During my personal journey into media, I chose to dive into the world of OneNote with my students. I had very briefly used OneNote with my staff members to book out rooms within my school building such as the library, mini gym and multipurpose room. However, I was merely just viewing and editing someone else’s notebook that they created. My goal for this project was to set up a class OneNote with my students and actively use it for a digital novel study.
Creating A Class Notebook
To begin, I first reached out to a colleague of mine to help create my classroom notebook. I had to go in and add all of my students using their school email and then choose some different settings such as having a collaboration space and creating a couple subject folders to get started. You can also add other teachers to your OneNote if you have prep teachers that wanted to utilize the same class notebook for your students. The nice thing about OneNote is that my students are already familiar with other Office 365 applications so they have some previous knowledge going into it. They can access it from any device both at school and at home which is helpful when students are away from school. Each student has their own space where only themselves and the teachers can see their work. I create lessons with the content library and then distribute the pages out to the students when I assign them.
Digital Read Aloud – City of Ember
For my next class read aloud I chose the novel “City of Ember” by Jeanne Duprau. This novel is dystopian fiction which is a different genre than the other books we have read this year already which have been historical fiction and realistic fiction. The story is about Ember, a post-apocalyptic underground city threatened by two-hundred-year-old aging infrastructure and corruption. The young protagonist, Lina Mayfleet, and her friend, Doon Harrow (the second protagonist), follow clues left behind by the original builders of the City of Ember, to safety in the outside world. I have been reading this novel to my class twice a week and on the days that we are not reading, they are completing their OneNote responses. We started out with book predictions and a class, and each week I distribute the two different chapters for them at a time.
While students were completing their weekly responses, they were learning valuable tech skills while using OneNote. I often spent the first few days helping students find different tools within the app and troubleshooting issues that they were having. Some common obstacles that the students faced were bringing their textboxes to the front and setting the picture as the background. Sometimes we had wifi troubles so then the students wouldn’t have to make sure they had a proper connection or else they would lose their work from the last sync. I also had students experiment with the drawing tool as some questions asked to draw a picture. If the drawing tool wasn’t for them, I also gave them the option of uploading images to their notebook as well.
This past week we got to the halfway point in the book. Now that the students have been practicing using OneNote for a few weeks I wanted them to try out the collaboration space by doing a small group assignment. I created a City of Ember Group Work folder within the collaboration space and assigned students to six different groups. Within these, each group had a different task that I wanted them to complete together. I did a class lesson explaining how the collaboration space works and that everyone in the class including myself, is able to see who typed what. I made it very clear that they weren’t to change or modify anyone’s work without their permission. I sent the students on their way to work together on their assignment and these were the results after about 30 minutes.
Some of the challenges that the students experienced were accidentally deleting content within the page. They knew to use the “undo” button however, sometimes they went into slight panic mode and they thought that it was gone forever. The students used different font colours for each member as a visual to see who answered which question. Each textbox leaves the student’s initials with it however, the colours are easier to identify. Another challenge we encountered was having OneNote “Conflicts”. This is when more than one person is altering a page at the same time and OneNote saves more than one copy of the original due to poor wifi connection. I had to go in on my end to fix this problem myself which had a simple fix once I found the solution. Overall, I was please with the online group work that my students were able to experience despite the challenges they had to overcome in the process. I will be using the collaboration space a couple more times within this novel study.
Once we finish our novel, which will be about a week before Easter break, I am wanting my students to do their final project using the website StoryboardThat which is a free online platform that allows students to create a digital comic strip using scenes, characters and objects that are all animated to tell a story. I will have my students choose a specific chapter from the book and have them recreate that chapter using this website. Then, I will have them upload their storyboards to the collaboration space on OneNote where we can share and view them with the class together. StoryboardThat has so many different tutorial videos as well that I plan on using to show my students what the program is capable of creating.
In conclusion, I will definitely plan on continuing the use of Class OneNote with my students. I hope to use it for some different subject areas and units before the school year is over. I know that the grade 7 and 8 teachers at my school also use OneNote, so I will be sending them students next year already having some understanding of how the program works. If you have any questions or comments about my experience with OneNote please feel free to leave a comment below!