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
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
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.
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.
However, as the internal assessment season ramps up in 2015 a number of teachers have approached Tom Adams and I about how to “lock” OneNote notebooks to prevent students modifying content after the submission date. Whilst there are some work arounds, such as password protecting sections or moving them to a “read only” section in a teacher’s OneNote notebook, these are not always easy or intuitive as I explained in this post comparing the strengths and weaknesses of Moodle and OneNote.
Together, Tom and I thought about a better workflow for teachers and students to use and settled on the following simple process:
The teacher creates an “Assignment” task in Moodle setting the due date to be when all students need to have the assessment completed and handed in by.
The option to allow “late” submissions exists within Moodle too, clearly showing to the teacher in red how many hours/days overdue the submission was. This could be useful in scenarios where students were away for legitimate reasons.
The student exports either their page, section or entire OneNote Notebook into a PDF file on their local computer.
The student goes to their Moodle course, clicks on the assignment and then drag ‘n’ drops the PDF file for upload and submission.
The teacher can optionally include to have all students “sign” the authenticity agreement by clicking the “accept” each time they submit an assessment.
Once the due date is reached, the teacher can bulk download all of the submissions for offline marking, moderation storage purposes or printing and returning.
The ease of this process is outlined in this six minute video showing all of the above:
By using this process, a number of things can happen:
There can be no dispute about when the assignment was submitted
There can be no “losing” the submission because it’s stored on Moodle
All assignments are stored in one place with a single click to download all assignments into a folder for marking / moderation.
This also reduces the need for the Teacher to “harvest” the submissions from a variety of sources that students may have submitted by e.g. email, printed and left at the teacher’s desk or office etc.
Moodle supports the use of http://turnitin.com/ – an online tool for verifying the authenticity and originality of a submission. Whilst this costs, it would allow students to improve their work before a final submission and also support teachers in ensuring the submission is the original work of the student.
On the St Andrew’s College website we share a number of reasons why we use technology in our classrooms, with one of them being preparing students for tertiary study and the workforce. The vast majority of tertiary institutes now require students to submit assessment online – by teaching our students to manage their time and to become accustomed to this form of assessment submission, they are being prepared for life beyond St Andrew’s.
At this stage, there is no formal requirement for students to only submit their assessment via Moodle in this way. However, with the obvious benefits outlined above, along with the potential to include Turn It In to further assist in the originality and authenticity of student work, it is an idea that we presented to the combined Heads of Department meeting this week. There will be further discussion over the coming weeks and it may be something that we trial later this year.
I 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
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:
The homescreen of the iOS app for GuideBook for the AIS NSW 2015 ICT Conference
The first few sessions on Day 1 of the Conference
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
Dr 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:
Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) is a framework that identifies the knowledge teachers need to teach effectively with technology
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.
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 →
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 →
The hiring of an additional ICT help desk staff member, Mr Brodie Dickinson. Brodie joins the team from Adelaide, Australia and his appointment means there will always be quick and friendly ICT support for students and staff when they need it.
A second fibre optic internet connection has been installed, with support from our ISP Snap Internet. This means the College now has two diverse internet feeds available, so in the event of a fibre cut or outage, the College internet connection will automatically fail over to the secondary connection, ensuring almost seamless internet access for students and staff.
I can see that this year there will be a number of trends that the ICT team will focus on supporting in the classroom and growing the confidence and competence of a wider range of our teaching staff.
Creating An Environment Where Innovation Can Occur:
One of the themes from the Rector in 2014 was to help create an environment where innovation can occur and in her opening address in Regulus she noted:
I am always mindful that we cannot sit still and simply enjoy the benefits of success. William Pollard (Episcopal priest and physicist) wrote in the 1960s “Learning and innovation go hand-in-hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.”
In this light, we have adopted the theme for St Andrew’s College in 2014 of Innovation and Collaboration – two qualities that are at the heart of 21st century learning.
To support that goal, a Research and Innovation Group was set up that has laid the groundwork for the 2015 Professional Learning Groups (PLGs) that will drive teaching staff Professional Development once again this year. Furthermore, to help create an environment conducive to innovative teaching practices certain things need to occur:
Innovators need to be encouraged, rewarded and celebrated. At St Andrew’s this has been done in a number of ways, including creating a new billboard area in the very busy pickup/dropoff zone celebrating teacher excellence. This is the inaugural poster in this area:
Innovators need to be closely supported – provide them with access to the latest equipment, software and professional development as it becomes available. Ensure that when they experience frustrations there is timely support, as the classroom can be a very lonely place for teachers when technology fails them!
Monitor closely what is happening at the “bleeding edge” of technology in education – what’s happening on the fringe today will quite possibly be mainstream in a number of years.
Additionally, we are now starting to get requests from other schools, teacher training institutions, subject association groups and other organisations for our staff to present or facilitate professional development in the education sector. Whilst this is very pleasing, the staff involved represent a relatively small subset of our wider teachers – as the diagram above shows, they would be seen as innovators or early adopters. Amongst the remainder of our staff, the early / late majority, most are very keen to try new things but may lack the confidence or support to try new things in their classroom, particularly when it comes to technology.
For this reason, our new eLearning Integrator has the goal of growing the size of our staff innovating and who could become early adopters of technology and best practice in the classroom. Sharing the successes (and challenges!) of these innovative attempts is imperative as it will encourage all of our teaching staff to give it a go.
Tools To Help With Innovative Practice:
An important point not to lose sight of: it’s the teacher, not the technology, that makes the difference!
I recently saw the image on the right retweeted by one of our staff and it is a timely reminder that for successful learning outcomes the teacher and the student are the critical components in the process. Technology, as great as it is, merely facilitates the learning, as I mentioned in this earlier 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.
With this in mind, there are some tools that I expect to see heavy usage of from our staff this year, including:
The Microsoft Surface Pro 3 – building on our earlier trials, this year we will see over 20 staff using a Pro 3 as their primary device, no longer having a school issued laptop, but instead the excellent Surface tablet. I am personally excited to see what innovative practices come from this relatively new technology in the classroom.
Moodle – freshly upgraded to the latest version (2.8.2) this will continue to be a key platform for teachers and students to access course content, share ideas and submit assessment.
Skype – Whilst a number of classes have now enjoyed the fun of a Mystery Skype session, the call to Alabama and kapa haka to Singapore among my favourites, I would like to see more collaboration going on between these classes – the logical progression from simply connecting.
Invariably, other tools, websites, apps and services will emerge throughout 2015 as teachers at the College try new things. With the first Mystery Skype session scheduled for February 5th with a class in Oklahoma City, the year will be underway before we know it.
I am looking forward to sharing the stories on this blog for others to read and comment on, with readers having visited the blog from over 100 countries in 2014 (the top three being New Zealand, USA and Australia):
This post was guest written by Mr Ben Hilliam after St Andrew’s College hosted Mr Travis Smith, Microsoft Australia’s National Education Specialist in December 2014.
In December 2014, St Andrew’s College had the privilege of hosting Microsoft Australia’s National Education Specialist, Travis Smith. He spent a week touring New Zealand talking to educators from primary through to tertiary sectors about how they can use technology to improve learning outcomes. Although this sounds like an arbitrary topic for a speaker from Microsoft, Travis focussed continually on how improved learning takes place and the technology was very much an accompanying instrument to this drive.
The Power of The Pen:
Travis spoke very broadly at first about how we need to target where we want to see innovation in using digital technology, otherwise, schools’ pedagogical progress can be flapped about by what any particular teacher wants to focus on at any time. The challenge is to get 80%+ of your educators being actively innovative in their practice. A hurdle that Travis identified to this goal is the way we educate our educators.
As teachers we can be quite innovative with the way we teach content and facilitate inquiry for our students, but ask us to do the same for our co-workers and we get into lecture mode. Travis suggests that when it comes to getting educators to become innovative in their practice:
They first need to become familiar with the technology they are going to use.
Secondly they need to develop a skills base with that technology.
Then finally, they need to have be given the time and opportunity to implement it into their learning/teaching processes.
That three step process seems simple, however, most school professional development opportunities miss out steps 1 and 2 and jump straight to 3.
The technology that Travis spoke at length about in his presentation, is one dear to my own professional development: The Power of the Pen. We have been in an era of digital technology for 40+ years now. Computers have been in schools in some way or another for well over 30 years. For the last 20 years every high school student by the time they have left school has spent quite some time using a computer. And now probably the majority of schools run some kind of BYOD or 1-1 computer programme. However, for certain aspects of learning, digital technologies have made very little progress on changing or adapting the way they are taught. My subject area, Mathematics, being one of the main unaffected areas. The reason for this is because many types of thinking are best supported by pen and paper. Travis cites this research in support of this.
Personal Reflections On Using A Pen In Mathematics Teaching:
I would like to reflect on how my innovation process worked with my adoption of the pen (or stylus) and Microsoft SurfacePro when incorporating digital technologies into teaching and learning:
Becoming familiar with the technology: As I sit and write this post at my parents-in-law’s house during my summer break, it is here where three years ago, my brother-in-law showed me his iPad with a stylus. I had a play around with an app called Paper. The stylus was quite good with the iPad, but had the drawback of not working when your palm rested on the screen. However, it was enough to whet my appetite and I could immediately see the advantage of a digital canvas in a world with cloud sharing. I convinced my school to let me be a forerunner with this technology and after I put the case to them, they invested in an iPad and stylus for me to use in my classes.
Building skills with the technology: My iPad became my new whiteboard and notebook. I could cast my screen to my projector, deliver my content that way, and still have a copy to share with my students afterwards. I still had the frustration of having to have a magazine between my palm and the screen, but I felt I was moving in the right direction and feedback and marks from my students did not contradict me. I moved to a new school (St Andrew’s College) which was Microsoft only, so I needed to adapt. They provided me with a SurfacePro and I continued as I had with the iPad with some added advantages: I could now write naturally with my palm on the screen, my notes were always live and organised through Microsoft OneNote and I had a fully-fledged computer at my fingertips. Here is an example of how I used it.
Implementing technology into my teaching and learning process: I am now able to approach 2015 running, with three of my classes now in a 1-1 computing environment. My students can have their learning their own way, either my “chalk and talk” projected in class, or watched again afterwards having been recorded and posted using OfficeMix or in some cases watch content in advance. On their own devices they all have a communal OneNote along with their own personal OneNotes that I have access to as well. And for those students also with a stylus enabled device such as a Microsoft SurfacePro or a Lenovo Yoga, they can toss their paper books aside.
As I reflect on how this process has played out for me, I can see I have built an innovative practice into my everyday pedagogy and it is now embedded. However, this whole process has taken around two years and required support from my successive HOD’s, senior managers and IT staff. If schools want to emulate this process they first need to create an environment where these things can all come together.
To watch a similar presentation to the one Travis presented at St Andrew’s College, watch the YouTube clip below:
This year has also seen increasing requests by other schools and organisations for our teachers to deliver professional development in the area of eLearning and technology use in the classroom. An example of this is earlier this week our Assistant Head of English Ms Tam Yuill Proctor was invited to deliver a keynote at the Dunedin English Big Day Out conference. The title of her message was “Putting the “E” of E-Learning into Teaching and Learning” and as a summary reflection of presentation she recorded a terrific Office Mix overview (click the slide below to view):
The topics covered in the keynote included:
Teaching and Learning: knowledge building, learning communities, practice
Office365: Office Mix, OneNote and OneDrive
Inquiry Learning: putting it into action with Year 10
Blogs and Twitter: effective use of these in professional development.
Other examples of our staff delivering or facilitating professional development in eLearning recently include:
Mr Duncan Ferguson has spoken at a number of events on using technology in music including at the NZ Music Educators Conference in Auckland and at an NZQA Best Practice in Music workshop in Christchurch.
It is excellent to see teachers from St Andrew’s College being invited to share their expertise and experience with the wider teaching community, as it highlights the value our own students are receiving in their tuition. As well as requests to speak at events, the College has hosted numerous staff from other schools on visits to see eLearning in action in our classrooms.
To build on this momentum, St Andrew’s has created a new position starting in 2015 called eLearning Integrator. This role will focus on supporting innovative and best practice in eLearning amongst our teachers and I am confident this will lead to even more teachers being asked to speak at future events.
In part one of this two part post, I highlighted the various strengths of both Moodle and OneNote and in part two I aim to highlight the relative weaknesses of them as standalone Learning Management Systems (LMS). By doing this, it should become apparent that the two successfully complement each other and provide a compelling feature set when used in tandem.
RELATIVE WEAKNESSES OF MOODLE:
Because it is essentially a browser based website, there are some things that are much harder to do compared to a desktop application. The recording and sharing of video and audio content would be an example of this.
There is a considerable learning curve in understanding how the numerous menu items work – this has definitely been a turn off for some less confident staff.
The potential for “the scroll of death.” Where teachers do not “hide” content, front pages of courses can often need excessive scrolling to find content.
Aside from Forums (and some third party Wiki plugins) there is no easy way for students to collaboratively share ideas on a page, or to handwrite directly into any content section.
The defined themes / templates within Moodle can make it challenging to customise the look and feel of a course
RELATIVE WEAKNESSES OF ONENOTE:
There is no ability to easily run assessment with cut off dates. The teacher would be required to manually lock or hide content sections at the end of an assessment to prevent students changing their answers.
Similarly, there is no way to prevent students from modifying others’ contributions. Whilst author tracking provides some level of visibility on this, it is time consuming to work through.
UPDATE: A few readers have pointed out to me that if you are using the Class NoteBook Creator Tool then each student can have their own private space that only the teacher and the individual student can edit. This is correct and very useful. My original intention was to point out that in a collaborative space, where all students can contribute and see each other’s comments and work, there is no way currently to prevent them from modifying the work of another student.
There is no reporting at all – no way for a teacher to tell how many times a student has clicked on a particular link or viewed a particular page.
Students need to be manually invited / deleted from a OneNote Notebook (not a massive task, but automatic enrolment into Moodle is a strength of the platform).
The disparate feature set across platforms. The Windows client application is by far the best, with functionality reducing on a Mac and iOS devices, and then even more so in the browser based OneNote Online.
The inability to embed content. Third party content must be linked to only, requiring students to leave OneNote to view this content.
SO WHAT IS THE SOLUTION THEN?
Example of just some of the many options available in Moodle
It seems to me that both Moodle and OneNote have their own strengths that naturally lend themselves to different aspects of teaching and learning. In my own classes that I teach, I have started to use the two tools in the following ways:
Best Uses of Moodle:
Documentary Repository – uploading all content that students may need access to both in class and at home. This would include any Powerpoint presentations, digital “handouts” in PDF or Word formats, as well as links to third party websites and embedded video content. With the built in Moodle reporting engine, I can tell exactly which students have viewed this content and how many times.
Assessment – this is Moodle’s real strength as there are numerous ways to securely collect assignments, manage quizzes and obtain original student work via forums. Results can be exported as an Excel document directly from the Moodle mark book for importing into the College Student Management System (SMS) if needed.
Revision activities – where students need to practice assessment, be it rote learning with real time marking of key word knowledge, student collaboration on model answers or simply a record of learning progression over the year.
Self directed learning – Moodle excels in allowing activities to be made available to students at their pace of learning, with criteria easily set meaning students progress when they have completed the necessary work to a defined standard.
The incredible ease with which OneNote notebooks can be shared through a simple email invite.
Best Uses of OneNote:
Student class notes – OneNote performs superbly as a digital substitute for the traditional exercise book or ring binder folder for students. They can easily type or write notes directly into pages, annotate with images or audio recordings, and drag their notes around into any layout that makes sense to them.
Collaborative work – in both formal and informal contexts, the idea of a “blank canvas” for students to work in is reality with OneNote. When configured with correct sharing it is simple for students to collaboratively build notes, ideas and frameworks together.
Shared ePortfolio with teachers or parents – again, because of the simple sharing permissions it is very easy to use OneNote as a personalised ePortfolio of work that a teacher or parent can view at any time.
As standalone products, both Moodle and Microsoft OneNote perform many of the functions of a traditional Learning Management System, albeit with some significant caveats. In the end, it is likely to come down to how schools see the role of technology in eLearning looking for both teachers and students.
Student Use of OneNote with Teacher Feedback
If schools want students completing assessment online (as NZQA continues to work towards themselves) then having an assessment engine like the one in Moodle will be critical. Alternatively, if the vision is simply for students to be recording notes electronically and sharing them with teachers and parents, OneNote functions incredibly well in this area.
Ideally, as our teachers and students become more confident in both platforms, they will transition seamlessly between them, choosing the best functions of each to achieve the maximum opportunities for successful learning outcomes.
St Andrew’s College is a school that is committed to delivering first class technology to students and staff to use in supporting their teaching and learning practices. In 2012 Moodle was introduced as the first real Learning Management System the College had used, replacing an ageing and feature-limited version of Microsoft Sharepoint. In 2013, thanks to the introduction of cloud based synchronisation via SkyDrive (now called OneDrive), Microsoft OneNote became increasingly popular amongst teachers as a tool for delivering class notes and collecting student feedback.
Since then, many teachers have variously tried both Moodle and OneNote interchangeably, sometimes abandoning one in favour of the other or struggling to identify when to use the most appropriate tool. Through various discussions, I have picked up a distinct pattern of thought that suggests most teachers believe they must use exclusively either Moodle or OneNote, but rarely did any teachers describe a workflow that included both.
This is a shame, because I believe both tools actually complement the other and when used in conjunction they provide a phenomenal feature set to easily deliver quality eLearning to our students. As this case study from Microsoft shows, both Moodle and OneNote can work together and over the course of the next two blog posts I aim to highlight:
The various strengths and weaknesses of each product
Some suggested workflows of using them alongside each other
It is free and easy to install for immediate use. Furthermore, it was designed from the ground up for educational use.
As an Open Source product, you are free to customise it in any way you choose to meet the needs of your school or students (admittedly, this does require some coding ability).
There is a huge amount of third party plugins written for Moodle, rounding out the feature set to meet the needs of most schools.
Assignments: it easily handles the setting of various different assignment types, automatic cut off at due dates, electronic marking using rubrics and other scales, and feedback to students.
Forums: multiple forum styles that allow for online discussion and sharing, with no chance of student interference of other’s comments.
Resources: since mid-2013, teachers have been able to drag’n’drop most file types for uploading into Moodle courses, streamlining the building of quality courses.
Quizzes a robust and flexible quiz engine allowing for individualised, self-paced learning and feedback.
Reporting: teachers can easily see which students have viewed a resource, contributed to a discussion or completed an assignment or quiz. This massively reduces the management of checking student work.
Embedding of third party content: You can easily embed third party video, audio, animation content directly into your courses meaning your students do not need to simply follow links to websites.
Automatic enrolment: students can be automatically enrolled into courses based off a third party database or directory groups.
End of course / year rollover: Teachers can easily “reset” a course at the end of a year or semester, removing assignment submissions, forum comments and other student data, readying it for the next class they teach.
There are many other features that could be listed here, but this is a number that relate to specific usage at St Andrew’s College.
It is part of the Microsoft Office Suite, so is immediately reasonably familiar in the look and feel when compared with Word, Excel or PowerPoint for example, reducing the learning curve for teachers and students.
The default layout is very similar to a traditional tabbed ring binder folder – there is a visual connection as an electronic ring binder that is familiar with most people.
The ability to drag and drop images, documents and text into the NoteBooks is very intuitive.
It can now be shared easily via OneDrive with other OneNote users.
The desktop application is very feature rich: for example video and audio can be recorded directly into a NoteBook.
There is an online, browser based version called OneNote Online which can be shared as read-only to create an ePortfolio style document.
The recently added Class NoteBook Creator Tool makes it very easy for a classroom teacher to setup all students in a class to share a single NoteBook.
Evidently then, both Moodle and OneNote offer incredible features for teachers and students alike, making it immediately obvious why schools and educational institutions all over the world are using them. In the next blog post I will discuss some of the drawbacks with each product when used in isolation and in doing so, highlight where they can complement each other when used together.
Every Thursday lunchtime throughout Term 4 I have been running lunchtime professional development for our teaching staff. I’ve been pleased with the uptake from the teachers, who can book a place in the lunchtime sessions via Moodle using the Booking module we have installed.
Each session focuses on one of the following topics:
The Office Mix add-in for PowerPoint is a new way to tell your story with voice, video, inking, screen recording and interactive magic.
It’s important to distinguish the two types of recording available in Office Mix:
Record: This feature will load up whatever Powerpoint presentation you have open, and allow you to narrate and annotate via “inking” each slide as you progress through the deck.
Screen Recording: when this is selected Mix will return the user to whatever application they were last in before going to PowerPoint and allow you to start recording everything on your screen even if you change between applications.
There are some excellent screen recording software options on the Apple platform and I have used Screenflow for recording many tutorials for staff ever since I saw a Year 13 student record a narration of his musical composition using Screenflow:
However, there have been limited options in the Windows environment, and certainly no great ones for free. Office Mix does change this by allowing staff and students to easily record and share screencasts. The icing on the cake is the built in ability to upload directly to the web for sharing of the recorded Mix, without the need to publish to a third party video platform such as YouTube or Vimeo.
Whilst both Mr Matt Nicoll and Mr Kevin Barron are both comfortable creating playlists in their YouTube channels, for other teachers the ability to publish directly from Office Mix holds big appeal. The following video provides a great overview of how to upload and share a Mix:
As the video points out, Mix offers four levels of sharing to help teachers and students decide what the best level of visibility is:
Organisation: Essentially, only teachers or students at the school would be able to view the Mix
Limited: Users might be outside of the school, but would still need to sign in using a Microsoft account to be able to view the Mix
Unlisted: Anyone with the direct link could view the Mix, but it was not searchable on the internet
Public: Anyone can search and view the Mix.
The only downside with the above is that if you want to embed your Mix into your Moodle class site then the sharing settings must be set to either Unlisted or Public.
After the most recent Thursday training session, our Assistant Head of English Ms Tam Yuill Proctor was keen to give it a go and created her very first Mix to help her Year 11 English class with the basics of writing an essay. She blogged about the experience here and you can watch the mix below:
It is really pleasing to see our teachers attending professional development sessions and then giving it a go and implementing new technologies that will benefit the learning outcomes for our students. As most teachers will confirm, it’s not always easy to record and publish your teaching moments for others to replay again and again and yet it is precisely this type of resource that can help cement student understanding of complex ideas.
I am encouraging our teachers to embed their Mix recordings into their Moodle class sites as well, since this will allow them to use the reporting tools within Moodle to see precisely which students have actually watched the clip, and how many times.
Whilst having the ability to write on the screen during the Mix recording through using a Surface Pro 3 is a nice feature, there is plenty of applications for this in other areas with a traditional laptop as well, such as:
Recording how to create a spreadsheet or graph in Commerce classes
I am excited to see which directions our teachers will take this functionality in 2015 and I know that many of them will also encourage their students to use it as well. With changes to English standards, students no longer need to stand in front of their peers to deliver a speech – they could record a presentation like this using Office Mix for assessment instead.
Finally, as useful a tool as Office Mix is, it is clearly no substitute for the teacher. If anything, it reaffirms the central role the teacher plays in guiding students and assisting with the clear explanation of complex ideas. Many eLearning tools allow students to listen and watch again a key learning moment from the teacher and in the end, this must help with knowledge building.