OneNote: creating digital textbooks

Koen Timmers
by Koen Timmers
Educator - Author - Keynote speaker - Global Teacher Prize 2017 finalist

Creating courseware often happens to be many teacher's nightmare. Except for me: I quite enjoy to write manuals, quick guides and books. I've been using MS Word for over 15 years but some problems appeared:

  • Outdated courseware: since I teach web design, which is subject to lots of changes, updating courseware is often a problem 
  • Problem to share digital courseware: when students happen to be absent, they ask for the digital courseware via email, which takes a lot of time to send
  • No input of the students: in a time where collaboration is key, my courseware wasn't a real example of the 21th Century Skills
  • Not to the point: since I over project based learning, my courseware isn't to the point at all times. From the moment a student request some extra information, I needed to offer appendices
  • Some students don't read: some of us don't like to read. Some prefer to watch a quick tip video or listen to audio

Using OneNote to create courseware

1 year ago I discovered OneNote, thanks to a Microsoft Global Forum and Belgium's PIL manager. When it concerns software I use on daily base, I'm not a super early adopter but I gave it a try. I decided to shift to MS OneNote. Why? Because the tools is free and because it seemed to offer a solution to the issues earlier mentioned. To my opinion: it also offers more structure to your content than Word does. 

I started to introduce OneNote during the first lesson and decided to create my courseware WHILE I'M TEACHING. I don't like to hand out printed textbooks, so I offer my courseware digital. Yes, I strive to a paperless classroom. From day one this worked like a charm. The students liked OneNote from day one and it gave satisfaction to overwhelm them with some nice features: Office Lens, using the pen, searching, using wiki, etc. 

I strive to a paperless classroom. OneNote allows to share digital courseware

OneNote allows to share a document, so my students are able to access their textbook at all times, anywhere, using all kinds of devices: smartphone, tablet and desktop. Are there students having questions? How to create a responsive menu, a slideshow or parallax scrolling effect? No problem! Let's expand on that and exclude it in the digital textbook. 

I create courseware while I teach, so the textbook is up to date and to the point at all times.

"Sir, please, can you explain that on the blackboard?". Of course, but do you mind drawing it in our textbook? OneNote allows to draw and when you are lucky to own a Surface, the Pro Pen makes this even more interesting. Do you believe students have been taking pictures of the blackboard? No need to do that anymore, the blackboard is inside my OneNote textbook. 

No need for that anymore, the blackboard is inside my OneNote textbook

Wait a minute! Some people do like to print their textbook. No worries... OneNote allows to export to PDF. But please realise the benefits of a digital textbook: being able to search (even handwritten text!), etc. By including links the textbook becomes interactive, like some kind of a website. Speaking of websites... did you know there is a Wordpress Plugin which allows to implement parts of your OneNote document in seconds? 

Did you know OneNote supports using wiki's? Put the name of a page between square brackets and you got yourself a link to this page: [[namepage]]

Teachers, please stop instructing you students. Allow them to create the knowledge themselves, if possible in group: hail collaborative learning! I included a section in my document in which students are able to put notes, requests, recommendations and links to their own written tutorials (!).

Yes indeed. My students started to create and share own written tutorials. Voluntarily. 

My students started to create and share own written tutorials. Voluntarily. 

So, what was the result? 

Feel free to take a look at the textbook I created using OneNote: http://1drv.ms/1z2YWOA. Beware! You might become interested in creating your own website. 

Every teacher should allow his/her students to offer anonymous feedback, so I did. Using an online Excel Survey I asked them what they thought about the course content, using OneNote, etc. 

48% of all students claimed the use of OneNote to be excellent, 41% good and 11% moderate. I think we can conclude both the students and I liked OneNote. It offered solutions to the issues and even more. 

Want to know more about OneNote? 



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