Using OneNote Class Notebook with Y10 in History and Computing and ICT – HabsBoys School

The following is a written by Ian Phillips and Dr. Alex Courtney, and details their use of OneNote to achieve quantifiable improvements to learning outcomes at Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School in Hertfordshire. The school's ambition is to use technology wherever it can be of advantage.


We have been able to achieve continuity of work between home and school and successful feedback to help develop students learning using OneNote Class Notebook.

We have been experimenting using OneNote throughout the school for at least the last 3 years because a number of staff saw the potential, using OneNote in a variety of ways including collaborating on schemes of work and resources and students collaborating with revision and sharing computing solutions from their programming.

The introduction of OneNote Class Notebook gave teachers the chance to create an assessment system through a wizard system and so remove the requirement for technicians to set up each class and increase the ease of assessment. In the short time we have been trialling, both staff and students have found a number of valuable benefits as you can see in the following text.

Marking and assessment are a necessary evil and the monitoring of this through inspection has driven schools to make sure that the assessment evidence is easily accessible and doesn’t interfere with learning or teaching. The new Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) inspection criteria for outstanding assessment look for a "dialogue of feedback".


This exchange of feedback between teacher and student has been particularly difficult to demonstrate in Computing, requiring time to collate and present, especially for inspection. In analytical writing for History, extensive feedback by teachers is normal and reflective engagement with such feedback by pupils is readily achievable; but monitoring of pupil progress in their preparatory work for essays, as they engage with content and collate materials, is more difficult (and time-consuming) in practice.

The development of OneNote Class Notebook is perfect for allowing teachers and senior leaders to monitor students’ work and for governors and inspectors to monitor the work online without the intrusion or expense of unnecessary printing.

Our aims for our trial

  • Allow students to work efficiently with staff intervening when necessary either at home or school
  • Record the dialogue of assessment between staff and student
  • Monitor the iteration of work after general and individual feedback to identify he most successful strategies

Additional gains

  • Easier assessment of work of a whole class to achieve better standardisation
  • Extracting and anonymising small sections of individual work to share with the class to develop peer assessment by understanding the marking criteria.

What we did in History

Boys chosen and justification: Y10 with a conventional style of lessons, mixing individual, paired and whole class discussion based on a shared bank of source materials

  • Explore sources to make notes and plan answers to typical exam questions
  • View each other’s answers, notes and thoughts
  • Pupils refine their notes/answers
  • Staff to examine progression of work and understanding

What we found

  • Top end boys made detailed, structured notes (as expected) and moved beyond their normal noting practice by embedding into their text appropriate historical images as seen here
  • At the other end – boys were more engaged; they made better progress with clearly structured and developed noting and more self-correction

Feedback from staff

  • Big potential for improvement in continuity - reduce problems in class from pupils using different versions of software between home and school; recovery and backup is very easy.

Feedback from boys

  • No problems using OneNote. The boys easily self-corrected work and accrued evidence of feedback and collaboration.
  • The boys liked flexibility, interactivity, multimedia, integration of more media types and ability to re-enforce their noting with appropriate extension material from the Internet.

Opportunity for further investigation

  • Subdivide teaching groups in future (e.g. split the class into groups – allocate tasks:  groups <9 better with meaningful collaboration)
  • Formative conversations on assessment will help to further develop feedback
  • Tagging and searching for tags – untapped potential (e.g. to-do tags to help boys with organisation – what’s done and to do)


What we did in Computing and ICT

Boys chosen and justification: Y10 GCSE ICT to conduct managed self-review. Collaborate to create a revision resource

What we did

  • Assessed their work whilst boys were working giving formative feedback
  • Aggregated resources on difficult sections of the syllabus
  • Allowed boys to understand the value of the two different environments shared with their teacher - the private and the collaborative

Feedback from staff

  • Very useful
  • Worked well with no technical hitches
  • All boys managed to use OneNote to complete a coursework progress sheet which was assessed.
  • It was good to see how ideas developed over time using versioning
  • Boys had some difficulties in understanding the structure of the OneNote Class Notebook at the start. More time needs to be given to explain sections and how the boys should manage their work

Feedback from boys

  • Surprised by the immediacy – the lag was useful to understand the changes being made.
  • Versioning and backup useful as is accountability of who made what changes in collaboration
  • The boys find the potential impact of more screen time a concern particularly with the tension between writing vs typing. This is a challenge even though typing is becoming a required skill but exams are mainly handwritten

Opportunity for further investigation

  • Explore templates for rubrics
  • Share revision guides with other groups either for comment and further collaboration or as a resource
  • Additional gains and what’s next
  • This trial fits well with our aims for introducing problem based learning; allowing boys to collaborate whilst we scaffold student responsibility so they can move to become independent learners

OneNote should work really well for the coursework preparation with Y10 and Y12, not so much for its collaborative functions but in that it can act as a scrapbook / organiser for each boy as he progresses through the necessary reading and research. As the teacher has remote access to each pupil's space, they can monitor progress during that preparatory phase much more efficiently. This could help keep less organised (and, indeed, the overly enthusiastic) pupils on track.

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