A one-off OneNote Notebook for a specific PD session

Each day as part of the 3-week Park City Mathematics Institute (PCMI), we have a 75 minute session called “Reflecting on Practice”.  We take the 60-or-so participants and break out into three smaller rooms of about 20 each, further subdividing them into 4 tables.

Each year we look at a teacher move and delve deeply into how and why.  This year’s topic is “Discourse” or, more colloquially, “math talk”.  In planning these sessions we have an obvious focus on good pedagogy – teachers learn by watching good models.  We are deliberate in our choices of how we have teachers collaborate, how they present their work and how they receive feedback.  Over the three weeks we try to showcase a variety of approaches and technologies.

Today’s class asked participants to create a task with their partner that would specifically introduce a common error in the mathematics they taught (we run from Elementary through Secondary) and provide strategies for the teacher to deepen the conversation around the error.

Normally in an activity like this we would have used poster paper so that they could then put their tasks & strategies around the room and do a gallery walk, then bringing out themes and challenges that arise.  But, since we were asking teachers to create tasks for topics they would actually end up working on with students, we knew we wanted to keep and distribute them.  Teachers love to have a reservoir of good questions.

For this, we decided to use a shared OneNote Notebook on my OneDrive that would be visible across all three rooms. I created a Section for each Room (labelled with their facilitators’ names) and then three pages for the three groups that may be at each table.  The partners would use a shortened address (I tend to use bit.ly) to get at the Notebook on any device and then put all of their content on their page.

As I mentioned on the earlier post, our participants have worked enough with OneNote now that they are very comfortable with the interface.  They brainstormed together on their devices using text; if they had a pen-based computer they included drawings and a few groups drew on paper and then snapped a picture with their smartphone and pasted the image in.  The facilitators watched as the tasks developed and tagged pages that would later be brought forward to individual rooms for discussion.

The feedback from using OneNote has been great; they have referred to it as an online whiteboard, an electronic notebook.  They have really liked the ability to be physically in one room while being able to see the content from another room – with poster paper, that’s pretty much impossible.  They also now have access to the material when they get back to their home schools.

It would be nice that, after sharing an edit-anywhere link the owner of the Notebook could then “lock down” the Notebook after the exercise so that there’s a snapshot that can’t be changed.  I did download a OneNote package so that should any teacher accidentally remove content I can replace it.

I’ve use OneNote like this for conference sessions and it works really well to collect user content and feedback but it’s usually limited to folks who are familiar with OneNote.  To use it with a group of now-experts has been a rewarding experience.

How long does it take? Working with OneNote and the OneDrive WebApps

At Appleby College, we’ve been using Microsoft OneNote for a l.o.n.g time now … and structured shared OneNote Binders for two full academic years now.  Folks often ask how much time it takes for teachers to get accustomed to working with OneNote and shared documents in general.  Since we have the advantage of a 1:1 tablet program and a background with the software, it’s hard to be fair when describing how long it takes for teachers to become comfortable enough to use it in the classroom in front of students and to bend it to their pedagogical and administrative needs.

Well, we started using OneNote last week at the Park City Mathematics Institute (PCMI) to help with professional development creation.  Of the 50 or so participants, only a handful had used it before and for the vast majority it was brand new to them.  So far, they’ve spent 8 hours using OneNote and shared collaborative Word documents & PowerPoint presentations through OneDrive and the WebApp.  I can definitively say that 8 hours, using a series of practical activities that only tangentially required them to interact with and add to these applications rather than “training” is how long it takes — people are already taking their own initiative and trying different things with the WebApps and determining when and how to use the desktop applications with shared files.  As well, people who have taken the additional step of using a pen within OneNote have commented on the power it provides them, in particular in a subject like mathematics.

There are a few issues with Macs but iPads (with all their limitations) are working fairly well although the browser implementation on the iPad does get a little wonky.

If you’re planning on working with teachers through a PD course, at a conference or even in day-to-day school life, you should give OneNote and the OneDrive WebApps a try.

Teacher Professional Development and Microsoft OneNote

During the first three weeks of July, I have the amazing opportunity to work at the Park City Mathematics Institute.  It is, without exaggeration, the best professional development opportunity for teachers of mathematics.  Participants spend three weeks thinking deeply about mathematics and mathematics education.

There are three main aspects of PCMI:

  • learning mathematics
  • reflection on practice (RoP)
  • becoming a resource to others.

I’m part of the team for RoP and in charge of the third aspect, in which participants consider a gap in professional development back at their home districts and work in small groups to help fill that hole by developing a rich PD seminar on that topic.

It is not easy to develop professional development.  Teachers who haven’t written PD have to patiently learn how to write (essentially) lesson plans for someone else.

This year, I used Microsoft OneNote to facilitate the process.  We have a central OneNote Notebook through which I lay out the daily schedule, supply all the resources, and provide access to the waypoints that each group creates.  The participants have full read access to everything but not write.  I would have liked to have had the deeper permissioning of Appleby College’s OneNote Binder, but not having SharePoint meant I was only able to have group-level permissions.

I also created a OneNote Notebook for each group to work in. For each group Notebook I set up two sections, one for “Notes” and the other “For Cal” … the former had a couple of blank pages already set up (so they could start brainstorming) as well as a page with our PD Facilitator Guide template — they can collaboratively fill that in and then eventually copy & paste the table into Word for final editing.  The “For Cal” section had pages for all of their checkpoints set up in advance (they have to submit “homework” about every two days so that their progress can be review).  Having this dedicated dropbox area really helps with collecting the information when you want it.  I then just copy & paste the checkpoint pages into my group Notebook so now every group can see the other group’s progress.  We felt we wanted to keep all the rough notes private.

Last year we used shared GoogleDocs for this process — but fortunately, Microsoft rolled out OneNote for a variety of devices this spring.  And the OneNote web-app provides quick and easy access if the full application isn’t available.  As they started their projects, OneNote was a nice collaborative brainstorming space. It then became a development space and resource library.  It’s so quick & easy to just attach any kind of image, document, video.

The feedback from the participants has been excellent; many did not know of OneNote, including participants who came with Microsoft Surfaces or other Windows tablets.  The iPad app and web apps have helped to keep everyone up to date, and for PCMI support and administrative people it’s been convenient to say “here’s the link” and they can see what’s developing day-by-day.

One caveat: ensure participants have a Microsoft Account before they arrived.  A few participants didn’t do that and Microsoft has a daily limit of Microsoft Accounts from a particular network.

How do you direct someone to a specific spot in your OneNote

OneNote, as well as I can gauge from the number of tweets I see tagged with it, has been undergoing a marked increase in user base.

So, I’ve been trying to mirror what folks do with GoogleDocs and show how it’s done with OneNote.
To wit… “How do you direct someone to a specific spot in your Google Doc?
How do you direct someone to a specific place in your OneNote notebook?  The thing about OneNote is, of course, that it can contain anything — text, images, audio, video, files, links — so that you can really direct folks to the exact content you want.  Objects in OneNote are in containers (you see them as light grey lines when you select them) and so when you RIGHT-CLICK on the object, you get the option to “Copy Link to Paragraph”
Paste that link in an email or on the web … if they have the OneNote Notebook already syncing to their computer, it will open on their computer.

So, this link: onenote:https://d.docs.live.net/4ac891949a1871f1/GF%20Pitch/ONB.one#OneNote%20Binder&section-id={880DB613-1883-4202-BA87-B363571C0092}&page-id={9BD7FAAC-5155-4275-9A7E-12F7815C3213}&object-id={0EBA2678-D60E-0DE7-24DA-4D522095A63A}&2F 
 would open the page you see below and move your screen to the inked note “This is before winter“, which is about halfway down a page below a table and next to a picture … if you had privileges to this OneNote 🙂   And, it doesn’t look like that above link when you paste it into a document or email.  Microsoft formats it so it looks like this: This is before winter  (Web view)

We use this a lot for students, linking directly to their homework or the rubric. 

OneNote Binders for all! Well, one step closer, at least…

We got great news today… Microsoft Office Labs  have released an app for Sharepoint2013 that will create a OneNote notebook for your class very similar to what we use at Appleby!

The direct link to the Store is http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/store/onenote-setup-tool-for-teachers-WA104313551.aspx

This is a great first step forward — it brings the collaboration and planning to any teacher with access to a Sharepoint2013 server.  Our next goal is to make it work on Sharepoint Online (it works on Sharepoint online, too!)– and distribute it in a way that doesn’t require purchase and maintenance of an online space by the teacher.  Our pitch at the 2014 Microsoft Global Forum is, piece-by-piece, slowly coming to fruition.

OneNote! “What are you waiting for Math Teachers?”

So this post is prompted by Dave Sladkey’s post earlier on using Google Drive, namely Google Drive! What are you waiting for Math Teachers?

Now Google Drive/Google Docs has much greater visibility than Microsoft OneNote and even though I’m a long-time GDocs/Drive user I would likely recommend the OneNote Notebook approach over the GoogleDrive.  But I realized that maybe folks didn’t know how easy it was to set something up.

Thus…

Go to OneNote.com and, if you don’t already have a Microsoft account, sign up for one.

Click on CREATE and choose OneNote Notebook

Now, you can think of a OneNote Notebook as a “Google Drive Folder”.  It has Sections (like Google Drive Subfolders) and Pages (like Google Drive Files).  But these pages can contain anything.  And I mean anything.  They’re like wiki pages in that you can drop text, images, links to other pages, you can embed files & videos… you name it!

After you’re done playing with it (and you should play with it) you can click on SHARE in the upper right corner and GET A LINK.  Now, you can set it up so that others can edit (maybe you have a co-teacher?) or just to view

And … everything syncs back to OneNote.

For a brief overview of how we use OneNote at our school, here’s a YouTube playlist of some of our support videos.

You spin me ’round, ’round, baby … Audio & Video Reflection

One of the things I stress when working with teachers is to have them record themselves in the classroom, either using audio or video.  It’s eye-opening (and illusion-shattering) when you see yourself on the screen saying things and doing things.  It’s made my practice more self-reflective in the moment — what would I say or do if I replayed this later?

We’ve got a new little tool that alleviates two of the problems with just putting a videocamera at the back of the room:

  1. Audio… if the camera is at the back of the room, the audio often picks up way too much noise from the students.  I realize that students are our raison d’etre, but when you’re focusing on improving you and your teaching, you want to hear what you are saying (reflecting on what your students are doing is a whole other issue!)
  2. Movement… if you’re doing teaching right, you’re not standing in one place.  A stationary camera, even with a wide angle lens, often doesn’t capture you as you move around the classroom.  You could bring a camera operator in but then you add a whole new dynamic to the classroom — we all know what happens to the students when there’s someone new in their space!  Plus, imposing on someone else’s time just to turn a camera isn’t really efficient.
So technology to the rescue!  The Swivl camera base http://www.swivl.com/ will take your phone or tablet and connect it to a base that swivels automatically with you as you move around the classroom.  It does it by using a small clip-on (or lanyard-ed) microphone, so as it tracks you it is also wirelessly recording you.  The quality of the audio is amazing and, so long as you don’t turn your back to the camera and walk away, the base tracks you around the room (of course, once you face the camera again, it swivels to find you).
It’s a little expensive for individuals (200$) but for a department or school that’s interested in improving teaching via reflection, I think it’s invaluable.  Just not having to have a second person to run the camera is huge — and since it’s initially stored on their personal device means it begins the conversation under their control (teachers are often leery of others seeing them teach, even if it is to offer constructive suggestions).
We’ve also used it for student presentations, again to improve the audio and follow the student with out a camera operator, but more on that later.

Formative Assessment in OneNote

My own teaching practice, and my prioritization for teacher professional development, has been greatly influenced by Black & Wiliam’s Inside the Black Box and, more recently, Hattie’s work on changes in teaching and learning that have some demonstrable effectiveness across broad communities.
Increasing my use of formative assessment, or assessment as learning, was pretty much the first substantial change I deliberately made and would still be one of the first things I work on with teachers.

Technologically, we’ve facilitated that with the OneNote binder, as shown below.  We’ve got three spaces — a dropbox for the students, a private & hidden marking space for teachers and then a read-only section where marked material is shared with students & parents.  Using it on a pen-based tablet means I can scribble ideas to the students quickly & easily and the synchronization means that student gets it as soon as I’ve completed it.

So it’s been really beneficial that this process fits both the student and teacher schedule — the students can add materials any time and the teacher, by moving it into the hidden _M section, can take their time to provide useful information to the student and then move it into the _R portfolio of each student’s work.  This summer, when we ran an online French course, the teacher was able to continually provide rich and meaningful feedback throughout the day and students would automatically find her comments in the _R folder as soon as she moved it over.  In that situation, she not only used the pen to write comments but also used audio and video to supplement her feedback to the students.

And, of course, since the OneNote binder is available to parents, they too have access to all the students’ work and teacher feedback.

Milestones (for a Mentor)

We received great news this week: we’ve been designated a Microsoft Mentor School for 2014; one of only three across Canada.

From the website: schools must demonstrate a commitment to innovation and the ability to overcome obstacles in preparing students to be 21st century learners. In addition, they must have developed programs that can serve as models for other schools.

It was interesting that Microsoft’s announcement focused on the Global Forum to be held in Barcelona in March.  While it is a nice bonus that two of our faculty will be attending the Forum over March Break and connecting with educators from the 80 other Mentor Schools for a week (as well as all the newly appointed “Microsoft Expert Educators”) I am glad that the this milestone allows us to continue the conversation about being a resource for others.

Friends from PCMI will recognize that phrase — it’s been one of the three guiding principles of the PCMI teacher program and is one of my own personal pillars (Appleby College has six pillars, of which one is Technologically Empowered).  I (and by assocation, Appleby) view our role as educators broadly — it’s not just our students in our classroom, or our faculty but it’s all students and all faculty.  It’s seeking out people who have questions, sharing our story and learning theirs.  And I hope that this gift from Microsoft will help us to do that more, more often and more deeply.