OneNote in Education eBook – Chapter 4: Assessment for learning


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With the help of #MIEExpert Emma Hicks, we recently published a new eBook which looks at the uses and benefits of using OneNote for Education. In Chapter 4 we’ll take a closer look at how OneNote can provide a way to organise and store assessment for learning from both inside and outside of the classroom. You can see the first three chapters here:

Chapter 1: What is OneNote?
Chapter 2: OneNote Class Notebook
Chapter 3: OneNote for collective learning


Chapter 4: Assessment for learning

OneNote can provide a way to organise and store assessment for learning (AfL) from both inside and outside of the classroom. Let’s take a look…

Live images to model progress

How to do it:

This simple process on OneNote has completely transformed the way I assess learning! By setting up a task, modelling the beginning of a response and then moving around the classroom photographing students’ work with my Microsoft Surface Pro 3, AfL has become an active and inclusive part of my lessons. The images are instantly inserted into a page in our shared OneNote and are then screened live on to the board for all students to see.

There are ways of doing this if you’re projecting from a device such as a laptop that does not have a camera. An example could be to use your smart phone to take the photo and insert it onto the relevant OneNote page which is showing on the board. This is a seamless process (like uploading an image to social media) and you can even get the OneNote app to make the transition that little bit faster, something I would personally recommend.

The real beauty of this method of AfL is that it is a live and collaborative process shared between students and the teacher. In the image shown in the eBook, students were constructing graphs based on power shifts within a transcript of a conversation. The photos were uploaded at regular intervals in the lesson so that the overall progress of the class is visibly assessed allowing the stretching and supporting of individuals. OneNote ensures that the progress of the class is stored and shared. They don’t simply have an answer in their books to refer back to, but a visible resource that demonstrates their progress, complete with teacher and peer feedback of how they got there.

Why it works:

This method of AfL engages students because they are consistently referring to their personal class work – thus making it more relevant to them. The visibility of progress helps the students cement their learning gains, because they have evidence of why and how they got there and have visual aids to support a repeated effort. A task such as this, that allows both student assessment and teacher assessment simultaneously is extremely effective. Students must be active in this process as passivity is clear and obvious whilst the teacher’s involvement maintains the relevance of responses, ensuring that the objectives of the lesson are met.

Annotating to assess learning

How to do it:

As chapter 3 presented, annotating examples within OneNote is a strong teaching tool and enables students to see their knowledge and understanding grow. I have used the tags on OneNote to encourage students to identify specific features in an example – e.g. using the tick icon to identify effective language techniques in a passage. Students could also differentiate their annotations by doing so in different colours based on the teacher’s levelled outcomes. An example of this is shown in the eBook where, as the level of annotations increases students are able to build on their work in different colours to reflect their progress. The image shows that students have completed the first requirement on the mark scheme: to identify language features in a transcript. From this, they can consider the speaker’s purpose in a different colour (red) and then finally reach the A grade answer by evaluating of the impact of the quote in green.

Why it works:

Annotation within AfL is nothing new or profound but by using OneNote to complete these tasks the effects are more profound. Students are accustomed to annotation tasks so the transfer to OneNote is instant making an invaluable revision and reflection tool. Students enjoy the visual representation of their progress and feel empowered when they see their comments appear on the page screened live. Using class responses in OneNote encourages a dialogue between the students creating a much more collaborative and shared experience to the more conventional annotation tasks. I have found that when working with a device such as my Microsoft Surface Pro 3 that a pass the parcel type activity engages students. They don’t even need to move from their seats to contribute to the collective annotation!

Diverting the learning route

How to do it:

Teachers often find themselves straying from their initial plan in response to their students’ progress. OneNote enables a teacher to change the route of their lesson easily and effectively by providing them with a means to organise and bank their differentiated resources. On my OneNote I have various pages under the same lesson folder which I may go to depending on my students’ progress. A lesson is never the same with two classes, so if something has not quite been digested or the students find it too easy, I can quickly access a resource to support/stretch them. Whilst teaching, having OneNote in my back pocket provides me with a variety of differentiated tasks suitable for different levels at the push of a button.

Why it works:

Prior to OneNote, I often felt that if I had to explain things in a different way I was digressing from my plan. My teaching felt suddenly unplanned and underprepared which particularly as an NQT heaped unwanted additional pressure onto my shoulders. OneNote became my safety net. Once AfL begins in my lessons, I have the knowledge that I have many differentiated resources at my disposal to steer my students towards. Similarly this can provide a motivation for my students or a home learning task. For instance is there a more challenging page/task they could try for home learning now that they have grasped the basics? Which leads me to my final note on AfL…

Assessing the progress of home learning and project work

How to do it:

Creating home learning pages on OneNote allows unrivalled access to students’ home learning responses. As the teacher I can see not only when a student has accessed the page but their draft responses throughout the process. The same is true for project based learning. By using OneNote I can see the progress of my students at anytime I want, and do not have to wait for the periodic hand in dates. OneNote also allows me to place relevant resources in the folder that may help with a students’ response. This could be text from a previous lesson or even a recent newspaper article or YouTube video.

Why it works:

I must confess (don’t tell anyone!), I have in the past been guilty of setting generic home learning tasks. OneNote works for students because they experience more personalised homework. The teacher can present them with a variety of levelled tasks allowing the students to decide which is the most appropriate challenge to them.

It also improves their organisation and ensures that the classic excuse of “my dog ate my homework” can never be used, as their work is stored and handed in for them. No teacher can assess students’ progress if their work has been forgotten… home learning via OneNote has solved this. For the teacher, using OneNote is like hiring a private detective. Just by browsing a Classbook I know who has and has not attempted the work, when they attempted it and how much they completed each time! From this through assessment, I can quickly understand the pace of their progress which in turn aids the quality and pitch of my lessons. The same is true for project based learning. I can monitor and assess at will the needs and progress of my students and provide them with prompts and questions, even during non-contact hours.

In Chapter 5, we will be exploring how OneNote creates a single digital space, providing a hassle free and accessible way to conduct peer assessment.

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