The Power Of Data

PowerBIIncreasingly, most organisations are seeking to “do more” with the data they collect and store and in this respect, St Andrew’s College is no different. For the last two years I have been looking at a number of tools that would allow us to easily collect, analyse, display and share critical information amongst key stakeholders.

As part of this investigation we have looked at tools such as Crystal Reports, Tableau and Microsoft Excel connected via MS-Query to our MS-SQL server and outputting pivot tables for analysis. Here are some examples of this:

In the end, we decided to progress with Microsoft’s PowerBI solution, which is described on their website as:

Power BI transforms your company’s data into rich visuals for you to collect and organize so you can focus on what matters to you. Stay in the know, spot trends as they happen, and push your business further.

Some of the reasons we selected this solution include:

  • It’s browser based – you can access it from “anywhere” and see live data. You can also bookmark certain reports in your browser for near instant access.
  • There is also an app available (iPhone/iPad/Android/Windows10) so the data is accessible anytime / anywhere
  • We can tweak reports / visuals quickly and easily, based off feedback from stakeholders
  • Being browser based, you don’t need a local file on your computer that is “out of date” once a new version with improved features is built. What you see is always the “latest version”
  • It’s part of our existing Office365 Suite, so our existing username/password logs you into the reports.
  • Security permissions are centrally managed based off AD users and role based groups.
  • It connects to our on-premise MS-SQL Server, allowing for scheduled data updates (hourly / daily).

To best demonstrate the power of this tool, we built a proof of concept based around analysing NCEA student achievement, in particular University Entrance requirements and course/subject endorsement. Here is a screencast walking through the tool:

Note: identifiable data such as student names / ID numbers have been blurred out in this video.

To accelerate the development of some of this reporting, we have:

  • Partnered with DataCom New Zealand and are getting expert advice from their Business Intelligence team in terms of configuring the ETL process via Microsoft SSIS, building a tabular data model and connecting to PowerBI in the cloud for presenting the data to staff.
  • Hired a new staff member to join the ICT Services team in the role of Business Intelligence Report Writer. The responsibilities for this role will be to interface with the various business units in the College (e.g. Academic Data, Enrolments, Development, Communications etc), understand their reporting requirements and then build the reports in PowerBI.

The key with any Business Intelligence project is to help inform the decision making process and not just be contented with pretty visualisations. To that end, a robust conversation and scoping of what is required to be seen by the stakeholder needs to be established. However, with a wide range of visualisations being added regularly to PowerBI, there is a number of ways to present data in an easily comprehensible format. One of my favourites in a 3D, interactive globe that significantly improves on the PowerMap in Excel (see above):

This visualisation could be very useful in mapping where our current students or Old Collegians live or identifying where donations are coming from globally mapped either by volume or value for example.

We are in the very early stages of this project, yet the potential is very obvious to the leadership teams at St Andrew’s. The focus over the next few weeks will be configuring the backend infrastructure: the ETL processes (Extraction, Transformation, Loading), the Data Warehouse and the connectivity into PowerBI. Subsequently, the rapid development of reporting dashboards will proceed.

If this interests you, please do check back regularly on the blog for updates or drop a comment below to discuss further.

OneNote Embraces Learning Management Systems

LTI-Blog-Composite-FIIn a recent announcement this week, Microsoft have revealed tighter integration between OneNote and a range of Learning Management Systems including Moodle, which St Andrew’s College uses. One of the key new features is automatic enrolment of students from a Moodle course into the Class NoteBook in OneNote which would streamline the setup for teachers.

I am really pleased to see this announcement because it highlights that Microsoft continue to see OneNote as complementing the function of Learning Management Systems in schools, rather than replacing them. I wrote a detailed blog post about how OneNote and Moodle work fantastically together as each platform has it’s relative strengths and weaknesses that are rounded out by the other.

Pleasingly, new features have been added to the web browser version of OneNote Online, allowing the direct recording of audio into a NoteBook through the browser along with the inserting of files directly into the page:

Recording audio directly into OneNote Online in a browser is a new feature of Microsoft

Recording audio directly into OneNote Online in a browser is a new feature of Microsoft

Lastly, a useful free app that Microsoft released last year called Office Lens now integrates directly into OneNote and and Office365, allowing students and teachers to take photos and save and share them within the school collaborative environment:

Whether collaborating on a project together in OneNote, or simply wanting to record an image or brainstorm and mindmap for future reference, the ability to take a photo and know that it can be retrieved later is invaluable.

It is really pleasing to see that these tools, that have become indispensable in education, have continued to receive regular updates and enhancements from Microsoft and I look forward to seeing how our teachers and students will maximise their value in (and out) of the classroom.

Teacher Perspectives On The Surface Pro 3

Six SurfacePro3 for use in classrooms at St Andrew's College

Six SurfacePro3 for use in classrooms at St Andrew’s College

As we approach the first anniversary of the Surface Pro 3 release in New Zealand, I’ve been reflecting on the fact that we now have 26 staff members using them across the school. An earlier update on how how teachers have been using the Pro 3 in their classes remains one of the more popular posts on this blog and in anticipation of teacher demand for tablets in 2016, I have surveyed those staff members who use a Surface Pro 3.

The overall satisfaction rates of teachers with the Surface Pro 3 is very high

The overall satisfaction rates of teachers with the Surface Pro 3 is very high

Using SurveyMonkey I have collated some interesting feedback from teachers and share it here for the benefit of other schools that may be interested in exploring the tablets for their teachers.

Whilst it is not always easy to ask the “right” questions when it comes to getting useful feedback I have tried to get staff to compare the key features and functionality of a Surface Pro 3 with a traditional laptop that the College has issued to teaching staff:

Laptop v SP3

An interesting comment to the above responses from a teacher was:

What is not mentioned above is the functionality – the Surface is far more functional than a laptop as it doubles as a tablet, when needed. This is the huge advantage of a Surface over a laptop.

It is important to acknowledge some of those “niggles” that teachers have experienced because no device is perfect. Here is some feedback from staff highlighting some of the challenges of the device:

The keyboard needs to be taken off and reattached to remedy glitches. The keyboard is small and I often hit the caps button. Consider body posture when using the Surface Pro 3 so that you are not hunched. Before putting a plastic box on the desk and under the tablet, I would wonder why I had a sore neck/back/eyestrain.

The thing I really don’t like is a cheapie-feeling keyboard and how I keen hitting two keys at once … lack of USB ports is really annoying too

Some issues with it freezing when in sleep mode. Need to force a restart when this happens

We have done a significant amount of experimentation with wireless projection at St Andrew’s College and a future post will cover what we have settled on, however currently only 41% of our teachers with Surface Pro 3 tablets are using wireless projection (this number is skewed as well because the majority of our SP3 users are in our Preparatory School because of where their lease renewal occurred). However, 96% of the teachers said they would use wireless projection if it was available in their class, with the following breakdown showing how significant it is to their teaching style:

Wireless Projection

Clearly, the ability to roam a classroom “untethered” from the front and a data projector cable is a big drawcard for teachers and a trend I see only growing as the technology becomes more reliable.

One of the key features of the Surface Pro 3 is the great accuracy of the pen and the ability to “write” into OneNote very easily; a feature that is consistently praised by our teachers. This question specifically asked about the usefulness of the pen:

SP3 Pen

Some departments at St Andrew’s College would love to change the requirement for students that all devices must support “inking” in some format, and it’s easy to see why: subjects that involve diagrams, formula and equations would be significantly easier for students if they could simply handwrite directly into OneNote.

Whilst the Surface Pro 3 is experiencing favourable feedback from teachers, we are also looking at “convertible laptops” that allow for the handwriting on the screen such as the HP Spectre x360 that folds back into a tablet. Historically, our testing of units like this have been disappointing as the accuracy of the inking on these hybrids just could not compete with genuine tablets like the Pro 3. That said, the attraction of a proper keyboard and a larger screen appeals to some of our teachers:

Laptop v Tablet

Ultimately, the value of any device to a teacher can be measured in whether they would recommend it to their colleagues: on this point, the teachers were almost unanimous.

Recommendation

One interesting comment from a teacher in the Preparatory School reflects the uptake of tablets in their class by students, purely based on what they have seen from teachers using the devices:

A number of staff in the Prep School who opted for laptops now regret their choice and given the opportunity would switch to a surface. 8 students in my class now use surface tablets – 2 having switched from Mac.

How has the practice of our teachers changed with the Surface Pro 3?

This is a difficult question to get answers to in some ways but a critical one to understand what, if any, impact on pedagogy a technology shift has had for our teachers. Up until the introduction of the Surface Pro 3 the teachers at St Andrew’s were all given identical laptops. By introducing some limited choice it has increased the support costs of maintenance and spares, therefore it was hoped there would be some positive changes or improvements in teaching practice. Here is a selection of some replies from teachers:

My practice has not changed, but the mobility of the Surface and the fact that will do all I ask of it has adapted my style. I am able to work with the students annotating a piece of writing or work through maths problems using the stylus and each child is able to revisit this learning through OneNote. The mobility, wireless projector connectivity and stylus allow me to get away from the desk and be with the students when teaching. Most importantly – the students use of the Surface to share with others is powerful. They take my surface and use it to explain concepts to a group when linked to the projector and when used in conjunction with OneNote, students collaborate in real time on a piece of learning using their stylus on their own Surface tablets.

Maths Teacher

A reply from a Preparatory School teacher suggests it can lead to MORE work:

I probably end up doing more work from home as it is much more portable [than a laptop]

Preparatory School Teacher

It has not changed my practice, but has complemented it very well. I already used my own Surface in conjunction with a school laptop. Before the Surface, I used my phone to do many of the same functions, complemented by a laptop. Having a Surface provided by school has meant operating fewer devices for the same outcomes, making it easier when you don’t have your own classroom.

Science Teacher

More movement around the class, use of pen and writing has enhanced the annotation ability, marking and so forth, integration of technology, ease of OneNote and working 1 on 1 with students. light, easy to move around with especially when wirelessly not connected to data projector

English Teacher

I don’t write on whiteboard anymore – I write directly onto my OneNote page so students can access this

Science Teacher

Much easier to use in PE settings ie with pen and tablet. Therefore I am more likely to use it, and complete observation style tasks more frequently. Easier to mark / use OneNote – I can mark and make comments quickly using the pen

PE Teacher

Less time at my desk and more time with students. Ability to take teaching outside the classroom, faster and with more resources. Being able to show examples of preferred practices with ease and ability to document past/current teaching and interactions with the students has been key. Students are assisted by this to become more reflective learners. (ability to revisit work via OneNote).

Preparatory School Teacher

A recurring theme comes through in these responses in terms of how a tablet, with the ability to ink, enhances the value of Microsoft OneNote, a key tool that is being used at our College.

The above information is important for the ICT team to understand. Like many schools, we lease our teacher laptops/devices and renew these every three years. The teaching staff leases are split into three, so each year we replace 1/3 of the devices (around 45-50), and I anticipate that the majority of our teachers who are up for a new device in 2016 will want something they can write on. The above information will be disseminated to those teachers to help them make informed decisions and also assist the ICT department in providing the best support possible.

Office 2016 Arrives for Mac Users

maxresdefaultSt Andrew’s College is an Office365 school, making extensive use of the Microsoft OneNote application in particular and we are also compulsory BYOD from Year 9 (we still allow choice of Windows / Apple). Over the last two years we have seen increasing amounts of Apple laptops coming to school with the students and one of the frustrations has been the old Office 2011 available for Macs.

This has changed with Microsoft’s release of Office 2016 for Mac last week, announced on their blog here (see below for the release video) and for the first time it also includes OneNote (for a long time unavailable and then only released via the Mac App Store).

It is strongly encouraged that students remove Office 2011 before attempting the install of the new version – detailed instructions are available here to do this. A video showing the complete installation process of Office 2016 for Mac can be seen here:

The new Office 2016 is distinctively “Mac” in design and brings the feature set much closer to the Windows 2013 version (although, frustratingly, some of the best features of OneNote are not there still). Here’s hoping that updates will improve this so that both Windows and Apple users have comparable functionality.

Another feature that appears to be missing from the new Office 2016 Powerpoint is Office Mix – a fantastic plugin that allows teachers and students to easily record narrated screencasts.

Overall, it’s a big step forward for Mac users and one that I am confident many of our students will download to their BYOD devices since it remains free for our students at St Andrew’s College

Promotional Video for Office 2016 for Mac:

Mr Hilliam Attends Microsoft Educator Exchange E2 Conference

Ben at MSAt the start of this term, Mr Ben Hilliam, flew to Seattle in the United States as a guest of Microsoft to attend their Global Educator E2 Conference. His attendance was based on his earlier selection as a Microsoft Innovative Educator for 2015 and his outstanding use of MS technologies in his classroom, including flipping the classroom with OneNote and Office Mix and his trusty Surface Pro 3.

The conference ran between the 27th April and the 4th of May and was attended by 200 delegates from over 80 different countries with only five being selected from New Zealand to go. During the conference a number of inspirational Keynote messages were delivered that focused more on the possibilities of technology in the classroom than on immediate practical implementation for teachers.

The members of the Challenge Group Mr Hilliam worked with

The members of the Challenge Group Mr Hilliam worked with

Some of the “how” was covered in the breakout sessions which included workshops on specific programmes such as Office365, OneNote and Sway (a relatively new feature from Microsoft that is a web based visual presentation tool). Another activity was the Challenge Groups – Mr Hilliam was grouped with teachers from Sweden, Georgia, Korea and Columbia and they were tasked with creating a learning activity based around 21st century learning ideas. They then had to pitch this to a number of judges and present a schema for the learning.

Being the only native speaker of English in the group this was certainly a challenge and Mr Hilliam acknowledged the conference was likely to evolve over the coming years – 2015 being the inaugural event. I was interested in any observations he had gained in terms of how his teaching practice with technology, and indeed the wider staff at St Andrew’s College, compared to what was happening in other countries. He noted:

No one else there was flipping their classroom in maths in the way a number of our teachers are at St Andrew’s. There was a teacher of French Literature who was using OneNote similar to how Jac Yoder and the English Department are, in the sense that they were using audio recordings for feedback and directly annotating into the NoteBooks.

The conference delegates from New Zealand

The conference delegates from New Zealand

Whilst St Andrew’s College has embraced Office365 and the cloud based flexibility it offers via OneDrive, Mr Hilliam did not see many US based schools setup in this way. Some were still using local on-site Sharepoint servers for OneNote synchronisation, meaning students could not get updates when at home. To this end, he felt that the work by teachers at our College was quite close to the leading edge, a view reinforced by the parents feedback at the recent Year 10 parent/teacher interviews, where a number commented how widely OneNote was being used across the school:

The ubiquity of OneNote in our College makes it quite easy for our students to get a handle on how to use it. It’s largely just fallen into the “background” of their usage. Students have stopped thinking about how to use OneNote and instead it is simply a tool to help them with their learning.

Interestingly, this view was echoed by Mr Tom Adams, the College eLearning Integrator, who mentioned:

Students don’t think they’re doing any special using OneNote now – they just get on and do it.

He went further by suggesting that because the College has focused on only two main tools of Moodle and OneNote, students are not being bombarded by a wide range of different tools and platforms from teachers. This has allowed them to quickly grasp the fundamentals of each and use them efficiently in their school work.

One the highlights for Mr Hilliam at the conference was the chance to ask Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella a question:

Mr Hilliam ask Satya Nadella for advice for Kiwi kids interested in working in the ICT sector

I am really pleased to see our teachers getting recognised outside of St Andrew’s College for their great work authentically integrating technology into their teaching and learning. Moreover, to hear that the students are becoming increasingly familiar with this technology and starting to leverage it intuitively to support their progress is outstanding. I wrote in this earlier blog post, 

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.

It seems that we are progressing well along this path of embedding technology into the background of the learning and this is a fantastic tribute to the hard work of our teachers.

Reflections from the AIS NSW ICT Leadership & Management Conference 2015

AISI have been fortunate to attend the AIS NSW (Association of Independent Schools of New South Wales) ICT Management and Leadership Conference over the last few days and I thought I would share a few reflections on it here. As this post will be quite long, you can see the various sections I’ll touch on here as an index and you can skip to what you may find relevant:

  • Keynote from Dr Jane Hunter: High Possibility Classrooms
  • Jeff Utecht – The Continuum of Digital Citizenship
  • Matt McCormack – ICT Security – Making the most of what you have
  • Various Presenters – 7minute Tell Sessions
  • Rose Elsom – Continuous Online Reporting with Moodle and Sharepoint
  • Northern Beaches Christian School – Student Media TV Crew

Introduction:

Hosted in the Canberra National Conference Centre, the organisation of the event was top notch, co-ordinated by the very useful app from GuideBook.com. This app (available free on iOS, Android, or the web – click here) provided all the necessary information at the touch of a button, including any last minute changes to sessions or venues – all updated automatically for conference delegates:

Screenshots of the GuideBook App

I can see plenty of potential uses for an app such as this, where the co-ordination of complex events (conferences, Centenary celebrations etc) can be easily achieved and all delegates or visitors can be confident of having the latest information to hand.

UPDATE: The GuideBook app is only free for the first 200 downloads. If you need more than 200 downloads then the cost is around US$1700.

Keynote from Dr Jane Hunter: High Possibility Classrooms

high possibility classroomsDr Jane Hunter is an educational researcher who presented on her research into High Possibility Classrooms. This was a very interesting session to start the conference with and it was encouraging to see very recent academic research into the impact of technology in education. It is worth noting that this research looked at “exemplary” teachers, those that were already very proficient with technology and used it daily within their classrooms. You can read in detail about Dr Hunter’s research here:

One of the exemplary teachers that was used in the research used an interesting inquiry model based on the acronym QUEST:

  • Question;
  • Uncover
  • Explain
  • Share
  • Together

It’s a simple idea that could be very useful in a range of classroom contexts. Another concept that she introduced was the TPACK model in eLearning. It’s similar to the SAMR model that we have explored previously on this blog and put simply, TPACK is:

Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) is a framework that identifies the knowledge teachers need to teach effectively with technology

TPACK-new

Jeff Utecht – The Continuum of Digital Citizenship

Jeff Utecht presented on Digital Citizenship in an engaging and interactive session that was broken up by his encouragement for us to quickly discuss our own experiences with the people around us. He started by posing the question “What is the biggest challenge with Digital Citizenship?” before suggesting:

Many schools are simply paying lip service to Digital Citizenship, but are not actually integrating it effectively into their curriculum.

Throughout his presentation he presented information from this section of his website and provided a few interesting statements such as:

  • The average age a child touches a device in a classroom in the USA is 6yrs old – why then are we waiting another 3-5yrs before we start teaching Digital Citizenship?
  • Peer to peer cyber-bullying is a far greater threat than encountering an anonymous online cyber predator.
    • He suggested a new study found that a child has the same level of risk at being picked up at a public park than being approached online by an anonymous cyber predator
  • The current school age generation is living “public first, private second” – in other words, they are sharing their lives online with others immediately.
  • In the USA, most children by the age of 5yrs old have had around 3000 photos of them shared online – by the parents and wider family.
  • 85% of universities in the USA google prospective students before offering them a position.

His session was interesting and in places quite challenging, particularly around how he sees the need for schools to engage with social media (for example, he proposes all schools should have an online community / social media manage position – he even wrote a job description for it). Continue reading

Reflections on a Term of Integration

As the first term of the school year draws to a close, I find myself increasingly reflecting on the first ten weeks as the eLearning Integrator here at St Andrew’s College. Due to the fact that this position was newly established at the College, there was always a bit of a sense of the unknown.

Hitting the Ground Running

Almost immediately, I was struck by the willingness of the College’s staff to embrace change in their pedagogy, and the overwhelming acceptance that eLearning has an important part to play in this development. While, obviously, staff are at differing stages of their experimentation all have been extremely welcoming and responsive to whatever assistance they have received.

OneNote in the Classroom

By far the major focus for staff has been the continued use of OneNote in their classrooms. With a compulsory 1:1 laptop programme now covering all Year 9 and 10 students the majority of secondary staff have been extremely keen to use OneNote in their classrooms. Feedback from staff has been overwhelmingly positive and success with its use to manage and improve student feedback in English and the potential of student collaboration have already been blogged about this year.

By far the most significant development for staff, has been the launch of the OneNote Classroom creator tool. Numerous staff have mentioned to me how they have appreciated the streamlined organisation that this tool facilitates.

The other major developments that has impacted on our student population are the improvements to the complexity of the OneNote app for Mac. Approximately 65% of our students are using Apple laptops and, although the functionality of the app is still not equivalent to that of the Windows Client version, the improvements have helped to raise the engagement levels of students with the software.

Skype developing

A second area of growth within the school has been the use of Skype. Within the senior syndicate of our Preparatory School especially, Mystery Skypes have been popular. Teachers have found them a great way to make initial conact with students in other areas of the world and also as a valuable way to investigate questioning strategies – not to mention they are great fun!

This term has also seen us experiement with other ways to utilise Skype in the classroom. On World Read Aloud Day 8C jumped at the opportunity to connect with a children’s author, Jennifer Swanson via Skype. SwansonThis session was really motivating for the students and it was great to see them having the opportunity to ask their own questions to an experienced author.

“I think that it’s pretty cool that although Jennifer Swanson is so far away we felt like she was right there in the room thanks to Skype. I think that the whole class enjoyed this experience and we all want to do it again!” Elena, 8C

A final development has been the number of staff in the Senior College beginning to experiement with the potential with Skype to supplement the learning occuring in their classroom. A Year 13 English Teacher, Tam Yuill Proctor, is teaching a course based around James Bond. As part of this I am endeavouring to confirm an academic from the Film and Media School at Aberysthwyth University to join the class in an expert capacity. A second example is from our Commerce department who are beginning to develop relationships with business mentors through Skype. Stay tuned for a future blog post highlighting this!

Staff redefining their own boundaries

Elsewhere in the school, it has also been pleasing to see a number of staff experimenting with other aspects of eLearning. Examples of this has seen Google Earth being used to effectively study setting in English, and Excel being used in conjunction with OneNote in the Preparatory School. It has been really rewarding for me to see increasing examples of staff developing the confidence to conceptualise, develop and implement such tasks in an increasingly independent manner!

Technology Enables Efficiency in English Marking

 

For me it’s like the one stop shop … go to OneNote, open up their page, have they done it? Yes? No? Give them feedback. Sync it. Sorted!

Ms Coote describes her new workflow for marking student work

I sat down today and chatted with our English Head of Department, Ms Helaina Coote, about how using a Surface Pro 3 and Microsoft OneNote was impacting on her teaching and assessment practices for A.S. 91106 Form developed personal responses to independently read texts, supported by evidence.

The entire 15 minute conversation is in the video above (recorded using Office Mix on her Pro 3) but you can skip to a few relevant sections by using the hyperlinks below:

IMPACT ON WORKFLOWS:

This year, for the first time, Ms Coote is using Microsoft OneNote with all her English classes and this has been made easier with the introduction of the OneNote Class NoteBook, where each student has their own tab (section group in OneNote). The ability to easily receive, mark, and return feedback to students has been massive:

Whilst this has not changed the way I teach AS91106, it has completely transformed how I manage the assessment practices, allowing me to streamline the feedback I am giving to students.

With students in her senior English classes required to read, listen, watch and respond to up to six different texts across three different terms at school, historically this created a lot of paperwork to manage. In this sense the technology has impacted “massively” on the speed of getting work marked and back to students.

Handwritten feedback for students in OneNote via a Surface Pro 3

Handwritten feedback for students in OneNote via a Surface Pro 3

Previously, work was typically received via email, using Microsoft Word to insert comments or track changes, saving a copy locally, printing a copy for NZQA records and then emailing the revised copy back to the students with feedback.

“There was like triple handling”

Now, students must submit their drafts via OneNote, and after having received their feedback from Ms Coote, have two days to develop a resubmission. These changes must be colour coded so she can easily see the differences. I asked her if using a digital pen was in some ways a return to traditional ways of marking, and she commented:

The Surface Pro 3 and the digital pen allows you to blend the “old school”  with the “new.” I am still a teacher marking student submissions, but now I am using a digital pen and writing on an electronic submission. Furthermore, the feedback is literally real time – I do not even need to email it back to them.

STUDENT FEEDBACK:

As more and more electronic mediums are introduced into teaching, some senior students have pushed back on the increased visibility (and thus accountability), their teachers now have of their work. I specifically asked Ms Coote how her senior students were finding this method of submission and marking:

Student feedback has been overwhelmingly positive in terms of them receiving “written” feedback [via OneNote] … I’m able to do it much faster as well, so the pieces of paper don’t lie around on my desk for ages … it’s pretty immediate, as it’s a much more streamlined process.

Importantly, however:

Ultimately, the onus is on the student to make sure their work is in the OneNote NoteBook

Ms Coote asked a number of students for some feedback on how they are finding using OneNote for their classes and one student called Angus noted:

[Since the introduction of Class NoteBooks in OneNote] I have found it incredibly useful … I no longer have to lug around books or hand outs as it is all available on OneNote and all stored in one handy place. All my work and handouts are readily available whether I’m at home or at school its all there and backed up for when i need it. My teacher can now give me feedback on my work on OneNote using her Surface Pro 3 and and she can even hand write on it …  I can see it instantly and then make new adaptions to my work hassle free as the interface on OneNote is so easy to use.

SUMMARY:

It’s often tempting to focus on the way technology is impacting on the lives of our students and therefore I find it refreshing to hear teachers enthusiastically talking about how some of the routine aspects of teaching, such as marking, are being made easier through technology.

It is intriguing that in this example it really was the naturalness of “writing” the feedback (albeit digitally on a tablet), that appealed to both the teacher and students. I read an ICT report recently that suggested that by 2018 50% of portable “laptops” sold will be hybrids that have the ability to touch / write on them like the Surface Pro 3 that Ms Coote is using.

It is a timely reminder that many of the established practices of teaching often need only minor tweaks to achieve optimum efficiency, rather than massively overhauling them with major technological changes.

Microsoft Brings Handwriting to OneNote For iPad

OneNote NoteBook on a student's iPad

OneNote NoteBook on a student’s iPad

Along with all the great eLearning stories that happen within the classrooms at St Andrew’s College, this blog does also try to cover the occasional product release or update that is pertinent to our students and parents.

This week saw a significant update to the free OneNote iPad app from Microsoft, with two new features introduced:

  1. Handwriting directly into a NoteBook with either a finger or preferably, a stylus.
  2. OCR functionality – allowing for searching within images that have been added to a OneNote NoteBook.
    1. UPDATE: Microsoft OneNote Developers have confirmed to me that OCR functionality is only available in OneDrive (Consumer) and not in OneDrive For Business that schools / workplaces use and rely on.

Regular readers of this blog will know that the College has invested significantly into teachers using the Surface Pro 3 tablets (around 25 teachers now have one as their primary device), and 2015 has seen quite a few students bringing a Pro3 to class each day too. Whilst we do run a fleet of iPads in the Junior Department managed by JAMF’s Casper Suite, the lack of handwriting or drawing within the free OneNote app on an iPad has always been a significant drawback.

Until now.

I decided to create a quick video highlighting the handwriting feature of OneNote for iPads, and included the necessary steps to connect with the College’s Office365 account (all OneNote NoteBooks on an iPad must be stored in OneDrive or Sharepoint Online – they can not be stored locally on the iPad only).

The other new feature that is bound to be prove helpful to students is the OCR functionality – in Microsoft’s release notes they say:

With today’s update, text within any image inserted into a notebook saved on OneDrive will be searchable in OneNote on all PCs, phones and tablets, as well as OneNote Online. Once added, the OneNote service will process it and it will start showing up in search results typically within a few minutes.

Searching text within an image inserted into OneNote on an iPad

Searching text within an image inserted into OneNote on an iPad

It is primarily in our Preparatory School that we have seen lots of iPads being used by students and with this update I am sure there will be a re-examination of their usefulness in the classroom, given the tight integration into Office365.

Students Collaborate With New Features in OneNote

OneNoteAs noted in a recent post, staff at St Andrew’s College have wholeheartedly embraced the potential of OneNote to help students receive, and engage with, classroom materials in different ways. Much of the focus for teaching staff and students at this time of Term 1 has been setting up their class notebooks using the Onenote Classroom Creator tool. Feedback from staff has been overwhelmingly positive in the use of this tool to seamlessly organise both class and individual student’s distinct areas into a single notebook.

The new collaboration space provided in the Classroom Notebook has challenged the thinking of our staff the most in terms of how to use this effectively with students. It has been really interesting for me to help staff to think about the different ways that they can realise the potential of this feature, and the pedagogical power of this tool is obvious to many. The conceptual struggle for some staff has been the necessity of a fundamental change in both planning and delivery of content to fully utilise this feature.

One staff member who has proven to be an early adopter of this innovative feature is Dr Jeni Curtis. Dr Curtis is a keen user of Onenote, but the potential of the collaboration space has her particularly excited. This week, in her Year 13 Extension English class, Dr Curtis has embraced the functionality of the collaboration section of her class notebook

Collaborating In OneNote During Class:

In this recent series of lessons, her students were studying short stories, including ‘Some are Born’ and ‘The Moment Before the Gun Went Off’ by Nadine Gordimer. Having individually read the stories as preparation for the lessons, the students formed small groups.

The students’ task for these lessons was to discuss in their small groups the particular aspect of the story that they had been given. The students were then to designate a scribe in their group who would record their ideas in the collaboration space. After initial discussion time, the students were able to see each others contributions in real time, which would become the foundation of the classes notes for this piece of work.

the moment before the gun went off

Note the various student initials alongside different sections of work, clearly indicating their individual contributions.

Reflecting on the success of the activity, Dr Curtis said

I see the collaboration space as a great tool for students to share ideas in a way where their discussions are recorded, because so often students work in isolation and only the teacher sees their work. They can take individual and group responsibility for their learning, and those who may not be in class can also take part.

Student Feedback On Collaboration In OneNote:

Dr Curtis’ thoughts were echoed by her students. One student noted that she liked the use of the Collaboration zone because it allowed the particular strengths of each student to be utilised. Another student mentioned the fact that the collaboration space allowed students who were not in class that day to see the discussion and class content that had taken place.

Dr Curtis’ enthusiasm for the potential of the collaboration space has continued into a number of different tasks that she is already planning for this class to continue to experiment with the online collaboration in OneNote. The classes future novel study of Barbara Kingsolver’s ‘The Poisionwood Bible’ will include a collaborative task where individual students will be responsible for the study of different aspects of the novel, such as character, setting and literary techniques.

Poisionwood bible

In addition to these formal lesson activities, Dr Curtis and her students are also utilising the potential of the collaboration space in other ways. They have created a class glossary into which students are defining the wide range of new vocabulary they are engaging with in the class.

Although it was only the first week of the class experimenting with the collaboration tool within Microsoft Onenote, it was obvious that the students in the class had intuitively embraced the potential of the tool. When asked, the students could clearly articulate the benefits of the tool for their learning, how easy it was to use, and how excited they were for the potential of this tool!

Here at St Andrew’s College this first step in the use of the collaboration space is a particularly exciting development in the College’s staff continuing to embrace the exciting aspects of eLearning at the College.