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No Internet? No Problem!

As much as we would like to think that here in the US we have everything we could want or need and that the internet is a right and a necessity.  However, there are a lot of folks with out internet. According to a recent Pew Research survey roughly 15% of Americans do not have internet, and of those 25% are from families that make less than $30,000/year.  This becomes even more relevant when you work in a school that has a high Free and Reduced population.

In my school we are moving to a 1:1 Laptop program that will let students take their assigned laptop home.  This is a great idea, but for those kids that do not have internet at home this only meets their needs half way.  There are options for cheap internet such as the Comcast Internet Essentials program that offers cheap internet, but sometimes it is not cheap enough.  So what can we do?  One option is to set up assignments that can be done offline.

The video below is one that I crafted for our staff.  There are many, many types of lessons that could be done offline, this is just to present one option.  Hopefully it will inspire people to think of the non-connected, how to design lessons that are accessible to all and have discussions about best practice.  Feel free to add your ideas and thoughts below to help this conversation grow.

15% of Americans don’t use the internet. Who are they?

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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!

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

 

Let’s Launch this Puppy!

So, it is the big day, at least in my class, and it is time to get students into their notebooks.  What did I do to get to this point, you ask?  I found a couple of students, they could be student aids, kids you have a good relationship with or just a couple of kids who happened to be in study hall without a lot to do, and tested the setup and directions on them.  Why use students and not just test it on your account?  Well, I would guess that just about every school in the world has different permissions for teachers than it does for students.  On more than one occasion I have said to a student: “Well that worked for me…”.  So now I use their accounts to test things, as long as they are good with it.

So, in my district there are still a few kinks to work out on just how students will get to OneDrive, but we did find a work-around, and wouldn’t you know it, that was OneNote!

 OneNote   +  OneDrive  = Your DINO! Your Digital Interactive Notebook in OneNote!

Because OneNote automatically syncs to the web it wants to  establish a connection to OneDrive.  Now, while it would not connect to OneDrive the first time we opened OneNote (the account type was not recognized) it will open anyway.  At that point we just created a new Notebook, and because this is a district machine, on a district connection the district OneDrive was available.  From that point we were in, and now students could access OneDrive because it identified the student’s account based on their OneNote notebook.

So, that was way too much detail, and chances are your setup could be much different, but the take-away from this is that it is always best to find a student or two that you can do a little trial and error with – you’ll be glad you did when you are trying to do it with a class of 30!

Now that the students have their DINO we are ready to get down to the nuts and Boltz (that is my school – couldn’t help the pun) of daily classes in DINO.

If you have questions on how I got them up and running, classroom techniques for getting 30+ kids logged in at the same time or anything else please post them!

Have a great day!

Where to Start?

Here We Go!Well, the school year is getting underway and you want to set all of this up, but how?  Great question!  A lot of folks prefer to begin with a paper and pencil Interactive Notebook and then as the year moves on they make the switch to a Digital one.  I have done this in the past and it works really well.

There are a couple of advantages to this.  First, and most importantly, this gives you a chance to assess your students and their abilities.  Will they be able to handle using a computer this much, do they have special accommodations, what skills do they (or don’t they) have?  Secondly, you can assess your school’s tech.  This is almost as important as the first consideration.  Do you have OneNote?  Does it need to be added?  HINT: OneNote is free!  And, while it comes with Office automatically some school tech departments do not install it in order to save space in their image.  If this is the case you can use what you learn here to make a strong case for adding it back in!  Lastly, you may need time to walk through the steps of setting up your instructions and, if necessary, your shared server folder (more on this in a later post).

When you are ready to launch you need to find out how and where they will save their work.  OK, actually they won’t save, OneNote does that automatically – another great feature!  There are basically three options of where to have students put their DINO: OneDrive via a school account, a private OneDrive account, and a shared folder on your school’s network.  Let’s look at all three to see what will work for you

OneDrive via a School Account: Do your students have the ability to save/access the OneDrive that allows OneNote (and all other Office programs) to save to the cloud?  If so you will have them share their notebook with you and viola!  you are good to go!  Directions for this will be in a separate post.  The easiest way to determine if their student accounts have access to OneDrive is to either look in their “My Computer” and see if it is there.  If you don’t see it I would suggest you still ask your building / district tech department.  It may be that it is available and just not active.  It is worth the trouble.  Having student access to their OneDrive is by far and away the most ideal situation!

One Drive installed!

Private OneDrive / Live Account: If they do not have access to OneDrive via a school account you can try to get them signed up for a Microsoft Live account.  This would seem easy enough, simply go to www.live.com and begin the New User procedure.  However, there is a catch.  Your students must be 13 years old or older.  If they are not I recommend getting admin and parent permission for them to sign up.  Potentially there is another issue, one that I have run into in the past.  Some districts do not like the idea of students accessing cloud storage that is out of their control.  If this is the case you may find that access to Live.com is, or will become, blocked.  If this happens you will have to move their notebooks to a local server (if they give you time to do so before blocking access) or you will have to start over.  I consider this option the least desirable of the three options.

Shared Folder on the Local Network: With a little help from your tech department you can set up a folder that has permissions such that student’s OneNote notebooks can be written to and shared (see screen shot below).  This is handy, but not ideal.  It means that a student can not access the notebook from off-site, and should they wish to access it from on-site at a computer other than their normal one, they have to go to the folder and open it from there.  And, should you have a student inclined to mischief, they can open other student’s notebooks and prowl around in them, or worse.  They can, however, share them with you which allows you to see and provide feedback to them.

Permissions

So, once you think you have determined what means you and your students will use to create your DINO’s (Digital Interactive Notebook in OneNote) you are set to go!  In up coming posts I will be talking about the initial launch, great get-to-know-OneNote activities and some resources to help you get to know it as well.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, once you DINO you’ll never go back!

What is DINO?

Simply put DINO stands for Digital Interactive Notebook in OneNote.  There are lots of interactive notebook options available to teachers today.  And, what really pleases me is that more and more teachers are exploring these options.  They are a great alternative to pencil and paper notebooks…when grading time comes, they are a whole lot lighter too!

Some folks like to use a wiki, which is nice for written content and attaching files to but can be cumbersome when formatting and sharing plus the learning curve for students can be steep, especially for younger kiddos.  Similar issues hold true for other types of sites, such as Google Sites.  I used Sites for years with both my middle and high school students.   However, both my students and I found that they can be very limiting, especially in the formatting and file management areas.  My other frustration with Sites was that it seemed that the interface and the server settings were continually changing, necessitating time consuming re-learning for the students and re-creation of instructional materials like screencasts and screenshots on my end.

There are also some companies, notably TCI, that have a dedicated digital interactive notebook.  Some of these are quite good, and are specifically designed around their content.  The downside is that they are not free, and should your district have it, the next one you work at may not.  Personally I love TCI / History Alive and use their material all of the time, but I have adapted it to work in DINO.

I believe that using OneNote is the most flexible and intuitive way to create a digital interactive notebook.  As you will see in future posts adding content, any content, is as simple as dragging and dropping, commenting on student work can be done at any point on the page (not just in a comment box at the bottom of the page), sharing is as easy as entering an email address, and should your school have tablets students can use the powerful OCR to write and illustrate anything – lab reports and math problems come to mind, but why not art projects and shop class designs?

These are but a few examples of what can be done, and will be shown here in the future.  So keep checking in, or like this site and you’ll be notified automatically.  Please pass this along to anyone you know of who might be interested creating a digital interactive notebook, they’ll thank you later!

Have a great day,

Alex

No, not this type of dino!

What is DINO?