These days there appears to be a large collection of news outlets jumping on the Chromebook review bandwagon. The reviews talk up the low price, security and ‘Google-centricness’ of the devices. Many often conclude that while it is not a well place alternative for most, it resoundingly has a place in academia as more students and teachers are opting for Google apps for use at schools. To Google’s credit, adoption of Chromebooks has picked up over the past four or five years, but not every school is ready to leave the ubiquity, functionality, and feature set of the Office suite.
Meet the teachers and students of Sammamish High School. Sammamish High is a public school serving over 950 students in a local suburb of Seattle. The school is home to students from 53 different countries who speak up to 42 different languages. About five years ago the teachers and students of the high school began shifting to a program that fostered problem-based learning (PBL). Part of the program involved a one-to-one computer exchange setup. Laptops were distributed with digital ink capacity to all of the students. “Within a few weeks we canceled all orders for paper for the copy machines,” writes Bill Palmer, Ed.D, curriculum developer at Sammamish High School.
While some schools have moved to using Google Docs and Google Apps for Education, the faculty and students of Sammamish decided to use OneNote, and the results are as followed:
Working on OneNote allows me to catch up on anything that I may have missed in a class by checking the Content Library. —Anna
I really like the ability to handwrite notes and having them saved in a place where I can find them easily. Having digital notes makes it that much easier to organize and retrieve them later—I love having all my work in one location. —Robert
If we didn’t have OneNote Class Notebooks I’d probably be failing all my classes. It’s so much easier to find my assignments and make sure the teacher sees my work. —Kelsi
Using OneNote means that I get feedback from teachers more quickly than ever before, which allows me to get the help I need before big test and quizzes. —Daniel
When teachers share materials in OneNote, it means I don’t have to copy all the notes down—I just get to highlight and add my thinking or reflections. It makes it easier to think during class—and I’m doing less busy work. —Stephanie
The Collaboration Space in OneNote makes it possible for us to work on our group projects anywhere, anytime. Before this year we would be stuck if one group member lost the memory stick. —Colton
While many of the Sammamish students sing the praises of OneNote, teachers were surveyed and questioned about their relationship with OneNote and how it has affected their teaching. Many of the teachers agreed that OneNote delivers on the main aspects that keep them up to date with their students.
- Receiving synchronous feedback (occurring in the same time period and medium) through OneNote dramatically shortens the learning cycle, giving students immediate opportunities to correct misconceptions or move ahead.
- Online collaboration in a PBL context allows teachers to give feedback on the process of collaboration, as well as more skillfully guide student group work before their final product is finished.
- Student work and growth over time can be organized and shared easily. OneNote has become a digital portfolio that shows both how students have improved and the feedback or interventions that led to learning.
- Students work is generally improved with an audience. Teachers are finding that the ability to see and provide input into student work during the class period has led to greater student engagement and reduced workload outside of the class period.
Keith Onstot, a science teacher at Sammamish, also added, “The constant feedback provided to students as they are crafting their ideas and responses has not only prompted more students to participate in class through writing through increased accountability, but students frequently seek feedback as they have developed a sense that it will increase their understanding.”
The high school is six months into using OneNote as a full-time aid in their PBL program. To date, there are 79 teachers along with a collection of para-educators using OneNote to deliver and organize their lesson plans to students.