OneNote helps educator organize special education

Kareem Anderson


Once again, Microsoft’s OneNote’s elite catch-all note taking software has added in another educational endeavor. Rachel Pinter, special education teacher at Sammamish High School, writes on behalf of her institution, extolling the effect Microsoft’s OneNote app has had on her faculty, their English Language Learners, and students with disabilities.

OneNote’s versatility and Swiss Army knife-like set of features allowed Pinter and staff, to help tailor specific educational structures for students with varying degrees of challenged learning experiences.

ELL and students with disabilities face many barriers inside and outside of the classroom. Not only are they attempting to learn a new language or work on various “deficits” in goal areas, but technology in the classroom can become another barrier if students are not appropriately taught how to use it. After a year and a half of being a 1:1 school, we have definitely identified some exceptional strategies for teaching those skills.”

Part of Pinter’s discussion involves a four-part learning strategy for her school’s ELL students as well as a four-part strategy for special education students, that puts Microsoft’s OneNote at the heart of the learning experience.

Starting with Sammamish’s ELL students, part one of pointing the student down a versatile path includes a technological induction lesson. The technical induction lesson is where the student is, and teachers sit down to go over instructions on how to use technology such as a laptop or tablet in course planning. Second, part two is covering already taught lessons, or re-teaching, according to Pinter.

With the vast amount of knowledge being tossed at a student, refresher courses and material go a long way to cementing techniques as simple as how to copy and paste from a device. Third is where Microsoft’s OneNote shines by allowing faculty and students to use the adaptive software. With adaptive software “students no longer have to carry translating dictionaries or constantly be translating on mobile devices. The fourth part of the strategy involves successfully incorporating technology skills into a teacher’s daily lesson plans.

Staff Notebooks

For the next set of strategy parameters, Pinter covers Special Education and involves a little more OneNote integration.

Special education strategy #1—organization across courses

  • OneNote is an integral and necessary part of the students’ learning at Sammamish now. For the students with IEPs, OneNote helps in several different areas. For instance, OneNote assists students with organizational goals help organize their work, reducing the likelihood of lost papers. However, while this is a great tool for work production, teachers must be intentional and consistent with their OneNote setup. Take time to consider your organizational setup at the beginning of the year—or even work with your department to determine similar styles. Deliberate on aspects such as a color-coding system or numbering pages to help students understand the order. Other ideas include limiting the number of sections and using explicit, consistent vocabulary for how to navigate through your class OneNote. Overall, your goal is to make your OneNote simple to understand and access—just like your curriculum!
OneNote helping IEP's
OneNote helping IEP’s

Special education strategy #2—paraprofessional use of OneNote

  • While this is a great tool for students, paraprofessionals have a great use for OneNote as well. First and foremost, if part of a paraprofessional’s duties is taking notes for students, they are to post the notes into the Collaboration Space, enabling students to copy them at their own pace as needed. Another great use for paraprofessionals is access to curriculum content in general. With OneNote Class Notebooks, paraprofessionals can do things such retrieve current content when students are not able to be in class, locate prior worksheets to help a student make up work, and even learn on the fly to assist a student with a less familiar content area. Lastly, paraprofessionals, much like teachers, can give instant feedback to students on assignments.

Special education strategy #3—support tools

  • OneNote also has many different tools that support students with disabilities. For instance, OneNote Learning Tools with immersive reader and dictation offer stronger access to general education curriculum, as these can provide alternative methods to traditional educational tasks such as writing and reading. It should be noted, however, that while having these tools is advantageous to students, time is needed to properly train them. Students need to learn and practice their use in order to boost their understanding and confidence in such tools.

Special education strategy #4—differentiation

  • One of the most valuable aspects of OneNote for students with disabilities is the increased ease with which teachers can differentiate in both general and special education classroom settings. With add-on tools such as the new Class Notebook add-in, teachers are able to distribute pages to students’ OneNote Class Notebooks. This includes the ability to provide specially designed assignments based on particular students’ needs. One example of this might be a scaffold assignment with sentence stems versus one that does not provide any. With OneNote, the distribution of these “different” assignments is far more confidential than traditional worksheets; students are much less apt to notice that another student has an assignment different than theirs. While this may seem like a simple thing, the reality is that it may result in more inclusion for students with disabilities as less attention is being called to their alternate need.

Pinter concludes that her 1:1 program including the use of OneNote’s versatile software at Sammamish High School proved to be a game-changer in the way the school’s learning challenged students. Beyond the experimental nature of the program, Pinter argues that it’s the software and teachers that are at the heart of making sure students at Sammamish leave prepared with the skill and education that will have them succeeding in the future.