We’ve been using OneNote pretty heavily in our middle school 1:1 tabletpc program for the past couple of years. What began with an early adopter math/science teacher quickly spread throughout most of our math and science curriculum in the Middle School and through 12th grade science in our Upper School. It’s been heavily adopted in languages and history through 12th grade as well. If you haven’t used OneNote, understand that for many teachers, it’s a game changer. It allows teachers to do pretty much anything worthwhile you could do with paper but with a lot more possibilities – audio, video, hyperlinks, collaboration/sharing, etc. Combined with a tabletpc, it also allows for searching of handwritten or typed notes. For a 1:1 program, not having to save work regularly or deal with “my computer ate my homework” is huge for many teachers. Once you experience life in a classroom using OneNote effectively, you can understand how it spread across my campus so quickly.
In the past week, I’ve worked with several teachers, all interested in OneNote for different reasons. I’ve been working a lot with a French teacher who is using it in conjunction with a great online textbook and a ton of electronic resources. She’s using OneNote as a way to organize her lessons/links/resources and share them with kids. She could do much of the same with a wiki, but OneNote (and tabletpcs) add the advantage of being able to do any of the handwritten activities electronically, store them in an organized manner, and turn them in when the lesson is done. In paper world, this was a mess, especially for poorly organized middle schoolers.
I spent an hour yesterday with an innovative German teacher who is gradually writing what amounts to her own textbook. Over the years, she’s relied less and less on print/textbook resources and has created much of the material she uses in class on her own. She’s able to update each summer and customize as the year goes on. It took an hour to talk her through how to make this happen with OneNote and give kids a virtual copy of the textbook she creates. By the end of summer, she’ll have transferred her customized German textbook to OneNote for student use. Resources will be easier to find and she’ll be able to access student notebooks any time she wishes. Kids won’t be limited to text in their notebooks – audio, video, and online links are included just as easily.
Math, science, German, French (and Spanish – I work w/2 Spanish teachers next month) – all contents that are pretty sequential and organized into logical start/stop units. All contents which transfer easily and logically into OneNote.
Yesterday, I spent over two hours with a fabulous teaching team – 6th grade combined language arts and social studies. They’ve seen so many teachers move to using OneNote in their curriculum and had been feeling some pressure (not from me – more out of obligation because other teachers were doing it) to move in the same direction. Problem – by about 15 minutes into our discussion, we were all asking whether or not OneNote would be a useful tool. Here’s why… This was the first year 6th grade had 1:1. For about a year and a half prior, they had access to tablets on carts. During the past three years, they’ve found many ways to enrich their curriculum with technology. A class which had been heavily text-based has been transformed into an interactive experience. They’d always had a couple of big simulations, but now they’ve added animated maps, interactive online manipulatives, online simulations, video interviews and documentaries, etc. Some writing is still done longhand, but most drafts are now typed and more quickly transformed into final drafts. Typical students start the year barely able to type and by years’ end are able to word process professionally formatted final products which have gone through a thorough workshop and edit process to be added to a hand-crafted (we have consultants from a book arts center) permanent collections book. These are not “multiple choice” or “black line master” teachers – both teachers have been teaching the course for 10+ years and continue to evolve an original, integrated curriculum. With all of this in place, OneNote wouldn’t be a step forward for most of their content. I’m not even sure it would be a step sideways. Considering what they already have in place and the processes they have down for getting kids access to the content, I think much of their curriculum will be better off without it. Some logical options for using the tool… Writers’ Notebook – it’s a great way to draft documents and keep them organized. Text is easily transferred into Word for formatting. Research notebook – for their end of the year speech unit, kids can use OneNote’s clipping tool to gather online resources for highlighting and annotation (tablet features). They can also take notes, either in longhand or by typing, and cite their sources in a teacher-created template (they already have the templates in Word – easy transfer to OneNote).
It’s a great problem to have – teachers who really value well-integrated technology and are ready to try new techniques and then having to tell them that in many areas of their curriculum, their current methods will be better than the new one. Of course, I did a quick show and tell of my new pocket video cameras (6 Flips, 6 Kodaks)… In less than 10 minutes, they found several meaningful places they could be used to enhance and grow the content. Ah, I love my teachers