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OneNote Unchained

I’ve always said in recent years that the only thing keeping me interested in the Windows platform was OneNote.

Over the past five years or so I’ve gradually re-invested in the Apple platform after abandoning it for the Windows machines of various 1-1 notebooks programs over the years including Toshibas, ACER, Fujitsu, IBMs and others. I bought an iPod, then an iPhone and an iPad and then a Mac Mini. Back to the Mac; since my first computer at work was an Apple 2, and the first computer I bought was an Apple 2C, so sleek and modern at the time. I had a Mac Classic all those years ago.

So I was pretty interested to see Microsoft finally release a Mac version of OneNote this week. At last! And free! OneNote has been my favourite Microsoft Office component on Windows for a long time, (it’s my central teaching tool) and now it’s on the Mac, syncing via OneDrive.

The Mac version isn’t quite as full-featured; is pretty light on features: it lacks tight integration with Outlook, for example and I can’t see sub-sections or a way to move stuff around.  But it’s finally there and a worthy developing competitor of Evernote at last. It’s on the Mac App Store and went to No. 1 straight away.

Makes me want to go out and buy a Macbook, which I’m sure isn’t exactly what Microsoft intended!

If you haven’t heard about OneNote, check out some of the links below:

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External links:

5 Ways to make use of OneNote for Students

4 Tips for Students using OneNote

OneNote is a note-taking Power Tool (Lifehacker)

Teaching and Learning with OneNote

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Top 100 Tools for Learning

Still on the Cool Tools theme, I liked this list of the Top 100 Tools for Learning from the 7th Annual Learning Tools Suvey

Lots to think about and explore here, including thinking about how is YOUR  school responding to the use of these tools by teachers, many of which involved social networking or the Cloud?

The Tools I Use

Inspired by Darcy Moore’s round-up of tools he used this year on a regular basis, I thought it’s been a while since I wrote about the software and hardware I’ve been getting the most value from this year. Lots of similarities with his list, and some differences and lots of changes since I last did a list like this.

OneNote and Evernote

I can never really finally decide between these two great note-taking tools. Evernote is friendlier but OneNote is so tightly integrated into the Microsoft Office ecosystem that you can’t ignore it. Basically I use OneNote as my main teaching tool and meeting notes tool and Evernote as my collection of random snippets, how to guides, instructions, manual and web links etc. The nicest thing about Evernote is how beautifully it works on my iPhone, my iPad, my iMac and my notebook PC

Ulysses and Scrivener

For writing articles, blog posts, poems and just notes I’ve moved to Ulysses on the MAC and to it’s IOS counterpart Daedalus Text Editor on the iPad and iPhone. It’s one of the nicest iterations of that minimalist writing interface that is so popular these days and I’ve moved from iWriter and WriteRoom this year, which I both like. Please note, the new version of Writer (Writer Pro) is terrible and a rip-off at $20. I also like SimpleNote a lot, for putting some text somewhere and being able to work with it in multiple places.

Twitter

As for many teachers Twitter is my de-facto personal learning network. It use TweetBot on the iPad and generally check Twitter twice a day and email useful links around; to Evernote or to …

Pocket

Pocket is a fantastic off-site reading app. I save interesting articles to Pocket to read later, on any platform.

WordPress

I moved this blog from Blogger to WordPress a while ago and haven’t regretted making that change. The ads can be a bit annoying, but you get what you pay for I guess.

Diigo

I’ve been putting my bookmarks in Diigo for years. When I get a new computer, or change computers, I just login and they’re there. The tags are the things that make it work. I often use tags or specific lists to share with students. Here’s an example of a list, for my Literature class.

Feedly

Though I use Mr Reeder on the iPad mostly, all my RSS feeds are now powered by Feedly. Some folk say that Twitter has replaced RSS, but I still find the ability to subscribe to blogs and pages invaluable. For example, I can’t imagine how I’d cope with keeping up to date with my students who are blogging if I had to go in and check all those blogs individually.

Dropbox

I’ve used this for syncing my stuff between work and home for ages, but this year I set up a shared folder for my students to upload their essays and writing practice as they were mostly scanned and too big to email. It worked a treat.

Skydrive

This is Microsoft’s Dropbox, and getting better. I migrated all my PC files to Skydrive so I can access them from the Mac at home. It’s not failsafe yet, but has improved a lot.

GoogleDocs

Lots of teachers at my school are getting excited about Google Docs and I’ve used it for student and teacher surveys, for student group work annotating key passages and for collaborating with other teachers on joint presentations. It still feels a bit clunky to write in a Google Doc, but I can’t imagine where this will be in three years time.

Text Expander

This little text utility has saved me heaps of time. For example I type /lacg and out pops Learning and Curriculum Group. Multiply that saving a zillion times!

GoodReads

I keep my reading list on GoodReads and encourage my Literature students and writing students to do the same. I’ve vacillated between this and Shelfari over the years so I guess it mostly depends on where your friend are. I think they’re both owned by Amazon now.

Schoology

We don’t have an official LMS at school and use blogs and wikis extensively. Last year I had a look at Edmodo for a while but this year I’m going to try Schoology as the learning ‘hub’ for my class and see how that works. Will keep you updated.

Chrome

My favourite browser, especially with the number of great extensions like Evernote clipper, LastPass (password manager), Pocket, Readability,

Things

Things has replaced all my old to-do apps this year. It looks and works great on Macs and IOS but not on Windows. I used TaskPaper and liked it a lot but the lack of reminders finished that for me in the end.

Filemaker Pro

I’ve been using this database for years, sometimes for keeping track of student record keeping, my own writing or wine collection (!) or just a Christmas card list. It’s more powerful than any of those purposes but that’s okay; I’ve invested so much time in learning how to use it, I’m not going to stop now.

Day One

About eighteen months ago I started keeping a daily journal in Day One, available on Mac, iPad, and iPhone. It’s a great little app with photo, location and weather data built in and it’s helped me write and reflect every day.

What are your favourite tools? I wonder how different this list will look this time next year?

 

Networks of Practice

Last week I attended the fourth day of a year long network meeting called ‘Networks of Practice’. Apart from the growth coaching learning I did earlier (also four days interestingly) and blogged about HERE, this network has been my most powerful learning for the year.  So, what might made it so? I was thinking about the learning conditions that made this network work for me, and how I might replicate them for learners I’m taking on a journey too. Some of the qualities that made it work for me:

  • Extended, but not all at once. Four days is a significant time investment for anyone, but that investment was repaid. I liked the fact that it wasn’t jut four days in a row, that ideas were seeded, allowed to germinate and we’d come back and discuss them later. It felt more authentic to me and we looked forward to getting back to the network to test ideas.
  • Relevant to my needs. Linked to school needs. The network was spot-on one the big-ticket items we’ve been working on at school: staff learning and how to build self-generating learning cultures.
  • Great leadership. The sessions were run by Rob Stones, who was obviously an expert in change and staff development, but there was plenty of room in the conversations for ‘us’ too.
  • ‘Us’ matters. There was the ‘us’ from our school, two of us working closely together all year, and the ‘us’ of the broader group. Not too big either, less than twenty people. Good sharing, collaboration, but also
  • Time to talk among ourselves. Having shaped, expert-facilitated time to develop plans and strategies was so valuable.

And, on the more practical side too, it made me think about how I might best take the notes, ideas, picture and concepts from the program and capture them, using the iPad I bought to each session. In the end it was a mixture of apps and processes that worked for me, and might for you:

  • I used OneNote as the receptacle for all wisdom, the ‘one note to rule them all’, but I might as easily have used Evernote. Text formatting in OneNote on the iPad is currently better than in Evernote and it plays well with Office documents, which we still live on at work.
  • I took photographs using the iPhone or iPad especially snap-shots of the concepts and diagrams that were used extensively. If I had one criticism of the network it was the un-digital approach to the resources. You just had to snap them when you could. I could then drop them into the OneNote page.
  • I used the app Paper and a stylus to draw some of the diagrams.  I find drawing soothing, and it helps me to understand it to draw it sometimes. I’d then export the page as an image and stick it in OneNote.
  • I used the app SimpleMind to create mind maps (see below) I keep going back and forth between SimpleMind and Popplet for this purpose, but SimpleMind has a few more options.

Using these apps and this approach, I could arrive back at the end of the day with my notes fully formed, and just move the OneNote page from the mobile (smaller, streamlined) version into the full desktop equivalent.  Ten hours battery life, and who said that the iPad wasn’t a content-creation machine?

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Getting ready for the teaching year

 

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As the summer holidays draw to their inevitable end (the last swim, the last barbeque) a teacher’s thoughts (should) return to how this year is going to work and the kind of technology approaches you’re going to take this year. I’ve had a great break (note the pictures at the top of this post) but it’s time to think ahead.

So, I thought I’d share my thinking about how to approach the year with my Literature students this year. I should say, at the outset, that my thinking here is predicated on the knowledge that all the students will have a notebook computer in every class and that the infrastructure (wireless connectivity, computer repair facilities etc) just work. Now read on.

So, what are the technology essentials and frameworks that you might consider in that context?

First, I believe that every course should have an ‘online presence’. For me, that most often means a web page (usually a blog structure) that contains all the essential course information and news. I’ve used our own internal blog engine to create a central ‘Lit News’ site where all the class news, due dates, even homework, is posted. I usually include links to other sites, embed relevant Youtube videos and post pictures of critical class activities (like ‘Cake Day’!) This page is updated by me at least once a week, is available to all students, is on my email signature to them, and is the ‘go to’ place for information about SACS (school assessed coursework) and exams.

I also usually have a separate ‘reference’ site, a web page of the course details, and the assessment as a reference. This is really important if there is more than one class and one teacher (as is the case next year). It’s really important for all classes to have access to the same material, and the same information. This could be part of the blog I suppose, but in the past I’ve set up a wiki for this information, as it’s not ‘news-y’ like the blog.

I’ve often set up a separate wiki for each of the set texts. These wikis are usually read-write, with each student having full access (other than admin rights). These become collaborative spaces for students to co-create in. Teaching ‘Hamlet’, for example, I assigned groups to explore key scenes and key characters and got them to share their findings on the appropriate page in the wiki. The other teacher did the same and the cross-fertilisation, sense of authentic audience and purpose, and shared understanding, was impressive. It’s worth saying at this point that, in any team-teaching environment you’ve got to get a shared intention between the teachers. My problem is that I tend to jump ahead too much; I’ve learned to involve the other teachers more in the decision making around the course delivery and every time I do that I’m thankful for the great people I work with.

An important decision: how am I going to ask the students to take their class notes? For the last few years my choice for them has been OneNote and, when you take some time to explain the structure of the tool, students generally really like the way it helps organise notes and is able to accommodate almost any format with the ‘print to OneNote’ functionality. I use OneNote, projected on a screen via the data projector, as my class notes tool too, rather than the whiteboard. I then have a record of all the notes for every lesson, and can email the notes around to students too if someone’s been away. This year I’m also considering Evernote as the note-taking tool. Since Evernote’s got it’s ‘notebooks’ it’s become a real possibility for note-taking. I’ll probably stick to OneNote because it’s so tightly integrated with the Microsoft tools that the students all have but it’s a close call. And, both are a long way from the bazillions of Word docs that characterised student note-taking when the computers first got into the classroom.

I’ll probably use Class Dojo again this year, even though it’s got some bad press from US educators who question its reward and punishment premise. (badges and all that) I probably wouldn’t use it with junior students who might take it too seriously. I use it ironically, as a fun way to focus the class and for the great conversation we might have about what positive and negative learning behaviours should we look for? I’ll use some audio again this year; not quite ‘podcasts’ but short audio lecturettes on key poems or key ideas. Some students have told me they got a lot out of those, and came back to them again and again. I’ll also keep using Adobe Connect for online collaboration and revision, in and out of hours. For the first time last year, students were generally happy to participate via webcam, rather than just type and chat, and I’d like to build on that interaction this year too.

My new things this year might be around more iPad and iPhone integration. I’m going to try to use PlanBook as my lesson planning tool and Flashcards+ as a revision tool for students to use on their phones. Planbook is a bit labor intensive but with its six customisable fields I figure I can get better at integrating some of the recent thinking about explicit instruction that I’ve seen from Hattie and others in the USA. Each lesson plan will be organised under these headings:

Topic/Content
Beginning of lesson (learning intention, activate, review, the HOOK)
Presentation (teach the concept, teach the skill, check for understanding)
Guided practice (development and engagement, feedback and individual support)
Independent practice (applying the concept or skill)
Review, clarify, conclude
Homework, assignments, next actions.

I’m going to try to organise each lesson that way; should be interesting! And, at the same time, keep my head around the best ideas coming out of the ‘flipped classroom’ movement.

Should be a fun year! I’ll keep you informed about how it goes.

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My Favourite Software for 2008

I thought I’d end the year not with anything deeply philosophical, but with that thing all bloggers love: a list! In this case, a list of my favourite software finds for 2008, for your downloading enjoyment. Happy New Year everyone. All the software in this list is free or open source.

1. Evernote

Evernote upped the ante this year with a completely new version that sits on your computer, or phone or pda and syncs effortlessly with the web. Consider it a giant endless roll of notepaper that you can categorise, tag and search to your heart’s content.  Ideal for capturing the setup instructions for your modem, that list of Christmas presents you were meant to buy, screenshots or anything. I have notebooks of recipes, travel ideas, cycling news and lifehacks, but invent your own.

2. ThinkingRock

Only for GTD geeks, this Australian based software uses the ‘Getting Things Done’ system to help create workflows from idea collection, to managing multiple projects. The best GTD software I’ve seen yet.

3. Nexus File Manager


We all know Windows Explorer is no way to manoeuver around files and folders so it must be replaced! For a while this year I used Free Commander and a very nice tool it is. But Nexus File Manager, besides looking all black and green and retro, is a powerful file manage software that can do a host of functions from multiple renaming to moving, pasting, copying, including dual window panes. And it’s all pretty much driven by keyboard shortcuts. So, put the mouse away and never open Windows Explorer again.

4. Quick Media Converter

This converts most media to other media types; simply and quickly. The other day I wanted to extract some audio from a youtube video and this did it with ease.

5. Net Usage Extension for Firefox


In Australia broadband accounts are generally capped, usuallyon a monthly basis, with plans like this.  So, to survive this heinous situation I found a Firefox Extension which keeps a tab on yur broadband usage, literally. It sits in the menu bar and gives a percentage figure on how the allocated amount is going.