Doing Homework On The Go

Blog originally posted on the Office blog, December 2013

OneNote recently turned 10 and so did my son. As a fourth-grader, one of his projects is to write a book report. The purpose of the report is really to help the students build their writing skills. Someone once said, If you want to write well, you must read well, and you must read widely. Good writing requires a better handle on vocabulary. So, as part of the book report, students have to cite the new words they learned in the book.

My son is a fan of Roald Dahl so he has chosen to write the book report on Matilda. Matilda is about an extraordinary girl with magical powers, but her wealthy parents are oblivious to her skills and consider her foolish.

When I was growing up, note-taking was a very effective learning tool for me, so I encourage him to take notes as he reads. As a result, he journals new words, including the meaning and any interesting information about the word. Sometimes he tries to use the word in a sentence to make it easier to understand the meaning. We have a house rule that he must read a book for at least 20 minutes every day. With a 20-minute commute to and from school, this house rule comes in quite handy!

When I drive him to school these days, he reads Matilda in the backseat. The power of technology helps him to improve his reading and note-taking habits. While in the car, my son uses my Windows Phone to journal the new words. He uses the Office hub on my phone to update his OneNote notebook for the book report. He jots down the new words he reads about in the book. He searches for words on Bing and captures meanings and pictures for the words. Back home, he accesses this OneNote notebook on his Microsoft Surface tablet to easily update his draft book report in Word.

Jotting down words using Office mobile

A key part of the book report exercise is to include a bibliography that lists the references used to write the report. This helps the teacher assess whether students did some research on their own. It is also a key way for the teacher to enforce correct writing practices early while discouraging plagiarism.

The note-taking practice in OneNote helps my son tremendously. As he obtains content from various websites and includes it in his notebook, OneNote does a fantastic job of incorporating these references as hyperlinks. He then uses these references in the bibliography section of his book report. And he proudly shares this “trick” with his classmates and teacher.

As someone who is passionate about education, I am amazed at how technology is helping students to learn more effectively. When I see my son use technology with equal finesse whether he plays Kinect or does his homework, I wish I had more access to technology when I was a child!

To learn more about how students can use OneNote to keep tabs on their life, click here.

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