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

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