OneNote: Helping students stay organised this new school year

Guest Post by Trent Ray – Microsoft in Education Expert Educator

The start of the school year is the best time to set routines and help your students become more self-regulated and organised learners. OneNote is a digital version of the ye olde leaver arch folder. Similar to the leaver arch folder, OneNote uses a tab based filing system to structure and organise workflow but with a few more functional features than just loose leaf paper. Setting up a new OneNote is just as exciting (for me anyway) as hitting my nearest Officeworks store to get organised with new stationary for the year.

There are many benefits of using OneNote as a student organiser:

  • It’s a central place for recording ideas/responses, collecting research and storing digital creations
  • As they can be collaborative it provides greater visibility between student and teacher, including to opportunity for feedback.
  • Notebooks can be stored in the cloud, so the dog definitely won’t be able to reach it!
  • Develop self-regulation skills, crucial for the 21st Century

Why not encourage your students get into the habit of using a personal OneNote stored in their OneDrive in Office 365 with these 5 useful section ideas for their School Life 2015 OneNote:

To Do List: Keeping a log of tasks to complete and ticking them off is a great place to develop a satisfaction for efficiency and management. You can use tags in OneNote to create tick off ‘To-Do’ lists. Even better still, tag tasks with a variety of icons tags which may be handy for categorising the type of task, subject or for prioritising.

My Timetable: If your school is like mine students will be provided with an individual timetable. Storing it in OneNote means they can access it easily without having to login to into too many different places. Students INSERT a digital version by inserting a FILE PRINTOUT in OneNote.

Homework Planner: Insert a table and develop a homework routine/schedule. Ask your students to reflect on their school week and shade areas where they have extra-curricular or family commitments followed by spaces available to tick off things on their homework ‘To-Do list’.

Usernames: The last thing we need in the classroom is the “I’ve don’t know my login/password” interruption. Passwords are becoming more complex and we must support our students’ in leading responsible digital lifestyles, including the change of password every few months. This can certainly through ourselves into a spin, let alone our students, as we juggle complex logins to a variety of services such as emails, online textbooks, app stores and online creation tools. To combat the nagging usernames and passwords blues I encouraged [make] my students keep a list of these in their School Life OneNote.

Learning Styles: During the ‘Learning to Learn’ period in the first few weeks of the school year we often ask our students to complete a Learning Styles and Character Strengths survey. It’s a great opportunity for students to reflect on themselves as learners and helps boost their “I CAN DO IT” attitudes towards school. On completion, I ask my students to screen clip their results and insert it into their OneNote. This way they can return to it during discussions, annotate and reflect. It also means I can access a copy.

Term Goals: The beginning of a each terms always feels like a new opportunity to reset focus for the learning ahead. Using graphic organisers is a great way to prompt critically thinking and for students to reflect on their strengths and weakness as well as talking on feedback from their teachers or peers. You can create templates in OneNote such as the Fish Bone diagram below using shapes in the Draw tab.

Reflection Journal: Keeping a log of learning, a reading log or gratitude journal. Don’t limit them to just writing about it. Students love using the Audio & Video recording tools to create podcasts and video recordings. The great thing about it is they are stored in their OneNote and they can use the files later for remix and create.

To create, curate and mix we all need a digital dumping ground or place to flesh out ideas. Having “Think Tank” space is a must have for any digital user. You might need some extra room for this in your School Life OneNote so you could consider creating a ‘Section Group’ within the Notebook. This adds a new layer within the Notebook whereby you can start a new row of sections within this category.

Research: Section Group – you might create a Research section, Brainstorm section and My Ideas section. You can keep these blank and students can add to them as they need. One neat OneNote trick is when you are browsing the web through Internet Explorer you can copy and paste text or images from any website. When you paste them into OneNote is will bring a live link with it so you can go back to it next time. I wish I had this when I was at University and needed to keep a reference/source list.

OneNote is great place to store everything digital, sometimes students need a place where they can keep a record of digital work such as a file, image, website link, a screen clipping of a certificate. You can insert all sorts of things into a OneNote and because it’s a blank canvas – the sky is the limit.


If you like would like to get your hands of a copy the School Life 2015 OneNote that I will be sharing with my students on the first day back feel free to download it here. Once you have downloaded your copy you can of course add or change things to suit your context.

Guest Post By

Trent Ray – eLearning Leading Teacher, St Helena Secondary College

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Trent Ray is a passionate teacher currently working as an eLearning Leading Teacher at St Helena Secondary College in the North Eastern Suburbs of Melbourne. In addition to his leadership role he teaches Science and Technology to Junior Secondary classes.

His educational philosophy has always been ‘doing it for the kids’. To him this means putting student’s needs first and always trying to find new ways to provide meaningful learning opportunities for them. His passion for kids, learning and all things technology has been the driving force in his pursuit to becoming a leading educator in the 21st Century.