In August, Will Swihart, science teacher at West Middle, was looking for a digital notebook solution. Students in science record their daily work into a composition notebook, maintaining a table of contents and reflecting on their past work as they move through the curriculum. Will was wondering if there might be a way to record his own work and publish it to parents, without absorbing more of his time. Tucked away in Microsoft Office is a tool that will do just that and more: OneNote.
OneNote is Microsoft’s popular digital note-taking software packaged with the Office Suite. Built to resemble the look and feel of a notebook, with tabs along the top and pages listed on the side, OneNote is especially popular in districts where students carry personal laptops or slates from class to class. Users can record lectures and sync those recordings with type-written notes; copy and paste information from pdfs, websites, and other documents with citation information automatically preserved; and draw right onto the page. Will’s science notebook looks like this:
For a district like ours, where kids use multiple machines throughout the day, this technology doesn’t fit a student’s workflow. However, the tool can be leveraged as a teaching resource, especially when combined with Microsoft’s free SkyDrive service. SkyDrive opens up a space online where users can store Microsoft Office files and others can view them – even without Office installed on their machines.
Will’s goals were 3-fold:
- Easily post his daily bell ringer and class purpose
- Add pertinent pictures from his doc camera, worksheets and textbook materials
- Display the notes online, but avoid the upload/download tasks typically involved in updating a website
OneNote performs these tasks quickly and easily. Will pulls in his bell ringer, a slide created in PowerPoint, simply by dragging and dropping it onto that day’s OneNote page. He can insert an image from his document camera by displaying the item through his AverVision software and doing a screen capture through OneNote. Other files can be added through a “File Print” option in the insert menu of OneNote, making the notebook page a quick representation of that day’s work.
And getting this online? Will posted one link to his website in September. SkyDrive and OneNote have been automatically updating his online science notebook ever since, without Will pushing one additional button. The online version makes the notebook available to students inside and outside school, even if they don’t own Microsoft Office.
If you haven’t tried OneNote yet, check it out. You’ll find it in the Microsoft Office folder in your “All Programs” menu.