Bear Creek Middle School learning outcomes improve with the help of OneNote Class Notebooks and Office 365

Students working diligently on their Microsoft Windows devices.

Throughout this school year, Bear Creek Middle School has built on its grass-roots approach to technology integration with the use of OneNote.  The Bear Creek Instructional Team has worked from a strategically designed foundation for technology integration practices, relying on Microsoft Education tools. As mentioned in the previous blog, teachers have engaged in year-long professional development (PD) that has been modeled after the Microsoft Innovative Educator Teacher Academy. During these PD sessions, teachers were placed in data-based groups according to their specific needs and competencies.

Bear Creek—located just south of Atlanta, Georgia, in the Fulton County School District—just completed its 2nd year of its 1:1 device initiative, which provides over 1,100 students with Windows 10 Dell laptops. As an Office 365 school, the transition to OneNote Class Notebooks has been seamless. Bear Creek’s participation in the Microsoft Showcase Schools Program has also  granted it access to a diverse group of like-minded thought leaders and resources within the Microsoft Education arena.

Bear Creek Middle School is a Microsoft Showcase School.

Bear Creek’s Digital Transformation Journey concentrated on the implementation of OneNote Class notebooks. The school has the rare luxury of having 4 MIE Trainers and 3 MIE Experts on staff. Anthony Newbold and Darren Clay, the school principal and assistant principal, respectively, collaborated with Kali Alford and Alexandra Larson, instructional technology specialists from the Kennesaw State University (KSU) iTeach group. Together, the team of four have customized trainings and provided job-embedded PD to drive the use of Microsoft tools. They developed a shared vision for OneNote to serve as the platform for virtual environments and digital workspaces within Bear Creek’s classrooms.

Above: Bear Creek’s Digital Transformation Story

As a result, Bear Creek student achievement levels have increased significantly. According to recent state assessment scores, student growth was evident in each content area. When asked about what contributed to student success, many teachers alluded to the ability to create synchronous individual work spaces within individual student notebooks. “This gave teachers the opportunity to differentiate instruction at high levels,” said Anthony Newbold, Bear Creek principal. Teachers also highlighted the OneNote Learning Tools add-in and drawing tools as critical components of the student learning experience. Teachers often used the draw features to annotate text and apply content-specific reading strategies, as students were asked to cite textual evidence for essay writing. This led to an increased number of students creating content directly within OneNote, which allowed teachers to monitor student progress synchronously within the collaboration space and within individual student notebooks.

State Assessment Data.State Assessment Data.State Assessment Data.Above: State Assessment Results-Comparison from SY 2015-16 to SY 2016-17

The Science team attributes much of their success to the collaboration offered through the Office 365 PLC group they created at the beginning of the school year. Throughout the year, the Science team used the PLC notebook to develop lessons, create assessments and analyze student data. The team often found themselves creating student activities in collaboration during PLC meetings, and then distributing those pages directly into student notebooks. This process saved teachers a significant amount of time. “I used OneNote daily in my science classroom. OneNote made it easier for my students to access class material both in and out of the classroom,” stated a Bear Creek Science teacher. The same educator saw a 14 percent and 6 percent increases in her advanced and general education science classes, respectively.

The Reading and Language Arts Teachers also leveraged technology to embed writing across the curriculum. Office Forms was used as a formative assessment tool to evaluate students’ essay writing. After students submitted responses, the teachers would meet in teams to analyze student work and share timely feedback. A Language Arts teacher said: “The learning tools in OneNote allowed for students to not only focus on comprehension, but it allowed students to improve their reading comprehension and grammar skills. As a teacher, I was able to see learning outcomes improve as students had assistance with their reading and writing.”

The month of May was a historic month for Bear Creek and the Fulton County Schools district. Bear Creek became the first school within the district to certify its entire instructional staff as Microsoft Innovative Educators. During the training series, the teachers focused on five major tools: OneNote, Office Mix, Sway, Skype, and Office Forms. Each teacher was required to submit “MIE Artifacts” in the school-wide PD OneNote staff notebook to earn their certification badges. This gave teachers the opportunity to share resources and collaborate throughout the year. “I feel the MIE cohort was great … and it allowed me to reach the needs of my students,” said an 8th grade Math Teacher at Bear Creek. During a faculty meeting, a 7th grade Social Studies teacher pointed out, “The Microsoft technology has really given me the opportunity to really personalize the learning for my students, and I’ve seen them grow and come to love using the technology.”

Above: Teachers recorded their MIE experience using Flipgrid

The educators of Bear Creek Middle School gathering behind a Microsoft Showcase Schools banner.

Above: MIE Certification Day

Bear Creek Teachers have been encouraged to filter their content through OneNote, with the goal of having the daily lesson agenda posted inside the content library and/or individual student notebooks. In order to accomplish this, teachers were exposed to the concept of creating “hyper notes.” Essentially, this formatting option links lesson materials to other pages within OneNote, as opposed to requiring students to venture outside of the notebook to complete tasks. The Bear Creek administration saw a heavy use of Sway to introduce lesson concepts and present new material. Office Mix was also incorporated for flipped classroom models and self-paced activities. Bear Creek was recently informed that its usage of Office Forms ranked among the highest of all U.S. schools. Forms has been used for formative assessments, mini-quizzes, and student reflection surveys. The administrative staff has administered forms for staff and parent engagement surveys, meeting sign-in sheets, and data collection.

Bear Creek has extended the Microsoft Education movement and Showcase Schools program to other schools within the State of Georgia by hosting the 2nd annual Redefining Learning Conference. RLC 2.0 hosted over 1,600 attendees representing 40+ schools from across five Metropolitan-Atlanta districts. The day was filled with over 120 breakout sessions facilitated by over 175 educators and led by a world-renowned lineup of keynote speakers. The Bear Creek RLC continues to be the largest school-led RLC in U.S. history. The planning for RLC 3.0 is in progress and updates can be found here: bearcreekpd.com/rlc.

As the Bear Creek leadership teams begins to plan for next year, we will continue to build on our school’s digital transformation within the Microsoft arena.

This story co-authored by:

  • Kali Alford, MIE Expert
  • Darren Clay, MIE Expert
  • Alexandra Larson, MIE Trainer
  • Anthony Newbold, MIE Expert