Today’s post was written by Michelle Hollingsworth, teacher and curricular head for the Earth and Life Sciences department at the North Park Secondary School.
Technology is pervasive in our school communities and using it effectively in our teaching practice is the utmost goal. Recognizing areas of need in our practice and then identifying solutions to work around those issues is a regular practice of teachers. Effectively utilizing the various technologies available for those solutions is a challenge we all face.
In my own practice, one of my greatest areas of need was identifying a method that would accurately record and log my evidences for triangulation of data. Our ministry of education wants teachers to utilize their professional judgment when assessing students and take into account all the observations, conversations and products that provide evidence of student understanding. However, in a high school classroom a lot of those observations and conversations happen informally and, as a result, can be extremely difficult to record.
I took a variety of opportunities to work with colleagues to devise different methods of effectively and reliably recording these anecdotal evidences of learning, all of which ended up being a lot of work for mediocre benefit. It wasn’t until I was working with a colleague who had acquired a Microsoft Surface 3 and we started experimenting with the OneNote platform, which I saw a realistic way of effectively tracking, recording and using these forms of anecdotal evidences of learning. In addition, I found this to be a great way of managing and using a platform, which will further facilitate student learning.
Unfortunately, at that time, OneNote wasn’t well adapted to my iPad, so I was forced to watch and suggest, as my colleague played on this new technological classroom platform, until Microsoft launched a rigorous version for the iPad.
Since then, I have gotten my hands on OneNote Class Notebooks and I am thoroughly amazed by its versatility!
I now use OneNote Class Notebooks in all of my courses. While it took students some time to adapt to using OneNote Class Notebooks, the ease of use and organization of the OneNote helped immensely with the transition.
Where did my journey begin?
Initially, I started using OneNote as a method of submitting work. This meant no matter where I was, if I had my iPad, I could mark, assess and leave feedback on student work. For example, while waiting for a delayed flight out of Phoenix, I was able to get a class set of biological diagrams marked and I didn’t have to lug a marking bag around on my vacation to do so! From there things have progressed greatly.
I have had students create their own chapter of a virtual textbook where they’re only permitted to use 10 percent of their class textbooks—everything else must be found and appropriately sourced. This pushes students to evaluate the information they’re researching and create a document that others will understand.
The next step is to give past chapters to students and have them evaluate the chapters and add to or refine them. Students are asked to justify their additions and changes, causing them to critically assess what they’re reading, identify good work and explain the rationalization of their choices. Now that’s student-focused learning!
Using OneNote for student reflection
I also use OneNote to have students reflect on their own progress. Because the documents are all in one place, they can track their own progress. It also allows me to hold the students accountable to themselves.
If they say they need to do x, y or z in order to improve their performance, we can check at the next reflection to verify if they have done what they said they would and how that has affected their progress.
Students comfortable with technology can embed videos, photos and voice-overs. While students who prefer to write, draw or build can submit their work in words and pictures or by using the draw function within OneNote itself.
The most amazing thing about OneNote Class Notebooks is that by the time the semester is over students have a portfolio illustrating their progression throughout a course. As a teacher, I can pinpoint growth in a variety of areas, which is the end goal of all teachers!
I formalized this process by asking students to reflect on their own learning, choose their best work and explain to me how they have progressed throughout the course.
The OneNote Class Notebooks have helped draw student awareness to their own learning, recognize their own progress and realize their own greatest areas of development and progress. This empowers students in their own learning and helps them recognize their role to play in their own personal progression!
By working with OneNote Class Notebooks, I am able to teach my students the 21st-century skills they will need beyond the classroom while ensuring they can be effective evaluators of their own work and that of others. Meanwhile, I am able to collect ongoing evidence of their learning and development, which enables me to triangulate evidence of their understanding in a variety of formats and allows every student to find their place to shine!