Give a good teacher a tool and… Screencasting and OneNote

Earlier this week, my school hosted a media event with Intel to showcase how students and teachers are using the ClassmatePC convertibles (tablet netbooks designed specifically for kids) in our 1:1 program.  Whenever someone asks to see a teacher who  uses technology effectively in her classroom, the first teacher I think of is Chris Collins.

Two years ago, she was an early adopter of OneNote, taking a tool she knew could be valuable for her own teaching and creating a structure to make it rock, not only in her own classroom but for other science and math teachers as well.  Now it’s being used in all of our middle and upper grade levels and across most content areas.  Students in our 1:1 program have notebooks they create on our network, shared with teachers, so that students can do assignments at school or at home and synchronize it so that teachers also have a digital copy.  What does this mean for students and teachers?

  • Little or no “lost homework” because all of the homework lives in the digital notebook.  It’s easier for most kids to keep track of digital files than paper ones.  No more “my dog ate my homework” happening.
  • No need to back up homework files (an ongoing struggle in most 1:1 schools) because it synchronizes with the network.  Even a bad malware infection or hard drive failure would mean no more than one night of homework lost.  No more “my computer ate my homework” happening, either.
  • Teachers can see the students’ notebooks during class as students take notes and practice skills for immediate feedback and redirection if needed.
  • Teachers can project any student’s work for classroom discussion without special management software or having kids come up to a board.
  • Teachers don’t need to collect a notebook to read/assess it.  Both students and teachers can have a digital copy of the work.
  • Kids don’t need to stop working when the notebook is handed in.  Often, teachers can give immediate feedback, even while the student is working.
  • Content of the notebook can be inked/handwritten (we use tablets).  It can also be typed, “printed” from other files for annotation, pasted (text or images), “clipped” as an image from any application, linked from the Internet, or recorded (video and/or audio) using microphone and webcam. Basic tables and drawings can also be included.
  • Teachers don’t need a trolley to bring student notebooks home for the weekend to correct.
  • Students and teachers can perform text searches of both typed or handwritten notes.

Late this week, Chris had an idea for having kids use their laptops to create screencasts of math problems as review of various techniques.  She would assign kids problems they would solve, showing their work in a screencast (with the option of including audio explanation).  With the help of my Twitter PLN, we came up with a number of tools that would work – Jing, Screenjelly, Voicethread, Screen-cast-o-matic, etc.  After some experimentation, Screen-cast-o-matic seemed to be the best tool.  When I left Friday, she had the lesson plan created for the task and was ready to use it next week.

This morning Chris sent me an exciting email.  Not only did she have a plan for students to use screencasting as a tool for their own practice and student review; she had discovered another excellent use in her math classes.  When she reviews student homework and notices an error, she can create a quick screencast explaining the problem and insert it into the OneNote notebook so the student receives it the next time he or she synchronizes it.  Fortunately, they’re easil copied and pasted into multiple notebooks in case multiple students have issues with the same problem.  Here’s an example:

Individualized teacher tutorials – try doing that with paper!

This year I’ve seen teachers in math, science, history, geography, and French using OneNote shared notebooks.  This sort of use has expanded to our upper school as well now that our tablet 1:1 is expanding through 12th grade.  OneNote has been a really useful tool for us, but it wouldn’t be much without teachers like Chris who can take a simple tool and embrace it in meaningful ways.

This week I read an online article about one-to-one computing programs being only as good as their teachers.  Ain’t it the truth!  I guess this makes ours pretty incredible 🙂

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