It may just be the best thing you have never heard of, but if you take the time to learn how to use it, Microsoft’s free, multi-platform note taking tool will surprise you with how powerful it really is. So, here’s why OneNote is great for the classroom and beyond. (Note: Not all features are available on all platforms, or in the free apps, but all are available in the Office 2013 desktop version)
1. Availability: OneNote is a free download for Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows Phone, Mac, iPads, iPhones and Android devices. You can even use the online web app, and of course it comes with all paid Office subscriptions. So, no matter what device you use, there is a OneNote version for you. You don’t get all the features on all platforms, but you get most of what you need. What’s more, your notebooks are synced via your Microsoft account so any changes you make will instantly be updated on your other devices.
2. Organization: Think of a OneNote notebook like a three-ring binder. You use sections to divide up your notes into manageable chunks of text. You can choose a color for each section, or let OneNote choose that for you. Within each section, you can add pages so that you can add the notes that you want to take. You can have as many pages as you want in a section, and merge or group sections. Password protection can be added to sections to hide teacher notes, or to unlock a section at a time as the teacher chooses.
3. Tags: Choose from dozens of tags to help you annotate and bookmark the best part of your notes. Students can tag paragraphs they want to ask the teacher about later or mark up the important parts of their notes, while teachers can use custom tags to highlight the homework in a shared notebook. All tags can be filtered and found quickly.
4. Search: Speaking of finding things, the search function is a great tool to find anything that you need. It will search through all your notebooks, or just the one you are working on, to find the notes you need. The search bar will search all typed and handwritten text, as well as any text that it detects in images.
5. Attachments: You can attach most common file types to a OneNote notebook. Audio, video, images, PDFs and more can be added to a OneNote file to keep all your resources together in one place. This is great for teachers who may want to use OneNote for a lesson planner, or as a digital handout for students. You can also add images from Microsoft’s online clipart gallery or search Bing for images.
6. Sharing: OneNote notebooks can be easily shared with others, and worked on collaboratively. Just like with Google Docs, you can share it with a URL so others can view or edit your OneNote notebook. They don’t even need to have OneNote installed to view or edit it, because it can all be done in the OneNote web app. You can also export your notebook, or parts of your notebook, as a PDF, Word, or OneNote package. Teachers can share OneNote notebooks with students as read-only handouts, or create collaborative class notebooks with pages for each student to add their own work.
7. History: If you delete part of your OneNote notebook, you can retrieve it from the trash can up to 60 days after you edited it. Alternatively, you can also turn back the clock to see what previous versions of your notebook looked like and restore to an earlier version if you need to. If students are working collaboratively on a OneNote project, the teacher can use the Find by Author option to see who did what in the notebook.
8. Inking: Touchscreen Windows devices can take advantage of OneNote’s inking capabilities. This lets teachers and students hand write notes, draw diagrams, or mark up existing notes and images with a variety of freehand drawing tools. OneNote is a non-linear tool so ink, (and everything else for that matter) can be added anywhere on the screen.
9. Screen Clipper: The Screen Clipper that is built-in to OneNote will let you take a screenshot of anything on your computer and drop it right in to the notebook you are working on. If you use the clipper to take a screenshot of part of a website, OneNote will also automatically cite the image with the source it was taken from. This is great for student research projects and for promoting good digital citizenship.
10. Recording: The Office 365 version of OneNote includes the ability to record audio and video as part of you or your student’s note taking. If you record audio, at the same time as taking typed or handwritten notes, OneNote will sync the two together and highlight what you wrote at a given point in the audio recording. You can also use your webcam to record a video reflection or lesson and add that right in to the OneNote file you are working on.
So, if you haven’t had a chance to explore OneNote is some detail, it might be time to check it out. There is a lot to like, and the potential that it has for the classroom is there for all to see. Find out more at onenote.com.