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Missing My Notebook

sad for onenoteAs a followup to a recent tweet about OneNote, I just wanted to say: I miss you Notebook Creator! 

What brought this on?  The short version?  I moved.  Moved to a school that is a Google Apps For Education school.  That, and as I have been going through the ISTE presentations – goodness there are a lot! – I have seen many for OneNote.

The thing is, I could easily, and happily, present on the benefits of OneNote for the classroom.  I would love to be sharing this knowledge here at home as well.  I truly have not found any tech tool as versatile and useful for my classroom.   Having lost it as a tool, and moved to a school that has a slight anti-Microsoft taint, has been really hard.

I have also found that a lot of folks don’t know that all of the Office suite can now function just like a Google Doc – online and shareable.  The don’t know how much more versatile OneDrive is compared to Google Drive and how Classroom Notebook Creator works.  What they do know is that Office for Education costs, and costs big.  It would be nice if Microsoft took a clue from Google in this regard.

And while the Google stuff works well, especially for the little ones, when it comes to the older students and staff I feel Office is the way to go.  Ideally, as in my last school, you would run both, thus exposing students to more choice.  Empowering students to try new ways of doing the same old thing is key in student engagement.  Who wants to use the same old Slide when you could try it in a new style, or Sway or Prezi?

So if you are at ISTE I’ll be the guy walking slowly past the OneNote presentations, a small tear running down my cheek as a long sigh escapes my lips.  Who knows, perhaps they’ll be selling those cool purple t-shirts?

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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!