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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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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

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?

So much more than just notes!

There are few things students like to do less than take notes.  Especially when they are done poorly and with no evident purpose.  And shame on us, the educators, for making it so.

Notes can be fun, engaging and yes, interactive.  Especially when we move the way we take notes into the 21st Century.  Our students, by and large, are digitally engaged.  Why fight it?  We can do so much more than getting out a piece of paper and something to write with as a solution to having students engage with the materiel.

Over the years I tried several alternatives to pencil and paper notes: from blogs, to wikis, to websites and had yet to find something that is intuitive, has few limitations and that students can access through a variety of learning styles.  Then I was shown Microsoft’s OneNote.  Quite simply it changed how I worked, and is now changing how my students work.

In this blog I will be documenting the advantages of what I call DINO – Digital Interactive Notebook in OneNote.  My DINO system can be set up easily, expanded with out limit and will broaden your teaching effectiveness from the get-go.

Keep checking in to go through the set-up, expansion, evaluation and optional tricks and tips sections as they become available.  There is always more to DINO, so please do not hesitate to inquire further.

All the best,

Alex