OneNote in Education eBook – Chapter 1: What is OneNote?

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Earlier this year we published an eBook covering the use of OneNote in Education with the help of #MIEExpert Emma Hicks. Some of you may well have heard Emma speaking about OneNote last year at BETT 2015 as part of our Theatre Sessions, or you may have spoken with her in January when she was on the Microsoft stand at BETT 2016.

Over a series of blogs we will be looking at the various individual chapters of the eBook, but if you already have a basic understanding and OneNote and wish to skip the introductory chapter, you can explore the work in its entirety on SlideShare:


Chapter 1: What is OneNote?

Microsoft OneNote is the essential tool every teacher needs. Flexible and easy-to-use, OneNote allows lesson plans, marking, assessment, peer feedback and collective work to be stored in one convenient central location. Interactive content can be accessed by students allowing for visible and trackable collaboration, including peer and self-assessment. With OneNote Class Notebooks, teachers have differentiated instruction, content delivery, and a collaborative digital space allowing students the freedom to learn and develop in a way that suits their needs, and this notebook that won’t get lost in the office or soaked in the washing machine. The potential of Microsoft’s OneNote to improve the quality of teaching and learning is limitless.

Finding OneNote

As relationships go, my commitment to technology was initially questionable. Put off by intimidating instructions and time consuming tools, I had avoided trying new software as if it carried the plague. Forever taxiing books between school and home, the boot of my car resembled an overfilled and unreliable office with books and paper everywhere. Microsoft’s OneNote was the digital organiser I needed to get the volumes of work I received every day in order.

OneNote was initially recommended to me by a colleague who pledged, “it’s all I need to survive my week”, describing how it saved him time and improved his teaching practice. I was doubtful. Despite my apprehension, he assured me that it would be quick and easy to set up and so I stepped out of my comfort zone and dived into the realm of digital learning.

Swallowing my pride and learning never to doubt a science teacher again, I found myself instantly settled in the OneNote environment. Navigating myself through my notebook, I created a variety of pages to organise my every need, from shopping lists to A2 annotations of exam specifications it was all there. Only when I began questioning what else I could do using OneNote did my colleague point me towards the tool’s interactive guides which can be found here:

Why OneNote?

OneNote is not only ideal for organising my workload into clearly identifiable and manageable sections, but it enables me to sustain control over my career whilst maintaining a work life balance. OneNote is not only a tool for the professional but for the individual behind the staff badge as well.

OneNote is convenient and fits into your schedule. Once a slave to my marking I can now access students’ work at times that suit me – regardless of whether I am connected to the internet. Marking on OneNote is as easy as making changes on a word document, however all students have instant access to the document throughout the process. If marking during a commute, I know that once I fall back under the umbrella of Wi-Fi my editions will automatically sync keeping my notebooks and my students up to date.

Through staff room conversations and break duty chats with other teachers I began to grasp the magnitude of ways that OneNote can be used in education. I had originally used it as a support mechanism for providing my students with feedback whilst promoting collective learning outside of the classroom, independent of the teacher. However this was only the tip of the iceberg. OneNote ceased to become just a support mechanism for my students learning, and became an active and engaging feature of how I taught.

Beneath the surface of OneNote

OneNote rapidly became an integral part of my assessment for learning by becoming the digital space I use to monitor my students’ progress. Throughout lessons our learning journey is stored on OneNote, allowing students to reflect and evaluate on their work and the work of others. The focus of learning shifts from simply finding the correct answer to developing the strong understanding of how we got there enhancing deep learning.

Using OneNote, I am able to change the shape of my lessons to cater for students’ individual needs. Within a notebook I can store a bank of resources appropriate for all learners in the group. Differentiation has never felt so instant and yet so personal with even the shyest of students growing in confidence as they immerse themselves in the bank of resources in our shared learning space, anonymously selecting the content that is right for them.

How will you transform your teaching?

This eBook will present to you a series of effective ways that OneNote can have a positive and direct impact on your teaching. Every teacher is different and OneNote gives you the freedom to be who you are in a creative and innovative way that reflects your individual teaching style. I am always inspired and astounded by the way that other educators have interpreted this free tool and put it to work in their lessons, and I continue to witness new and exciting ideas. Most importantly though, it is the positive impact on the students’ that is truly remarkable. Student engagement, enjoyment and interaction has never been stronger in my lessons and OneNote has played a vital part in these improvements.

OneNote is the tool for an educator. It is the means to our collective journey in education and in the words of Ari Schorr, “All for one and OneNote for all!”

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