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Showing posts from 2016

Thoughts on Google versus Office

This was a recent question posted amongst school educators
G suite versus Office 365. Thoughts? Since I wrote a fair bit, I thought I'd also post it here:

If people are learning with a modern pen-based tablet pc, or are learning math, science, or languages outside of the QWERTY keyboard, then it is Office365 specifically because of Microsoft OneNote. There is nothing in the Google Suite that provides a 360 degree flexible, open digital learning environment. However, that flexibility & openness does require a bit more work on training for novices (and some handholding for those teachers who aim pedagogically for a, umm, less-than-21st century and/or paperless classroom) . I cannot teach without it, and its use has improved instruction and assessment school wide.

I have experienced that Google Classroom is really good at structured (and perhaps inflexible) document management, given its genesis on top of Google Drive. Teachers also seem dependent on a collection of 3rd party apps/p…

OneNotes upon OneNotes...

We're just prepping for the start of the school year (we don't start teaching until the 12th) and I just thought I'd run through how enmeshed Microsoft OneNote is to our school.

1) Class OneNotes -- this is where it all started five years ago, so we have over 2500 Class Notebooks in our archive.  Each year, we run a script against our timetable and a Class Notebook is created for every class, with a Teacher Content Library section group (including a private planning space), a Group Collaboration Space section group (with a wide-open collaborative space along with the opportunity to add additional small-group spaces at the teacher's whim), and a section group for each student (with appropriate student assignment dropbox, private teacher marking space and a returned section which the student can't edit for marked work.  This is all spelt out here here and here.

But then there are all the other places we use OneNote that I thought we should mention.

2) Department OneN…

So you want to hack your OneNote Class Notebook

Taking a brief break from my "Getting Started with OneNote Class Notebook" series (you can start that one here)...

This is a little advanced so if you're not comfortable setting permissions inside of Office365 you may want to avoid this.  Or set up a Class Notebook to play with so that it doesn't affect any existing Class Notebooks.  Yeah, the latter is a good option.

One of the great powers of OneNote is that you can do some really neat permissioning of the Section Tabs. When the Notebook is created, of course, it gives you an "open permissions" on the Collaboration Space and student-read-only on the Content Library.  And then each student space is wide open to each individual student.

But we've found that occasionally you want to mix up the permissions a little.  For example, you could create a space in a student section for your private notes that the student couldn't see, or maybe you want a tab in the Collaboration Space that students couldn…

Facilitating Feedback in OneNote

When we were creating the precursor to the OneNote Class Notebook, I was heavily influenced (well, I still am) by the work of Black & Wiliam and so improving the quality and quantity of formative assessment is cooked right into the Notebooks.  Likely the whole reason the Class Notebook exists in  its present structure in the first place is because of quotes like this from "Inside the Black Box":
Feedback to any pupil should be about the particular qualities of his or her work, with advice on what he or she can do to improve, and should avoid comparisons with other pupils. (Black & Wiliam, p.6) And so we have a private area for the student to do all of their work that only they and their teacher can see, and in which the teacher is easily able to provide feedback in written, typed, pictorial, audio or video formats at any time.

Microsoft went a step further with their Class Notebook AddIn to make the process a lot easier.

Let's say you distributed one question to …

Distributing content in your Class Notebook (the video)

In the previous post Distributing content in your Class Notebook, I went through the steps of distributing a page to each of my students (effectively handing out what I wanted them to look at).  What's nice is that it doesn't involve any email - everything stays captured within OneNote.
It's sometimes easier to see that in action, so here's a screen recording of that process, first creating a new section in each of my students' areas (calling it Unit 1) and then putting a copy of the problem to work on in each of their Unit 1s.

So far we've done:
Creating your first OneNote Class Notebook
The first page of your Class Notebook
Putting content in your Class Notebook
--- this post
Facilitating Feedback in OneNote (Review Student Work)

Giving content to students

Regardless of your teaching style, you're going to want to provide students with content - articles to read, worksheets to practice, diagrams to explore, maps to color, etc.  While OneNote allows the students complete freedom in constructing content within their own space, you as the teacher will want to give them things to work on or at least consider.  That's the topic for today -- "handing out".

For me, anything I hand out first gets stored in the Content Library - I want to be able to place the material in the right section and in the right page order to give it context to a student looking over the totality of the course.  If it's differentiated (i.e. not every student gets the same thing) we can use subpages, color or tags to provide that information to the student.  And this is personal and not policy, I always want to make sure that every student has access to the full breadth of content regardless of where they may be working and provide a structure that…

Getting things ready for students in your OneNote

So far we've created a Class Notebook *link* and made the first page our own *link*.  Now we're going to provide some content for the students.

The _Content Library is where all YOUR stuff goes; it's the Teacher space.  We used to have to photocopy material we wanted to give to students.  And then, for students who weren't present or who lost theirs, we used to have binders at the front of the room, file folders or those little plastic boxes to hold extras.  Now, we just put one copy in the Content Library and send it out to the Students -- if they destroy their copy, or just want another copy to work on, they can always grab another copy from the Content Library (since they can't change anything in the Content Library, when they pull a sheet out, they're only grabbing a copy).

So... in your _Content Library, clear out all the material that Microsoft has put in and create your first tab.  Right-click the "Getting Started" tab and choose Delete and the…

Page One of your OneNote Class Notebook

So when OneNote Class Notebook was first designed, it was put together by teachers from several subject areas, each with different approaches to classroom, content and assessment processes.  OneNote was chosen specifically because it allowed teachers to maintain their digital spaces in the same way-- it's open, responsive and yet provides enough structure to prevent getting lost.

The first step when you open your Notebook is to get rid of all the debris -- Microsoft provides a lot of material to help you work with OneNote.  Read it through and then get rid of it before anyone else sees it.  Like your classroom, you want to make it your own space.  Right-Click the pages on the right and Delete them all.  Add a fresh new page instead.

You want your first page of the Notebook to welcome your students to the course, provide information on both the course & you, and give next steps on where to go.  Remember, they only see three tabs across the top -- the Collaboration Space (everyo…

Start a new year with OneNote

I think one of the biggest strengths of the OneNote Class Notebook was that it was started in the classroom and designed, from the bottom up, by classroom teachers in their classrooms.  Even after Microsoft took it on and began adding to its functionality, they have kept teachers very close to the developers and each addition goes through rigourous testing by real classrooms around the world.

So how can you get started?  First, you need an Office365 account.  Now, you may already have one for free from your school but if not, an individual teacher can get one on their own -- no administration needed!  Visit and click on the link "Sign up for a free Office365 Account"  (it will let you know if you already have one if you try to sign up for another one).  Use your School email to sign up for the account.

Now that you have your Office365 account tied to your school email, head back to the first screen at

Defying gravity

Andrew Campbell always encourages me to think about things, no less this time an utterance I boldly share from his Facebook timeline.
Prediction: Your TL will be full of reaction to the horror of the shooting in #Orlando insisting things must change. Nothing will change
Andrew, you're wrong. 
And you have to be wrong.
No, we're not going to get a rational approach to gun ownership in the US, no we're not going to remember that personal choice in religion stops at the end of your pew or prayer mat, or that engaging in political hate is any better than any kind of hate.
But I'll give you one change, Andrew.
I'm moving "gay" from the last in the list of descriptors to the first.  I always thought that being a learner, a teacher, a mathematician, a motorcyclist, a Canadian, an auxiliary Constable came before defining myself by who I chose to love.
But these fifty people were killed because of exactly that.  Now,  they were like…

Why Google Apps Must Needs Die

There are two pillars in the education sector right now, Google and Microsoft.  Google has Google Appsfor Education which is made up of Google Drive (a file system), Google Docs, and a variety of other applications that work relatively well together.  Microsoft, on the other hand, has OneNote Class Notebook along with the rest of the Office suite, OneDrive (a file system) that also work relatively well together.
There is, however, an important distinction between the two.  Google Apps, with Google Drive & Docs at its core, is the last, desperate breath of the GutenbergParenthesis… the final phase of the (relatively) brief time in human history where knowledge, information, imagination, thought and creativity were held subservient to the linear progress of typeprint.   Google Apps, tied to the discrete structure of the Drive and the typewriter-environment of Docs, keeps the students locked into the workspace of the earliest type-setters, albeit in a digital space.  There have been…