OneNote gives you flexibility

Today's guest blog post comes from Andrew Bruton, a teacher of Modern Foreign Languages. He is a lifelong learner with a passion for communication and believes that real-world experience is crucial when motivating learners. Andrew lived and worked in Peru for many years, running an award-winning hostel and returned to teaching at a time when technology allows him to reach out to the countries he teaches about. He is a MIEE and works at a Hardenhuish School, a Microsoft Showcase School in Wiltshire.



What are the benefits of using Microsoft OneNote?

I fell in love with the potential of OneNote when I realised it would allow me to set up my classes in advance and allow me to tweak them and copy the templates for subsequent year groups. Geeking out over the layout and functionality of my Notebooks was an absolute joy and it brings a smile to my face when students whiz through the menus to the exact content they are looking for. The ability to set out schemes of work, complete with embedded content and even quizzes takes away the worry of hunting for lesson plans for me and at the same time my students know exactly where to find the answers they may have missed in class. There are infinite possibilities for the use of this software from simple libraries of content to interactive code-breaking tasks using the password function. The modern world is crying out for students who can work collaboratively and communicate in a variety of different ways. OneNote brings together these skills in one place and invites creativity through student projects which allow them to present their ideas in a range of formats. Having class Notebooks within Microsoft Teams takes this functionality even further by adding in the conversations feature that connects me with my classes more directly and even hold meetings with experts from around the world.


How do the students respond to using it?

OneNote is growing in popularity across our Microsoft Showcase School. Staff are discovering its functionality through our ICT Driving License during our twilight INSET sessions. From the student perspective it has been interesting to note that year 7 has been far better at assimilating this software into their routines than the older students and we are expecting all of our students to be using it for most of their classes by the time our current year 7 graduate. Older students are so used to their textbooks that they are reluctant to give them up, but this is not universally true. However, everyone who has ever lost a worksheet or missed a class through illness will benefit from OneNote.


How can it be used to enhance collaboration and communication with students?

I love the digital inking function. This has enabled excellent feedback between myself and the students. I can take a first draft of some writing and annotate with live audio feedback right on their work. Students then take a copy of their original work and make corrections based on my highlights. Once this feedback has been given I can give further audio feedback and a third draft is produced. The students gain from receiving private, personal feedback and they can look back over several versions of the same piece of work to spot common errors and avoid them in future tasks. I have had a lot of conversations with colleagues about the benefits of getting rid of physical books and having student work available 24/7 without the need to carry large bags of books home in the evening. Simply pulling out a pen and inking directly onto their work we are liberating ourselves from some of the physical stresses of our profession. These benefits are important because they free us up to be more creative, and from experience, good teachers are creative people who care deeply about their subjects and wish to inspire the same passion in their students. Sometimes I’ll screen record my feedback using PowerPoint and drop that into OneNote too as it allows me to draw on slides from the lesson’s presentation at the same time. Essentially, OneNote gives you flexibility.


What does the future look like for you? 

I can see a time when OneNote replaces our textbooks. When every student has his or her own device there will be fewer and fewer occasions when this will be necessary. Microsoft Teams will probably replace email for student-teacher communication and with more and more apps and services coming online for Teams it should be possible to root most of our focus on teaching and learning rather than scrabbling around for sheets of paper and queueing up at the photocopier. I can’t wait!


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