OneNote and Skype as collaborative tools in the classroom

Guest Post by Andrew Napier, Microsoft Expert Educator

When designing learning activities using ICT in my classroom, I aim to achieve 4 phases that the students go through. These phases are Investigation, Collaboration, Creation and Evaluation. Having woken up to the value of OneNote in my teaching I am very keen to employ it as a tool.

The Learning Activity

I have been spending time with my Year 9 Science class, developing strategies to find solutions to issues in our environment. This was an introductory task that was designed to have students work collaboratively to identify and research an environmental issue, and then suggest solutions to this issue, sharing their solution with the class. The aim was to give them some class time, but the bulk of time spent on it would occur outside of the classroom. Hence, they needed tools to be able to effectively share the fruits of their investigations among members of their group and to create an artefact. I chose OneNote online and Skype for this. Students chose a range of other tools to present their solutions including PowerPoint, Windows Movie Maker and OneNote.

Investigation and Collaboration Phases

Students were asked to create a shared OneNote page through Office 365, and then sent off to brainstorm environmental issues. I wanted all information gathered in one place, so even the initial mind mapping activity was added as an image on OneNote on their Samsung slates.


Students were asked to choose one of these issues to research further. Once this choice was made, the members of the group needed to identify the role they would take in the research phase. All information was shared on the OneNote site.

To help them with communicating when at home, each student set up a Skype account and shared their Skype ID with the rest of the team. They spent time in the classroom ironing out any Skype issues and working out how to set up group Skype conversations.



Creation Phase

Once the students had completed their research phase, they were asked to develop a simple solution to the environmental issue they had identified. This solution had to be shared with the remainder of the class and each group had to choose the best way in which to present their solution.

Students have been given choice in the way they present this, including PowerPoint (I have introduced them to the useful functions in Office mix such as screen recording etc.), creation of a short movie using Windows Movie Maker or using OneNote in order to create a #trezi. While they were able to deliver their presentation without the use of ICT, most chose to.

Evaluation Phase

The final phase of this task is when feedback from the class is provided to each group. This is done in two ways. Firstly, students have access to a shared document containing a marking rubric with which they can save to their device to record their judgement of the presentation. Each group are also  expected to ask questions and provide verbal feedback at the end of each presentation.

Guest Post By

Andrew Napier - Head of House and Senior Biology Teacher - St John's Grammar School, South Australia

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Andrew is a Step 11 Science and Biology teacher at St John’s Grammar School in Belair South Australia. He also holds the role of Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert. He is passionate about teaching Science and has the role of mentor to other members of the Science Department with regards to designing learning activities that incorporate 21st Century learning skills. He is currently undertaking a Masters of Education at Flinders University, with a focus on ICT in education. Andrew’s personal interest in education centers around 21st century learning design supported by innovative use of technology.


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