by Scott Bricker
Expert Educator Columnist, USA
With the creation of one simple program, Microsoft has helped me save a small forest!
In my nearly 20+ years as a Teacher, Basketball Coach, Life Coach and Student, I was the self-proclaimed “Notepad Guy.” You know, the person that carries around one or more 8.5 x 11 inch notepads, with those adorable, equally spaced lines for me to take meticulously organized notes on the meeting, or doodle randomly when I get distracted. It was so great to be able to flip back and forth between the pages weeks on down the road, and when I was done, I could just add the notepad to the stack in the back corner of my office while I watched that pile grow to be a gigantic eye sore in my office.
Well, the eye sore became a huge problem as the years wore on and the volume of notes all got lost in that massive heap of thoughts. In some cases I was able to maintain order and keep together multiple notepads from the same committee or class, but connecting notes from one month to those from several months later was about as easy to do as convincing a high school freshman that graphing linear equations will benefit them in life. In other cases, I had meeting notes mixed in with class notes, which left no hope for any sort of productive discussion or any chance of making sense of thoughts and ideas.
In short, I was a total mess and, while the notes I took were great in the short term, I was completely lost and incapable of staying on top of all those ideas in the long run.
And then, along came OneNote!
From the moment we met, OneNote and I had this amazing connection. OneNote is everything I have been looking for: colorful personality, well put together and organized, knows exactly what I am thinking after just a few words, and most important, OneNote is always there when I need it.
I’m pretty sure OneNote is my match made in education heaven.
But seriously though, OneNote really did change my perspective on how I could organize and track my own thoughts and ideas, and it didn’t take long for me to start putting together a plan for how to share this with our teachers and our students.
This year is the very first year of our One-to-One Tablet PC Program here at Santa Margarita Catholic High School. Students and teachers have had computers in the classroom at various levels for several years but 2014-2015 marks the first year where each teacher and student has their own Tablet PC to keep with them 24-7, and OneNote has been a gigantic piece of our early success.
After my initial infatuation with OneNote calmed a bit, I immediately turned my attention to our students and started to plan out how OneNote could help them in and out of the classroom. I should preface this by saying that at the beginning of this school year, we only had our students on Office 365. Also, OneNote for Teachers and the OneNote Notebook Creator was yet to be released, so we began with just the students using OneNote to keep themselves organized and on track in their classes.
In my last column, I spoke about encouraging my students to understand how their brain learns and that repetition and organization were keys to success. This is the exact purpose I had in mind for how OneNote could single-handedly make a Herculean impact on the first year of our One-to-One Program…and OneNote has received amazing reviews thus far.
Students are talking about how much easier it is to keep things organized and to find worksheets and notes when preparing for a test. Gone are the days of searching through their backpacks for a loose piece of paper, and here are the days of using the search box to find multiple examples of key terms, ideas and notes in their class notebook.
In addition, digital submissions have become a standard here at SMCHS. Students are able to quickly package their worksheets, notes, etc. as a PDF and either email them to their teacher or submit them via our Learning Management System. No more printing required, no more dropping papers in the dirt or spilling milk on them before school. Just a few clicks, and done!
While we still have much room to grow, our program has been successful thus far in large part due to OneNote and how it has made things easier on our students, and increased the efficiency with which they interact with the curriculum in and out of the classroom. I cannot wait to start introducing the OneNote Notebook Creator to our teachers to help us all take the next step in our relationship with one of the best tools our One-to-One Program has to offer.
Thanks for helping us save paper and be more efficient, OneNote. You’re a keeper!
Scott Bricker is the Director of Instructional Technology at Santa Margarita Catholic High School in Orange County, California. SMCHS was recently named a Microsoft Showcase School for 2014-2015 and we are in the first full year of our One-to-One Tablet PC Program. Follow me on Twitter, @BrickerCoaching, for more insights and daily musings on Educational Technology, Sports, and the world around us.