Friday, February 27, 2015

Hacking the OneNote Class Notebook Part II : A digital portfolio

So as soon as I posted the previous blog on changing permissions, I was asked how I would create a Digital Portfolio section inside the student's section; that is, a section that the teacher can add content to but the student can't change.  (Yes, it's not the full spirit of a DP but it has aspects of the footprints of a DP.)  It's a bit of a challenge to get at the files (and there's likely a quicker way) but here's how I get at it...

Go to your site. As I mentioned in the previous blog, when you first look at OneNote notebooks in Sharepoint/Office365, they appear to be one single file.  They're not, though ... what we're seeing is analogous to a zip file and we need to see the individual files inside.  Each section in the Notebook is an actual file so we can base our permissions on each tab.

So... how to get to the files?  There likely is an easier way... but here goes.

Head on over to your site and click on the Gear for Site Contents.

You're looking for your EDU OneNote document library (i.e. folder).  It's NOT the purple OneNoteNotebook Creator!  Click into it to get the file listing.  It should only show one folder.

Head on up to the LIBRARY menu and choose LIBRARY SETTINGS.


Here's where we can get at the individual files that make up the OneNote Notebook.  Click on SHOW THESE ITEMS.

The pop-up will show you all the Section Groups inside your OneNote Notebook... you'll notice that there's not many in mine since I'm only using our Test Student for this exercise.

We're now going to dig inside Test Student to get at the individual sections.  Click on Test Student and then click on Test Student again on the next screen (you of course would click on John Doe and then John Doe again on the next screen - or whatever the student's name it).

Voila!  We have all the Sections that are in this student's Section Group.

Now to deal with the permissions.  Let's pick on Quizzes and make it a read-only "marked quizzes" section.

Click on the 3-point menu next to Quizzes and then in the pop-up window click SHARE and then in the next pop window click SHARED WITH and then click on ADVANCED.

Notice how in the picture below the Quizzes Section is inheriting its permission from the top level, since all the Sections in the student's Section Group are based on the student -- they're all Contribute on the student's part and Full Control for the teacher (me, Calvin Armstrong).  We're going to change this!

Click STOP INHERITING PERMISSIONS.  Here's where things get dicey... if Microsoft ever modifies their app to change permissions after Notebook creation this may cause problems.  Be warned.  (Although, in our first year this is how we experimented with sections a lot and we survived.)  If you understand the risk, click OK on the warning popup.

We're going to change the permissions to Read for the student so click on the student name, then EDIT PERMISSIONS.

On the next screen we get to choose which level of permissions we want for the student.  Since we want this to be a collection of all their quizzes but don't want them to edit it, we're going to remove Contribute (turn it off) and make it Read only (turn on Read).

And once you click OK the student can no longer change the contents of this Section.
So now, the teacher can mark the student's quizzes and drag it into the Quizzes section and while the student can see the result, they can't change the mark.  They can drag a copy into their own section and work on it again, but the one in Quizzes will remain.

Again... no warranty on this process and test, test, test on your own sample Notebooks to make sure it works well on your system.

But now... if you create a section called Private in the Content Library, you can go through these steps for the Content Library folder (replace "Test Student" with "Content Library" in these steps) and you'll be able to edit the permissions on that Section to be only the teacher having access and none of the students.

Let me know how you've used it!  We've already added a Parental Contribution page to our Middle School student's course notebooks so that the parents can engage in a conversation with the teacher and the student within the OneNote Binder.  Lots of options!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Hacking the OneNote Class Notebook Part III : Planning in _Private

I realized the other day while writing Parts 1 (link) & 2 (link) that I'd never talked about the Private Teacher Section Group in our OneNote Binders...

During our first year with the OneNote Binders (our initial design that ended up becoming the OneNote Class Notebook) we quickly realized we needed a private space in the _Teacher section of the Notebook... teachers were having to create additional Notebooks to do their planning and then copying the material into the class Notebook for students to get access to.
So during our first year we trialled with a few teachers creating a _P section group within the _Teacher section group (the "Content Library" of the #OneNoteClass) that students had no rights to -- and it worked perfectly!  Teachers could not only prep lessons & units ahead of time and keep them within the appropriate Notebook but they could also use them for assessment notes, markbooks, exemplars, etc.  The next year, the teachers moved the entire contents of the year's Notebook into the _Private section of the current year's Notebook... they could then reflect & refine without having to worry about where to find things.

So now when I go into my _Teacher Section Group, far off to the right I see _P ... that's the Private Section that the students and parents cannot see (our parents can see all of my content).

When I click on in to the _P Section Group I see all of my preparation for the entire year, all of my anecdotal comments on my students as well my archive of all the previous times I've taught this course (well, all the previous times using OneNoteClass).

One of the teachers gave us the hint to put a special section at the beginning called "Private" so we would know at a glance whether we were in the Private section or not.

We also have to be careful because we use OneNote as our whiteboard through wireless projection so we need to be paused or not projecting before we move into the Private area.

Now... how do you get this in OneNote Class Notebook?  We're assuming this will be something Microsoft eventually adds but here's the how-to... (no warranty, of course, and you should always try this out on a test Class Notebook before jumping in on a live Notebook).

My very patient colleague Graham AlthamLewis is testing the OneNote Class Notebook with students and parents for his Advisory Group (instead of our on-prem Binders) and he wanted a _P section like his OneNote Binders... so here how's we did it...

And a HT to Darryl Webster because I always forget how to adjust the web address to get at the full structure of the OneNote in Office 365 (our programmer was far too nice and made a button for me to "explode" our OneNote Binders that are on-prem).

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Hacking the OneNote Classroom Notebook

So the amazing Marilyn Steier, an educator from Alberta I met while in Barcelona for the Microsoft Global Forum last year, asked a question on Microsoft's Canada Education Yammer group (Link) about removing students and teachers from the OneNote Class Notebook.  And it got me thinking ... we've been using the OneNote Binders at Appleby College school wide for the past three years -- it's a pretty sophisticated tool.  We happily showed Microsoft our framework and they created the OneNote Class Notebook Creator ... it lets anyone use something similar to our OneNote Binder for free!  If you're not already using it... go to and get it.

But our OneNote Binder has a lot of features that the Microsoft Class Notebook doesn't yet have.  We have a group collaboration section where teams of any size can work in private (so Janey and Johnny can work in their section while Tommy and Tammy work in theirs, unlike the Collaboration Library where everyone sees everything).  We also have a Private section in the Teacher Section (or Content Section) where teachers can plan things and students can't see them (and I just realized I never blogged about that!).  And in the student section we have a private space just for teachers (that the student can't see!  in their own section!) as well as a section that the student can see but can't change -- a "marked work" space that pulls together a digital portfolio.  More info is available here: Link or check my blog for articles tagged OneNote.

We figure Microsoft is making a beautiful interface that will eventually provide similar functionality but in the meantime, if you're up to hacking a bit, you can have many of the same features.

This comes with no warranty. Do not use on functioning class notebooks.  Test. Test. Test.  

The challenge is that Office365/Sharepoint Online shows OneNote Notebooks as one purple-icon'd file.  There's no way to get at the individual files.  (This article starts to explain the why & how.)  Going in through the back door shows the individual file permissions... and from there you can remove student or teacher permissions OR and more importantly you can create layered permissions within the Notebook as Appleby has.  Want a section that a teacher, a parent and a student only have permissions to?  But the parent can't edit it? Here's your chance!  Or a dept. head should be able to read all the content but not edit?  Yup... change permissions will get you that.

Now we've automated this "individualizing permissions" process at Appleby College and I expect Microsoft will eventually do the same thing for everyone.  But if you're up to the experimentation process (which will involve failure and screw-up so fore-warned is fore-armed) feel free to start poking around!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

I felt this tingle while shoveling snow...

So we had a snow day Monday.  I won't go in to the gloriousness that a snow day is here in Canada.  Suffice it to say that they're as close to heaven as you can get without dying.
It came at a cost; there was 35cm of snow across my neighbourhood.  My neighbours are not teachers, they tend to be young families or retired folks -- so when I get a snow day, I grab my shovel and start clearing the snow from their driveways and steps.  I know how privileged I am to get the day free and not have to drive, slowly and dangerously, to work on snow-covered roads.
As I was shoveling through five different driveways, I was using my phone to play music.  I kept getting this buzz of messages coming in, though... which is unusual on a snow day.  It turned out that students, safely tucked away at home, were using Yammer (our conversation space) to ask and answer math questions unbidden by their teachers!
Now, we had great success at Christmas prior to exams as students used Yammer to post their questions to the larger group and have answers given by their colleagues and a variety of teachers.  But this was another step altogether... on what is clearly a "day off" they were building on a space, making it their own, and learning at their own pace and of their own desire.  And these are students who are separated by what could be considerable distance, say 50km at most and not planning to engage in a synchronous manner, like Skype.
Now, Yammer messages are written in text but our students readily used OneNote and their pen-based tablets to write out their mathematics when it was convenient and post the images -- they're not limited to trying to tap out mathematical expressions.  Being able to sketch makes all the difference in the world when you're trying to learn through problem solving.
Overall, Yammer usage continues to grow -- we are making a concerted effort to move away from inefficient emails to a more elastic, searchable, shareable and analyze-able information and discussion site.  It's been great to see folks post their pictures of their pets in response to a student request and for another student to post his computer science project for any student or faculty to experiment with and offer feedback.  I love that a digital environment is lowering barriers to communications between parties -- although we're a close school family, there is still reluctance of students to talk to teachers just because they're teachers.  Yammer provides a less onerous way to talk that doesn't exist often in the hierarchical physical space of "school".  And they're obviously not held back waiting for a teacher to say something!

If you build it, they don't always come.  But, if you coach and model the behaviour you want to see, as we did at Christmas, they will stand on their own.