Microsoft OneNote and Classroom Notebook

By Rob Cormack
This place is busy. There is never a dull moment at ISB. Come to school on a weekday evening or a Saturday morning and something will be happening–usually many things! It’s hard to keep it all straight. Time management guru and author of Getting Things Done David Allen recommends that we write everything down–don’t busy our brains trying to remember a million things, offload them. Write them down. This is where Microsoft’s OneNote can help.
OneNote is a digital notebook. Like a paper notebook it can have multiple pages and like a paper notebook it can add dividers so pages can be grouped by theme or topic. For example, I have a section entitled “meetings.” (It’s pretty full!)
Unlike a paper notebook you can easily add photos, videos, voice memos and other audio to a Notebook. I see lots of uses for OneNote. It’s great for keeping track of meeting notes or planning a presentation. It would be a great way to keep track of anecdotal notes about students. Notes that can include photos and short video clips!
There are free mobile versions of OneNote available too. I have it installed on my laptop, my iPhone and my iPad. All my notes sync seamless between my devices. I’m often struck with an idea while away from my desk. With OneNote I can pull out my phone and quickly jot it down. Now I’m not the most thumb coordinated typist but that doesn’t matter. A note started on my phone can be finished up when I get back to my Mac.
OneNote is great for research. There are extensions for Chrome, Safari and Firefox which makes it easy to copy clips from webpages directly to a notebook. All clippings are marked with the website url which helps when referencing one’s sources. It’s a real time saver.
Notebooks can be shared which makes a powerful collaborative space for groups to work. Students working on a project can create a notebook for their research notes, to-do lists, or outlines. Imagine a group of students working on a film project. Their notebook could contain their initial notes, shot lists and drafts of their script. The iPad version allows one to draw with a stylus so the students could use it to sketch out the lighting plan for a scene. There are lots of possibilities.
Microsoft’s Class Notebook is a powerful variant of a notebook. A Class Notebook has all the features of a regular notebook but it’s tweaked so a teacher can set up one shared notebook that the entire class can use. It comes organised with three main sections and the teacher can customise it further. It’s kind of like a one notebook to rule them all thing. Here’s how it works.
A teacher creates a class notebook and adds his/her students to it. From there the software creates a shared Class Notebook which contains three main sections–a Content Library, a Collaborative Section and a Student Section.
Teachers can post material to the Content Library. PDFs, photos, diagrams, Word documents or links to websites can all be placed in it. The Content Library is read-only for students but they can copy pages from it.
As the name suggests the Collaborative Space is a section where all students can create pages and sections. Its useful for things like group projects or as a place for student created notes.
The third section is the individual Student Section. Students complete their work in it. They see only their pages in this section of the notebook but the teacher has access to all student work. It’s quick and easy for a teacher to check the students’ progress. Gone is the need for students to hand in drafts of their work. A teacher can easily see a student’s work and offer feedback.
There’s a lot of potential for OneNote and Class Notebook. There will be a session on Class Notebook at our upcoming November 6th TTT session and the EdTech Facilitators will be offering Small Bytes sessions on both OneNote and Class Notebook in the near future. Watch for them.
In the meantime, Microsoft has lots of good resources online that I’ll list below. It will take some time to get to know OneNote and Class Notebook but you’ll find it a worthwhile investment of your time.


OneNote for Teachers
OneNote in Education Blog

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