ICT in Ed / OneNote

5 OneNote Tips To Pass Onto Your Students With iPads

I think sometimes us teachers can assume students just know stuff about tech’… Like they somehow just know how to use a device properly

Sure, they’ll figure most things out eventually… no doubt heaps quicker than ‘us’… but trial and error can get a little tiresome and frustrating don’t you think? And if something is continually tiring and frustrating they’re probably less likely to engage… they may even start to dislike the device, especially as a learning tool…. they may even start treating it more like a gaming device…. I’m sure we’ve all seen students do that right?!

I liken it to teaching someone how to swim. You wouldn’t start in the deep end. You’d start in the shallow end, or maybe even the baby pool. You’d give a lot of direction and a lot of support and a lot of positive encouragement.  Eventually your students will get to the deep end. They’ll rock up, have their gear organised, do their own warm up, be able to listen to instructions mid swim rather than having to come into the side and sit on the edge, and, they’ll even start teaching others how to swim.

But this takes time… and learning.

With this in mind, here are five quick OneNote tips to pass onto high school students with iPads.

1. OneNote Structure

It is important for students to become familiar with the OneNotes structure. OneNote is comprised of three main hierarchical levels: notebooks, sections, and pages. Think of it just like a physical, multi-subject, spiral notebook.

Notebooks are the main files for OneNote. At High school, Notebooks are usually courses or classes (ie. year 8 Science). Many schools have specific naming conventions to help students easily identify notebooks (ie. School Code + Course Code + Year + Teacher Name).

Sections are the dividers in the notebooks. They are the next level in the hierarchy. At High School, sections are usually topics or units (ie. Biology).

Pages are within the sections. At High school, pages are usually lessons, tasks or assignments (ie. Cell biology).


2. Content Library & Personal Notebook

Students often get confused between the Content Library and their own Personal Notebook. At a guess, I’d say because the Content Library is listed first, so they tend to head their first, or, because if teachers are projecting their screen thats where they see them go first. With this in mind, I highly recommend using OneNote Terminology often and clearly in your instructions.

“Today I want you to go into your PERSONAL NOTEBOOK for Science. Open up the BIOLOGY section, then the CELLS page. On the board you can see me opening the CELLS page via the CONTENT LIBRARY. You are opening the CELLS page in your PERSONAL NOTEBOOK”

3. Auto Save versus Save a Copy

When students open a document (image 1) that has been inserted into OneNote (ie. a word document), and edit directly into it, it auto saves (image 2). They do NOT need to press SAVE A COPY (image 2). They just open it in word, and edit it, then hit the ‘arrow’ (image 2) to get back to OneNote. If they press SAVE A COPY it will create a copy of document (ie. create a new word document) on their device and hence save all their edits into this. This means that you, the teacher will not be able to see their edits in OneNote. Instead, they’d have to insert the NEW document they created (via ‘save a copy) into OneNote for you to see their edits. This can get messy.

4. There is no page size

OneNote pages don’t have a size limit. OneNote Pages can stretch as little or as much as you need it to – horizontally and vertically. It’s a blank canvas! No more squishing or scribbling notes sideways along a pages edge – there is no edge.

Generally, students (and teachers) that are new to OneNote, keep everything within a set page boundary. Because thats how we’ve known pages to exist up until now. Moving outside of that ‘imaginary’ boundary can take a bit of practice. A good one to model to students.

5. There is a handy search function

You can search in a specific page, section, and even notebook for any words, even if they’re handwritten. This means students can easily search through years of notes in an instant. You can search a keyword, a phrase, an image, an author or a tag using the magnifying glass (image 3). As they type in the search box, OneNote starts to identify any matches (image 4). The arrow on the Search box allows you to narrow your search to a particular page (image 4), section, or notebook. ‘All notebooks’ (image 4) is the default search function.


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