Let them use OneNote—it could change their lives

Today’s post was written by Becky Keene, national board certified teacher for the Kent School District, Microsoft expert educator and master trainer.

When I talk to people about the power of OneNote, I have a real reason for my passion. I call OneNote, “The best app in all of education.” In the spring of 2005, I was preparing a group of students to present what they learned over the past school year to a group of about 100 families who were interesting in applying for our public school academy program. One student, who I’ll call Tony, volunteered to speak at the presentation. I was surprised because Tony had struggled in school that year, and I wasn’t sure what he would want to share. Tony was a student who qualified for several accommodations at school, including extra time, opportunities to redo assignments and assistance organizing his daily tasks. Not one to turn down a willing seventh grader, I said we’d love to have him present. When we gathered the student presenters for practice, Tony didn’t have much to say. He finally landed on a topic that he thought might be useful—OneNote. He decided to share how using OneNote had helped him get his work organized and saved him time in class.

At the parent night, I must admit I held my breath a little as Tony got up to take his turn. He started his presentation by saying, “I used to be a not-so-good student. But then I came here, and I started using OneNote. It changed my life.” My eyes grew wide and I exchanged looks with the other two teachers. What did he just say?

OneNote_FITony went on to explain that he needed extra time to complete assignments, he lost things a lot, and he had trouble finding things he had saved. He talked about how OneNote allowed him to take work home and finish it offline, how he could easily reorganize pages and use tags to sort his notes, and about searching for his content. Tony also said he felt like he could contribute better to group projects in a shared notebook because he could do so at his own pace, with help, without feeling rushed to add something during class time. All of the benefits of OneNote that we’d been talking about for a year came to light in this moment that I’ll never forget.

I get the opportunity now to share OneNote with educators in my school district and all over the U.S. as a part of the Microsoft Expert Educator program, and I’m sure a few of you reading have heard me tell this story. What amazes me is how easy it is to get started with having students use OneNote. It’s one easy step: Let Them. Really, that’s it. OneNote is free and it works on any platform, from any device. OneNote was built for education, and it doesn’t take students more than a couple minutes to figure out the school-centric structure of a notebook with sections and pages. Sometimes it’s scary, as educators, to start letting our students use something we don’t feel comfortable using ourselves. I’d like to challenge that mentality by saying that your students don’t need you to start using OneNote—often, they just need permission.

—Becky Keene