Sammamish High School—six months of OneNote Class Notebooks

Sammamish High School—six months of OneNote Class Notebooks

adopted from

Today’s post was written by Bill Palmer, Ed.D, curriculum developer at Sammamish High School (Bellevue School District, WA).

Sammamish High School is a public, neighborhood high school serving 950 students in a diverse suburb of Seattle. Our students come from 53 different countries and speak 42 different languages. Sammamish prides itself on having a collaborative approach to problem-solving, a commitment to teacher leadership, and a focus on college and career readiness for all students. Over the last five years, we have been shifting to a problem-based learning (PBL) in every content area (for more information about PBL check out this case study).

On the second day of school we distributed laptops with digital ink capacity to all of our students. Within a few weeks we canceled all orders of paper for the copy machines.

Sammamish High School 1

We’re now six months into using laptops and OneNote Class Notebooks and this is what teaching and learning looks like:

We asked student focus groups about the difference the 1:1 laptop program has made in their learning. What surprised us was how predominantly OneNote was featured in all of their responses:

Working on OneNote allows me to catch up on anything that I may have missed in a class by checking the Content Library. Anna

I really like the ability to handwrite notes and having them saved in a place where I can find them easily. Having digital notes makes it that much easier to organize and retrieve them later—I love having all my work in one location. Robert

If we didn’t have OneNote Class Notebooks I’d probably be failing all my classes. It’s so much easier to find my assignments and make sure the teacher sees my work. Kelsi

Using OneNote means that I get feedback from teachers more quickly than ever before, which allows me to get the help I need before big test and quizzes. Daniel

When teachers share materials in OneNote, it means I don’t have to copy all the notes down—I just get to highlight and add my thinking or reflections. It makes it easier to think during class—and I’m doing less busy work. Stephanie

The Collaboration Space in OneNote makes it possible for us to work on our group projects anywhere, anytime. Before this year we would be stuck if one group member lost the memory stick. —Colton

Teachers are starting to reflect on how their own practices have changed as a result of using the OneNote Class Notebooks. What excites me most about the implementation of OneNote Class Notebooks is how it changes the dynamics of feedback in our classrooms. Through classroom observations, student and teacher focus groups, and survey data we are seeing four emerging ways student learning benefits from real-time digital teacher and peer feedback:

  • Receiving synchronous feedback (occurring in the same time period and medium) through OneNote dramatically shortens the learning cycle, giving students immediate opportunities to correct misconceptions or move ahead.
  • Online collaboration in a PBL context allows teachers to give feedback on the process of collaboration, as well as more skillfully guide student group work before their final product is finished.
  • Student work and growth over time can be organized and shared easily. OneNote has become a digital portfolio that shows both how students have improved and the feedback or interventions that led to learning.
  • Students work is generally improved with an audience. Teachers are finding that the ability to see and provide input into student work during the class period has led to greater student engagement and reduced workload outside of the class period.

“The constant feedback provided to students as they are crafting their ideas and responses has not only prompted more students to participate in class through writing through increased accountability, but students frequently seek feedback as they have developed a sense that it will increase their understanding,” said Keith Onstot, science teacher, sharing his thoughts about providing real-time feedback through OneNote. “Interestingly, while piloting this technique, students began to request to have the teacher’s screen projected while providing feedback. Students who became stuck in class, would look at the feedback being provided to others in hopes of translating the same concept to improve their own response. This has fostered an environment where students frequently share their own feedback to small groups, further increasing accountability by not only being accountable to the teacher, but needing to participate fully to receive the best feedback possible to share with the peer group. Seeing participation levels rise, quality of written responses improve, and changing of student’s mindset on assessment from punitive to supportive have all emerged as possible consequences of implementing a routine of providing real-time feedback in class.”

Sammamish High School 2

Within a few weeks of the school year, almost all of our 79 teachers were using OneNote Class Notebooks to deliver and organize learning materials. A few months later para-educators were all using OneNote to provide individualized support to students. Six months into this year, our students tell us that they can’t imagine life without OneNote. I’ll be excited to share more about how our teaching and learning continues to transform as a result of PBL and OneNote. Thanks to the OneNote team and the work of educators like Rob Baker who pioneered teaching with OneNote.

Bill Palmer

a hybrid environment, mixing both remote and in-classroom education

a hybrid environment, mixing both remote and in-classroom education

adopted from

Uncertainty surrounds the start of the 2020-21 school year. Districts around the country must prepare for three types of learning environments: the in-person style they’ve known for decades, the distance learning most were tossed into during the pandemic, and the most likely of scenarios — a hybrid environment, mixing both remote and in-classroom education. This is the style districts are least familiar with.

“I am hearing a recognition of blended hybrid learning will become the new normal for schools,” says Anthony Salcito, vice president of Microsoft Education. “I do think the future is going to require us to rethink what the role of the classroom will be” — so the solution needs to use the best digital tools to enhance in-classroom opportunities.

In a Microsoft survey of about 500 K-12 schools across the United States, 61 percent expect to start in a hybrid environment and 87 percent anticipate using more technology in the classroom than ever before, even when in-person learning fully returns. In fact, the company is adding features to its popular Teams platform, including an expanded audience view of up to 49 participants, data on student usage and virtual breakout rooms — some in response to educators’ requests since the pandemic struck.

The hybrid model involves taking the best of distance learning and merging it with meaningful in-person interaction between students and their teacher and with their peers, Salcito says, as he warns that students must not feel they are missing out, whether in the classroom or at home. Where schools struggle, he says, is when they try to simply shift the schedule and teaching style of the school building online.

Blending the power of technology — recorded lessons full of links, surveys and interactive elements that require students to respond and interact with one another through their own videos and comments — with useful meeting time that allows for student dialogue and presentations offers best-case uses for distance learning, Salcito says. That should remain the model in a hybrid format. “The blended model is going to be important,” he says. “You want to use that live time in a way that is meaningful and where students can be part of something together. That can happen when schools return. How can I use the power of storytelling and the power of collaboration of students and class time thoughtfully?”

Hector Lopez, head of the math department at El Camino Real Charter High School in Los Angeles, says improving teachers’ technology skills goes right along with improving instructional practices. “Having this opportunity has taught me to create new schedules and new modalities of teaching,” Lopez says. “I’m very happy to see the results.”

Salcito offered the example of a California special education teacher who created PowerPoint lessons for her students, full of surveys, forms and links. The students could progress through the lesson in the Microsoft Teams platform, and she could follow their work as it was happening, interjecting comments and assessing feedback. Group video conversations also helped students prep for future projects and discuss what they had learned. “She was having amazing success,” Salcito says.

Done right, technology expands the boundaries of the classroom, so students learn and connect no matter where they are physically.

“What we’re driving for is future readiness and also high-quality instruction,” says Ryan Coe, director of secondary curriculum instruction at the Fresno Unified School District in California. “And so a key understanding, when it comes to blended learning, is when to use technology and also when not to use it.”

Be internet awesome by google

Be internet awesome , cool way to teach fundamentals on digital citizenship and online safety

To make the most of the Internet, kids need to be prepared to make smart decisions. Be Internet Awesome teaches kids the fundamentals of digital citizenship and safety so they can explore the online world with confidence. The contents will be around The Internet Code of Awesome, which are :

  • Be internet smart, share with care , Good (and bad) news travels fast online, and without some forethought, kids can find themselves in tricky situations that have lasting consequences. The solve? Learning how to share with those they know and those they don’t.
  • Be internet alert, don’t fall for fake, It’s important to help kids become aware that people and situations online aren’t always as they seem. Discerning between what’s real and what’s fake is a very real lesson in online safety.

Be internet strong, secure your secrets, Personal privacy and security are just as important online as they are offline. Safeguarding valuable information helps kids avoid damaging their devices, reputations, and relationships.

  • Be internet kind, its cool to be kind, The Internet is a powerful amplifier that can be used to spread positivity or negativity. Kids can take the high road by applying the concept of “treat others as you would like to be treated” to their actions online, creating positive impact for others and disempowering bullying behavior.

  • Be internet brave, when in doubt, talk it out, One lesson that applies to any and all encounters of the digital kind: When kids come across something questionable, they should feel comfortable talking to a trusted adult. Adults can support this behavior by fostering open communication at home and in the classroom.

Top 5 Ways Teachers Can Use Microsoft Teams During Remote Learning

Top 5 Ways Teachers Can Use Microsoft Teams During Remote Learning

source :

Teachers are on the frontlines of enabling the sudden shift to remote learning. Within a matter of weeks, educators have had to quickly adapt their engaging, aligned, in-person lessons into online learning for their students. This incredible change has shed light on the inspiring ingenuity, passion, and commitment of those who support our communities. What we hear from educators is that they need to be able to transition to remote learning quickly, to connect in a community to share best practices, and to learn from each other.

Based on feedback from our Remote Learning Educator Community, we’ve outlined five ways to help you get the most out of Microsoft Teams, a digital hub for communication and collaboration, during remote learning:

    1. Connection and collaboration: Use the Teams built-in meetings features to effectively hold classroom meetings, collaborate on virtual whiteboards, and share documents. With assignments, conversations, files, notes, and video calls all pulled together, Teams is a great all-in-one hub for the collaborative classroom. Here is a great Teams for Education Quick Start Guide, and we have new updates rolling out regularly with improvements that have been inspired by educators.
    2. Inclusion: In order to ensure learners of all abilities are included, understanding which tools and technologies improve accessibility and foster an inclusive classroom becomes critical. With built-in capabilities like the Immersive Reader, message translation, and Live Captions for meetings, Teams is a non-stigmatizing platform.  

3. Meaningful feedback with rubrics: An important part of remote learning is good teaching practice. Teams Assignments have built-in rubrics. Rubric grading helps increase assignment transparency for students and allows you to give more meaningful feedback. These feedback mechanisms not only help students learn and improve their work, but they’re also a consistent and transparent way for teachers to grade. This has been an incredibly popular feature with both educators and students, and with rubrics now easily sharable, we have seen this practice take off in Teams.

4. Staff and learning communities: Saving time, being more organized, and collaborating more effectively during remote learning is critical. With Teams being a hub for education, a core part of this also includes built-in Staff teams and Professional Learning Community (PLC) teams to go along with Class Teams. This provides a one-stop shop for educators. Staff Teams and PLC teams allow educators and staff to easily communicate and collaborate during remote learning. We’ve seen many three-ring binders tossed with the paperless use of Staff and PLC teams in schools.

5.OneNote Class Notebooks, built into Teams: OneNote is a multifaceted note-taking tool that is built into Teams and can be used for a variety of lessons and activities. With OneNote Class Notebooks, you have a personal workspace for every student, a content library for handouts, and a collaboration space for lessons and creative activities. You can also embed all sorts of interactive apps, lessons, and content onto the OneNote page. Especially with remote learning, paper notes and handouts are difficult to work with, and having a digital notebook for the class is a natural fit.

Remote learning is a journey for all of us, and we are grateful to the diligence and creativity of educators during this time. Please visit our Remote Learning Page (higher education 
here) and (K-12 here) for all of our resources. Thank you for all you have done for students around the world. We are looking forward to continuing to work with you.

Fostering an accessible, inclusive classroom that works for all students

Read the full article at

By Microsoft Education Team Posted on January 24, 2020 at 9:32 am

It’s Day 3 of Bett, where we’ve been bringing you updates and insights into how to use the latest and most effective ed tech tools and resources. It’s our final day live streaming from London. We explored how educators can help students develop communication, and collaboration skills while using free tools like Office 365 Education and Microsoft Teams in our Day 1 episode here and we shared how you can prepare students for jobs of the future in our Day 2 episode here. Today, we want to talk about how to use built-in accessible tools at no extra cost and the power of joining an innovative and caring community of like-minded innovators in education.

Today, we’ll dive into ways to provide students with personalized learning, how to foster inclusion to meet the needs of all the learners in your classroom, and the power of joining a global community devoted to improving equity in education. At Microsoft, we’re committed to providing you and your students with built-in accessibility tools at no extra cost. These can improve language, literacy and numeracy skills and give students of all abilities independence and the opportunity to learn without stigma.  

In this episode we will show you how:  

  • You can use available Immersive Reader features in the new Microsoft Edge  
  • You can now use Office 365 Education online for free, from anywhere, with built-in tools for accessibility  
  • You can promote student confidence and capacity to learn and improve independently with powerful learning tools 

For starters, we want to share this inspiring story about Louis Riel School Division in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where the entire community is focused on creating equitable, inclusive and accessible learning environments. Check out this case study and video below to learn about how the district went about meeting the needs of all students and how administrators support teachers in accessing education technology in ways that advance teaching and learning goals. 

Video for Live from BETT: What’s new in EDU–Fostering an accessible, inclusive classroom that works for all students

The new Microsoft Edge– supporting inclusive learning 

The web should have built-in flexibility and accessibility to support you and every student in your classroom. The new Microsoft Edge web browser supports inclusive classrooms with built-in Microsoft Learning Tools and helps every student learn and benefit from the web. Immersive Reader capabilities in Microsoft Edge help students, particularly struggling readers, stay engaged and promote reading skills. While using Microsoft Edge, teachers and students can use Immersive Reader to change text size to improve readability and hear text read aloud. Additional Immersive Reader capabilities that allow users to customize their experience will come later this year. 

Learning Tools 

Today’s classrooms have students with diverse learning needs, and as teachers, we know you have a strong desire to effectively reach every one of your students. Microsoft Learning Tools enable teachers to provide differentiated support to all students in reading, writing, and math as well as communication. We have updates below! 


Immersive Reader 

We’re thrilled that the Immersive Reader learning tool continues to come to more platforms. The full-screen reading experience improves the readability of content in many ways, including by enabling users to tailor text size, fonts, spacing, line focus, read-aloud capabilities and more.

Here’s some additional Immersive Reader news: 

  • Spotlight on The Young Women’s Leadership School of Astoria and Azure AI partner Buncee: We’re inspired by the way that schools like the Young Women’s Leadership School of Astoria (TYWLS) are using Immersive Reader to empower readers of all ages and reading abilities. Learn more about their story and how Azure AI is enabling partners to build accessible applications in our blog.
Video for Live from BETT: What’s new in EDU–Fostering an accessible, inclusive classroom that works for all students
  • Six new immersive Reader partners: Today we are excited to highlight six new partners who are integrating the Immersive Reader: FlocabularyHaldorHelperbirditsLearningKidblog and Pear Deck.  These are the latest of six partners that have integrated the Immersive Reader, which is an Azure Cognitive Service.  To see the growing list of Immersive Reader partners, bookmark this link
  • Office Lens for iOS and Android both now have the full Immersive Reader experience integrated with the latest updates for both iPhone and iPad. Office Lens on Android (all platforms) will be shipping a similar update in spring. Office Lens is a free mobile scanning app. It offers a great way to capture text from a document or elsewhere without manually having to retype it. 
  • Language updates: Parts of speech in Immersive Reader allows students to label nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs. We’ve rolled out parts of speech for Arabic. We’ve also added the ability to translate to and from the Maori and Gaelic languages in the Immersive Reader. These will also be available in Live Presentations in PowerPoint for the Web. 
  • Immersive Reader for Microsoft Forms is now available globally for students and educators, so they can leverage Immersive Reader tools as they create or take a quiz.  


Dictation (speech to text) is an important technology that allows people to easily type with their voice. It is especially helpful for those with dyslexia, dysgraphia or mobility impairments. In addition to about a dozen languages already available, we are rolling out Dictation support in public preview for five new languages: Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish. These languages will start rolling out in Word, OneNote, Outlook and PowerPoint Desktop and web in late January.   


Equation Tools in OneNote for Windows 10  

We’re thrilled to let you know that we’re starting to roll out Equation Tools in OneNote for Windows 10. Equation Tools allows students to input and make changes to math equations more easily than by typing those in with a keyboard. To get started, all you do is press the Equation button in the ribbon Insert tab in OneNote on your Windows 10 device and choose from a range of structures and math symbols to build up equations.  

We believe an inclusive math class is one where students have a variety of methods for inputting equations because we know different learners have different styles and needs, and we’re so glad to add this resource to the classroom toolbox!  

Math Assistant in OneNote for iPad 

We’re excited to announce we’re bringing Math Assistant in OneNote to iPad users this spring. We heard you say you wanted Math Assistant on this platform, and we worked hard to make it happen. It’s easy to use–all you do to get started is log into your Office 365 Education account in OneNote on your iPad and press the Math button on the ribbon Draw tab. 

You’ll be able to use the tool to help you solve equations and see solution steps to help build student understanding. Look out for additional updates to the app, such as the ability to graph equations and generate practice quizzes, which is popular on other platforms, after Bett and ahead of back-to-school season.  

For more on inclusive math tools, check out this interactive guide.  

A photo showing how you can use Math assistant in OneNote for iPad.

Windows graphing calculator for Windows 10 

We’re excited to announce that Windows Calculator is getting a new feature: graphing mode. We’re adding this feature to every Windows 10 and 10S PC for students and teachers to help with instruction related to graphing concepts. Educators and students will be able to use this free tool right from their devices, without having to buy an expensive graphing calculator. It will help users plot and analyze multiple equations and manipulate equation variables to help understand how changes to equations affect graphs. 

The graphing mode in Windows Calculator is available now through our Microsoft Insider program and will be refined and released for a general audience before back-to-school season.  

We’re excited to make this feature available to Windows 10 users, offering a built-in, easy-to-use tool that can help create a more inclusive learning environment. Many of you have asked if educators can disable the feature if they need to, for assessments for example, and the answer is yes. It’s yours to use with your students, as that makes sense. 

We welcome your feedback. We’ve open sourced the Windows Calculator app on GitHub, which means those of you who are computer science educators, or have some background knowledge, can study the source code, build system, unit tests and product roadmap and offer new ideas for improvements. We always enjoy seeing educators, and sometimes their students, get involved in this kind of collaboration. If you see a feature that is missing, build it yourself and add it to the graphing calculator! You can read more here

An image showcasing a function created by Windows Calculator app on GitHub.


OneNote Live Captions. As we noted in our Bett kickoff post, a recent study at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg (USFSP), found that 42 percent of students use closed captions to help maintain focus and 38 percent use interactive transcripts to help them better retain information. In addition, student outcomes improve with the use of transcripts. This month, we are rolling out a private preview of OneNote that allows any student to connect OneNote to a Microsoft Translator captions via a Join Code and receive the captions and translation stream.  

This allows captions from the educator speaking to flow directly into OneNote for reading, while still allowing the student to take notes. In addition, the student can pause the captions, highlight portions, and then have the entire transcription saved as a page into OneNote. This feature will benefit all learners but especially those who may be hard of hearing or speak multiple languages. We’ll start by rolling out OneNote Live Captions in private Beta in early February with more general availability to follow.  

Empower Every Voice with Flipgrid: Microsoft’s free video discussion platform!

NEW! Edit captions, launch the Immersive Reader on video transcripts, and more. Flipgrid enables you to empower every voice in your classroom by recording and sharing short, awesome videos … together! Since last year, Flipgrid revolutionized the camera, adding trimming and rearranging clips, whiteboard mode, live inking, and more. Furthermore, every video is now automatically transcribed and close-captioned by Microsoft Azure. Take engagement to the next level by “sticking” videos ANYWHERE with the transformative Flipgrid AR. Inspired by your feedback and ideas, the Flipgrid team is constantly innovating and improving for you, your community, and your peers from 190 countries around the world.

Wrapping it up 

Thanks for checking out our latest episode of What’s New in EDU, live from Bett 2020 and those we brought you earlier in the week. We’ve enjoyed meeting so many innovative and passionate educators here in London. And we hope you found the information we brought you to be helpful. Please check out our new tech tools, free teacher training resources, STEM and computer science materials and advice on boosting future-ready skills in your students. As always, share your feedback with us on Twitter by tagging @MicrosoftEDU! 

How I lead remote learning in Hong Kong during school closures

How i lead remote-learning in hong-kong during school closures

adopted from

By Ng Wai Ying, Winnie, Head of Chinese at St. Hilary’s Primary School,
Head of Chinese at St. Hilary’s Primary School Hong Kong
Posted on March 19, 2020 at 2:57 pm

We got the news on the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year, which fell on January 25. The Education Bureau of Hong Kong announced all schools would be suspended due to the COVID-19 virus. Our school principal immediately set up an emergency meeting to figure out how we would resume instruction after the holiday.

Since we use Microsoft tools, I quickly realized it would make sense for Teams and OneNote to play a leading role in online lessons for my students. We were learning as we went, much like many other educators like you and below I’ve shared my tips and our experience launching distance learning.


This was our first lesson. The students opened their cameras and got to work online from their homes.

Try first

I started by selecting some of my Grade 6 students to help me pilot live lessons. To begin, I prepared a trial lesson in Teams to observe student behavior and responses. In the lesson, I checked whether they could hear me, recorded the meeting, and showed them a video. After that trial, I gained confidence that this could work. Still, before the first actual lesson, I held a second trial for the whole class. This time, I provided time for them to greet each other. When kids are stuck at home, they really miss their friends!My students also tried out some functions, such as giving likes to posts. I then walked them through Teams, followed by some rules for live lessons, including how and when to turn on/off their microphones.With 20 students ready to learn, I shared my screen, and then I showed my PowerPoint and video. My students were excited for the online class. All in all, it was a very good start!

Setting ground rules

In Chinese class, we only speak Mandarin, and I wanted to make sure some of our regular procedures applied to online learning. So, I set up ground rules, including no casual messages, no emojis, and no speaking English during the lessons. We went over these in Teams, and I inserted a Microsoft Forms survey right in our Teams channel to ensure the children had them down before we got to work.

Fostering student engagement and a positive culture

Screen sharing is one the most important functions of leading engaging online lessons in Teams. I am so glad that Teams lets me seamlessly switch my screens to show PowerPoint decks or class notes in OneNote, for example.

I believe mutual respect and good feedback are essential with any kind of instruction, and this has been a good opportunity to teach my students to be respectful online world. Praise from teachers to students can reinforce good online behavior, which can help students stay engaged and focused during instruction. Sometimes, I share examples of good student work online to provide recognition for a job well done. See below.

It’s also important to continue to make learning fun!

Below you’ll see we played an online bingo game in OneNote to work on vocabulary.

During this style of online teaching, students can still collaborate. I gave out rubrics that students can use to evaluate each other’s work. Students then modify and improve their work after participating in peer evaluations.

Integrating Teams, OneNote, Forms, and Flipgrid


I’m glad my students were already used to using tools like OneNote, Forms, and Flipgrid. We often have collaboration activities going on in our classroom, such as using OneNote as a tool to edit writing. We use Flipgrid as a formative assessment tool for recording student thoughts about a unit or a topic.

With Teams, there are two modes for conversation that we use, the Chat and Post functions. I’ve tried to open four or five groups using Chat, as it is easier for me to add or remove people there. The way I think about this is as having two kinds of classrooms. Chat is a small classroom for discussion groups, and Post is a big classroom for teacher-led instruction.

I’ve asked some of my students to be group leaders for helping me monitoring others in the small-group discussions. I’ve told them if the time is over, they must ask all the group members to leave and go back to the big classroom (the Post meeting).

This all took some getting used to. When five calls popped up on my screen at the same time, I had to decide which group I needed to help first. I’ve found that I can work with a maximum of four groups through the Chat function at the same time. I just need to press a button to enter different groups. My students always say “Wow, Miss Ng, you’re here again! How come we didn’t notice it.” They love to have their own rooms for discussion. Up to now, they’ve shown mutual respect to others and never abuse the right to use Chatroom.

Group writing and editing with tablets and pencils

Learning a language is not only about reading, but also writing. Teams allows my students to hear their peers and write things at the same time. We use OneNote as a collaboration space for group work. Students sometimes ink in different colors to easily distinguish their work.

Below, groups use collaboration space for editing their writing and evaluating the work using rubrics. 

Using Flipgrid as a debate platform 

We need to build in time and space for students to nurture their creativity, and Flipgrid is a great tool to support that. In addition, developing students’ debate skills is part of our learning objectives, and Flipgrid serves as a virtual debate platform. I can put the Flipgrid link or tag in Teams so students can get to it easily.

I use emojis or gifs to help students choose the right topic.

Here are my grids

Getting the hang of remote learning
So far, I’ve completed more than two dozen live lessons and I’ve grown more and more confident in my ability to teach this way to meet the needs of my students during these challenging times. The Hong Kong government says schools will remain closed until April 20, or later. I’m glad I have these online tools at my fingertips, and I hope my experience can help other teachers prepare for remote learning. It’s not easy, but it is doable and students benefit greatly. Take a look here for more helpful tips on how Microsoft can support remote learning and stay tuned to the Microsoft Education Blog as more educators share their learnings.

Check out Microsoft’s remote learning resources.

Read the full article


The truth about mobile tech benefits in classrooms

The embrace of mobile technology in higher education appears to now include at least a small majority of college instructors. In a recent survey of instructors conducted by Education Dive Brand Studio and Cengage, 53% of respondents said they used mobile to access e-books and other digital course materials, while 46% used it to research class topics.

Yet there are still plenty of doubters, and two issues seem to worry them the most. Among those reporting they do not use mobile, 43% said they were concerned that not all students would have equal, affordable access to the devices, and 24% said they were concerned it would distract their students too much.

While these are valid concerns that many instructors share, we’d like to lift the lid and explore the truth behind mobile in the classroom.

Digital Native Generation

A recent Pew Research Center report describes how, over the last several decades, digital technology has progressed from a novelty to a more normal part of the lifestyle of each successive generation.

“Generation X grew up as the computer revolution was taking hold, and Millennials came of age during the internet explosion,” writes Pew Research Center President Michael Dimock. “In this progression, what is unique for Generation Z is that all of the above have been part of their lives from the start.”

Gen Zers, born in the mid-1990s, are true digital natives. By the time the eldest of the generation reached their teens, Dimock notes, mobile devices, Wi-Fi and high-bandwidth cellular service had become the main vehicle for young Americans to connect to the web. They take constant connectivity and on-demand communication for granted.

College students, who now consist primarily of Gen Zers, never leave home — and some never go to bed — without their smartphones. “Students are using their phones for everything. It’s more than just to communicate,” said Courtney Doyle Chambers, marketing manager for digital solutions at Cengage Learning. “It’s how they transfer money to friends, research restaurants, make art and everything else — and, of course, sharing all of that through social media as well.”

Ryan Jenkins, speaker and expert on millennials and Gen Z, sums up the cohort this way in an article for Inc.: “Generation Z is a video and mobile-centric generation where their mobile devices serve as the remote control of their lives.”

Using the same technology to engage these students and keep your course content front of mind may seem like a natural transition for this generation.

Near-Universal Access to Mobile

Despite some college educators’ concern that using mobile technology might put many students at a disadvantage because of the cost, research shows that more than 90% of Gen Z is mobile connected. A recent Educause study reveals that 95% have access to smartphones and 91% have access to laptops. The authors note that their analysis turned up no patterns of inequity along the lines of ethnicity, gender, age or socioeconomic status regarding access to digital technologies that are key to students’ academic success.

Nicole Naudé, technical product manager at Cengage, has seen evidence of this near-universal access firsthand. “Every student that I’ve talked to in any research I’ve done shows that access to a smartphone is super common, largely because they are using apps for social media,” Naudé said. She added that many students seemed to prefer the combination of smartphones and tablets for mobile connection, rather than using laptops. “They really like that they can have cellular data as a backup to Wi-Fi, which is not something you can get on a laptop.”

Engaging Students Inside and Outside of Class

The results of the Educause study also run counter to the idea that mobile will entice students to spend more time posting selfies and playing video games than studying. Students surveyed said they spent more time doing homework and research online than using social media, streaming video, gaming or other online activities.

Many college educators who have adopted mobile technology as a teaching tool will attest that, far from being an inevitable distraction, it offers innovative ways to keep students more engaged with learning. In the Education Dive Brand Studio and Cengage survey, when asked to select the most important benefits of using mobile inside the classroom, 75% of respondents checked, “It provides new ways to energize my class and engage students in learning.” It was far and away the most popular response. The second top choice, at 44%,  being that “It enables every student to benefit equally from the sharing of digital resources and ideas for using them.”

Just as mobile tech facilitates engagement and access to digital learning resources within the classroom, it also provides flexibility and convenience to students and instructors outside of class. In the survey, 76% of respondents cited that “It gives students more opportunities to access digital content on demand, and study at their convenience.” Roughly equal proportions of respondents selected having more time and flexibility to connect with students outside class hours (60%) and the ability of students to use digital content for group study sessions and projects outside of class (58%) as key benefits.

Maximizing the engagement-enhancing benefits of mobile becomes easy when the digital learning app includes features such as notifications to help students keep track of assignment due dates and test scores, flashcards and practice quizzes to help them study, and polling tools to allow instructors to gauge student knowledge and spark classroom discussions.

Building Instructor Buy-In

The Educause report cites data from its 2017 study showing 70% of students saying their instructors were banning or discouraging smartphones in class, and 40% saying the same for tablets. Only 25% reported that their instructors encouraged smartphone use. Fifty-two percent of faculty reported they banned or discouraged smartphone use in class, while 24% said they banned or discouraged tablet use.

“In some cases, faculty ban or discourage devices in classrooms on the basis of research that simply confirms their biases against those digital devices — that they are distracting, that student device usage implies disrespect or a lack of attention, or that students are not taking good notes,” stated the 2018 Educause report. But the authors warn that limiting the use of mobile devices may unintentionally harm certain groups of students who view them as especially important to their academic success. Research has shown these include students of color, students with disabilities, first-generation students, students who are independent and students from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds, Educause noted.

That is, the very issue of inequality that some college instructors wished to avoid by shying away from mobile, may be exacerbated when it’s banned.

For the reluctant mobile adopters, the most effective way to onboard might be to start with a narrow application and gradually expand. Initially, they may invite students to use some of the study and career-development tools available on a mobile learning app before exploring how it can enhance their teaching. For instance, they might discover how much easier it is to check attendance through students’ smartphones than trying to do a roll call while they drift in and mill about the classroom. Next, they might check out the polling feature to see how well students understand class topics and boost their active participation in class.

Students Leading the Way

For today’s college students, mobile technology is a constant companion. They crisscross the campus, enter classrooms and return home with smartphones and tablets in hand. College teaching and learning methods must evolve to meet these students where they are, allowing them to access course materials and other success tools with the same ease and convenience they get when connecting with friends or sharing photos. With students holding a learning tool with so much potential right in the palm of their hands, educators can’t afford to miss out on the opportunity to use it to capture their attention and create a more engaging learning experience.

Finding the ‘sweet spot’: 4 tips for moving classes online quickly

To help limit the spread of the coronavirus, colleges are taking instruction remote. But experts say careful planning and managing expectations is key.

Colleges and universities are canceling class meetings to help stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. But taking instruction online can be a tough switch to flip — particularly for courses that haven’t historically included a distance-learning component.

“We’re all going to have to be a little bit flexible in situations like this,” said Katie Linder, executive director for program development at Kansas State University’s Global Campus, in an interview with Education Dive. “We want to make sure our students are having really quality learning experiences but also understanding that can look different based on what the situation is.”

On Tuesday, her team launched an online forum for educators worldwide to ask questions and share ideas about facilitating instruction remotely. It’s one of several resources developed by the academic community to help sharpen institutions’ response to the coronavirus’s impact on instruction.

U.S. institutions had a preview of what to expect as the novel coronavirus and the respiratory illness it causes, COVID-19, spread across China and other countries in Asia, the Middle East and Europe. Momentum picked up in the U.S. in the last week, as more people were tested for the virus. As of Friday afternoon, there were more than 1,800 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. and 38 related deaths, according to data gathered by The New York Times.

College officials here have said the situation is largely unprecedented, though some have experience to draw from.

In 2018, Pepperdine University, in California, closed two of its campuses for a few weeks due to nearby wildfires. Quickly shifting coursework online was “a big learning curve” that required faculty and staff to get up to speed quickly on using remote instruction tools, Christopher Heard, director of the Center for Teaching Excellence and a professor at the university’s Seaver College, told Education Dive.

“One of the things we learned was that students are pretty resilient and that faculty are pretty resourceful and that with the appropriate support … we can help professors make these transitions pretty quickly,” he said.

Heard and Linder encourage colleges to stick to their learning outcomes but to be flexible and creative in how they achieve them. 

That can be tricky for courses that lean heavily on experiential learning, such as science labs or co-ops and practicums. But it’s not impossible, they and other experts told Education Dive. 

“What are the things you want them to learn how to do, and how do you want them to work? And then work backwards from there, to how you can do that when you are teaching remotely,” said Beth Kalikoff, director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of Washington.

Below, we’ve gathered their tips for colleges going online in a hurry.

Have a ramp-up period

Several institutions have opted to close for a few days or extend spring break to give faculty time to prepare to teach courses remotely. This also gives students whose residence halls have closed a chance to relocate and get settled. 

“To the extent that schools can build a longer rampway for faculty to plan, that’s going to be in their best interest,” said Kaitlyn Maloney, a senior director at consulting firm EAB whose focus includes strategic planning, in an interview.

The University of Indiana Bloomington is holding hour-long webinars about general concepts and tools for remote instruction to help prepare faculty to teach remotely for two weeks when students return from spring break later this month. One-on-one follow-up sessions will help instructors set up these tools, Greg Siering, director of the university’s Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning, told Education Dive.

Giving faculty time to plan can also help manage expectations.

“We want to help them find that sweet spot where they’re not diving in too deep and causing grief for both themselves and their students in these first two weeks, but they’re ramping things up enough” so they are able to continue should they have to teach remotely for a longer period of time, Siering said.

That includes helping instructors understand what regular and substantive interaction, which is a federal requirement of most faculty, means when it is not done synchronously, as it is with real-time lectures. There’s also a difference between going online and going remote, Kansas State’s Linder notes. 

“There are actually some really low-tech options that could work very well for some of your students,” she said, citing email and general use of the learning management system. 

Stick to the outcomes, but be creative

A combination of video lectures, discussion board posts and email feedback may suffice for typical lecture classes. But what if the course relies heavily on classroom-based experiences, such as science labs, music performance or even language learning? 

Simple video tools could help. An instructor could share a video of themselves conducting an experiment and then give the resulting data to students to work with. In a performance-based class, students and faculty could use videos to share work and feedback.

Virtual labs available through platforms such as Merlot and Harvard University’s LabXchange can supplement online instruction. And some MOOC providers said they will make their courses more widely available. 

Reframing the learning experience may be necessary, even for typical assignments. A research paper based on data students collect may not be practical if they aren’t on campus. Instead, instructors could ask students to write a research proposal, which would force students to think through the methodology and what could go wrong, said Christina Smith, assistant director for undergraduate instructional development at Brown University’s Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning, in an interview.

“It all comes to this idea of what are those outcomes and how can you be creative in your assignments and assessment in achieving those,” Smith said.

In certain cases, it may make more sense to reschedule the active learning component until later in the semester, or even entirely, experts said. 

Some are taking that option. Northwestern University’s journalism school is canceling students’ internship placements at media organizations for the spring quarter. According to its student newspaper, the school is waiving the related requirement for professional experience for affected students. 

Make sure students can get to class

As schools plan, it’s important to consider how students could access lectures and assignments “so that the quick pivot to remote instruction doesn’t hamper student success goals or create inequitable situations and learning outcomes,” Maloney said.

Even seemingly straightforward options like video lectures will need to account for students who can’t participate live, either because they are in a different time zone or because they lack sufficient internet access away from campus. That could include recording the lecture so it’s available later. Instructors should also be aware of accessibility requirements, such as ensuring captions for videos they create or stream are available and accurate and that other digital materials are compatible with screen readers.

Because most students are leaving campus and will be spread across time zones, Pepperdine is asking its instructors to emphasize asynchronous experiences, which don’t require students to tune into programming at a scheduled time. To help students plan, any synchronous activities should occur during the preset class time, Heard said. 

“One of the important points here is about equity. We know that students already may be going into inequitable situations with respect to bandwidth and access to Wi-Fi and the internet and so forth,” he said. “We don’t want to compound that by splitting the experience between synchronous and asynchronous.”

Some schools are rethinking remote instruction entirely. At Berea College, in Kentucky, many students live in rural areas that tend to have poor internet access. In response to the coronavirus, officials asked students to leave campus if they can, and they cautioned instructors against course adaptations that require students to stream content, Diverse reported

Faculty there are instead focused on finishing courses over email and even regular mail, administrators told the publication. 

Communicate and document

The U.S. Department of Education is giving colleges more flexibility to use online learning tools in a range of coronavirus-related scenarios so long as instructors maintain regular, substantive communication with students.

It gives an example of what that could look like: an instructor could provide materials over email and then use chat features to communicate with students, set up conference calls for group discussions and engage in other exchanges over email.

To help set expectations for students, Kevin Kelly, a lecturer at San Francisco State University and an ed tech consultant, suggests creating a schedule of announcements each week. That could include a Monday kickoff message, a midweek motivation note, and a Friday reminder of upcoming due dates, he said. 

Telling students to follow simple rules, like submitting their name and course name in the subject line of emails, can help instructors juggle multiple classes gone remote, he added.

The department also asked colleges to document “as contemporaneously as possible” modifications they are making to courses. Instructors should keep that in mind as they adapt their classes, Kelly told Education Dive, though he admits “there probably will be some reverse engineering.”

Heard said Pepperdine faculty are being asked to turn in revised syllabi that reflect changes in course scheduling, due dates and the modality of assignments.

Thinking ahead

Several campuses moving instruction online have said they’ll reassess the situation in a few weeks. If distance learning continues beyond that point, officials will likely need to address other concerns, such as the availability of test proctoring, tutoring services, and the need to stand up new tools and resources, Indiana’s Siering said.

“You can wing it for two weeks,” he said, “but what happens after that?”

How the situation plays out could also affect broader efforts to expand online learning tools, EAB’s Maloney noted. A negative experience within an institution could make it harder for officials there to get faculty on board with future online learning efforts, she said. 

But Robert Lue, faculty director at Harvard’s Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, is hopeful. 

“This is extremely fast-breaking and kind of evolving by the minute as we speak, so in some ways, I think the rate of change of this is going to be extraordinary,” he told Education Dive. “There is a part of me, though, that feels that this will finally help us think much more carefully about what digital means, and what we can actually do with it.”