Posted in Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff

New Onenote Addins (stickers, forms and immersive reader) are making me smile

I am already a big fan of Microsoft OneNote. My school uses OneNote with most of our classes, and our Science department in particular has shared Onenote resources stored on our share point site. We are using Microsoft Classroom, which makes the classnotebook really easy (as long as you go to the manage tab in classroom) and the students can always find them. Distributing work to the class, or groups of students is easy, and really helpful for setting relief. As we are not a BYOD school, the new addins for the online version of onenote are especially useful.  (On a side note, I am at times frustrated with the difference between OneNote desktop, the OneNote App and the online version… hopefully they might be all the same soon. Still love onenote though). Our students like OneNote because it keeps everything in the one place, and works well with the Office 365 suite of apps. So far I have had a play with stickers, the forms add in, and the online immersive reader.


This tool is fun, and my juniors in particular love it. There are stickers that are customisable so you can tailor feedback. So while not super efficient, or super powered pedagogy, they are fun for the teacher and the students, who enjoyed seeing them on there work. Even the boys liked them 🙂

An example of the feedback I gave to students reflections on the topic. I also used the voice recording option with inking.

Forms addin

This is mostly just a time saver – it is really convenient to just click the button and add the form. If you have one already made up, you can slot it in there. Or you can make a new one. Making a new form opens a new tab – it would have been super nice to have it in the same side bar so you could look at the content on the page as you write the questions. That said, it is super easy to split the screen (especially on the surface) and get the same effect when writing the form.

I like using forms for quick formative assessment on content – it means I have more time to talk to students during class while still getting that data to inform my next teaching steps.

Immersive reader

I have already gushed about the learning tools function in OneNote and the other accessibility option that are coming for the Office 365 suite of software. But with this now being available in OneNote online (and word online) it is now so much more accessible for our students to use – again coming back to we are not BYOD so having the tools online is so valuable. They flexibility of this tool is amazing, with a click or two you can change background colour, font, font size and spacing, and highlight part of speech

Screen Shot 2017-04-05 at 10.19.33 AM
the tool captures the text on the page, and give you options to change it
Screen Shot 2017-04-05 at 10.19.44 AM
You can easily change the back ground colour and spacing
Screen Shot 2017-04-05 at 10.19.51 AM
There is a read aloud option, and you can make the voice go fast or slow
Screen Shot 2017-04-05 at 10.19.58 AM
You can also ID parts of speech

I am currently working with our RTLB (resource teacher – learning and behaviour) for how this tool can help students with learning difficulties access the material, and have been really impressed with how staff at my school are already using this tool (especially our ‘shop’ teacher who won’t let me specifically share his work, but he is doing amazing things with some of his students to help them get trade qualifications and a real sense of achievement and success)

Posted in Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff

Saving time with collaborative planning on Sharepoint and Onenote

(I need to acknowledge the significant amounts of work done by the Science department of my school in getting this set up, especially Kevin for his work on Sharepoint and Ryan for his work with OneNote and the unit plans, and EVERYONE for being willing to go along with this and make it AWESOME)

At the end of last year, our department made a considerable push to update our unit plans and rejig our junior science programs. A big part of this was planning for the use of Microsoft Classroom in our school, and taking advantage of all of the features of the classbook that came automatically with each classroom. To this end, we have a staff portal on sharepoint with a ‘master’ Onenote that staff can take content from and easily add to their individual class note books, while still having access to shared resources to personalise as required for students particular levels or interests. It also allows for new or different resources and ideas to be added. It has saved an AMAZING amount of time having this back of resources all set up before we even started for the year.

The Teacher ‘Hub’

We have a pretty amazing Science set up on Sharepoint – we can book equipment, find our SMUS (safe method of use sheets), find curriculum reports etc… as well as a bank of resources for our classes.

The Coffee cup takes you to the booking site for our amazing tech 🙂
Our junior sci home page – almost everything you need for any of these classes

We updated our unit plans to include live links to any documents, videos or animations you might use with your classes.


And have set up a conbines OneNote stored on the site that has a bank of resources also – which means you can copy the page into your classbook content library, and then students will have their own copy almost instantly after you have clicked the button.

Need the admin stuff – it is all right there….
Want the kids to do an interactive – a few clicks and they can have their own copy!!

So it doesn’t matter if it is an admin page (Like a year plan…) or sharing an interactive activity, it is all there and with maybe 4 mouse clicks, your students all have their own copies.

This has made the start of the year so easy. These digital portfolios were made in minutes for whole classes of students. Because the students had been entered into Microsoft classroom, teachers didn’t even have to manually enter students into the class notebooks. For the staff new to our department there was a ready made first few lessons for them while they came to grips with everything else. For our non-specialist science teachers, there was a range of resources they could just grab, whih gives them more time to explore any more indepth questions the class has.

For me, it has meant I already have a baseline. So I was able to spend more time getting to know my students, establish those relationship and find resources or learning activites specific to them. I am hoping that by the end of the first term, I won’t need to be finding the resources at all, the students will be able to find them or make their own. Which can then be shared in the collaboration space as meaningful activities to them.

Bring it!!

Posted in Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff, Uncategorized

Office 365 as a learning management system update

Late last year I wrote a blog about how we were planning to use SharePoint and the office 365 environment as an LMS and as a ‘T drive replacement’. After 2 terms, I have been thinking about what different teachers are doing with their classes or with their departments and how things are fitting together. It is still very messy, with some teachers using OneDrive, others using groups, some exclusively using OneNote Class notebooks and some using nothing. We still have some classes using the ultranet (which is being phased out) and others are not in any online space as yet. We are also investigating Microsoft Classroom and whether this would be an effective solution for some of our staff.

So it is a good time to pause and reflect on the relative successes with the technolgoies we are currently using.


SharePoint is definitely the most flexible option for staff and students, but it does come at a cost of being technically demanding. So far, only Chemistry, Physics and Technology are using SharePoint to share work with students. This is working very well and it is easy to provide a wide range of resources, as well as options for students feedback/contribution.


My Colleague Kevin has done an awesome job of organising his physics students site


A view of one of the chem pages is not so exciting….. Although a really big advantage of having a site is that it is easier for multiple contributors. So my fellow chem teachers can easily edit and add documents in. We have also (as a comparison mostly) not put the shared documents in a library but just put the files on the site. This means students only have the option of downloading the files rather than viewing them online. We did this due to some queries around permissions and editing rights – it has worked well for this cohort.

Where SharePoint is really making a positive difference is in organising staff documents and bookings.

More of Kevin’s handy work – he has overlaid calendars to provide a colour coded chart of where members of the PE department are at a given time. This is awesome and I need to learn how to do it.

Pe cal
More of Kevin’s handiwork – colour coded calendar for room bookings.



The science dept is also utilising the shared calender function to organise booking our practical gear – it seems to be working really well, helped by our awesome tech Aimee. It is also really nice to have single copies of assessment docs, marking schedules and feedback that we can all contribute to. Our ‘poor’ HoD does get a little exasperated with some of the comments we leave on department meeting agendas – but it also gets some of the discussion out of the way before the meetings which frees up more time for shared work.

The Arts department has recently come on board and made some excellent progress getting their documents shared. It is a wide spread and diverse department so it has taken a big effort for the Curriculum heads to get this started.



Several teachers are using groups to share files and discussion with their students. This is working well for these students and staff, it is easy to email the whole group with updates. The file share is an overlay for SharePoint libraries that seems to take some of the technical issues away for less confident staff. (when I tried to tell them they were using SharePoint a couple were a little overwhelmed…) You can share all sorts of files and links very easily with a target group of people.

One downside of groups is they are able to be seen by others, even if they are private groups. An example was a couple of staff set up pastoral care groups which we discoverable by students. Students couldn’t access the information but were able to email all the teachers involved…. so for use in schools it would be really nice if groups could be made undiscoverable to others in the network. The other thing missing from groups is the ability to format files shared – it has a very definite ‘folder look’. But it is working really well for staff and students using it.


Staff in several departments are using OneDrive to share student notes, assessment material etc. this can be a slightly time consuming set up, but once each student has a shared file with the teacher, it is up and running and easy to use. I am really hoping the soon to be released Microsoft Classroom automates some of this process. Staff have chosen this option over a classnote book as we are not a one to one school – so accessing a classnote book to access a word file was proving a bit much for the streams the students have access to. For NCEA assessments it provides a secure document storage solution that can easily be downloaded or printed of for marking/moderation.

A bonus in this method is despite the time consuming set up, it is simple to use. Because OneDrive was the first Office 365 app people used, it does have an element of comfort to it!! But students can easily access it, it works on any device reliably and work on students devices (with windows 10) can automatically sync to the cloud.

Shared docs via OneDrive are also slowly shifting our appraisal documentation into being a living document. By having a shared document it also a more fluid process for completing these documents.

OneNote Class note books

Some staff are purely using class note books to share learning activities with their students – especially in our yr 7 and 8 classes. The sci dept has also used this for the junior school (who are not yet on sharepoint) to scaffold and track progress of students science fair projects. OneNote Class books are really good – especially with the recent update where pages can be easily pushed out to all students in a class. We have had a few issues of where the OneNotes are stored – it had lead to syncing problems with some classes. The single biggest issue for us with the class notebooks is students don’t have their own devices, so it can be a bit slow if every student is trying to access or modify the pages at once. More recently, we have wondered if groups can be set up within a class note book for group assessments or tasks…..

What’s next?

We have made some really big steps in getting depertments and classes using the 365 environment. The next big step is to get the staff handbook online. This is such a big job it kind of makes me want to curl up in a ball and hide under a rock for a while. But I did get a kick in the pants when I helped host a workshop at Taieri in the holidays and people couldn’t believe we still had one of these…

Yes, it is 2016 and we still have a paper copy of staff briefing notes



So while we have made some great progress, we still have a way to go. Getting the staff meeting minutes online is easy, but getting all staff to accept that shift might be slightly more difficult. We have a shared calendar which still causes issues, but by gradually shifting important docs online we should hopefully see more shift. So my aim for this term is to start the process of getting more of the staff documentation into the 365 cloud

Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Do students need to be TAUGHT?

My L1 Science class has just finished up their Mechanics Unit. To try and gently shift this class into being more independent, I used a OneNote I had prepared for my class for revision last year as the main source of information. There were lots of relevant notes, videos, office mix walk throughs of old exams (eg)and some practice worksheets. As we went through, I also included a forms quiz at the end of each page to as a way to keep up with where the class was at with their learning. We also use the SciPad, which is has some good notes and example questions.


Some screen shots of pages in the OneNote and quiz results.

On the whole it has worked well. My biggest concern is that my students are still struggling with managing themselves and I was feeling a little like I was leading the horse to water, but not getting it to drink. I was hoping that I would be able to use more of my class time answering questions and doing some practicals (we did do some practicals – popping balloons for pressure questions is AWESOME….) but it just didn’t quite work out that way. When I surveyed the students, I got the common theme that they liked notes from the board. ARGHHHHHHH. That they liked how I helped them when they needed it, but they wanted more up the front teaching. I already felt like I did way more than I wanted to. And (as in the pictures above) some of the OneNote pages where even like writing on the board…. sigh.

So I am back again to the drawing board. How can I make sure students feel like they are still learning things if they are managing their own learning? The test results were ok, but even with that students didn’t feel like they had learned anything, even when they clearly had. Why do students feel that they need to be ‘taught’ things in order to have learned them. Do I need to listen to this student voice and be up the front more rather than deliberately staying away.

In pondering this, here are some ideas (I went for pen and paper… so I could vigorously scribble) around why maybe students feel they need to be taught something rather than learn it.

2016-06-22 09.50.17

There are lots of reasons why – to find out more I guess I need to ask my students some more questions around why the like to ‘learn’ in different ways.

And I need to think just a little bit more about how and why I am trying to model learning to my students.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 10.02.06

Of these two definitions, I definitely like the second one. So how can I better model learning by example  or experience? What learning experiences can I give my students that makes them feel like they are being taught?

Posted in Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff

OneNote has levelled up with Learning Tools

OneNote learning tools is AWESOME. It is an add on for Microsoft OneNote that contains an immersive reader and a dictation function. I didn’t think it was possible to love OneNote any more than I did, but I do now. When using OneNote learning tools, you can take ANY text and be able to change the font, highlight different parts of language (nouns, verbs etc) and change the font size to make it more accessible for students. I have only really just started playing with this tool for one of my students who has dyslexia, but it has also made me think a little differently about how I support students to interpret text given to them during assessment tasks.

Once you have installed it, OneNote Learning tools is just another tab at the top of your folder


To use it, you highlight some text


And click the reader button

You then have a variety of different options for the text


You can highlight parts of the text with different colours, or change the spacing, or break the text into syllables


You can also change the background


And then, the reader will read the text aloud, highlighting words as it goes.

The voice is still a little wooden, but it generally manages some of the complex Science words that it has been presented with.

I haven’t played round with the dictator function much, but have it on good authority from a friend (here’s looking at you Nikkie) that if you swear at it, it writes F***. Which is a super lovely touch. I have had a go (I did swear, maturity levels are low at the end of term) and it did this. More importantly, it was pretty good at picking up what I said despite my accent.

So far I have only used this tool a little in class. We are not a 1:1 environment so it is harder for the students to use this function for themselves. But I did find it really useful to think about how I was teaching my students to interpret exam questions. As a science ‘teacher’ of senior students, all of my learners have end of year exams and I do spend some time going over how to read questions correctly to make sure they are answering them well. Going through this exercise showed me just how much more I could do when talking through questions. The simple process of highlighting the nouns meant that students actually linked how the were reading the questions back into the skills the learn in English (some moaned about it – ‘why are we doing English in Science Miss?’. But by doing this, it made links with another subject ‘silo’, it reminded students that skills need to be transferable, and it reminded ME that if I am going to do a job, I should do it properly. If I am going to take time to pull an exam question to bits, I should make sure I do it fully and make those links to try and make the most out of every learning opportunity, not just skim over it to get the best outcomes/marks.

You can download the learning tools add in HERE. It is seriously worth a look

Posted in surface, Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff

Moving on up with OneNote

Last year I meet with some members of my department and the social sciences department about using OneNote for their classes. I had been playing around with Microsoft OneNote for my junior classes and had found it user friendly, versatile and really useful for getting different types of information across. You can easily embed word documents, PowerPoint or Office Mix presentations, and even just record a voice over or video into the pages. Microsoft Onenote makes a lot of sense to me and how we organise our Science topics at our school.

It became a department goal for the Science Department in 2015 that each ‘subject’ developed one OneNote for either a class or a topic throughout the year. So far, I have been really impressed with what we have come up with.

For Chemistry, we have started at Level 2. Neither B.H or I were overly happy with the text book for the internals last year, so we have had a crack at making our own for the 3 internal assessments, while still using a purchased workbook for the externally assessed standards.

chem   chem 2  chem3

The Chem book is still a little text book like – mostly text with some areas for students to work on, a few diagrams and some links to youtube clips. But it has been easy to put together and my colleague (with all due respect to his effort) is less confident using technology but has been going great guns.

Our biggest issues was getting the sharing permissions sorted – we are still having issues between work e-mail and the microsoft e-mail that we had to set up to log onto the devices. But we have plugged away and have got most of the syncing issues sorted now.

Biology has really taken OneNote and run with it, and I am super impressed with what they have achieved. The Biology Onenote is full of interactive activities and also has a page for each student to submit work and gain feedback.

ryan student feedback  eg digital text book

So for us, Microsoft OneNote has slotted in really well, has been easy to use and is making a difference for our students. Users are gaining confidence and are trying new things which is putting a more personal spin on how they are using it. We are not a BYOD school but more and more senior students are bringing their own devices to class and being able to store the OneNotes in the cloud is making student access very easy via their own devices or the school laptop pods.

Out next step is to get class book creator set up – There is some PD happening on the 18th of March, which will also help us get Sites up and running for each of our subjects so we can share documents between ourselves and out students more easily.

All in all, some awesome progress on the OneNote front 🙂

Posted in surface

A month with the surface pro 3

When I was selected into the Microsoft Innovative Educator program, I got a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 to use. I have now had it for 4 weeks and the surface Pro 3 has not disappointed. I have been pulled up a few times of late for trying to use a touch screen on the school pc’s, it has just become second nature to mix up the keyboard, pen and hands on the screen. The Surface Pro 3 has received some outstanding reviews from computer reviewers and educators alike, so I thought I would add my experience using it to the mix.

The pen

So, I am in love with the pen. Using it in OneNote to make notes, in PowerPoint/Office mix to write over and complete slides, and even just in pdf viewer to write in some model answers for students to follow on the projector, it is awesome. I did have to lose the habit of clicking it (I have always clicked pens) as I often made screen clippings I didn’t intend to. And another person who is in love the pen is my wee man Ollie. He loves drawing with it and can change colours and thickness all by himself.

Ollie pic

The start up time.

A small thing, but an important one. It takes less than 2 seconds from the pro being asleep/off to it being awake and ready to go. Really nice when you get called away to be able to drop straight back easily.


Not sure if it is the surface pro, or just windows 8, but connecting hasn’t been an issue. Any network, proxy etc, it just find it, connects and away we go. And it connects quickly after it has been on standbye/asleep.

I am getting a screen beam soon, but the surface pro easily plugged into the projector via a dongle. The USB port makes connecting gadgets (like a USB temp guage, or my geeky little fan) easy, and the USB port on the power pack means I can also charge my phone. Less cords to carry around or leave behind is always good.


The battery life is not too bad – about 5 hours going full tilt, longer with no keyboard attached and less programs running (ie reading in bed or on the plane). The charger is on the side about 1/3 the way up, so it is a little harder to balance with the charger in. I am considering getting a dock for it, but will give it a bit more time to see if I really need it.

As a tablet

More and more I am just using the surface pro as a tablet. It is easy to read off (the kindle app is good), easy to right on, the onscreen key board is easy to use and has a number grid like a standard keyboard, so easy to key in numbers. It is big but still light weight enough to comfortably hold, and it doesn’t get hot on your lap.

Some niggles

The biggest niggle is that the keyboard can come out of the magnetic locks quite easily, which has resulted in said keyboard tumbling to the floor on a few occasions. Happily the keyboard has proven robust thus far and has not sustained any damage, but it can’t be good for it. The keyboard itself is great – the keys sink in, the mouse track pad is sensitive and actually clicks in, so it is a great keyboard, I just need to be more careful of it.

Another niggle initially was I wasn’t quite sure about when to use apps, and when to use the full blown software. I got the advice to delete the OneNote App so you were always using the software, and this was good advice. I know almost always use the full software of the office suite (powerpoint, word, OneNote etc) and keep apps for fun stuff (like physamajig)

Summing up

The surface pro 3 is Awesomesauce. It is user friendly, fast and intuitive. I enjoying using it and my students who have had a go do to. The battery lasts well, the pen is amazing, it is fast, light and versatile. The camera is good and the pro is big enough to not be too shaky. I’m really enjoying it and looking forward to picking up some more tips and tricks on how to use it.

Posted in surface, Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff

Playing around with Microsoft OneNote

Microsoft Onenote has become my favourite tool in my digital teaching and learning tool box. I was a little slow on the uptake, but attending ulearn14 and MIEE really opened my eyes to the potential of Onenote. The biggest plus for me is Onenote is just so versatile, easy to add into and visually appealing. Using it on the surface pro is just a dream really. I really like the inking feature, writing over text is simple and easy – even down to changing colours. This inking feature really helps with some science concepts – we use a lot of symbols and diagrams that are so much easier to add in by hand.

I have been using it today to prepare some revision material for my junior students (14-15 year olds) who have their exams in 2 weeks. I have made a section for each topic and then pages within each topic for more specific detail. I am using a mixture of text and ink. A great feature is when you take a screen shot, the link is automatically included. This means the source is acknowledged and students can go to the source for more information if they want to.

oneonte screen shot

 It is my goal to go over this with my class tomorrow. As I do it, I will add in any additional questions they have. Then I will save it to the ultranet page so they can access it from home.
onenote screen shot 2
I am hoping that next time I can leave the initial pages a little more blank so I can fill in the gaps as I go so the students can see the thinking – at this stage I am still a bit messy with my writing on the fly 🙂 I don’t have a mirror cast/wireless projection system in my room yet, but I do have the adapter to show this on the projector.
I was not sure about using Onenote or Office mix for this task, but settle on onenote as I can add everything to the same place. Next lesson I might do as an office mix and then embed it into onenote (I’m not even sure if this is possible – hope so).
So there is my attempt to liven up some fairly dry exam revision. I’m planning for a brief blurb from me and the students will be able to explore the links and attached documents at their own pace in and out of class (I have one set of laptops booked so it will be one between two during class time). Hopefully the students like it and find it helpful – if not it will be back to the drawing board.