Lisa Plenty – OneNote Class Notebook – Differentiating Teacher Professional Learning

This is a guest blog from Lisa Plenty, Director of Digital Learning and Innovation at Radford College, Canberra.

Our College started using OneNote Class Notebook around two and a half years ago, and whilst the uptake and enthusiasm was initially slow, teachers began to realise the power OneNote allows for teachers and students to manage resources, collaboration, assessment and formative feedback all in one place. However, using and managing OneNote Class Notebook can be a challenge for the uninitiated and whilst professional learning sessions and coaching support have been available for our teacher team over this time, we started to realise that we needed to differentiate our teacher professional learning (TPL) to cater for teachers new to using OneNote, but also offer more advanced learning for more seasoned users.

As part of my Masters study in 2017, I investigated circumstances for successful ICT Professional Learning, finding unsurprisingly that teachers felt the constraints of time on their capacity to engage with TPL, but also with time efficiency in mind, they wanted to learn content that was immediately relevant and relatable. This led me to think carefully about the design of TPL and how we might best support teachers to develop the pedagogy needed to integrate technology effectively.

With these considerations in mind, we have taken the approach of using OneNote to teach OneNote, creating Class Notebooks for professional learning sessions to which we add participating teachers as students. This approach is working well as a scaffold, providing a resource of tools and tips that teachers engage with on the day of the workshop. Considering the content is more than the workshop time has allowed, this approach enables teachers to return to the resource when they are ready for more, or to consolidate their learning. It also provides an opportunity to model good pedagogy for using OneNote.

Our TPL Beginner Notebook features some of the basics, including an introduction to each section, with video tutorials to guide teachers in their use. A guided inquiry approach to the Collaboration Space enables teachers new to using OneNote to experience the possibilities and pitfalls, with an example of a more structured approach using tables to contain the collaboration. Some teachers also appreciate the personal Notebook space, as they can experiment in a space that does not feel as pressured as jumping into their own Class Notebook. We distributed some content with a view to prompting exploration of some of the key features.


For more advanced users, we created a Notebook that includes more of the extended features – setting up Collaboration Space groups, embedding content including Stream, Sway and Forms and using the Immersive Reader tools. We have found offering OneNote workshops and exploring the features of the additional embedded software is a great way to broaden our teachers’ toolkit, without the PL event seeming too overwhelming. Once again, they are able to come back to the Notebook in their own time to familiarise themselves with the tools when ready or needed.

Through both workshops, we explicitly explore the pedagogical allowances of OneNote Class Notebook, including the ability to differentiate content through the Collaboration Space and individual student notebook sections, to tailor the experience for students based on their learning needs, and communicate with students using options including images, video, audio recording, handwritten annotation and drawing. In both versions, we embed a Microsoft Form for evaluation of the session to both model the embedded Form as well as gain the feedback needed to iterate our next update to the resource and session content. We have also evolved the resources as new features are introduced.

We are always looking to improve, and I would love to hear thoughts from the Microsoft Educator Community and share examples of TPL in other schools.

Lisa Plenty is a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert and the Director of Digital Learning and Innovation at Radford College, Canberra. Amongst other responsibilities, she regularly runs  professional learning workshops for teachers and supports colleagues in using Office 365. Her teaching background is in Art and Graphic Design and she has a Master of Education in Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation through Charles Sturt University. Lisa is passionate about using technology with purpose to extend learning. Connect with Lisa on Twitter or LinkedIn.