Building great lessons in OneNote

I teach Physics in a secondary school in Dubai to 11-18 year olds, following the GCSE and IBDP curriculum. I was lucky enough to be invited to attend Microsoft’s Education Exchange (E2) in Canada 2017. As part of this we had to show something that we done to the other delegates and Fellows. I have decided to start my blogs with this in mind. This is a guide to how I build lessons in OneNote that promote independent learning and allow all students to become more proficient in your subject. With this approach I have seen every student improve their grades and the “lower ability” and “disaffected” students improve immensely and are now producing more work than most of the other students. I will go through how I scaffold a lesson, which is applicaible to every subject. I have seen excellent results from all students using this method.

My vision is to have all students working at their own rate, some students need more time with new concepts and others will be able to move onto extension material. Each student will be able to be fluid on this spectrum from lesson to lesson. Previous attainment should not hold them back.

All of my lessons in OneNote have the same general template. I always start with what the students are expected to do. This is highlighted in yellow every time so that the students get used to referencing what is needed each lesson. I want them to form habits about how they operate in lessons, this allows them to take ownership of their own learning at an earlier stage. I then always display the learning objectives, this makes sure that they are all focused on what they need to take away from the lesson and helps stops them going off on a tangent.

Here is an example from one of my lessons.


I then usually include a PowerPoint/Sway with some information and a YouTube video. I insert the video using the online version so that it embeds the video. Sometimes I will include a few videos. It only takes a few minutes to find some good videos and they don’t have to be exactly tailored to your lesson. Students need to practise and improve their skills of distilling information from sources. The students can also use the internet, each other and me to gain any information or understanding they need.

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Next students complete the quick quiz. 10 questions based on the previous lesson and the fundamentals of the current lesson. This helps remind them of their prior learning and shows them the link between the lessons.

To follow this up, I have optional and compulsory experiments and/or a series of worksheets, which are marked with their level of difficulty using tags. Students pick what work they do and at what level, as long as they meet the criteria above. I have found that students will push themselves, my fear was that students would take the easiest route. Students are taking control of their own learning and developing their research and critical thinking skills. I am no longer tied to the desk at the front of the room, I float through the classroom intervening when needed. It produces a much more relaxed atmosphere where students are focused. I enjoy teaching more than ever now. I am not forcing students to learn at a certain pace or in a certain way, they control this and every student is performing better. The most noticiable change is in the “low ability” and “disaffected” students. The not so successful students of the past are gaining confidence and improving all of their skills in a supportive and safe environment. If they want to work outside of the classroom to enhance their understanding they can, all they need is access to the internet. Disaffected students are developing a passion for learning, taking control and being responsible for their own learning is inspiring them and those students are now producing some of the best work I am seeing.

This framework has shown no negative effect on any of my students, I have seen an improvement in all students. I find that they now spend much more time on task and produce more work. OneNote is only benefiting my students.

In future blogs I will discuss other ways in which I implement technology in my lessons, including feedback, monitoring, critical thinking and developing 21st Century skills as well as tips and tricks I have learnt along the way.


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