Monday, August 29, 2016

So you want to hack your OneNote Class Notebook

Taking a brief break from my "Getting Started with OneNote Class Notebook" series (you can start that one here)...

This is a little advanced so if you're not comfortable setting permissions inside of Office365 you may want to avoid this.  Or set up a Class Notebook to play with so that it doesn't affect any existing Class Notebooks.  Yeah, the latter is a good option.

One of the great powers of OneNote is that you can do some really neat permissioning of the Section Tabs. When the Notebook is created, of course, it gives you an "open permissions" on the Collaboration Space and student-read-only on the Content Library.  And then each student space is wide open to each individual student.

But we've found that occasionally you want to mix up the permissions a little.  For example, you could create a space in a student section for your private notes that the student couldn't see, or maybe you want a tab in the Collaboration Space that students couldn't edit.

Here's how you do that:

Go to your OneDrive for Business and go into the Class Notebooks folder.

The URL will look like this:

Click on the far right of the URL and get rid of everything up to the Class+Notebooks

Now, type %2f and the name of your Class Notebook.  Since my Class Notebooks is named "MPM2D-2 2016" it means I have to type MPM2D-2%202016 and I get:

When you press ENTER you should now see the exploded version of your Class Notebook.

Notice that each Section Group is a Folder and each Section is File (ignore the "Open Notebook" file).
So if I go into _Collaboration Space you'll notice I have a Section called "Just Briana and Peter" ... right now, though, anybody could go in there.  We're going to make it just Briana and Peter...
Click on the selection button to the left of Just Briana & Peter and then click on the SHARE button along the top ribbon.  You'll get a popup window appearing
Click on the SHARED WITH option and then click on ADVANCED

You'll now see the permission on this section.  We want to "Stop Inheriting Permissions" because the Collaboration Space says everyone can contribute to it (and the teacher, me, has Full Control, which is why I can do this).  So click the Stop Inheriting Permissions button ... you'll get a warning about doing this, but go ahead.

Now, you have the ability to select students... so select the students that aren't Briana and Peter as I've done and then click on REMOVE.  They will disappear from the list and will no longer even see that there's a tab called Briana and Peter!

You can always go back into the permissions and re-inherit permission and it will become public again.

Let me know what you use this for!
And Microsoft has the habit of changing approaches so should this change I'll update the post.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Facilitating Feedback in OneNote

When we were creating the precursor to the OneNote Class Notebook, I was heavily influenced (well, I still am) by the work of Black & Wiliam and so improving the quality and quantity of formative assessment is cooked right into the Notebooks.  Likely the whole reason the Class Notebook exists in  its present structure in the first place is because of quotes like this from "Inside the Black Box":
Feedback to any pupil should be about the particular qualities of his or her work, with advice on what he or she can do to improve, and should avoid comparisons with other pupils. (Black & Wiliam, p.6)
And so we have a private area for the student to do all of their work that only they and their teacher can see, and in which the teacher is easily able to provide feedback in written, typed, pictorial, audio or video formats at any time.

Microsoft went a step further with their Class Notebook AddIn to make the process a lot easier.

Let's say you distributed one question to each of your students (How do you do that in 3 clicks?  Check here). So each student has a copy that they can work on in their private area.  Now you want to provide feedback on their work.  So I put the page with my question in each of the students' Unit 1 tab - so each student has a "Question 1" page in their Unit 1 tab (that's the power of Distribute Page).  They work on it.  Now, since OneNote syncs continually, I can actually watch their work progress -- but let's say I've designed this as their exit ticket and so I'm looking at them all outside of class.

You could click through to each student section, click into the right unit section and then click down to the page, then go back out to the next student section & so on & so on.  Workable, but not practicable.

Instead, go to the Class Notebook Ribbon and click on the Review Student Work button.  As before, OneNote is smart and knows which sections each of your students have.

We want Unit 1, so we click on that. We now get a floating popup "Review Student Work" listing all of the material in the students' Unit 1.  From the options, we choose which of the pages in Unit 1 we want to look at.  Our page was titled "Question 1" so when we expand that page, we see all the students we can assess.

Click on Briana's name and we automatically jump to Briana's Question 1 page.  We can give feedback by writing or typing or using the Audio/Video tools on the Insert ribbon.  Once we're done with Briana, we can click on Peter's name (the window keeps floating) and we jump right to Peter's Question 1 Page.  Because everything is stored in OneNote, there's no opening or closing of files, there's no emailing of comments -- all your feedback is exactly with the student work for them to see in context -- and you can deepen the comments by using audio or video right on the page.
Student solutions courtesty of Dekker & Querrelle, 2002, the orgin of the Quarter the Cross problem.

Remember you can do this quick-page switching while in class while they're working, since student content is always syncing between your and their computers.  This way, you can ask Stephen if you can project his solution to the class to have him explain and quickly jump to his page to enter into a discussion.

Feedback is one of the most critical, most effective and most often ignored steps in learning, and the Class Notebook and Tool makes it a lot easier for teachers to give rich and meaningful feedback easily.  Since OneNote is available on any device and can work offline, teachers can give students the comments they need when the teacher is available -- they're not tied to a device or access to the internet.

So far we've done:
Creating your first OneNote Class Notebook
The first page of your Class Notebook
Putting content in your Class Notebook
Distributing content in your Class Notebook (the video)
--- this post

Distributing content in your Class Notebook (the video)

In the previous post Distributing content in your Class Notebook, I went through the steps of distributing a page to each of my students (effectively handing out what I wanted them to look at).  What's nice is that it doesn't involve any email - everything stays captured within OneNote.
It's sometimes easier to see that in action, so here's a screen recording of that process, first creating a new section in each of my students' areas (calling it Unit 1) and then putting a copy of the problem to work on in each of their Unit 1s.

So far we've done:
Creating your first OneNote Class Notebook
The first page of your Class Notebook
Putting content in your Class Notebook
--- this post
Facilitating Feedback in OneNote (Review Student Work)

Giving content to students

Regardless of your teaching style, you're going to want to provide students with content - articles to read, worksheets to practice, diagrams to explore, maps to color, etc.  While OneNote allows the students complete freedom in constructing content within their own space, you as the teacher will want to give them things to work on or at least consider.  That's the topic for today -- "handing out".

For me, anything I hand out first gets stored in the Content Library - I want to be able to place the material in the right section and in the right page order to give it context to a student looking over the totality of the course.  If it's differentiated (i.e. not every student gets the same thing) we can use subpages, color or tags to provide that information to the student.  And this is personal and not policy, I always want to make sure that every student has access to the full breadth of content regardless of where they may be working and provide a structure that makes it meaningful when they're home alone.

First things first -- we need to add some capability to OneNote.  Remember, OneNote is a general purpose note-taking tool.  Architects, lawyers, doctors, police -- everyone uses it for their own reasons but teachers have particular needs.  That's where the Class Notebook AddIn fits.

Visit and download the Tool.  Close any open OneNote and run the install. If you're Mac, just update your OneNote.

When you restart OneNote, you now have a new ribbon along the top.  It's broken in two five sections (colors added by me):
Content (yellow, the topic de jour)  - this is how we will easily "push" as much content as we want to as many students as we desire
Review (orange) - the reason why we use OneNote in the first place -- how to easily provide feedback to students
Manage (purple) - these buttons just send you back to the Main Menu on the web we ran into when we first set up the Notebook.  When you press one of these, your default browser will open and you'll be able to quickly add students, coteachers or even create a whole new ClassNotebook (this can be convenient if you have a long-term project with a smaller group of students)
Connections to LMSs (green) - you can actually sync students & assessment data with your LMS, if supported!  I'm assuming you're not yet connected but it you are, it can be convenient.
Resources - Microsoft help & support.  They have been very responsive to teacher input and so you are strongly encouraged to provide feedback, a lot and often!  Seriously - we've floated suggestions to them and within a week there's an update to the Tool.
And... an Update button can show up!  Updates happen quite often so if you see the Update button appear, press it.

We're only concerned about pushing content out to students today, so let's do that.  You can push content out from anywhere in any of your OneNotes (the page doesn't have to be in your Content Library) but for the sake of this description, and to get used to putting things there, that's what we'll do.  You can push it out from a personal OneNote, a department OneNote or another Class Notebook. The idea is that information can come from anywhere but can still get to the student.

Last time, I used Insert Printout to put my Course Information Sheet into my Content Library.  I'm going to distribute that to all of my students (since they would normally receive a paper copy).  So I click into my Content Library and then click on the Course Information Sheet.
Go to the Class Notebook ribbon and click on Distribute Page (1).

Now, the OneNote tool is smart -- it knows which Sections the students already have (remember, I set up an A, R and Unit 0 section when I first created the Notebook).  So, all I have to do is select the Unit 0 option and every student will get a copy of the Course Information sheet page in their Unit 0 section automagically.  That's it, done!  Handing out has never been easier.  And students don't have to open anything, they don't have to download or log in -- the page appears in their OneNote.  OneNote does bold the Unit 0 and Page name to indicate to the student where there is new material.

You get additional options, too -- you can distribute to individual students, choose several random students (the pop up on the left), or set up groups (pop up on the right) for when you've created different arrangments of your class (as a math teacher, I will often have students working on different topics at different times - and this can be fluid so I can change these groups at will).

One of the suggestions we made was to make the buttons on the Content portion to be available on the right-click menu, and sure enough, if you right-click a page (or several pages) you'll notice you have the option to send those pages to the students without having to go to the ribbon.  I use OfficeLens on my phone (Android & iPhone/iPad) and the OneNote Web Clipper on Chrome & Edge to grab a lot of content (oh, that's a cool picture to discuss in class! or oh, I'm stealing that idea she just posted!, etc) -- it goes into my personal OneNote for review, but I can push things out to students from there with a simple right-click.  Any time we can reduce the number of clicks, we save time for the teacher to be doing the really important part of teaching, which is giving feedback.  And that's our next topic...

So far we've done:
Creating your first OneNote Class Notebook
The first page of your Class Notebook
Putting content in your Class Notebook
--- this post
Distributing content in your Class Notebook (the video)
Facilitating Feedback in OneNote (Review Student Work)

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Getting things ready for students in your OneNote

So far we've created a Class Notebook *link* and made the first page our own *link*.  Now we're going to provide some content for the students.

The _Content Library is where all YOUR stuff goes; it's the Teacher space.  We used to have to photocopy material we wanted to give to students.  And then, for students who weren't present or who lost theirs, we used to have binders at the front of the room, file folders or those little plastic boxes to hold extras.  Now, we just put one copy in the Content Library and send it out to the Students -- if they destroy their copy, or just want another copy to work on, they can always grab another copy from the Content Library (since they can't change anything in the Content Library, when they pull a sheet out, they're only grabbing a copy).

So... in your _Content Library, clear out all the material that Microsoft has put in and create your first tab.  Right-click the "Getting Started" tab and choose Delete and then click on the PLUS sign and add your first section.  I called mine "Course Info" -- I'll put my course information sheet, contact information , office hours, textbook, etc. in there.

Now, I already wrote my Course Information sheet in Word (our school provides us with a template to fill in).  I am NOT going to copy & paste it into OneNote.  Instead, I'm going to use the "Insert Printout" to get an exact copy of what's in Word, as if I handed them it on paper.

So, go to the INSERT ribbon and choose FILE PRINTOUT (that would be the "1") ... you'll get a pop-up window asking you to find the file.  Once you select the file and click INSERT, it'll take a few seconds and then (2) the page will be renamed with the filename and (3) a copy of the actual file will be embedded in the page (so if you or the student double-clicked on the Word icon, it would open it up in Word) and (4) a printout of all the pages in the file will appear.  Since OneNote pages go on forever, regardless of how long the document is, you'll just get page after page (there is an option in Settings to put actual pages on different OneNote pages but that's seldom what you want).  You can add comments to the printout by using your pen (5), highlighting (6) or typing (7).  Since this is a printout, you can't change what's actually on the "page" -- which can be a good thing if this is a fill-in for students!

For the record, Insert Printout is the best way to use material you already have in Word, PowerPoint, PDF or other formats.  It gives the students an exact representation of what they would have received on paper.  Of course, when you have more time, you can re-create it in the free space of OneNote but remember, use your time wisely -- it's likely more effective to spend time giving them feedback than worrying about what things look like.

Now, you can go ahead and add more pages to this section, as many as you'd like in fact.  We've found it good practice to not add more pages than fit on a regular computer screen (so maybe 20-25 pages).  You can organize your pages into sub-pages (right-click the name of the page on the far right and choose "Make Subpage") but again, if you get too many, it isn't helpful.

Here's an example below... the teacher's first section "Course Foundations" is all about the course, she's printed out the Course Information sheet and then added pages & sub-pages to give other important course tidbits.  Her next section is the "Diagnostic" they start the course with, then the next tab is the first book they read, "The Things They Carried", and so on.

So, you can break your content up into logical sections.  How you do that is up to you, based on your course.  I thought I'd provide a few images from the top of our teachers' OneNotes after they're done a complete year showing all the tabs (sections) that they've used.  Think of these as the Hilroy binder separators that we used to use when we had paper.  These are high school courses but do notice the variety of approaches.

This first one is mine.  Now, I'm a mathematics teacher, so I tend to build my course linearly, starting with Unit 0 and working slowly to the Exam.
 This next one is French -- it's one of the few that work thematically, so they build across Ressources, Vocabulaire and Lecons on any given day rather than building on one unit and then moving to the next.

The next few are from English, Social Science and Chemistry courses -- they seem to work like Math in that they work on a piece of writing and then move on to the next.

This last one is from Music.  Like French, it is built across several tabs at a time and on any given day, students may be working in different sections.

So far we've done:
Creating your first OneNote Class Notebook
The first page of your Class Notebook
Putting content in your Class Notebook (this post)
Giving content to students
Distributing content in your Class Notebook (the video)
Facilitating Feedback in OneNote (Review Student Work)

Page One of your OneNote Class Notebook

So when OneNote Class Notebook was first designed, it was put together by teachers from several subject areas, each with different approaches to classroom, content and assessment processes.  OneNote was chosen specifically because it allowed teachers to maintain their digital spaces in the same way-- it's open, responsive and yet provides enough structure to prevent getting lost.

The first step when you open your Notebook is to get rid of all the debris -- Microsoft provides a lot of material to help you work with OneNote.  Read it through and then get rid of it before anyone else sees it.  Like your classroom, you want to make it your own space.  Right-Click the pages on the right and Delete them all.  Add a fresh new page instead.

You want your first page of the Notebook to welcome your students to the course, provide information on both the course & you, and give next steps on where to go.  Remember, they only see three tabs across the top -- the Collaboration Space (everyone), Content Library (read only) and their space (not shown in the picture above as I haven't added any students yet).  So when they go to the Notebook, let them know it's your classroom's digital space!

Having said that, what we did at our school was standardized a Course Plan page as the first page in the Notebook, but then, everyone at our school uses OneNote in their classes.

So below are a few examples of Course Plans - what's nice is that it's in a table so it resembles a Calendar and the structures helps to build the narrative of the course, the HW expected of the student is highlighted and a number of teachers provide hyperlinks to documents, webpages or pages within the OneNote (you can do that!) to help students find things.  And teachers make it their own through color coding and use of images - and in the last example, the teacher was using "tagging" of content to differentiate between formative & summative assessment.

This last example is not from our school but was posted on Twitter by @LemarrTreadwell ... it's quite pretty, but then he's a 4th Grade teacher :)  The blurred out area is all of his contact information (a great idea!)
If you're using OneNote Class Notebook in your school, tweet out a picture of your first page!  I'll collect more as I see them come across.  Remember to tag them with #OneNote.

Start a new year with OneNote

I think one of the biggest strengths of the OneNote Class Notebook was that it was started in the classroom and designed, from the bottom up, by classroom teachers in their classrooms.  Even after Microsoft took it on and began adding to its functionality, they have kept teachers very close to the developers and each addition goes through rigourous testing by real classrooms around the world.

So how can you get started?  First, you need an Office365 account.  Now, you may already have one for free from your school but if not, an individual teacher can get one on their own -- no administration needed!  Visit and click on the link "Sign up for a free Office365 Account"  (it will let you know if you already have one if you try to sign up for another one).  Use your School email to sign up for the account.

Now that you have your Office365 account tied to your school email, head back to the first screen at and click on CLASS NOTEBOOK SIGN IN.  The fun begins!

Before you start, you should have the email of at least one of your students - although you can start with a completely no-student notebook if you want.  You can add (or subtract) students at any time from a OneNote so don't worry if your classes are still changing.  They really only need the email to ensure during setup that only they have access to their work -- it's not needed to submit HW or take notes.  Everything in your class will now happen inside of OneNote -- you'll never return to email or files or folders or dropboxes or any of that 1990s era nonsense.

After you sign in, you'll get the main menu for setup. We only visit here to create or change the structure of the OneNote.  Again, almost all of our work is done inside of OneNote once we set it up the first time.


There are seven steps.  Well, only really 4 but seven things you click through.  
1.  Give the Notebook a name.  Hint. Include the course code, section & year! Don't worry about the name, like Mathematics or Physical Geography.  Inside of OneNote you can give it a long name but for administration, use the code!  You'll have another Notebook next year/term and will want to be able to easily tell them apart.  So for me, I have MPM2D-2 2016 instead of Grade 10 Mathematics Section 2 2016/2017.  Less is more.  Put your own name in and click NEXT.

2.  See, the next screen doesn't have you do anything -- it just lets you know that the Notebook is broken up into three main sections: Collaboration (everybody can do anything), Content (the teacher can edit, the students can only read/copy) and the individual student sections.  Click NEXT.
3. This screen asks for any co-teachers.  But it could also be a Head of Department, Mentor, or some one who teaches the same class, or even just a critical friend who you want to have access to your materials.  This is also change-able any time during the school year, so if you are going to be away for a week, you can add a teacher into the Notebook and they'll see everything you've done with the students.  At this point, you'll likely click NEXT ... or add a friend who'd like to see what OneNote is all about!

4. Now we add the students.  I find it easiest to have an Excel spreadsheet with all of their emails.  Add another column fillled with semicolons and then copy/paste from Excel into the box.  You can type them manually AND you can always add students later so this is something you can do in class (set them some work while you add their emails that you just collected).

5. The last thing is to decide which sections you want in each student section group.  Since you can always add more sections later, don't worry too much about this.  Hint: I would turn all of the suggestions OFF and add three sections: one called "_A" (where they will put any document they want you to look at), one called "_R" (where YOU will put any document you're returning to them) and then "Unit 0" (which is where all the administrivia of the course will go).  Everything after that you can push out during class or the students can create on their own.  Why the Underscores ( _ ) on the first two?  So they always appear at the front of the section :)

 6.  And the last screen shows you the overview.  Go ahead and click NEXT and boom!  Emails get sent to you and to the students you listed with the link to the Notebook.

Because OneNote is cross platform, the link always opens up on the Web ... but if you have OneNote installed on your device, you can click on the EDIT IN ONENOTE button and it will connect to your device and will sync from that
point on.  But it's nice to know that you can always get at your notes from any device.  As I always say, I can throw my laptop into the lake and pick up another device and keep learning.  It helps my school is on a lake, so the same thought may not work for you.

All you have to do is add content to the pages in the Content Library and every student can see it.  Anything the student puts in their section, you can see and give feedback on.  And you can all work together in the Collaboration Space.

Remember you can always go back to to add teachers, students or make structural changes to the Notebook, like adding a private teacher section.  But that's for another post.
And, you can make as many Notebooks as you want.  Have one for your school club, your sports team or your teacher PLC group!

Hint: Have your Head of Department create a Class Notebook with them as "teacher" and all of the members of the department as "students".  Use the Collaboration Space to develop course content and work through pedagogical questions while the HoD uses the Content Libray for administrative purposes and each teacher uses their section to work on professional learning.  Remember to include the year in the Name of the notebook for year-over-year!

This is the first post in a series showing how to setup & use OneNote Class Notebooks

So far we've done:
Creating your first OneNote Class Notebook (this post)
The first page of your Class Notebook
Putting content in your Class Notebook
Giving content to students
Distributing content in your Class Notebook (the video)
Facilitating Feedback in OneNote (Review Student Work)