Moving your curriculum to OneNote Class Notebook is one thing but seeing the results in the classroom is quite another. At St Helena Secondary College in Melbourne, our ICT faculty had a strategy: instead of educating teachers in all the features of Class Notebook, we simply moved our professional development program onto it — after 12 months, the results were dramatic!
The challenge: Too much time spent creating Notebooks
Four years ago, we took a leap at St Helena and became one of the first schools in Melbourne, Victoria to transfer our entire curriculum onto OneNote. This was a strategic decision, to ensure consistency and improve the utilisation of digital resources in class.
However, we had a major challenge: teachers were spending so much time creating the notebooks that it was taking too long to actually get them up and running. Our students were creating their own Notebooks in OneDrive and learning how to share them with teachers, but teachers then had to sync with those multiple Notebooks.
At this time, I was teaching 125 students, and spending at least a couple of hours a week just creating Staff Notebooks. For non-ICT teachers it was taking far longer. By the end of 2014, only 15–20% of teachers were using OneNote for curriculum delivery.
Half a solution: OneNote Class Notebook Creator
In early 2015, Microsoft released OneNote Class Notebook creator, with its rapid, 7-step guide for creating Class Notebooks. This was exactly the tool we needed to expedite take-up at our school: we just needed to find a way to motivate teachers to embrace it.
Full solution: Staff Notebook Creator as a personal development platform
Our solution was to use Staff Notebook Creator as the sole platform for managing the Victoria Professional Development Program (PDP). This meant that our entire, 120-strong teaching staff would have to use this new tool to self-manage the PDP process: setting goals, collating classroom evidence, and sharing progress with mentors.
Our strategy was that if teachers had to use the tool for their own professional administration, they would be able to develop the skills to then use it in class.
One year to get comfortable
Sure enough, the personal benefits quickly became obvious. Staff discovered they didn’t need to print off and annotate learning collateral, because they could simply paste it into a OneNote file and ink over the top of it to make a point. This became a huge time saver! But the biggest impact was the ease-of-sharing factor: we could now quickly find anyone’s PDP, and compare and add comments where necessary.
Best of all, teachers now saw Class Notebooks as an aid to personal organisation. The virtues of creating and maintaining a single, central repository of their work became obvious. If asked for evidence of a particular technique or a particular result, teachers didn’t have to go searching for it. Teachers learnt to organise themselves in a different way.
Classroom uptake soars 70% points
Once we started using Staff Notebook Creator for PDP, classroom usage of OneNote for learning shot up dramatically. We started the PDP project at the end of 2014, and by the end of 2015, we had 95% of teachers using OneNote in the classroom as the primary vehicle for curriculum delivery.
Why did this happen? The main takeaway for us was that there’s simply no point in introducing a OneNote curriculum strategy if you don’t support the implementation. And support means getting teachers to see, feel, experience and buy into what OneNote can do, so they appreciate how it can impact learning.
By using it as a new tool for PDP, Class Notebook Creator eventually sold. Here’s what our Senior School Principal, Anesti Anestis, has to say:
“Using OneNote in this capacity provided a direct modelling experience for staff members — putting them in the context and position of their student learners. In many ways it acted as the ultimate undercover professional-learning opportunity.”
Impact on student performance
At St Helena, the end result was profound, because teachers used their Staff Notebook Creator skills to design a more powerful curriculum. What we see today is teachers creating, curating and sharing curriculum content on Class Notebooks with superb proficiency. With increased visibility they are making more tactical interventions, and having used the tool personally, they are saving an awful lot of time.
Staff members at St Helena aren’t the only ones using OneNote for creating and collaborating on curriculum, and for more ideas check out Lynette Barker’s blog on EPIC planning. But when you get to the stage that teachers are taking ownership of their own OneNote skills development —then you know your technology strategy is winning!
Trent Ray is now a Teacher Ambassador for Microsoft.
St Helena Secondary College, Victoria, has approximately 1500 students and 120 teachers. The school has been using one-to-one learning since 2012 on a mix of tablet PCs, including Surface devices.