The productivity promise: Using OneNote Class Notebooks to revolutionize organization and efficiency

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I taught middle and high school for 11 years. I’m an Instructional Technology Specialist now, but as I visit classrooms around the district I am still haunted by one of the challenges teachers face every day: their students’ lack of organization and productivity.

I’m talking about: continued no-name papers, forgetting paper or writing utensils, and losing papers in those tornado-visited binders of theirs. Oh, and dividers? What dividers? Not to mention the fact that some students don’t write their daily agendas down, making it harder to know what to do when they get home.

Enter: a tool that solves all these problems, and even allows students to work at home without Wi-Fi. It’s proven itself at one of my middle schools where I train, and really does seem to be a good solution for the challenges I’ve seen over the years. That’s how I think of the OneNote Class Notebook, and it’s free with an Office 365 for Education school subscription.

If you haven’t used OneNote before, think of it as a digital notebook. The Class Notebook specifically provisions that notebook into three sections; there’s a read-only Content Library where teachers can create a digital textbook, an “everyone can edit” Collaboration Space great for group or whole-class work, and special student notebooks that provide two-way communication between the teacher and one student, perfect for private grading and sharing of information. So, what’s in it for you?

Oh, and you don’t have to take my word for it.  I interviewed almost 200 teachers and students on what they thought, and their results are shared here.


No more lost or no-name papers


Maybe you have some students just like the ones I used to teach. They did their work, but it was completely undone again by either losing their papers or forgetting to put their names down. When teachers set up the Class Notebook, each child gets a section with his or her name on it. That fact eliminates the need to put a name on anything. At the same time, because teachers have chosen to go digital, students can’t lose anything either. Teachers distribute to the student section directly. When teachers don’t have to sort papers, put in as many zeroes, and track down the owners of lost papers, they’re much more productive, as are students.


Better student assignment tracking


I’ve heard complaints from parents over the years suggesting that, even though I used an electronic gradebook and maintained a website, describing what we did in class every day, they didn’t know exactly how to help their students. When they grilled their kids (have you met a middle or high schooler?), they didn’t get much of an explanation either. OneNote strikes again!

Now, students can pull up their notebooks from each class on their devices and show their parents what they’re doing. Besides just keeping parents informed, notebooks ensure that students don’t have to try to remember what homework was – it’s right in front of them. They get started on work more quickly, have their materials available, and don’t feel as stressed. That sounds like productivity to me.


Increased organization


I can’t tell you how many times I sat with a student who had big organizational challenges and helped them create dividers and sort piles of papers. Students who haven’t developed strong organizational skills by adolescence may never do that, and fighting with them – or organizing just one kid – will not solve that problem. OneNote to the rescue again! When teachers first set up the Class Notebooks, they choose which sections they would like to have in the ideal student notebook. Then, with the Class Notebook add-in (installed separately), teachers are able to push content where they want it in the students’ notebooks. When a teacher is ready to start their lesson, they can simply tell students where to go in the notebooks for their information, and everyone is on the same page within moments.

With that comes your chance to get started in your own classroom and help your students become more productive and organized. Give these resources below a try:


Browse affordable devices starting at $219

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