One of the main purposes of this blog is to raise awareness within the college of innovative pedagogy, with the overall aim of inspiring others. I was excited this week to spend a bit of time in a Year 6 Religious Education classroom, where I saw evidence of exactly that.
At the recent conference of the New Zealand Association of Religious Education Teachers and Chaplains, our Preparatory School Religious Education Teacher, Mrs Jillian Fenton, found herself reflecting on the possibilities of tapping into the expertise of others, and bringing that into her classroom. This reflection was in conjunction with the 2016 Religious Education curriculum review which was aiming to continue to make learning in this particular curriculum area as authentic as possible.
As part of this process Mrs Fenton also thought back to her Year 6 student’s end of term reflections from Term 3. Within these she noted that a number of children raised some very interesting questions that they wanted the opportunity to ask.
Both Year 6 classes were given the opportunity to connect with Dr McLeod and have their questions answered. My observations of one of these session illustrated the extremely high levels of student engagement as they asked questions such as
“Does God’s power have a limit?”
“What proof is there of God’s existence?”
Mrs Fenton notes that “It was brilliant to give children the opportunity to ask those questions of someone they perceive as an expert.”
I thought it was great to see this example of a teacher thinking carefully about how she could use approachable technology to give her students such an engaging and authentic learning experience.
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 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.
Whilst 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:
Mr 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
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.
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.
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:
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 →
Today I introduced my Yr9 Religious Education students to an overview of the Old Testament. I recognised there would be a wide range of prior knowledge and so I wanted a fun and interactive way of identifying what the students actually knew at this point.
If you were asked to explain what the Bible was to someone who had never heard of it, what would you tell them?
As a starting “Do Now” activity, this worked effectively, because the students needed to come in quietly, get out their laptops, connect to Moodle and then click the link on our class site to Socrative.com, before answering their questions. The students were engaged immediately, especially when they saw their answers starting to scroll up the projector screen at the front of the classroom.
I had chosen to allow the students to provide their answers anonymously for two reasons:
For those that didn’t know much about the Bible, they would not feel uncomfortable due to their limited knowledge.
An opportunity for me to talk about Digital Citizenship and remind the students their replies needed to be responsibly worded.
I then gave the class the opportunity to vote for the answer they liked the best, requiring them to read through the 27 responses and then select what they felt was the best explanation. Here are the top answers with the amount of votes each received to the left:
Student responses to the question “How would you explain the Bible to someone that had never heard of it (click to enlarge)
The lesson continued with the students watching a short animated DVD explaining the broad sweep of the Old Testament, before they were required to work in groups of 3, using their laptops to identify the four main sections of the Old Testament and share some verses from within these sections in a Moodle Forum.
Instructions students needed to follow to complete the task (click to enlarge)
This was experimental for this class – they had to carefully follow a few instructions, move around the room into their groups, and then quickly locate the information they required. I was pleased that this mostly went without a hitch, although it took slightly longer than I anticipated, so I could not use the “Exit Pass” functionality in Socrative.com to receive student reflections on the lesson.
I think that as students become more familiar with some of these activities, such as logging into Moodle, looking for the task they are required to start, then speed and fluency will increase, making these viable activities for both in class and completion at home.
The different groups and how many replies they made with their answers (click to enlarge)
One of the things I particularly like about this is the record of learning that is retained – the work completed by each student is recorded in one place, their name automatically associated with it, and where appropriate, becomes a great resource for revision when assessment requires it.
I am going to continue to explore different ways Moodle and Socrative can be used in combination in lessons with this class.