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How OneNote can evolve education

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Today’s post on OneNote was written by Michael Williams, Social Science teacher at Weston Ranch High School, Manteca USD.

I am a young educator who grew up in an educator family and have seen many movements to increase the amount of technology used in the classroom—but many of these were short term blips. Education has essentially been conducted in the same manner for thousands of years. A teacher passes on knowledge of a topic to the student and the student writes down the information. The student then studies the information to master the content. OneNote is the next technology step in the classroom evolution.

OneNote allows me to adapt learning to each of my students needs by being able to check on my students work at any time. I can assess instant progress so I can adapt my teaching to better serve each student’s needs. It allows the student to create their own database of information and to become less dependent on the instructor.

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OneNote allows students to take ownership of their education because they have complete access to class content anytime and anywhere. This forces them to check their OneNote Class Notebook and answer the questions that they have themselves. It puts responsibility back on the student and their learning is up to them. It eliminates excuses because I can immediately check the status of their work.

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Evolution is a process for the teacher and the student. This is one thing that is hard to come to terms with as an educator. We think that it is always on the student to adapt, evolve and change, but the fact of the matter is it is the role of the teacher to change. Learning how to use OneNote in my classroom has changed me as an educator. It requires me to be fully prepared and organized. OneNote helps you achieve this without trying. This occurs because you have to restructure how you share, edit and guide students through tasks. All this can be done in OneNote. This changes the nature in which you interact with students because it is done virtually. Many educators may see this as a negative, but this allows students too shy/self-conscious about their work to be noticed. For students who never seek help but they need it, OneNote helps guide them along without their fears keeping them from seeking the proper guidance they need.

The next thing is that you have to give up some control that you used to have in your classroom. By doing this, you gain a more accurate depiction of your students’ actual progress and struggle. There used to be a veil that students could use to hide their progress in the class. “I left it at home,” “It is in my locker,” and “I am already done so I do not have to work on it right now.” This type of communication would take place on a regular basis to cover up what they didn’t want me know. The more difficult aspect was that they were keeping me for adapting my teaching to help them. Students for the longest time were able to mask from me their strengths and weakness because they were able to mask their work from me. If I cannot be aware of everything a student is going through as it pertains to my class, I cannot properly help them grow. OneNote has lifted this veil and allowed me to create several helpful tools to make my classroom and teaching diverse.

OneNote as a classroom tool

The first tool I use is a daily calendar that spans the entire year.

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The calendar allows my students to go back to a specific date to see what they missed or needed to review. It also allows parents to know what has been going on the entire year. This opens up channels of communication not just between the teacher and the family, but also between the parents with their children.

Second, the students can use OneNote to save their own resources that they find. This is a way for students to go back and use work that they created for continued gain. Students are more likely to retain more information when they create and revisit information they gathered.

What makes this even more valuable is that they are required to paraphrase in their own words, which is easier for them to understand.

Third, I use OneNote to give students instant feedback even while they are working on a task. This holds students to another level of accountability knowing that their teacher can and will check up on them. To say that there will be no confrontation with this would be a mistruth. Many will fight you on this. But if you can push past the initial resistance they will adapt their perspective on what learning will look like from that point on.

Finally, OneNote works well with the Microsoft Office 2013 suite to take projects and assignments created in PowerPoint, Word, Excel and Publisher and embed them into OneNote.

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This hasn’t really been possible before. The whole concept of knowledge and learning is discovering how to communicate and share ideas. This has been a very difficult thing to accomplish in the classroom, but OneNote breaks down many barriers to make it very simple. Students are able to develop life skills with technology in order to succeed in education. They will be more equipped when they go to college or apply for their first job.

You have to allow time for the students with OneNote to understand that education has changed in your classroom. I am a high school teacher. By the time students have reached me they have been programmed to learn and conduct themselves in a specific way and learn in a specific way. When making this change in my classroom, I had to allow a great deal of grace and “hand holding” to help them change their expectations of themselves. I had to create brand new classroom procedures and practices to implement OneNote into my class. The beautiful thing about these new procedures is there is no one set way to do this. Every teacher can and should come up with a way that will work for them or it will not succeed. OneNote allows you to customize it any way that works best for your teaching.

—Michael Williams

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