Today, I was sitting in my kitchen and was thinking I hadn't called family in Missouri in a while, so I called my Aunt Vanessa over FaceTime (video). At the time I didn't know they were in the middle of a field and my Aunt was waiting for Randy to finish on the tractor. Then it hit me. We couldn't have done this ten years ago. What has changed?
I remember setting up distance learning labs in my previous district to get access to programming such as Mandarin Chinese to our students. The logistics around the setup were impractical. It seemed as though the stars needed to align for everything to work flawlessly. We would use these expensive Polycom cameras with encoders and punch holes through our firewalls to get the video to come across bidirectionally. Then there was the setup of all of the IP addresses to know to dial into to connect to the remote classrooms. Initially, we even installed an internet connection just for video conferencing. All of this was just the technical side. There was also the enormous amount of scheduling challenges for this synchronous activity to happen. That was 15 years ago; now things have changed.
Broadband and mobile technology have exponentially impacted change and provides the necessary access that video demands. Netflix started its streaming service in 2007, and in 2010 Apple introduced FaceTime to its iPhone product line. Toss in the availability of 4G LTE around the same time, and you get mobility and the sufficient broadband to deliver video.
Now not only do we have smaller and thinner devices, but we also have quicker speeds and quality is outstanding. Cameras are recording video in 4k quality, a truly cinematic experience, even with the capability of storing it in free services such as YouTube. We can consume, engage, and create videos in mobile experiences that was only true to expensive professional equipment just ten years ago. The statistics of video in our internet ecosystem are immense. Just look at some examples below:
What does this mean for education?
Dyane Smokorowski introduced me to Skype in the Classroom. We used a cheap Logitech camera hooked up to a laptop and scheduled time with another classroom. That classroom was overseas, and the students did not know where they were. The activity that followed was impressive. The students were asking questions to build clues on where the other students lived and their culture. The experience was called a Mystery Skype. There are now five exciting ways to bring the world into your classroom: virtual field trips, Skype lessons, Skype collaborations, Mystery Skypes as I explained above, and guest speakers. There isn't a need to set up complex network routes, firewall rules, etc. It is as comfortable as making a call on your mobile device. Every year in Omaha Public Schools, we participate in the global Skype-A-Thon. Last year the Skype-A-Thon event connected nearly half a million students and traveled over 14,500,000 virtual miles in 48 hours!
Jim Knight, author of Better Conversations and Focus On Teaching, outlines the shift video can have on instruction:
In Omaha Public Schools, we are using his practices to focus on quality. In the past, we had worked so hard on our coaching tool that primarily focused on the number of visits. Now we are moving to more purposeful practice. In Focus On Teaching, Jim outlines the use of video in the form of microteaching.
Because of technology and social media, our circle of influence is massive. Our use of video is how we consume, engage, and create in this world culture today. I want you to think this week, how is video impacting your day today?
My transition from analog to digital
When was the last time you recalled writing something down and then forgetting where you put it? It used to happen all the time, and much of the time it was a reference needed from a meeting you had a couple of weeks ago. But which notebook was that? Is it in my desk, car, at home? #$%^&
This scenario was typical pre-2014 for me. I would bury writing in Moleskine notebooks, one after the other, and sometimes multiple ones for different needs. I would fill one up and throw it on the desk only to go back to it when I needed to reference something - search time = maximum effort.
Writing notes is not bad - I still do it, just differently. It is how I retain knowledge more efficiently. But having this analog process creates barriers. Think about it, how hard is it to save this and carry it with you where ever you go and access it anytime? How easy is it to search fast when you need it? And how can you share it in this ever social and connected society we have today?
My transition from analog to digital was not overnight. OneNote was not a part of that transition either. Nope, it was a green elephant called Evernote. Moleskine and Evernote had come up with this strategy of notetaking with stickers, that when snapped with your Evernote App, it would categorize your notes electronically like this:
When I wrote legibly, it was great. I could do a word search in Evernote, and it would pull up my handwritten notes, highlighted with the word. If I was in a hurry or writing in Klingon - not really but kind of a scribbly version of shorthand, it was the best guess if I was going to see it in a search. Eventually, I would move to Evernote and begin typing my notes from meetings. There were efficiencies here - saving notes was great, searching notes was excellent, and sharing notes was available in simple ways. What I would soon realize was that I needed an ability to have written and typed notes co-exist while providing these requirements: Save, Search, Share.
Enter OneNote into the mix
The year was 2014, Obama was still president, Apple bought Beats headphones, and everyone was doing the ALS ice bucket challenge. I left Andover as an Apple follower: MacBook Pro, iPad, and iPhone somehow all in hand. There were some decisions we would make in Omaha Public Schools that would change all of that. In October 2014, we transitioned to Office 365 for all our collaboration needs. I won't go through that process, but you can read about it here:
After our implementation, I began to dabble in the Windows 10 world with a Surface Pro, but still keeping my MacBook Pro on my desk. Through the next few months, I found myself shifting back to writing notes through the digital inking capabilities in OneNote rather than typing them. I slowly began to transition to my Surface Pro, exclusively. Also, I would keep personal notes in Evernote and work in OneNote; but eventually, I migrated all of my notes using the OneNote Importer:
There is upper level management that I do miss with Evernote, but recently OneNote made their navigation much richer, allowing similar functionality. Next, I will share how I use it for personal and work-related information.
Grocery lists. We all have them, and in OneNote, you can make them into checklists. Share them with your family, as you disperse through the store picking up items, each checking off the list, in real time. Mind blown.
For me, when I am out and about, quick notes are where it is at. The ability to take a picture of a document with auto cropping was once a feature that was in OfficeLens only. As much as I want us to move to paperless meetings entirely, I know that takes time. I love the ability to mark up a captured document to provide context to content. Mix all of this with Microsoft Teams, and you have a media-rich environment with video capabilities and conversation channels with the occasional emoji thread or GIF share.
It is the ability to have my notes all in one place with linked Outlook.com accounts with my district's Office 365 account that brings significant efficiencies to my time. I live where I work and work where I live, so this brings a natural workflow to my day. Since adopting OneNote, I have been building my digital inking skills through sketchnotes. It has brought a natural learning experience that bridges the analog and digital notetaking without the hassle of moving back and forth.
If there were ever one wish I had for the OneNote Team, it would be to be able to insert a drop-down selection box to be able to build a lesson plan template within a OneNote Notebook, specifically accessible from OneNote Web.
These posts are personal. They are not reflective of the Omaha Public Schools District.