Saturday, February 8, 2014

OneNote for Classroom Notetaking: Amazing!

If you have Microsoft Office Suite, you already have OneNote.  I had not even looked at it until today, but I am glad I did.  This is an amazing tool that keeps notes (and more) in a format that looks like a 3 ring binder (similar to LiveBinders). You can save multiple notebooks, with tabbed sections and pages within the sections.  It allows you to share and collaborate on a notebook and color codes changes by user (like Google Drive).  But it has many features that these free products do not have.  

The most important feature (I think) for assisting students' note-taking, is the audio recording feature.  You can record a lecture while writing notes, and the audio syncs with the written notes, so the student can hear what the teacher was saying when the selected text was written, to verify what the notes mean. This is similar to the iPad app called Noteability, if you've seen that.  But, for me, the interface on OneNote is more intuitive. 

But wait, there's more!

You can type, or use a mouse, or a stylus or your finger on a touchscreen to handwrite notes and draw diagrams. The notes can be converted to digital text later.  Notes can be added anywhere on the page just by clicking and typing. It automatically creates a text box wherever you begin typing!

Image of the drawing function, where you can see the layout - Notebooks on the left, tabs on the top and pages on the right margin.  
Image credit:

You can also import video or images, and OneNote automatically adds a reference for the source of the image if imported from the web.  You can insert tables, Excel spreadsheets or almost any computer file.  You can draw diagrams as well. It even has a built in calculator. 

You can also share your notes with others and collaborate on a note or notebook together (like Google Drive or Wiki).

It is also available as an iPad app or Android app and on the web, so you can access your notes anywhere, even on a computer that does not have OneNote installed.  You need MS Skydrive for sharing and syncing.

Watch this quick video to see how to set up a notebook on OneNote.  This will link you to several other YouTube videos and tutorials for more info on how to use OneNote.

OneNote is a Microsoft application and comes bundled with Office, or can be purchased separately, but you can also get a free one month trial online at   

OneNote has been available since Office 2003, with Service Pack 1, but may not have all the features noted here (I am reviewing OneNote 2010, there is a 2013 version as well)

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