Tag Archives: collaboration

Efficiency and Collaboration with Microsoft OneNote

Microsoft OneNote

Microsoft OneNote

Last year, when our district rolled out teacher laptops, one of the first things I did was open every program and play around with it for a few minutes. There were several programs that were not even the least bit interesting to me. One of the programs I had never used before was Microsoft’s OneNote – a part of the Office suite.

Plenty has been said elsewhere about the capabilities and successes of OneNote, so I won’t go into that here. Rather, I wanted to share a couple of ways we have been using OneNote to enhance teaching, professional development, and curriculum development.

The Digital Plan Book

The first thing I started doing with OneNote is creating a digital plan book. Being a new teacher, I had never really used an old, spiral plan book, so it was not much of a challenge for me. I used OneNote’s features to help organize my planning in a variety of ways. Having created a planning notebook, I broke up the curriculum using one tab per unit. For each unit (figure 1), I created an “Overview” page, an “Objectives/Assessments” page, and an “Activities” page. I used the Overview page to brainstorm, then organized my thoughts on the other pages.

Shared Tech Notebook

Our crew of dedicated teacher technology leaders created a OneNote notebook that employs perhaps the best feature of OneNote: sharing. The notebook is stored on our district server, so we all have access to it and by sharing it, we are able to easily share a wealth of information. We’ve used the notebook to share meeting notes, create resource caches, and even compile lists of frequently asked questions. This has helped us accomplish a lot of different things: we now have a library of answers to the emails we get from staff, we can pool our knowledge on all the resources we have available to us, and we’ve become more organized and effective without requiring countless meetings. We’ve even used the “Live Sharing” feature to take real-time notes on trainings and other meetings.

Curriculum Notebook

Perhaps the most ambitious ways we have used OneNote is to create a notebook that will be used to document the English curriculum in our building. After doing a department training on how to use OneNote, I created a department notebook to use for some basic function. But when we began the curriculum documentation process, we thought this provided the perfect platform for collaborating on curriculum development. As a result, are beginning to use the OneNote notebook to create unit plans, brainstorm assessments and activities, and, eventually, create lesson plans for each unit. We used tab sections to break up the grade levels and to separate Honors curriculum from the standard units. Tabs divide up the units and the pages contain all the pertinent information for each unit.

Needless to say, I’m a big fan of OneNote. I think it takes all of the benefits of a notebook (sections and pages, privacy), a wiki (collaboration), and a chat room (quick communication) and rolls them into one neat, easy-to-use package.

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A br/ through?

Now that my blog is apparently famous (still not sure I buy that one), I’ve spent some time figuring out what it will take to make it more famous (it’s true what they say – fame is addicting).

I’ve discovered a couple of things in trying to make my blog more attractive, user-friendly, and search-engine-friendly.  The first one has some serious relevance to education – particularly to topics like collaboration and social interaction. One thing I noticed in actually paying attention to blog stats is that the more I am reading and commenting on other blogs, the more hits this blog seems to get. Hmmm…an interesting theory: the more I go out and interact with others, the more they come and interact with me. I wonder if students could learn something from this.

The other interesting thing I’ve learned is that, in order to have an engaging and efficient presence on the web, it’s become almost a necessity to understand a little bit of html code. One example is the AddThis buttons I just added to replace my “Meta” links. In order to put those onto the sidebar of my blog, I had to insert html code into a text widget. The same goes for images in the sidebar. Another example is trying to put a Voki on my class webpage: in order to do this, I had to look into the source code instead of the visual editor and paste the Voki code in the right place. For me, this wasn’t too difficult – I have a very basic understanding of what html looks like.

For others with less computing experience, however, this is a daunting and, often, terrifying ordeal. I helped a couple of teachers with the Voki thing and they had no clue what I was doing. I imagine the same is true of most students I teach. As the internet continues to evolve past Web 2.0, I am beginning to think that users are going to need to know some basic html code if they want to be contributors on the internet. In other words, it seems that html coding is going to be yet another 21st century skill.

I guess the question I have to ask is simple: are we preparing students to use this 21st century skill? Obviously if it really is something students will need to be able to do, and we say students need to learn those skills, we need to teach them somehow. Apart from a class on computer programming, anyone have any ideas on how to do this? Maybe have them format an essay in html?

EDIT:
I tried to make the title clever and have the “br/” in angle/pointed brackets (some nerd humor). Sadly, it gets blanked out of the title… 😦 So I have to leave those up to your imaginations…like I said – very basic understanding of html.