As you may know, I am a huge proponent of the OneNote®Classroom Notebook system created by Microsoft®. I realize that it was not originally intended for education and that it is primarily a business application, however, it works really well for information presentation as well as storage and evaluation. Serendipitously it is ALSO a great business application that students will be familiar with when they enter the workforce in a corporate environment.
To teachers who have SharePoint® available it could not be easier to install and use the product. Classroom creator is available as a free download in the SharePoint App store. Someone with admin. permission can install it and then it is available for all to use. It took me, with no previous experience, about 10 minutes to get it up and running on our domain. Once the app is installed it is incredibly easy to follow the instructions to create notebooks, add students and teachers, and publish your class notebooks to the system.
Students find the application to be intuitive and easy to work with. They really enjoy the collaboration area that allows their contributions to appear in real time. I generally open that section of the Notebook on the class smart board during topic discussions. All entries are labeled with the student’s name so inappropriate comments are never a problem. Once discussion is complete, I direct the students to the Content Library to begin the day’s assignment. I can either create a worksheet or lab page individually for each student or I can simply create a page in the Content Library and have the students copy and paste the questions into their personal homework sections. The sections are completely private and available only to myself and the each student. They do the work, I grade the work and enter a grade on the homework page that they create. Once the grade is entered, any further entries onto that page are labeled and time-stamped to prevent students from changing grades or answers.
It is very easy to create content for lessons in OneNote. Images can be copied and pasted easily into pages. Video can be embedded or even recorded directly into the page. Audio can be synchronized to follow along with text and images and other embedded objects can be made searchable with OCR. There is a very friendly community of users accessible online to provide help, and, as a member of the Office Suite from Microsoft, the control ribbons will be very familiar to most people. Objects like Flash or other presentation content can be linked and will open in their native players at a click.
There are some features that I wish were available, perhaps in a special educational version of OneNote. I would like to see OneNote support OLE (Object Linking and Embedding) to allow ActiveX controls or other native support for different formats. I would like to see VBA support so that Macro creation could be made simple. I would really like to see a way to lock pages within the student’s notebooks to prevent unauthorized or accidental editing. These are the only real complaints that I have with an otherwise excellent application. Microsoft really found a winner here.