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Lynbrook Public Schools digital journey and the unexpected app that changed everything

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Today’s post was written by Jill Robinson, instructional technology staff developer for Lynbrook Public Schools.

As I walked through the halls of Lynbrook North Middle School early one morning, I noticed half a dozen students sitting in the halls, intently drawing and explaining how to perform a seemingly complicated math problem. Surface Pro tablets in hand, their goal was to create a teaching video on how to calculate the sales tax and discounts on store merchandise. After several takes, and lots of giggling, the pairs of students were satisfied with their teaching videos. With one click, they embedded the Microsoft Snip teaching videos to the OneNote Class Notebook Collaboration Space for all their classmates to view.

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Just three years ago, this type of learning experience would not have been possible for these students. In the fall of 2014, our school district began a “one-to-one” tablet program, beginning with a single grade at our two middle schools. Many months prior to the start of this school year, 6th-grade teachers received devices and began weekly training sessions. Getting familiar with the devices—as well as learning new software—was only part of the goal. We also wanted to integrate this new technology in the classroom and needed to answer questions that came up as teachers entered this new phase that would change their instructional approach.

  • What would the integration of this new technology look like in the classroom?
  • How would it help student learning and engagement?
  • Would this integration look the same across subjects such as Math, English and Spanish?

Office 365 was the first software to be taught. Teachers were already well-versed in the Office desktop suite, but the introduction of the “cloud” was daunting to many. Throughout the training, there were many hiccups, to put it mildly. But the idea of students having access to their digital work beyond the school day was something they never had before—and it was exciting! While working in the cloud had many advantages—collaborative opportunities, sharing of files and access to digital work at any time—there was something missing. Was there an easier way to distribute files to students without bombarding them with a long list of “shared” documents? How would teachers assess student work in the cloud? Where was the organizational piece of this digital puzzle?

A new app called OneNote Class Notebook

Just a few months into the one-to-one tablet initiative, a new app called OneNote Class Notebook showed up. Upon exploring this new tool, we discovered that this program just might provide teachers with what they needed to organize and facilitate their digital curriculum. After introducing this new application to a team of 6th-grade teachers, they ran with it almost immediately! To this day, I give the middle school teachers a lot of credit—learning to navigate unfamiliar software as educators while simultaneously introducing it to 6th-graders wasn’t easy. Some instructional time was lost in that early phase.

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Fast forward two years, three grades and 500 devices later—every one of our middle school students uses OneNote Class Notebook for most of their school day (and most use it at home as well). What one might find most intriguing is how the use of this tool has evolved in the time teachers and students have been using it.

As teachers have become more familiar and more comfortable with the Class Notebook, they have expanded their horizons and explored new and challenging methods to help students learn in exciting ways. The addition of the Class Notebook add-in has not only helped teachers review student work with greater ease, but given them the ability to “push out” content to all students at once. This not only saves tons of paper, but valuable classroom time as well.

Remember those math students at the beginning of this post who were working on digital videos? Being masters of the Class Notebook, they were assigned to use and incorporate other types of digital media to demonstrate they could figure out the sales tax or discount of an item. Microsoft Snip—a quick and easy-to-use “show-and-tell” tool—helped students create instructional videos, embed them into their Class Notebook and share with their classmates. All students now had a digital study guide to refer to and had also created evidence that they could, indeed, figure out the sales tax on the latest Xbox. Watch their video.

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Spanish students have been using the audio and video recording tools in their Class Notebooks. This has helped our students not only practice their conversational Spanish, but sharing their recordings in Class Notebook with others has motivated students to provide their best work. There is a bigger audience listening. As their teacher enthusiastically stated, “I can easily asses all students’ speaking progress without having to dedicate an entire period to listening to each student one-on-one. It saves a lot of class time and allows me to do more with them!”

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As the OneNote Class Notebook continues to evolve, we look forward to new features that can help our students grow, think, solve and strive to become lifelong learners.

—Jill Robinson

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