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Pros and Cons of OneNote Classroom Notebook Creator

So I got my classes set up and going in their new notebooks created by the Classroom Notebook Creator – what a difference!  You can tell this is a new product as there are a few things that could be improved, however, it is so much easier than the old way of having students create their own notebook and then sharing it with me.

For those of you that may not have used Classroom Notebook Creator, it allows you to create a three-part notebook for your classes.  Part one is the Collaboration Space: An area that students and teachers can all access and collaborate in.  Part two is the Content Library:  This is where the teacher can put any materials that they want their students to have.  It can not be modified by students, only copy and pasted into their individual sections (sometimes – more on that in the Cons section below).  Part three is the student’s notebook: This is a space only you and the student can access.

Setting up the notebook is a very simple process that takes very little time, and at the end you get a link to send to students that when they click it, it automatically opens their notebook – if they have OneNote, if not you have to modify the link – more on that below.  From that point they can see the Content Library, Collaboration Space and their individual Notebook.  From the teachers point of view you see the Content Library, Collaboration Space and all of the student notebooks.  The folks at OneNote have really outdone themselves and made something that is very useful for teachers and students.

The Pros:

Everything is in one place for the students and adding material, feedback, comments, etc. for the teacher is very easy.

Setup is a breeze!  As long as your OneNote Classroom Notebook Creator App is tied into your schools network database it will automatically pull up your students as you start to type their name or student ID number.

Cross-platform, Online or Offline, even on your phone, access is so easy.

The Cons:

When you are grading student work you have to click the “Navigate to Parent Section Group” green arrow to get back to the list of other students.  It would be nice to have the drop-down list of student notebooks from every level of the notebook.

The link that is generated for the notebook has a prompt that wants to launch OneNote, to provide students a link that opens their notebook online you have to remove the prompt from the beginning of the URL.  Perhaps generating both links when the notebook is created would be useful to folks.

If students are using their notebook in OneNote Online they can not copy/paste material from the Content Library to their individual notebook.  This is a HUGE problem for students who do not have OneNote at home, or, as in the case of some classes in my district, they only have Chromebooks and therefore can not get OneNote.

In summary I really like the functionality and easy of use/set-up of OneNote Classroom Notebook Creator.  More importantly the students find it much easier to get work from the Content Library then the old way of having to download and then merge documents.  I too find it easier to pass out papers through the Content Library – though the inability to copy/paste in OneNote Online needs to be addressed.  One last thing I wanted to mention is the ease with which new students are added, just open the app, tell it which notebook and the name of the student, and they are in.  While I have not met the team that created this app they obviously had the educator in mind when they did.    To them I say thank you!

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Classroom Notebook Creator

So I have just set up my classes using the new(ish) app from Microsoft: Classroom Notebook Creator.  And I have to say, I could not be happier!

They most definitely do not oversell the ease with which a set of class notebooks can be set up.  In my case I have four classes that each needed a notebook.  I simply started the app and got under way.  As it is linked to our district email system I could simply enter the student ID numbers and it would pull their information and add them to the class.   I decided not to use their suggested student sections for my classes and made new ones, one or each unit of the course.  The only slow part of the process is when it is creating the notebooks, but that was not too bad.  From there I chose to take the share link and put it on my class website.  Any time a student wants to access their notebook they visit that page and it will open their personal notebook (after signing into their Office account) – two minutes tops!  Should they choose to stay in the OneNote Online version they can, or they can open it in OneNote.

Adding a new student was equally easy, in fact I added one and copy/pasted over the work he had missed from the Content Library into his notebook in less than a five minute passing period.

The reduction in time for me, whether it is in setting them up the first time or in adding content is so much faster than before.  I really can’t think of an easier way to make using OneNote in the classroom.

Am I gushing?  Well, it is worth it!

It’s Not Heavy It’s My Grading

Reason #5 to love using a DINO (Digital Interactive Notebook in OneNote) it that it does not weigh a thing.

I came across a colleague the other day who was grading a project very similar to the one mentioned in my previous post “Voice Grading…”Say” What?!?!” but their project was in an AVID paper “Interactive” notebook: i.e. – a comp. book.  She and I were both headed out the door to spend a few hours grading.  Here is the difference, all I had in my hands was my lunch box.  She, on the other hand, had to borrow a cart from the media center in order to get them all in her car.  Really, the picture says it all:

Grading the old way

Now that is a load!

I think I’ll stick with my digital notebook, thank you!

The World’s Biggest Tablet!

Ever want to write in your OneNote notebook on the SmartBoard and have it converted to text?  Normally using a SmartBoard the ink is added as a layer over the notebook and is not actually a part of it.  However in one quick step you can write on your notebook and have it converted to text.  Simply click the Draw tab and then select Draw With Touch.  After doing so select the color pen you would like and then write whatever your heart desires.  When finished select the Inf to Text button and there you go.  To see how it went for me check this out.

The OCR in OneNote is quite good and chances are you won’t have to correct all that much.  This is great when you are doing activities where the kids are writing on the board and you want to have their work recorded.  It is also great if you like to grade student work at the SmartBoard (yes, some folks do do this).

Note: my non-touch netbook does not have this feature, but my PC which is connected to a touch device, namely the aforementioned SmartBoard, does.

As I alluded to earlier, I made a video of this process, enjoy!

Have a great day,

Alex

More on Sharing

Hey everybody,

This is a quick write-up on what I have found regarding students sharing their DINO notebooks with me.  For me there were two main options: Invite People and Get a Sharing Link.  I have gone with the later, for now, and here is why:

Sharing options

Invite People is great because it allows the invitee to open the student’s notebook in either the web browser or in OneNote itself.  This is an advantage as there are way more things you can do in OneNote itself than you can in the web version.  For instance, if I want to draw arrows, or circles to emphasize a point I can only do that in the program itself.  The down side to Invite People is that it sends you an email with a link to the students notebook – all well and good until you have a hundred emails sitting in your mail that have to be individually open to get the link.  Now, as you will see in the video I propose a solution to this using either Excel Forms or Google Forms, but it is a lot of initial work for you, the teacher. 

Using Get a Sharing Link is nice in that it gives the students a link that they can copy/paste into a Excel or Google Form you give them and viola, you are ready to go!  However, this link takes you to a version on the Web App that you can not open in OneNote. Why Microsoft made this distinction I do not know, but now you know that this is an issue you can choose whichever option works for you.

In the next week or so, once I get my netbooks back from MAPS testing, I am going to have the students email me the Invite People link so that I can see just how much extra work it is and if there is an easier workaround…perhaps through Mail Merge?  I’ll keep you posted.

For a more detailed and visual version of this post check this out.

All the best,

Alex

Now on Video!

For those of you who are visually oriented I have started making short videos that accompany some of the topics on the site.  They are located under the Video tab at the top of the page or you can go directly to the YouTube page through the icon on the bottom-right side of the banner.

So far I have one for creating a notebook and one for sharing the notebook.  These are meant to be quick overviews.  There is a lot more that could be discussed in each one, and should there be a request for something specific I am happy to oblige, just make a comment below or email me.

Happy viewing!

Alex