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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!

Voice Grading…”Say” What?!?!

So I just finished my first adventure in grading using the voice recording feature in OneNote. Let me set the stage and you can decide if this would work for you:

My students made a Colonial Era newspaper that had four parts: An opinion article from King George III, and Editorial, a Traveler’s journal about experiences with everyday colonial life and a Letter to the Editor.  They wrote the articles in a template I provided in OneNote so everything was in one place and it looked like a newspaper.

To grade the articles I had to use the following steps – which sound complex and could be significantly shortened if my district would adopt OneNote Classroom Notebook Creator but be that as it may it was still not too bad.

  1. Click the link that students previously emailed me that allows me to open their notebook – NOTE: this link, to work for step two, has to be generated by the File > Share > Invite People method.
  2. Open their notebook in OneNote Online and then click the Open In OneNote option.
  3. Read their articles and make initial marks to the documents using the Draw tools…I’d love to have a Surface Pro 3 for this step, let me tell you!
  4. I like the highlighter so I use that and then click at the top of the page.  Doing so inserts the audio file in step 5 at the top where the student can easily find it.
  5. Go to Insert >  Record Audio and narrate my observations to the student.
  6. I re-highlighted my previous marks while doing the recording. This way when they play back the recording OneNote automatically highlights the point at which I am speaking in relation to what I marked.

This last point is one that I would like to particularly emphasize.  When my students click on the audio file and it begins to play every mark I made while talking is automatically selected and highlighted so that the student knows  that that particular point is what I am talking about with out having to guess where I am referring to.  In addition, every individual mark has a separate Play button so that they can refer to that specific edit without having to listen to the entire recording.  This is quite simply one of the most powerful student-feedback tools I have seen. And to be blunt, those who advocate Google Docs have nothing that even comes close to matching this level of student involvement in self-evaluation.

So, to wrap up, this went really well, I felt that I could convey a lot more information than I would have with written feedback, and the added benefit of inflection and vocal emphasis makes the feedback that much more effective.  I have had many student tell me that they preferred this to the norm of hastily scribbled notes.  My only wish would be that when they access it fro home in OneNote Online that the playback would work in the browser rather than having to be downloaded – which also drops the highlighting feature during playback.

Never-Ending Notes!

No, I don’t think notes should be never-ending, good god the tedium!  However, note taking is a part of education, but it doesn’t have to be limited by the size of your sheet of paper. It can be quite frustrating to run out of space on your sheet of paper, especially if you are limited to one sheet.  In our school we use a lot of Cornell notes templates, but the students get frustrated when they run out of room on the sheet.  Or worse, they are taking notes in those silly comp books, that sheet is what, 8″ x 10″, 6″ x 8″?  Who can fit even a section of notes from the textbook on that?  So then they tape a new page in place  which involves trimming down a full sized sheet of paper, getting tape and figuring how small to trim the 81/2″ X 11″ sheet.  That is a lot of wasted time.

So what is the solution?  A never-ending template that looks like Cornell notes, but each section expands to fit the needs of the student.  So while it looks like a sheet of Cornell notes, it has no limits.  There is a template example on my class resources webpage (scroll to the bottom and look for Cornell Notes with Directions.one).  Naturally you could make one of these for any style of notes, or the students can make their own, I did this to support our schools’ AVID program.

Feel free to download my template and share it with your students!  And as always, please pass my site on to others who might benefit, like me on Facebook and follow me on this site or on Twitter @BroadenEdu.

All the best!

Alex

Boredom Killer

So, a little progress update from class.  I have been using the DINO for two weeks in class and have noticed a couple of things.

By far the best part has been the student engagement.  Even my normally low-producers are doing their work!  I realize this my simply be the honeymoon phase, but I know that by keeping material fresh, and allowing them the use of technology in ways that they identify with they will be much more engaged than they would be with paper and pencil.

So far adding files (merging, to be more specific), though a little technical, has gone well.  Now we have only done it once, but I am hopeful that it will become second nature.  I think the tutorial video helped, but it is also a pretty easy process.

Converting .pdf files into worksheets went really well!  I couldn’t be happier with how they look and function.  The key is putting your screen shots into a table.  In OneNote the table will automatically adjust for any content they may add, so there is no overlap from one section of the worksheet to the next.

I did run across an interesting feature that bothers students.  We were writing paragraphs and several students were frustrated at not being able to Tab to indent the beginning of the paragraph.  They can do this using the space bar, but all in all they survived the trauma.  🙂

As you can see it has been a busy couple of weeks.  Be sure you check in on the YouTube page for helpful videos and give the page a Like, it helps me feel loved!  🙂

Alex

The .pdf Problem

OneNote is great in that you can put just about any file in it, work with it, and in some cases even have it as a part of the notebook (Excel leaps to mind as one that is amazing in OneNote).  But then there are pdf’s.  Yes, they drag and drop, and you can open them, you can even have them Print to OneNote and it will insert as a printout – thought the resolution is poor.  So if I have a great resource I want to use, and have my students be able to work with what do I do?

Well, here is my solution:  The pdf in question was three pages long, with short readings and a question or two that went with each question.  As the students could not easily, or clearly, write on the pdf I took screen shots of the individual sections and placed them in a table.  At the bottom of each cell I added a “Answer:” prompt.  As this is in a cell it will automatically adjust the size of the entire document to accommodate their answer for each section.

Once I have the master sheet finished I exported the page as a Section and attached that to my website (you could also put it in a shared folder).  When the students click on the file it will open in OneNote in the Open Sections area.  From their have the students right-click on the section tab and select Merge into Another Section – pick the appropriate location in their notebook and you are home free!

For the How-To I made for my students please click here.

All the best,

Alex

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