has all been completed in OneNote.

Mr Dekkers did take time to help the students setup an individual OneNote notebook at the start of the year which they then shared with him. He could then see all students’ notebooks and his planning directly within OneNote on his computer.

Titles in red have been added to highlight different features of the ePortfolio

Titles in red have been added to highlight different features of the ePortfolio

With the platform in place, students were then able to use OneNote as a planning and collaboration tool in a variety of different learning areas such as writing “choose your own ending” stories within OneNote. Below is a video showing a student reading his story and also navigating through a virtual world in MInecraft he created based off his OneNote writing:

You can read the stories they wrote directly in OneNote Online since they shared them with guest access – Desert of Terror, The Black Death Maze and Island Adventure. There was a strong focus on effective editing throughout the creation of these stories, with students using the highlight feature in OneNote to indicate passages they had reworked (often through visually “seeing” their world they had created in Minecraft). Similarly, students were encouraged to share their drafts with their classmates so they could receive feedback and suggestions on the development of their stories.

Another usage of OneNote by students in Mr Dekkers’ class was during an inquiry learning project on Kiwiana – features that are unique to New Zealand. Again, there was significant usage of a range of features offererd within OneNote:

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What impressed me so much about their use of OneNote was:

  • Using “Tasks” that could be ticked off when each job was completed – this meant they knew exactly who had to do what.
  • Having the “show contributors” turned on so the initials of each group member was alongside their work, meaning they could see who had contributed what to the research.
  • Storing images in the notebook as examples for when they started to build their Minecraft theme park.
  • Use of highlighting – key words / concepts were highlighted to ensure they would be include in the theme park and oral presentation.
  • Using their iPads and OneNote to read their notes from during the actual presentation.
  • Mr Dekkers writing feedback directly into their OneNote notebook during the presentation so by the time they finished they would see his comments.

To watch a video of the students sharing their Kiwiana Minecraft world and reading their presentation from OneNote on an iPad click here.

English Department

Corrections and comments on student work via OneNote

Corrections and comments on student work via OneNote

In many ways, the English Department have been leaders in OneNote usage at the College, with a number of teachers tightly integrating it into their classroom teaching. The Rector of St Andrew’s, Mrs Christine Leighton, commented that it is exciting to see how teachers at the College 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.”

It is precisely in these areas of collaboration and sharing that OneNote excels, with Mrs Yoder saying It started as a way to help her students organise their notes, but she 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 … My two English classes don’t have books they only use OneNote – that’s their method of storing all of their work and assessments.”

She 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. For her work with OneNote, Mrs Yoder was named a Microsoft New Zealand Innovative Educator (along with Mr Ben Hilliam from the Maths Department) and in the following audio clip she explains how OneNote has helped her students:

[audio https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/58349924/Blog%20Data/Jac%20OneNote.m4a]
Video Response to Introductory Letter

Video Response to Introductory Letter

Another teacher in the English Department making extensive use of OneNote is Dr Jeni Curtis who set herself a goal with her Year 9 students in 2014 to be completely paperless by using a combination of OneNote and Moodle. She found that through using OneNote her students’ engagement and enthusiasm for writing actually increased.  Her use of recording video and audio comments directly into the notebooks of the students was particularly well received, especially from parents with one taking the time to send her the following the feedback:

I must congratulate you with using OneNote 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 … I have seen [Callum’s] shifts of interests from not liking writing to enjoying writing in the last 2 assignments, which is wonderful.

As any teacher will confirm, receiving unsolicited feedback like this from parents is both rare and extremely gratifying and was a great encouragement at the beginning of the year for Dr Curtis to progress with her “paperless classroom” goal. Continue reading

Creative Writing With OneNote & MineCraft

Harry reading his story and showing the world he created in Minecraft

Creative writing can be a topic that even the most competent students find challenging. For the children of Mr Dekkers’ Year 6 class, added motivation was provided by the introduction of “Pick a Path” stories as the format for their creative writing. For those unfamiliar with this genre, the reader is regularly presented with a choice at the bottom of a page – depending on which option they select, the outcome or ending of the story can be quite different.

I was pretty excited by the idea of using Microsoft OneNote to create these stories ever since I had stumbled across the idea in October on the Partners in Learning Network which outlined the learning objectives of this activity as:

  • to produce interactive choose your own adventure stories
  • to work collaboratively online to produce an end product
  • to create stories to share online with a wider audience

I shared the link with a few teachers who I knew would be interested and the timing was perfect for Mr Dekkers’ Year 6 students who were embarking on creative writing as part of an English unit. Already competent OneNote users, the student did have to figure out how they were going to hyperlink between pages in their notebooks, and with this problem solved, the writing began.

Hamish made this cover image using Paint.Net and merged three different images.

Hamish made this cover image using Paint.Net and merged three different images.  CLICK IMAGE TO READ THE STORY

To encourage his students to reflect on their writing and be as creative as possible, Mr Dekkers asked them to draw a picture of a scene or the world they were describing, or alternatively to recreate it in Minecraft. In doing so, the students could literally visualise what they were writing about. Their editing from this process was reflected in their OneNote Notebooks by highlighting changes made as a result of their picture or Minecraft world.

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Due to the ease of sharing NoteBooks in OneNote, students were able to read and comment on the progression of the stories and provide feedback to one another or suggest ideas for the direction of the stories.

Desert of Terror

Harry’s story Desert of Terror. CLICK IMAGE TO READ THE STORY

With the writing complete, the class had the opportunity to read them all and then voted for the three stories they enjoyed the most. Izzy, Hamish and Harry’s stories were chosen and I had the pleasure of hosting them in the Board Room in Strowan House for a reading of their Pick a Path stories.

 

Izzy's Pick a Path Story called The Black Death Maze. CLICK IMAGE TO READ THE STORY

Izzy’s Pick a Path Story called The Black Death Maze. CLICK IMAGE TO READ THE STORY

It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, albeit very challenging to complete the stories successfully without coming to a gruesome end by choosing the wrong path! I do encourage you to click on the cover images on the left and read the stories yourself. This is possible because the three students shared their stories in read only mode in OneNote.

When I queried Harry about the reason for using Minecraft he said:

The goal was not to just make something pretty in Minecraft, it was actually to improve the quality of your writing … after writing the story, the idea was to look back in Minecraft and see how you could improve the writing you had already completed.

Their ease and confidence in using OneNote was evident and so I took the opportunity to ask them about how they found using this tool in their learning in general.  Hamish commented:

OneNote is really good because we can all go on it at the same time – we have even done debates on it!

Continue reading

Design A House: A Rich Task Example In Maths

This is a story of what happens when a Maths teacher looks around for real-world inspiration and then is prepared to “give it a go” when it comes to integrating new technologies into the classroom. The results and learning outcomes are, quite simply, staggering.

The design brief given to students.

The design brief given to students.

Ms Briony Marks, a Year 7 Maths and Languages teacher at St Andrew’s College, had a plan to enliven a Maths unit on Ratios and Proportions, by creating an extension task that required the students to design a house. Using a planning template from the Buck Institute for Educaction the class discussed the assessment criteria and outcomes and included a wider discussion on how the Key Competencies from the New Zealand Curriculum were going to be included into this unit. Here is the completed template used by the class to plan:

Project planThis was a timely project because a number of the students in the class were having new houses built for their families during this unit so they could immediately connect with the learning. By designing a floor plan, the students had to decide on the ratios and proportions of three key areas in their house:

  1. Living Areas
  2. Sleeping and Bathing Areas
  3. Storage and Access
Task l

Task List to help the students focus

To spice up the project and totally hook the students into it, they given the option to use Sketchup, Build With Chrome or Minecraft to design their house in. Ms Marks also created a simple task list of the required jobs that needed to be done to assist with scaffolding this project for the students.

With the task defined, students got to work by initially looking at concept plans by local builders such as Mike Greer Homes, and shading in the different areas they were going to have to design into their own houses. The maths, at this point, was tightly integrated into the inquiry – there was a need by the students to use conversion to change floor plans between millimetres, centimetres and metres. There was also teaching on calculating the perimeter of a house plan and of course the area of the various houses.

Ms Marks classified these as “unexpected extras” in the area of maths that supported the main focus of the unit on ratios and proportions, and there was also other skills being learnt by the students at the same time. One of these was formal communications, with a number of students contacting architects and house builders via email to obtain more information. Class and group discussion covered appropriate email etiquette, and emails were duly sent off, for example:

A Year 7 student's email as part of this design project.

A Year 7 student’s email as part of this design project.

Floor plans designed in Sketchup by Tim and James

Floor plans designed in Sketchup by Tim and James

Student enthusiasm and engagement in this unit was incredibly high throughout, to the point that a number of students essentially self-taught themselves how to use Sketchup so that they could design a more professional looking home. Two of these boys, went on to present at the Burnside Learning Community Cluster professional development session as I blogged about earlier here.

Summary:

Some remarkable learning took place during this Maths unit that took just under three weeks to teach. It was notable that none of the students in the class had ever used any design software before and to that end, neither had Ms Marks:

I was just prepared to give it a go and learn alongside the students. I had a play with Sketchup in the library one afternoon and two of the boys saw me. By the following Monday they were sufficiently skilled in it to be able to teach others in the class the basics.

Attitude is key here: approaching a new technology with a positive and willing attitude to learn is invariably more successful than being afraid of not being an expert at it.

What really impressed me about this was the natural integration of technology into the learning area, and how deeply embedded the core maths skills were into everything the students had to do to achieve the chosen outcomes. The fact that students had input into the planning at the outset undoubtedly helped with their sense of engagement in the learning process too.

Following the conclusion of this unit, Ms Marks was asked to present a summary of it to at a Preparatory School staff meeting. This is a link to her powerpoint and it covers off her planning and running of the unit.

FOLLOW UP:

Other students in the Preparatory School were invited to come and view the final designs and vote for their favourite. Over 120 votes were cast amongst the students and staff, resulting in the awarding of certificates for the following three categories:

  • Architect’s Choice
  • Teacher’s Choice
  • People’s Choice

Well done to Ms Marks and all her Year 7 students who gave it a go.

Exploring A Digital World Of Kiwiana

Preparatory School Inquiry Learning Model

Preparatory School Inquiry Learning Model

This morning the students of Year 6S were presenting their inquiry research into Kiwiana and extended an invite to Mr Bierworth (Deputy Rector and Principal of the Preparatory School) and myself to attend.  Over the last few weeks they have been conducting an inquiry learning project around the question “What is Kiwiana?”

To spark enthusiasm the students visited the Canterbury Museum and toured the Paua Shell House, before looking at other Kiwiana icons.  There was also some cross-curricular learning happening here, with students working on area and proportion in Maths, where Mr Dekkers tasked them with designing their ultimate Kiwi bach (holiday home).

The students jumped at this challenge as it was a chance to use Minecraft in class for learning! They started to look at old family baches their families owned or visited, brought photos to class and asked the question “what would the ultimate bach include now?” Students had to include certain criteria such as:

  • Where would the BBQ live? (afterall, how could it be a Kiwi holiday home without a BBQ?)
  • Where would the mountain bikes and surfboards be stored?
  • What was the access to water going to be? (sea / river / lake etc)

Having gained experience in Maths using Minecraft, this was extended to the inquiry topic where the challenge was to research iconic Kiwiana features of New Zealand and then include them into a Kiwiana theme park.

Being adept at using OneNote for research and planning, the children worked collaboratively to identify their iconic images and locations and record their research in a shared OneNote notebook. Here is a fantastic example of one:

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What impressed me so much about their use of OneNote was:

  • Using “Tasks” that could be ticked off when each job was completed – this meant they knew exactly who had to do what.
  • Having the “show contributors” turned on so the initials of each group member was alongside their work, meaning they could see who had contributed what to the research.
  • Storing images in the notebook as examples for when they started to build their Minecraft theme park.
  • Use of highlighting – key words / concepts were highlighted to ensure they would be include in the theme park and oral presentation.
  • Using their iPads and OneNote to read their notes from during the actual presentation.
  • Mr Dekkers writing feedback directly into their OneNote notebook during the presentation so by the time they finished they would see his comments.

Group Presentation On Kiwiana Theme Park Using Minecraft & OneNote

Using a SurfacePro 3 to provide feedback into student OneNote notebooks

Using a SurfacePro 3 to provide feedback into student OneNote notebooks

One of the skills that Mr Dekkers was focusing on as part of this Inquiry unit was synthesising information found as part of their research with their own ideas, discussions and information from their parents.

This allowed the conversation to include plagiarism and why this is a serious issue – a great way to remind students that being a good Digital Citizen includes protecting and respecting the intellectual property of others that has been shared online (see this post for more information on Digital Citizenship).

The presentation skills of the students were excellent, and it was delightful to see them seamlessly switching between presenting to their classmates using their iPads / OneNote for reference, whilst also navigating through their Kiwiana theme park designed on Minecraft. I am sure they would have been delighted with the feedback they received:

Feedback written by Mr Dekkers on his SurfacePro3 - available immediately to the students

Feedback written by Mr Dekkers on his SurfacePro3 – available immediately to the students

SUMMARY:

  • Whilst plenty of technology was being used in this unit and presentation, it was very much in the background. It was not being seen as a distraction, but rather a tool to get the job done.
  • Students made great use of OneNote as a shared document that was accessible anytime, anywhere for them to record their research.
  • Students were accountable to one another and their teacher as it was evident who had contributed what to the notebook.
  • Interest, engagement and enthusiasm from the students was very high – they loved the “gamification” of their learning by being allowed to use Minecraft to design a theme park.
  • Students were keen to share their learning – they wanted their Principal and Director of ICT to see their learning – they were proud of their efforts.

This kind of cross-curricular learning, with deep and authentic integration of technology is incredibly pleasing to see in our classrooms.