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How OneNote has become integral to learning at a high school in Scotland

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Today’s post was written by Jacqueline Campbell, Computing Science teacher at St Mungo’s RC High School in Falkirk, Scotland.

Our OneNote journey at St Mungo’s RC High School in Scotland started in early 2015 when a few “early adopter” teachers started using the OneNote Class Notebook app when it became available on the waffle menu through our Glow (Scottish schools intranet) sign-in. Word soon spread about what a fantastic tool we had available to us. A pivotal point for our school was when we hosted a Digital TeachMeet where best practices with OneNote and other Office 365 applications were shared with colleagues not only from our own school but from other schools and organizations. Our Senior Leadership Team (SLT) made the decision at that point to underpin our new Teaching and Learning policy with digital learning—adding a focus on the OneNote Class Notebook app. In August 2015, we started the school year with a OneNote in-service training for all staff. The training was delivered by the teachers who had adopted OneNote early and were convinced of its benefit to learning and teaching. Computing Science students, who had been using the application for their own learning, assisted with the training.

The use of OneNote Class Notebook continued to grow throughout the school year. More than 60 percent of teachers surveyed said that they felt OneNote was beneficial to their teaching and the learning of their students. We also benefitted from guidance from Malcolm Wilson, ICT curriculum development officer at Falkirk Council ICT Services.

At St Mungo’s High School, we use OneNote in several ways. First, all teachers across the curriculum use the Content Library to share resources with students. Having resources in the one place is beneficial to students, particularly in the lead up to examinations. Joe (age 14), when describing OneNote, says, “One of the best features is having all your notes and classwork in one place for every class. So far, many of my classes, such as Math, Computing Science and Physics have adopted OneNote.” Aaron (age 15), who is sitting his National 5 examinations this year, says, “Before I used OneNote I would spend ages flicking through worksheets and revision paper I would always lose and get stressed out about it, but now I just sign in to Glow, go to OneNote and all the information I need is right there organized into each subject notebook.” Teachers also find the Content Library useful as it allows them to organize their resources and know that their students can access course notes even in the event of teacher or student absence. A 14-year-old student, who is currently unwell, commented, “It allows for revision of topics that my in-class notes might not cover as extensively as I may wish or topics that I have not been present for, which is a large problem for me due to various health issues.”

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Second, students and teachers at St Mungo’s High School use the student workspace—initially as a means of grading homework and providing feedback—but more recently for student work in class. During last session, the Technology School Improvement group looked specifically at delivering feedback through OneNote. Feedback is provided in several ways—traditional grading (i.e., annotation using the draw menu and a grade), written comment, audio feedback (through the insert menu) and finally comment-only marking using tags to indicate work that has been well done and areas for improvement. Stacey (age 16) says, “I find it easier to do my homework on OneNote as it is all stored in one place so no sheets can get lost and it is there to look back on as well as it can let you see where improvements need to be made.” Aaron (age 15) adds, “I would sometimes leave my homework at home by accident and get in trouble. But now the teacher just accesses my section in OneNote and marks my homework online—it has really benefited my school life.” Using a digital tool as opposed to the traditional written submission of homework is particularly important for some students. Brandon states, “OneNote makes handing in homework easier for me, as my dyslexia causes my handwriting to be unreadable at times, and I don’t have a printer.”

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Students also find OneNote beneficial by using their own area for creating class notes. Pran (age 16) comments, “OneNote has many features such as the drawing tools, which I use to annotate my notes and highlight the important areas that I’m struggling with.” Using their own workspace for class notes allows students to pull together different media from a variety of resources into one place. For example, in senior school in Scotland, most subjects have access to a learning site called Scholar (provided by Heriot Watt University). Students use OneNote to take screen clippings from Scholar and other similar sites and to insert links to animations and to further reading on a specific topic. They can also insert graphics and text from other sources.

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Increasingly, the Collaboration Space is being utilized by teachers and students at St Mungo’s High School. Examples of how it has been used is for a starter activity in Music Technology to reinforce learning from the previous lesson; in Design Manufacture to gather student ideas before commencing a project; in Computing Science to create a “wisdom of the crowds” resource for a particular topic. Another recent example of the use of the Collaboration Space was to create questions for Anthony Salcito, vice president of Microsoft Education, as part of his Skype-a-thon with students from St Mungo’s High School.

OneNote Staff Notebook is also used in St Mungo’s High School with notebooks for both the whole staff and discrete groups of staff who work together on specific projects. Annemarie Jess, deputy head teacher, says, “OneNote has helped the SLT collaborate with team members by accessing planning documents with ease, in a range of locations. Using OneNote helped the SLT develop digital learning skills and experience the tool in the same way as the learners. We are currently in the process of creating a Teacher Toolkit for the entire staff. This will be a one stop shop for sharing of resources, ideas and professional reading. Our MIE Experts teacher is helping to deliver training on OneNote not only to our staff but also our primary colleagues and students.”

Our use of the OneNote Class Notebook app was recognized by Microsoft, and we were both honored and delighted to accept the status as Microsoft Showcase School for this session—the only school in Scotland. On November 3, 2016, we officially launched our showcase year. We invited guests to visit classrooms, held focus groups and a Digital TeachMeet where teachers shared their innovative use of Microsoft applications to a large audience of teachers from across Central Scotland.

We intent to extend our use of OneNote, specifically the use of the Collaboration Space and the OneNote Learning Tools add-in with students with additional support needs. We are also carrying out a short-scale classroom inquiry to measure the impact of the use of OneNote. We will continue to expand our use of the other Microsoft applications such as Office Mix, Yammer and Sway, and the ability to use them in conjunction with OneNote. We will also continue to encourage the use of the Microsoft Innovative Educator program and extend the number of our teachers who have achieved the status of Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (MIEE).

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It is not an exaggeration to say that our adoption of the OneNote Class Notebook has had a transformational impact on both learning and teaching at St Mungo’s High School. It has been adopted across the curriculum by teachers who are using it as a tool to enhance their classroom practice, and it has also been well received by our students who use it not only to enhance their learning from a variety of devices but also to equip them with the digital skills they require as they move forward into further education and the workplace. “Overall OneNote has been integral to my learning and I believe is one of the biggest advances available in education technology in a long time,” says Brandon (age 14). “To be at the start of a revolution of the way people are taught is amazing and I can only hope that more schools utilize OneNote,” says Joe (age 14).

—Jacqueline Campbell

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