It’s time for digital (th)inking

In today’s post I want to take a look at the Surface Go, and the reason is two-fold, firstly I have had my Surface Go for about a year now and still love it, but secondly I hear some feedback from people saying the Surface Go just isn’t powerful enough and the fact you need tyrannosaurus rex hands to use the keyboard.   What I wanted to highlight in this blog post is that with the power of the Microsoft Cloud, you can think differently about how you use devices in your day to day world.   To do this today we are looking at making the Surface Pen more configurable and of course dictation in Microsoft Office!

Its time for digital (th)inking !

Everyone knows about the 2-in-1 design of the Surface Pro and the Surface Go – right?    It’s a design that has led other manufacturers to change the way they think about there products, especially Lenovo, Dell, and of course Apple.   The late Steve Jobs intention for the IPad was it was always going to be a tablet only device.  However today, we see the Apple IPad as a device with a keyboard, Apple Pencil, a new IOS about to be launched to give the device more powers like the PC.    Now whichever way you decide to look at this it is good news for the customer, as it inspires a generation of users who work with devices they way the want to work!

So I have covered the art of digital inking in other blog posts before, but today I just wanted to highlight a couple of things on the Surface device.    The first point is that anyone using a Surface Pen should make sure the pen is paired to the device.  Now the pen does not have to be paired to work, it’s just you can get more out of the pen when it is!

To pair your pen it is simply done by writing on the screen for up to 10 seconds. Windows will automatically detect this and offer to pair your pen for you, it’s as simple as that!.   Once this has been done move your way to the settings section (Windows Key + I), go to Device, then goto Pen and Windows Ink.

Here you will be able to set up the button actions for your Surface Pen, for example a single click could launch OneNote so you can make notes really quickly.  Also on this screen you will find setting for if you’re left-handed for example.  Make sure you configure for how you work,  so you can launch any application, popular applications like OneNote, and the new Microsoft Whiteboard.

The important option which is ticked is the Allow apps to override the shortcut button behavior.   This is key and needs to remain ticked as more application begin to make use of the pen. One such example is PowerPoint, which uses the pen button to move through a PowerPoint Presentation (which is quite cool !)

So as we have talked before on this blog Microsoft Office (desktop) version is a pen aware application meaning you can use your pen naturally for editing Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel documents.  We also have a great range of apps which bring learning to life including Fluidmath, which is available from the Windows Store.   Here is a quick demo from Steve Beswick, Education Business Development Director of Surface which we filmed at the Bett Show this year.


So as you can see the pen should really be thought of as part of the device itself, to allow for innovation in the way you work and the way we can use technology in the classroom.

Lets think digital with Surface Go

As I mentioned in the opening paragraph of this blog, some people have said that the Surface Go is not powerful enough and you will never want to type an essay on the device, due to the small size of the keyboard.   Well if you think digitally with Surface Go you don’t have to.     It is true that the keyboard isn’t full size and it was never going to be for the device size, however, let’s look at another option we can use alongside the pen.

Dictate, Dictate, Dictate

Using the device with the power of the Microsoft Cloud, you can dictate to the Surface Go in Microsoft Office, which means if you have a big document to type you can do it more efficiently ! and after all you don’t need to use the keyboard, which in turn is a device which is designed to slow you down and make you less efficient.

Simply launch Microsoft Word (Windows key + C,  you could always ask Cortana to do it 🙂  and once Word has loaded go to the Home ribbon and look at the far right-hand side, the last option will dictate!  Simply click on it and once you hear the recording beep start talking.    Remember commands like ‘new line’, ‘full stop’ ‘comma’ they all work.

Dictation is available in the following apps

Microsoft Word

Microsoft PowerPoint

Microsoft OneNote

Microsoft Outlook

Office Mobile   Apps   (More about them in the next post)

So why is the keyboard so inefficient?   Well as I mentioned using dictation in Office will stop you using the keyboard, for those long documents.  The QWERTY keyboard was designed to stop the typewriter arms jamming up with people typing to quickly.   If you ever look at when your typing you will notice this!  Early keyboards were a lot more efficient but the downside was the fact those typewriter arms would jam.  However, we have taken the keyboard as the default method of entry no matter how new our tech is and how much processing power we have.

How does Office dictation work?, well simply it’s using the Microsoft Cognitive Services that power Cortana. So, in turn, your Surface Go device is connecting to the Microsoft Cloud and transcribing what you say.

So the next time someone says “Surface Go ! I can’t type my essay on that”  point them to the dictation option!

Isn’t it time to “Get them digital (th)inking!”





The buzz phrase is AutoPilot

Well, its all finished for another year – BETT 2019 that is, and what a great show it was.  This was my fifth year of speaking at the show and my first as a member of the Surface Education team.   It was very much four full on days with lots of questions about the Surface product range and especially the new Surface Studio 2.

The Surface stand in full swing at BETT 2019 with the new Surface Studio 2 nearest. The Surface Studio 2 has recently been released in the UK  (available 7th Feb) and contains an Intel 7th Gen I7 processor, 1TB full SSD storage as well as improved graphics processing and screen brightness, all bundled with the ever-popular 28-inch screen which can be lowered into ‘canvas’ mode.

The new Surface Go was also very popular amongst visitors – and it’s ever more popular in the 1-2-1 device rollouts, which really led to the most popular question – “can you tell me more about the Windows AutoPilot deployment”

Well, the short answer is Yes we can! – AutoPilot deployment is a new modern deployment solution available for Surface in the UK.

How does it work?

When you the customer orders a number of devices from a reseller, they are supplied with a Hardware Index File.  This file contains information about the machines you have ordered. When the devices have been delivered all you need to do is open the box and finish the Windows setup, type in your Office 365 account details and the machine will be ready to go (normally within 6-7 mins).   I am sure you will agree this is better than imaging machines and of course quicker for the IT Team!

What do you need to use AutoPilot?

Well you need the following checklist

  • Microsoft Azure Active Directory (Azure AD Premium)
  • Microsoft Intune
  • Office 365 tenant
  •  or everything above included in the Microsoft 365 A3 license (And more)

You will also need

  • A reseller that us using the AutoPilot service.

First steps

The first steps are to make sure you are working with a partner that supports AutoPilot.   When done so the partner (through the Microsoft Partner Centre) can request permission to have the role of adding devices to your Azure Directory. Simply put this means that when you order machines they can add them to your Azure Active Directory.

Next using the Intune blade in Azure you can create a deployment profile for new AutoPilot devices, here you can specify the Out of Box Experience for your users, for example skipping the EULA, deciding if the user should be a local admin etc.   Remember to brand your Azure Active Directory at this stage to personalise the experience even more for the end users.

Then the last step is to deploy setting and apps from Intune into the deployment group so that when a user unboxes the device and turns it on all they have to do is :

  • Set the default language
  • Sign in with Office 365

The machine will then configure itself according to the deployment policy.

We have created a simple process document as your starter with AutoPilot for your deployment of devices in schools.

The modern IT Pro toolkit

Windows AutoPilot is a key tool for the modern IT Pro, along with Microsoft Intune, and the Education Store. AutoPilot transforms teacher time as it rapidly allows for the deployment of Surface devices in the classroom.   Windows AutoPilot uses the functionality of Windows 10 to allow IT Pro’s to leverage the power of the cloud in the modern environment,   Legacy technologies such as disk imaging, have become a thing of the past.

Windows AutoPilot and Azure Active Directory allow you to take full control of your cloud connected device, delivering a Modern Desktop Experience to your users.


In 2017.. you need to get on Skype in the Classroom!

I think we are all agreed that there will be plenty going on in the world during 2017.  From continuing Brexit talks to Donald J Trump becoming President of the United States ! Meanwhile at school we continue to strive to deliver top quality education to students in a world where we expect technology to be readily accessible to all of our students.  Of course as a school we have deliver this vision in a world of ever reducing school budgets.

So moving forward into 2017 how can you give your students the opportunity to see this bigger world around them? and as a teacher how can you deliver that to the classroom?

Well my tip for 2017 is simply if you have not yet experienced Skype in the Classroom  then you are missing opportunities for yourself and your students.

So what is Skype in the Classroom you ask?  Well put simply its free and allows you to connect your classroom to numerous schools around the globe, or join virtual field trips (like the British Antartic Survey). This allows your students to interact with peers from different continents or find out more about different cultures or simply be part of a field trip to do with a topic you might be studying.  All you need to deliver this is a webcam and a set of speakers for your computer!.    Now if your a primary school or indeed a secondary school receiving broadband through a Local Authority you might need to speak to IT support and make sure that the school firewall is set to allow Skype !

The next stage is to get yourself on Skype  and download it and create yourself an account.   Then finally goto the Microsoft Educator Community and create an account here. The Microsoft Educator Community or MEC is the gateway to Skype in the Classroom for teaches. It is here you can arrange a field trip or simply connect with other schools around the globe.


Join field trips from the Educator Community is easy.


Now lets jump back in to the classroom and take a look at how a school can get into Skype in the Classroom.   During this years Skypeathon (29th – 30th November)  Old Buckenham High School used Skype to connect with a school in Africa.   As always you tend to find primary students are always a bit more forthcoming when they have a camera pointed at them, than secondary students!    So we arranged a time through the Educator Community with the school in Africa, and using a cheap Microsoft LifeCam we connected with the students.


As you can see a simple webcam connected to a PC working through the whiteboard can bring the classroom to life.

Headteacher Andrew Fell led the conversation with students soon getting over there ‘nerves’ to start asking questions.  In Norfolk in November the temperature was a barmy 8 degrees, however in Africa its was more like 38 degrees at the time.   This I took for granted but the students were amazed at!    The discussion then took the shape of talking about the sorts of food they eat, the types of things they do after school and also do they play X-Box!


The lesson last for 45 minutes and very much 90% was driven by the students themselves (as I say as soon as they lost the nerves and realised they were talking to other humans!)    For the school this was just dipping its toe in the water with Skype, but Andrew Fell has committed to embed these activities in the school curriculum to open students eyes to the outside connected world more.

Now this is where I need to confess,  I never have got into Skype that seriously before this years Skypeathon!   However having seen it in action, having seen how engaged students can be, having seen what value it can bring to students in the classroom to expand their horizons – Skype should really be in every classroom!

There also opportunities for teachers to use the Educator Community to get on the pathway to becoming a Skype Master Teacher ! So if you want to be a lead practitioner for Skype in your area this could be a great opportunity for you!    We have some amazing Skype Master Teachers already who are well worth a follow on twitter  these include Ysgol Bae Baglan’s  Paul ‘Lanny’ Watkins  @Lanny_Watkins  and Cornerstone Primary’s Henry Penfold @penfoldno1


During the Skypeathon schools around the globe travelled more than 10 Million miles during the two days.    Of course there will be another Skypeathon in 2017 but Skype in the Classroom is available 24/7 through the Microsoft Educator Community.

So I finish with my original statement, there is alot going on in 2017, so why not get on Skype in your class, pair up with a class in America and get those students thought on changing president,  or join a field trip to look at penguins in the Antartic – the world is out there and available from your classroom with Skype.

So remember its not just a secondary school thing, primary students feel at home and are certainly not shy in asking questions, so check out the video below from this years Skypeathon.

An exciting year lies ahead

Its always interesting this time of the year, winding down for christmas gets you thinking about the past year and whats happening in the new year !   20 has seen more innovation from Microsoft, with Office 365 adding more functionality for both business and education, and the ability to turn PC deisgn on its head with the Surface Studio, we have seen all but the death of Windowsphone, but Microsoft never does anything without purpose and thats why I am looking forward to 2017.

Lets take a look at Windows 10 mobile, as you know W10 mobile has been a big part of the Windows 10 direction since it launch.  Dont get me wrong Windows 10 on my Lumia 950 was not a pleasureable experience from the start, but a few builds later my Lumia has truly become my ‘small work PC – with the ability to make calls’.    The big sell was of course UWP or the Universal Windows Platform the ability for apps to be created with one common code base and and for them to work seemlessly across Windows 10 devices.  No mobile store and desktop store  simply one Windows store.

However with the new developments released in W10 mobile during 2016, we have also seen Microsoft pull out of the Lumia range of devices ,  this was replaced with the Elite x3 from HP.  So just whats happening ..   Well the important message going forward in 2017 was released a few weeks ago and that is Windows 10 on ARM.

'Office 365 Love' and Metro Central demonstrated on Surface RTs at the WyConf 2014.
The first attempt of Windows on ARM was the Surface RT – in 2017 it will be a whole new ball game for schools.

So lets wind the clock back to 2013 and the original Surface RT that emerged from Redmond.  Surface RT was Microsoft’s first foray into ARM. Windows RT was a version of Windows 8 that runs on an ARM processor.  However the Surface RT could not utilise any existing software and would only use a really limited number of Apps from its store – so really it limited you to running Microsoft Office on the device.  Manufacturing partners did not see the value of Surface RT against sticking with traditional Windows devices

So Windows has traditionally been based in the Intel x64 platform and when you take a look at the range of processors available these start at the low end Intel Atom  all the way upto the Core I7 processor which is available in high end devices like the Surface Pro / Book.     The Intel Atom though very cheap, really is an uber entry level chip which has been seen in small tablets like the Linx 8.      So where does ARM fit in?   well ARM chips are found in the smartphones and now other devices. ARM was a subset of the Acorn Computer business when its first start producing its RISC based chips in the Acorn Archimedes back in the late 80’s.   Where Acorn stalled and eventually collapsed, ARM simply went on strength to strength producing processors for all the major smartphones on the market.


The Lumia 950 with Windows 10 (right) is really step one in redefining the mobile experience  market. Windows 10 on ARM with the ability to run Win32 will be the games changer of 2017.

So ARM chip are amazingly powerful and amzingly low powered for the price compared with Intel’s offering. ARM chips offer LTE built in (4g connectivity), fast charging  amongst other features,   At that point you realise the gravity of the statement that Microsoft can now get full Windows 10 to run on ARM, this includes UWP but also includes Win 32 applications as well.   So when I talk about Win32 applications, I am really talking about ‘legacy applications’ so things which dont orginate from the Windows store.  So for example Adobe suite on the PC is a Win32 application, so infact its any software which you might have installed from a CD / DVD  in the past.

So what is this meaning for us, (especially ‘us’ in education)? Well  imagine a device, with a touch screen and with a Surface style ‘Pen’, that runs full Windows 10 including your apps & your existing software, (doing so much more than a Chromebook does just in the browser) which has say 15 hrs of battery time in between charges. Good so far? well continue imagining that device with the ability to ‘super fast charge’ by plugging in for 5-10 mins and getting a couple of hours of use from it, plus adding LTE communications ‘built in’ and all this for a price point under £200 – well thats whats coming in 2017.

USB quick charging will give Windows 10 on ARM devices many hours of use from a 5 min charge.
USB quick charging will give Windows 10 on ARM devices many hours of use from a 5 min charge.

So if your a school and your thinking Chromebook for 2017 because they are affordable and they look cool, well my advice for 2017 is  ‘hang on’ for this new range of devices hitting the market. These days its about spending what money we have in education wisely and an ARM based Windows 10 will be that ‘wise’ moment.

So is Windows 10 mobile dead? no !  I believe Windows 10 mobile will be the ‘light version’ in the mobile space with its UWP support. Then you will full Windows 10 on ARM giving you the functionality of Windows 10 now running the range applications but on ultra thin devices. Of course the Intel based devices like Surface will exist for the power user moving forward.

As we enter 2017, Microsoft are re-positioning the ‘mobile-space’ away from Google and Apple.  However I would expect both companies to follow Microsoft’s lead in the next two years.

Remember if you are a school and are looking at refreshing devices in 2017 – hold on .. it will be the best decision you will make !

To find out more come and see me at the Microsoft Stand this year at the BETT Show in London’s ExCel arena.


Microsoft Educator Community – its your best weapon!

You want your school to be the best right?, you want it to be innovative amongst its peers, above all you want to engage students, and give teachers the confidence that they can use technology in the classroom effectively. School leaders want to see that the investment from ever decreasing budgets in technology will be use to bring beneficial out comes in the classroom.  So how do we bring this all together and stop the ‘ we need to buy that mentality’, which we have seen where schools put the technology first and then decide what to do with it after.

Well I would like to bring your attention to the new  Microsoft Education Community .  Chances are you might not have heard about it before.  I guess this is really the vision of Anthony Salcito from Microsoft who has created this resource as a one stop shop for transformative change at all levels in schools.  This resource is only a couple of months old and is packed with numerous resources, built by educators, for educators.  It is also the centrepiece for Skype In The Classroom, the ability for educators to connect with other educators or organise virtual field trips to pretty much any location in the world.  Above all its free ! – you don’t have to buy a Microsoft product to use it – but it will be beneficial to everyone in education

As educators we are very much aware of the range of devices in the classroom, we know students can bring there own, (and probably already do in your school), but where we allow this technology and then simply overlay traditional teaching methods means there is no benefit to students or teachers.

Check this video clip about becoming an innovative school

As you can see the simple part is the technology, how we use the technology to the benefit of teaching and learning and those all important outcomes is the end goal.   This is why the resources at the Microsoft Educator Community are so important.   Its not a sales pitch, its educators telling educators how to get the best from the software they are using.

However the community doesn’t just cover educators in the classroom, technology strategy is driven from a teaching and learning strategy, it doesn’t lead it.  So there are some awesome resources which ask key questions from School leaders about moving there school forward.

mec 2In the Technology planning resources you will find information on things like ‘Establishing your vision’, absolutely crucial to working out what technology you need to buy!

As school leaders this section will show how to implement 21st century pedagogies in the classroom can be achieved through effective planning before hand.

Again this is all mapped with real world examples of schools which have already on the journey and completed it.

There is also a section about the Microsoft Showcase Schools program. This is now in its second year and expanding, Showcase Schools partner with Microsoft and have unprecedented access to resources and the mainstay  of the Microsoft Innovative Educators in the UK.

There are four courses on the MEC which relate to the UNESCO ICT Framework certification, giving educators the confidence in what they can deliver with technology in the classroom.  These courses are

  • Teaching with Technology Basics
  • Teaching with Technology
  • 21st Century Learning Design
  • Microsoft in the Classroom

However there are also courses on OneNote, Sway, Social Media, Flipping the Classroom which you can learn anytime and anywhere.

For educators we recognise that a day on a computer course when you have so much else going on is not productive for anyone.   So MEC course are broken down into easy bit size chunks of learning, giving you the opportunity to put into practise the bits you learnt.   Courses you complete in the MEC are aligned to digital badges so you can show colleagues the amount you have completed.

mec badges

Here are the badges I have earned so far in the short time I have been on the MEC, the third one is for being part of the Skype-a-thon earlier this year!

The Skype-a-thon was arranged in the MEC, connect with other global educators at a convenient time and introduce your students to different cultures, or maybe  collaborate on a project, or indeed be part of a virtual field trip.

The value for students to connect with other students and understanding different cultures has been well documented elsewhere.

Now we have the ability to take part in virtual field trips and talk to explorers and authors directly to get first hand access to topics that the students are studying.  By choosing Find A Lesson in the Educators section you can easily find your self transporting your class to a field trip in the South Pole.

mec 4

Click on register for the virtual field trip is what it takes to be part of the action of this field trip for the Arctic Live 2016.

Of course you may wish to share your knowledge with other educators, so you can upload your resources and share them with other educators around the world.

I hope this small insight into this super educational resource is enough to make you sign up and explore more, from Senior Leaders planning for transformational change to teachers taking kids on virtual field trips – its all at your finger tips.

To sign up goto    connect with me !

Remember  be brave – make change in you school – join the Educator Community today


In case you hadn’t heard .. Windows 10 is coming

Windows 10 is coming to a desktop near you in the Summer, here are a few pointers on why Wymondham High School will be deploying it to over 700 desktops PC’s and 250 Surface devices in the Summer holidays.

I think the news coming out of Redmond is a lot to get your head round at the moment. These are indeed changing times, and having recently experienced the Microsoft E2 Global Educators Conference, I can definitely say that decisions you put into play now will have positive and far reaching outcomes for both staff and students at your school.    For those who don’t know me I am the Head of IT Strategy for Wymondham High Academy Trust and therefore responsible for the strategic direction of IT as a teaching and learning tool for 1650 + students.

We are a heavy Office 365 user in the classroom, with teachers making great use of the OneNote Class Notebook Creator, to enhance classroom activities and making learning more engaging.  We were recently one of the first schools in the UK to deploy the new Surface 3 into the classroom.  The next ‘Quantum Leap’ for us is to move from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 Education.  Our team of students and staff have been involved in testing Windows 10, from some of the earliest builds, and we see it evolve almost on a weekly basis into the OS which will underpin the whole IT strategy of the school.

So from our testing in the field I thought I would take this opportunity to run through why I believe Windows 10 Education is the right choice for education.


A more organised Start Screen

When you look at Windows 8 it was clearly trying to jump the gap between desktop PC and tablet.   The Start Menu which has been ingrained to computer users since 1995 was not there!  I know some people got to grips with it straight away, however other users have struggled.  So its great to see that Microsoft have listened to feedback and developed the new start screen.

Windows 10
A more organised Start Screen

So Windows 10 has the full feature Live Tiles, which are awesome for the ‘quick glance’ of the overall picture in your workspace, but also hold the traditional Start Menu items on the left hand side, plus access to the new Settings app.   Less of the predictive searching than in Windows 8 to find anything as its all to hand.  If like me you use a Surface 3, the new Continuum functionality detects when detach the keyboard, making Live Tiles bigger and the Start Screen covering the whole screen – nice touch!    From an administrators perspective, the Start Screen can still be managed with the existing Windows GPO back end technologies – but perhaps now is the time to reduce that management and let users be creative with the OS.


Cortana is an exciting proposition in the world of education.   Students have opportunities to become more organised by setting reminders, more personalised searches with integration to their smartphones as well.

Welcome to Cortana digital assistant to help personalise learning
Welcome to Cortana digital assistant to help personalise learning

Its really early days in this field, by I am sure that the Cortana API development opens up many opportunities for integration of these services in delivering the personalised learning experience for students in the future.   How powerful could Cortana  be if it were able to look at a student  timetable  via an MIS.     Integration with students smartphones happens now with WindowsPhones, but again  this week we hear Cortana will be debuting on Android and IOS another exciting step for the digital assistant.

As a user Cortana really works for me, I have recently started using the excellent location service to remind me to pick up certain items from a shop.  For students in the wide world this will be part of their daily routine as things like wearable technologies grow. I can only see Cortana’s role expand in education in the future.

Of course this means Cortana is available across all devices that a student uses in the future, phone, tablet & desktop.

Office 365 has really become our learning platform at school in the past year allowing students and teachers to experience the best of the cloud and access work from any internet connected device.  Windows 10 will now let you log in with an organisational account (Office365) much in the same way Windows 8.1 let you sync details via a Windows Live ID.  This is great as it enhances the use of Office 365 as a learning platform.  Students have already benefited from OneNote, and the Office 365 ProPlus benefit.  Organisational account logon will enhance the user experience.

This is a great opportunity for students to sync their learning environment to a home computer and have all the access to the same apps they would have at school.  There will be a few school network managers muttering at this degree of openness, but I believe it needs to come if our education system is to evolve.

Windows 10 Education will allow students to download free apps from specific categories  in the store. So a school could give students access to the ‘Education’ category so they could pick and chose apps to help their own learning.  So a school managed learning app store will be another powerful tool to enhance teaching and learning.

The Power of Spartan

Project Spartan (aka Microsoft Edge) is the new web browser included in Windows 10.  Again a lot of thought has gone into Spartan and its underlying technologies.   Web pages render extremely quickly through the new rendering engine making browsing on Spartan enjoyable experience again, and your browser becoming a real productivity tool once more.  However Spartan also includes inking technologies to allow teachers and students to annotate and share web pages.   So imagine a teacher using a Surface stylus to ink directly over a webpage and instantly share that with the class!


Did I mention that Spartan can manage your reading list as well, so Spartan on a small sub inch tablet becomes your ebook reader.

In Windows 7, & 8 I was a heavy Google Chrome user, due to its size and speed in comparison with Internet Explorer.  However since running the Windows 10 technical preview Spartan is now my choice browser. This is a technology replicated to WindowsPhone 10, and I would expect Spartan to evolve onto other platforms in the near future.

A shrewd move is on the cards

While at the E2 conference, we tapped in to the Build 2015 conference which was happening at the same time.  The big news I picked up on was the ability for Android and IOS  developers to port their apps to the Windows Store.  If these developers are keen to reach out to new customers then again the OS generates endless possibilities for education.

Windows Hololens

Of course another exciting development with Windows 10 is the announcement of Hololens  (Holograms).   The ability bring augmented reality into the class room using Hololens as enormous possibilities, from Geography, through to DT.    Students can model designs in AR, before constructing them, giving them a great insight in industry techniques.   In theory trips  could almost have a preview visit, or indeed a trip could be run in AR on Hololens giving the student a completely immersive experience in a place they might not be physically able to visit.  For those who haven’t seen the Hololens demo at the Windows 10 launch check out the YouTube clip below.

The ability  to mix the physical and digital together through developing with Windows 10, means students will be able to create things from a coding / computer science view that are really meaningful and tangible to people.  I believe its through this technology that we could generate the all important entrepreneurs of the future.  So often students feedback to use with ‘ I bored of moving the cat across the screen’ , now I am not saying its a now thing, but Windows 10 with its holographic API’s built-in will inspire a generation.

Scalable Windows

For school network managers Windows 10 is a scalable OS that will run on anything from a £65.00 Linx 7 tablet  all the way through the schools real estate.   Manageable through System Centre, these are not new skills to learn to deploy to your school. However may be the way we do things is beginning to change, gone are the locked down mandatory profiles, and home folders.  Say hello to students working and managing there own ‘cloud space’ effectively,  public resources in SharePoint online, reducing the overhead to the schools.  However this will only happen as a partnership between student, yourselves, SLT and teaching staff, but that’s what education is all about partnership.

Surface 3

As I am writing this blog, I am installing Windows 10 on my Surface 3 device. Wymondham were one of the first schools in the UK to get there hands on Surface 3.   An ideal hybrid for using Windows 10, priced affordably, with the benefit of a touch keyboard and pen device.  Hook that up with a Microsoft  Wireless Display  and you have a awesome teaching tool, as our colleagues at Spooner Row Primary school have found out  by switching to Surface.

If you haven’t experienced Surface 3  here is a small reminder.


If I am shaping my students for a technology rich future and want to empower teaching and learning in the classroom, our ‘tech’  components shape up like this.  Windows 10 Education for its scalability, ease of deployment, Project Spartan, app compatibility.  Office 2016 on my desktop and Office 365 in the cloud.  Match this with devices, which include a pen then I believe schools have a winning formula at a truly affordable price.



I am only touching the tip of the iceberg.

As you can probably guess I am only touching the tip  of the iceberg with the functionality of Windows 10.   This really is an Operating System that has been re-thought from the ground up.   What would I do next about Windows 10 you may ask? Well if I didn’t have Windows 10 I would get myself to and become a Windows 10 Insider and have a play with it.  I have had it running on my Surface Pro 3 for a number of months now and it really is my chosen operating system (I haven’t done that since Windows 7).  Start the conversation with your IT guy, or if your the IT guy reading this, start your conversation with some teacher or the SLT of you school

After experiencing the E2 conference this year – I truly believe you need to forget the “Windows of old”  and that includes Windows 8!   These truly are changing times – don’t get left behind.


Follow the Microsoft Education team on twitter @MicrosoftEdUk for news on Windows 10 events.

Windows 10 will be the Windows you love – you just don’t know it yet!




These are exciting times.. again..

There are only a few times in education that have excited me with technology, the first was the launch of the ‘home micro-computer’ in the early 80’s.  Computers like the Sinclair Spectrum and the BBC Model B had a systematic change on a generation of students with using the technology and programming (as we called it then).


Remember when devices like this changed the way we work?
Remember when devices like this changed the way we work?

However I now believe we are back in those exciting times, which again means the advent and use of the technology in the classroom can really affect a generation and beyond. The power of cloud computing has the means and reach to affect everyone, and believe it has the same potential as those days in the 80’s when home computing took off.

Now we all probably use ‘the cloud’ on a daily basis, shopping on Amazon, playing on an Xbox One. However students are now seeing the ability in school to ‘work in the cloud’ using Office 365.   Who thought that a student would start a document in an IT suite, save it to OneDrive for Business, and then open it on an IPad  when they got home, and not have to reformat it, and then ‘share it’ with the teacher instead of printing – truly transformational times – using key 21st century skills in doing so.

We have seen teachers utilise the power of OneNote, the true hidden gem in Microsoft Office.   The idea of digital paper in the classroom, and the ability of those teachers to use OneNote Class Notebook Creator to look at student work and give dynamic feedback in the form of audio and video. Again who would have thought that these technologies would be available in  the classroom?   No more would teachers have to load there car up with textbooks to mark at home, simply by opening the Class Notebook the marking can begin.

Indeed who would have thought the big PC only companies like Microsoft, would be offering these technologies on Apple and Android platforms. Visionaries like Satya Nadella and Anthony Salcito are shaping Microsoft into a company that innovates across a complete generation of users.   A great example of this is the Microsoft Office 365 Proplus benefit, which means students, and teachers can download (for free) the latest version of Microsoft Office for use at home.  Suddenly the playing field is being levelled with the technology, allowing schools to get on with creating innovative teaching and learning both in and out of the classroom.  Do I see other companies affecting change like this ?  No I do not.

So you would think I live in this Utopia world of changing technology in the classroom?   Well kind of!.  At our school we use the cloud to give our students the best opportunities, however teachers still use desktop PC’s connected to IWB’s and only some students bring there own devices into the classroom.      So the final part of this jigsaw really is the hardware, aka the device, aka the tablet.

I've found that drawing spider diagrams in OneNote on my Surface using the pen has helped me to clearly map out ideas and key terms.
I’ve found that drawing spider diagrams in OneNote on my Surface using the pen has helped me to clearly map out ideas and key terms.

Up until now there has only ever been one device on the market which schools have adopted.  A truly revolutionary piece of technology and certainly has its place in the technology timeline.    Schools today especially primary schools still refer to a tablet as an Ipad, but lets look at how it really fits it into the classroom.

A true tablet, has an on screen keyboard, which when in use reduces the screen display (not good for typing that all important essay), or just trying to see the screen.   There is no natural typing position on the tablet, so you either lay it flat, or have to buy a carry case with a stand built into it.  Also the tablet tends to runs the same mobile operating system,  which again has some limitations in day to today use in the classroom.

Students should have a device that has the power of a desktop pc, the portability of a laptop and the flexibility of a tablet wrapped in one device. That is why as a school, we have decided to deploy the new Surface 3 from Microsoft in the classroom.

The Surface 3 fulfils all the needs of education and home
The Surface 3 fulfils all the needs of education and home

Why ?

We all need a why? in our life don’t we?    Why do we do the things we do!   Let me explain the why behind our decision of the Surface 3.

Price – I use a Surface Pro 3 in my day to day work. It has the power of a laptop in the size of a tablet and  simply changes the way I work.  I can run all of the enterprise software I expect to run, use a full size keyboard and have the added bonus of the Surface Pen with OneNote. However for a school the price point has been  simply to high for a mass rollout.  School principal Russell Boulton and Vice Principal Jonathan Rockey now use Surface Pro 3 for all aspects of school life, teaching, assemblies, management meetings – Surface is at the heart of it.

Surface is used by the management of the school
Looking beyond the tablet – Surface allow you to do so much more in school and out.

However Surface 3 addresses this  by coming in at a price point which is cheaper than a comparable  Ipad.

Size – smaller  and lighter than the Surface Pro3  we have noticed how students can simply fit the device straight into the school bag.

Typing position – Surface 3 has a three position kick stand, ideal for typing in the classroom, or using with the pen to take notes in OneNote. With the positive touch Surface keyboard  means Microsoft have learnt from the original type covers which took quite a bit of getting use to.

Windows 10 promises to bring a change in direction for Microsoft, and also technologies such as Hololens a real reality
Windows 10 promises to bring a change in direction for Microsoft, and also technologies such as Hololens a real reality

Its Windows 10 ready  – Surface is future proof, it doesn’t run a cut down version of Windows (goodbye Windows RT) or a mobile operating system, it runs a full version of Windows.  Install whatever software you are running on a PC,  Microsoft products, Adobe products, all enterprise grade software which students should have access to.

Also Surface 3 is Windows 10 ready, so in the home environment, you gain connectivity through to Xbox One  and are able to stream games  direct to you Surface.  After all its important to have down time as well.

Using the Surface Pen, students can take notes in real time as if they were writing into a text book
Using the Surface Pen, students can take notes in real time as if they were writing into a text book

The Surface Pen has been at the heart of many blogs.  In education we recognise the importance of the pen in the classroom.   It has been proven that the pen is ‘mightier than the keyboard’ in the fact the you will retain more by taking notes with a pen. Your brain will filter then information you need to jot down, rather than typing like for like.    The pen also allows you to brainstorm, annotate in no other way.     Added to this the superior inking technologies that have been available since the launch of the original Surface Pro, and in Windows 10 you can now annotate a webpages directly and share it through Project Spartan really means it establishes this device in the education arena for a new way of working.

Computer or Tablet?   like its big brother simply its both,   remove the keyboard, its a tablet. Want to type the essay, click, its a computer. Its simply the best of both worlds at an affordable device.

So remember Surface 3 is a great device for education, its not the holy grail. Simply go and buy loads of devices for your school does not mean results will improve or attendance will go up (as some companies will have you believe), its a part of the strategy of teaching and learning for your school. Added to services such as Office 365 in the classroom, and preparing students for a world where employers are looking for Microsoft Office skills for there high paid jobs – Surface 3 connects all of this with your students at an affordable price.

These are the reasons why Wymondham High Academy, have chosen the Surface 3 in the classroom, this has been done in starting at our end goal of improving teaching and learning in the classroom through technology – our device of choice is the last step.

surface 3 3

It would be wrong to say our journey will ever end however Surface 3 has just made it a whole lot better for students and teachers.  These really are exciting times.


Catch me at this years E2 Educator Forum in Redmond from the 28th April, or follow the Wymondham journey with Surface by following @kevin_sait



How Can Microsoft Technology Help Your Revision?

By JASON BROWN, Saturday April 11th 2015

Being an International Microsoft Showcase School and myself being a Worldwide Microsoft Student Ambassador representing Microsoft in Education at Wymondham High Academy, we are always keen to show off how Microsoft products can be used to help students and staff with their educational life, whether that be planning their day, completing their homework, messaging colleagues in school, taking notes in class and most importantly of all at this time of year, revision.

Wymondham High Academy is a Microsoft International Showcase School in Norfolk, UK.
Wymondham High Academy is a Microsoft International Showcase School in Norfolk, UK.

For those of you unfamiliar with the UK education system, every child in the UK is required to take GCSE examinations at the end of Year 11 when they are 15 or 16 years old, and those who choose to go onto further education (A levels) also take exams at the end of Year 12 and Year 13. The exams are in May and June, and so April is definitely ‘revision month’ for many teenagers and young adults in the UK! At Wymondham High Academy we have students taking their GCSE and A level exams each year and suggesting methods of revision to these students is absolutely vital to ensure that they do well in their exams.

Traditionally revision could be done in a number of ways. A lot of students were encouraged to make ‘flash cards’ with questions and answers on them to help test memory and key points as well as to put posters around their bedrooms with key points and of course make notes from the text books. These methods still work and they are all effective, though I found making notes from textbooks more effective than the other methods. However, with technology come some new methods of revision. We’ve written a few articles about Microsoft OneNote from both the students’ and the teachers’ perspectives on this blog. Have a read of those articles and it will be clear to see how OneNote can be used to help with revision.

Microsoft OneNote stores your notebooks in OneDrive, meaning that you can access them on any device, such as a smartphone (pictured). Notice the notes displayed on the phone are the same as the ones shown on the Surface in the header image?
Microsoft OneNote stores your notebooks in OneDrive, meaning that you can access them on any device, such as a smartphone (pictured).

From a students’ perspective, all of your notes are in one centralised place and are accessible on any device. This means that so long as you have an internet connection you’ll be able to access your notes on your laptops, desktop PCs, smartphones and tablets. Even your games console if you want! Having all of your notes in one place means that you can save time trying to find notes and avoid accidentally ‘losing notes’. This means that revision can ‘travel with you’ because you’re not having to taking lots of revision books or files full of paper notes. It’s true that you need periodic breaks from revision to ensure that what you are learning is sinking in and to rest from working, but whilst in the car or sitting there in bed on the night before your chemistry exam wondering what the pH value of rain is, you can quickly pull out your phone and check on your notes on OneNote. You can also periodically test yourself with questions whilst out and about and then check your knowledge using OneNote on your phone or tablet – rather like ‘digital flashcards’. One reason why I think handwriting notes out from the textbook used to work really well for me was because the pattern and the physical action of my writing went into my head and the knowledge was retained. If you are using OneNote on a tablet or a device with a touchscreen you can easily make drawings and handwritten notes. I’ve already written an article explaining how OneNote and a tablet can replace paper as a medium for recording notes and how the Surface Pro tablet is a perfect device for doing this (though that doesn’t mean it is the only device you can use – there are plenty of tablets that OneNote can run on which I’ll get to in a minute!) and the same applies for revision. When I was revising for my mock GCSE exams in November 2013 I was going through notepads and notepads and writing pages and pages of notes. By the end of my revision periods my hands were aching and the ink in my pens was often depleted. However, with OneNote you can an infinite amount of ‘paper’ and not worry about your tablet’s pen or stylus running out of ink and you can still handwrite notes if you really want to. I have found that using OneNote on my Surface Pro is really helpful for geography revision (drawing diagrams) and using the Surface pen and OneNote has introduced me to the idea of using ‘spider diagrams’ for revision to highlight key points.

I've found that drawing spider diagrams in OneNote on my Surface using the pen has helped me to clearly map out ideas and key terms.
I’ve found that drawing spider diagrams in OneNote on my Surface using the pen has helped me to clearly map out ideas and key terms.

This is especially useful for economics because I can quickly, easily and clearly show how changing one factor (eg inflation) needs to another factor changing (eg price level changing as a result of increased inflation) which in turn changes another factor (reduced consumption, for example, which could then lead to unemployment). Using a pen on a tablet with OneNote makes during diagrams and charts much easier which helps to aid revision. You can of course choose custom colours for ink which is very good for revision because it has been proven that one of the things your memory associates things with colours (sound, smell and imagery are the others) which can help you remember your revision notes. From a teachers’ perspective, OneNote Class Notebook Creator can be a very helpful tool for helping your students with their revision. We have mentioned this fantastic tool several times on this blog, so please take the time to look at this article. The Content Library section in the Class Notebook is an area where teachers can post links to resources to help with revision (for examples news articles) or post information, for example exam techniques or the subject specification. Students however cannot edit this section of the notebook by default. The Collaboration Space is where resources for revision can be shared between the teacher and all of the students who have access to the notebook. Students can post helpful revision resources for the teacher and other students in the class to look at (and vice versa!) Each student has their own section in the OneNote notebook where they can do their revision. Other students cannot access other students’ sections, but the teacher can. This means that you can check up on who is using OneNote to do their revision and have solid proof that they have been doing revision. Of course, you couldn’t use this to see who hasn’t been doing revision because not everybody is going to want to revise using technology, however it’s a good way to see what your students are actually revising and how they are revising.

Using a stylus in OneNote makes marking very easy! You can also use a stylus to 'draw' onto documents in Word too.
Using a stylus in OneNote makes marking very easy! You can also use a stylus to ‘draw’ onto documents in Word too.

Past papers are a great method of revision. They are the ultimate way of testing your knowledge. However, with 20 pages per paper and wanting to complete as many as papers as possible, printing off past paper upon past paper upon past paper can end up costing a lot of money in paper and ink very quickly. It wouldn’t be so bad if you were to keep the papers or if they served some useful purpose once you had finished your exams, but you end up just throwing them in the bin, or if you’re like me you give them to your Dad to use as mousemats! A year on and he’s still using my old GCSE papers as mousemats! Anyhow, you can download PDFs of the exam papers from the exam board websites and you can also download the markschemes. You can answer the question papers in OneNote and you can also mark them in OneNote using a pen on a tablet if you access to one. If students do their papers in their sections in Class Notebooks then teachers can look at their answers and help to mark their papers and add comments and feedback. Moving on from OneNote, I want to talk about how I revised for my GCSE exams and my AS level mock exams. After having killed my hands after filling notebooks full of revision notes for my GCSE mocks, a friend of mine suggested to me that I typed my notes into PowerPoint presentations instead. Typing the notes into slides on PowerPoint presentations was good because I was limited to how much information I could put on one slide and typing my notes was much faster than handwriting them – and of course no paper was consumed! This worked well and of course using OneDrive and SharePoint you can share PowerPoint presentations and collaborate with people in real-time when making adjustments or revising in groups.

Sway makes it easy to create professional presentations for the web and mobile devices. Simply add 'blocks' to the presentation and adding content such as pictures is as easy as searching on Bing!
Sway makes it easy to create professional presentations for the web and mobile devices. Simply add ‘blocks’ to the presentation and adding content such as pictures is as easy as searching on Bing!

However, last year Microsoft Sway came along and it impressed me. We’ve written an article about Sway before, so check that out, but for those of you who don’t know what Sway is it’s like an online version of PowerPoint but much sleeker and more refined. You can customise your Sways using a number of pre-set designs, much like you can in PowerPoint, but the difference is that Sway’s themes are much more pleasing to the eye, and you can also integrate multimedia content such as Tweets and YouTube videos to enhance your revision notes. The beauty of Sway is that it encourages you to make your presentations look pretty, which is great because as mentioned earlier you remember thing based on colours and pictures. Adding photos of real places really helps bring geography ‘revision Sways’ to life and gets you really thinking about what you reading! Please do take a look at some of the Sways I have created for my revision by clicking on the links below:

AS level Computing: Sway 1 | Sway 2 | Sway 3

AS level Geography: Urban (1) | Urban (2) | Rivers (1) | Rivers (2)

Revision notes made in Sway can easily be shared via something like Yammer by posting the links to your Sways.
Revision notes made in Sway can easily be shared via something like Yammer by posting the links to your Sways.

The beauty of Sway is that when I have finished creating one, I can just get a link for the Sway presentation and then post it in a Yammer group or in the Collaboration Space of a OneNote Class Notebook so that the other people in my class can benefit from my notes. To get started with Sway all you need to do is visit and sign up, and that’s it! Get Swaying! Of course, Sway is a great alternative to PowerPoint and can also be used to deliver engaging and interactive presentations. I use it a lot to present ideas and meeting presentations to my Student Digital Leader Team. Here’s what one teacher had to say about how he thought my Sway presentations looked in comparison to his lesson PowerPoints.

“Your Sways look great, better than many of my lesson PowerPoints.”

– Andrew Howard, Computing Teacher

OneNote and Office 365 is accesible on just about any device. It is pictured here running on an iPad.
OneNote and Office 365 is accesible on just about any device. It is pictured here running on an iPad.

The best thing about using Microsoft technology to help you revise is that it is all free. OneNote is now free to download and comes pre-installed on every computer with Windows 8 anyway and Sway is a free tool that you can use. Staff and students at Wymondham High Academy are also entitled to download 5 copies of the latest Microsoft Office 365 software at school so that they can have the same version of Office at home as they do at school which makes the transition between the two seamless. Whilst I am definitely a fan of running Windows and Microsoft software on Microsoft hardware, not everybody is, and that’s fine because Office 365 and OneNote can be downloaded and installed on any Windows, iOS or Android device meaning it runs on a huge variety of hardware ranging from a £100 Windows 8.1 tablet to a £1200 Surface Pro 3 to a £400 iPad or to a £200 Google Nexus. This makes working very flexible and you can the use the platform that best suits you.

To conclude, revision isn’t all about handwriting notes. You can now make something that is eye-catching, informative, helpful, very accessible and easy to share with peers thanks to Microsoft technology.

I wish everybody who is taking exams this year the very bust of luck! Hopefully this has been a helpful article!

Be sure to follow the Wymondham High O Team on Twitter for regular Wymondham High IT updates: @WyHighOTeam

The O Team also has a YouTube Channel with several Office 365 tutorial videos for students at Wymondham High Academy.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter to hear my views on Microsoft products from a Worldwide Microsoft Student Ambassadors’ perspective: @JasonBrown2K13

Also be sure to follow Kevin Sait’s Twitter for Microsoft Educational updates and updates on IT in the classroom at Wymondham High: @kevin_sait

Making OneNote Class Notebook a ‘killer app’

Its very difficult to improve on something when it’s really good!   OneNote Class Notebook has really become a ‘killer app’ in our school, with teachers making the most of the technologies available within Office 365 to enhance teaching and learning in the classroom.   Matching this with a range of devices from the Linx tablet range to the new Surface 3, we really now have all the tools to begin to transform education in our schools.

We used to talk about killer-apps in the form of products like Lotus 1-2-3 in the eighties. Iconic software which will still remember today that literally transformed how we used computers.  OneNote and the OneNote ClassNotebook have really become the killer-apps in Education, it really has transformed how learning in the classroom can move forward with the use of technology.

For those who have not experienced OneNote Class Notebook I would suggest taking yourself to and sign up for the 30day evaluation for your school. This will show you how the transformational use of ‘digital paper’ in the classroom can transform the way teachers teach and students learn.

OneNote can replace all of the paper in these files.
OneNote can replace all of the paper in these files.


Let me give you a run through of how this can affect change at your school.   One of our teachers at Wymondham High School is Kay Southgate who works in our MFL department.  Kay freely admitted to being a ‘techno-phobe’ but after attending one of our OneNote training session soon saw the possibilities about personalised learning through OneNote.    Kay started using OneNote Class Notebook for marking and feeding back to year 11 students in preparation for their oral exams. Traditionally this had been done with written feedback, after sitting in a quiet area outside the class to listen to a student speak.

Kay setup a class notebook and encouraged student to use there mobile phones to connect to OneNote and use record their oral practise work.  A conversation could be had between student and teacher, and feedback left directly in the students OneNote section. Of course the simple idea of a section heading in bold meant every time Kay opened the class notebook she could see who had added content to the section!

Students have adapted a two prong approach to OneNote,  the first is having their personal OneNote synced to OneDrive for Business, second they work in open ClassNotebooks, (kind of like the textbook for each lesson). So by using OneNote clever use of Tags and its search facility, students tag important work and can then make ‘revision topic’ sheet by searching on tagged work !

Data-centric students are not phased by which device they use..
Data-centric students are not phased by which device they use..

We have a term in use at school and that is our students are data-centric!  Data-centric to us is our students don’t mind what device they use as long as they can access their data. So we see students  using mobile phones, Apple Ipads, Laptops or Surface devices the common platform being Office 365.

So how would I make OneNote Class Notebook the ultimate killer-app?

The one thing OneNote misses is to latch in to the idea of the controlled assessment.  CA’s are guided by a set of rules which mean students cannot access the work out of the controlled hours at school. So to make  ClassNotebook the ultimate  killer-app would be to add the ability for a teacher to lock a Controlled Assessment Notebook once a lesson has finished and then unlock it at the start of the next lesson.

Teachers love the aspect of a centralised Notebook to work with for a class.  The ability to drop in and see what progress is being made by students is a real time saver and the ability for different types of feedback have been received well by students.   Another feedback from teachers has been that some don’t work full time hours and therefore the ability to mark ‘from home’ or ‘from a device’ has also been a real benefit.

Controlled Assessments I am sure exist in other countries, however by adding a ‘Lock’ facility, it would make OneNote ClassNotebook the ultimate education app.   I am sure if the our colleagues in the OneNote team continue to build OneNote with the improvements we have seen so far this feature will be ‘in the roadmap’ as we like to say.


Getting going with OneNote Class Notebook Creator.  

Just to remind you how easy it is to try this killer-app in your school, watch this video from the hugely talented @jasonbrown2014 who is a member of the Wymondham High O Team on just how to do it.


Find out from @jasonbrown2014  why he believes OneNote is a Killer-App for student revision  in the next article.

The Wymondham High O Team, @WyHighOTeam will be at the Microsoft E2 Global Educators conference in Redmond from the 28th April  representing Wymondham High Academy Trust.  Make sure you follow the blog to find out the latest information from the global forum.


Why OneNote is perfect for education

By JASON BROWN, Saturday 14th February 2015, 20:40 PM

I wrote an article today explaining why the Surface Pro is the ‘most perfect’ device ever made, which you can read here, but as I was writing it I found myself talking a lot about the pen and OneNote and how it made taking notes easy. So I thought I’d write another article explaining why Microsoft OneNote is the perfect piece of software for education!

Firstly, it’s free! You can read all about that here. With students more often than not being unable to afford the latest software all of the time (especially having spent a chunk of money on a tablet like a Surface Pro 3), OneNote being completely free is a blessing for any student! Of course, Office 365 Pro Plus Benefit enables students and staff in educational institutions to have access to five free copies of the latest Microsoft Office software and as a student you’d be stupid not to take advantage of that great offering, but many schools and students do not know about this offering.

OneNote is part of the Microsoft Office 2013 suite and is included in all editions of the suite as well as Office 365.

Note-taking with a pen and OneNote is easy in any scenario - whether it be in the classroom or in the meeting room!
Note-taking with a pen and OneNote is easy in any scenario – whether it be in the classroom or in the meeting room!

Secondly, OneNote makes all of your notes accessible on any device. We know that students have a variety of devices that they like to use – varying from laptops, desktops, tablets and smartphones. I’m a student myself and I have all four. OneNote apps can be downloaded on Windows, Mac OS X, iOS, Android and Windows Phone meaning that it doesn’t matter what device you want to use for note-taking, the chances are OneNote can be used on it. The Metro app for Windows 8.1 is particularly nice and ideal if you want to write using a pen (pictured left).

You can save your OneNote notebooks locally on your device but you are much better off saving them into the cloud because then it is much easier to access them on any device and when you make changes on one device the changes are automatically synchronised (‘applied’) to your other devices so you can work on a tablet one minute and on a desktop computer the next and then a phone without worrying about needing to manually transfer and update your notebook. By default your notebooks are stored on OneDrive. This makes OneNote a very versatile app.

OneNote is accesible on just about any device. It is pictured here running on an iPad.
OneNote is accesible on just about any device. It is pictured here running on an iPad.

But the big reason why OneNote is a student’s dream is because it eliminates the need to create massive paper files and saves you having to carry these heavy, heavy files to school.

Paper files are a student’s nightmare. As a student I can tell you that there is nothing worse than having to cart around these huge files to school. The files are heavy and have caused me some serious backache over the past few months and because they don’t fit in my bag properly, I end up having to carry them in a separate bag to school. Paper files have cost me a lot of money in paper, ink and rucksacks. My previous £40 rucksack split thanks to carrying these massive files to school.

Paper files often do not fit very well into bags. They are unpractical to carry.
Paper files often do not fit very well into bags. They are unpractical to carry. However, one tablet with OneNote fits very nicely into any bag!

Paper files are also a pain to revise from – especially if you only need to revise half of what is in the file. More often than not you’ll need to take out sheets of paper in your file to revise from and you risk putting them back in the order, or worse, the whole file will pop open as try to turn over 100 sheets of paper and suddenly you’ll find all of your work all over the bedroom floor. Then you have to spend time putting the file back together when you could be revising.

OneNote can replace all of the paper in these files.
OneNote can replace all of the paper in these files.

Put simply, to most students files are a nightmare. One has to wonder why, when we live in a world of scarce resources, we are still printing out work and consuming masses and masses of paper and using hundreds of pounds of toner to produce an archive of work that is hard to organise, takes up a lot of physical space, is hard and impractical to transport and difficult to revise from.

We do not like using our natural resources to produce electricity, heat homes or manufacture goods. We are always being told that renewable energy is the way forwards and we are constantly being pestered to save paper and ‘think green’ and recycle just about anything we can. We are always being told about the damage that logging does to the rainforests and the environment and how we can help by buying sections of rainforest to protect to stop this. So why are we still encouraged at school to print out work and put it in a massive file when we know that this is not sustainable?

It seems to me like it’s just an old idea that has stuck around and has become the ‘accepted’ way of doing work at school, or we have yet to find a way in which technology can replace huge files.

This is where Microsoft OneNote comes in.

A lot of people ask me ‘what is OneNote?’ and the easiest way to describe it is ‘a digital file’. Literally. Open up OneNote and what do you notice? Little tabbed sections at the top of the window and a Pages panel on the right side of the window. The little tabbed sections represent subject dividers in a paper file and the pages represent – you guessed it, the pages of the file.

The tabbed interface of OneNote makes organising notes straightforward.
The tabbed interface of OneNote makes organising notes straightforward.

This makes organising your notes very easy and you can set your notebook up in such a way that makes finding notes easy for you. This is of course great for revision ad you don’t need to worry about your notes falling out place – and if they do get disorganised for whatever reason, you just drag the pages and sections into the order you want. OneNote is much better than Word for doing your work in. Not only does OneNote support things like handwriting, it is much better for organising notes because your work is stored in one ‘document’, and not several individual Word documents.

The great thing about the tabbed interface of OneNote is that you can arrange your notebook into your subjects (for example) and this means that OneNote can quite literally replace an unlimited number of heavy, bulky paper files.

OneNote means that one small and light device can replace multiple heavy folders.
OneNote means that one small and light device can replace multiple heavy folders.

But OneNote is more than a digital file.

You can share and collaborate on notebooks using OneDrive and the handwriting recognition in OneNote is now so advanced that you can select handwritten notes and turn them all into typed notes. What’s more, it also converts special symbols such as maths symbols into typed characters.

Why is this good? Isn’t it just a gimmick? One might argue that, but think of it like this. Everything in OneNote is designed to make your note-taking faster and easier. Most people can write faster than they can type – but most people’s handwriting is poor. Now what we can do is write quickly using a pen on a tablet, and then we can transform scrawly handwritten notes into beautifully-presented typed up text. This makes note-taking quick but note-revision straightforward and simple.

You can use the Office Lens app on your smartphone to take photos of diagrams and text in textbooks and then you can send these photos directly to OneNote and it will automatically crop, straighten and align the images and then put them into the page you specified in your notebook. This makes taking notes out of the textbook very quick and easy!

OneNote Class Notebook Creator is a great tool for teachers. OneNote not only saves students the pain of carrying files to school, but it also saves teachers the pain of carrying them home to mark! OneNote Class Notebook Creator is what it says on the tin – a OneNote notebook that a class can share and work in. There is a Collaboration Space where everybody can share ideas, but each student has their own little private section to work in which only them and the teacher can see. This is fantastic for teachers and is the digital equivalent of a student handing in work to a teacher to mark.

Watch the video below to learn how easy it is set up OneNote Class Notebook Creator!

The features of OneNote go on and on, but there are clear environmental and efficiency benefits to using OneNote in the classroom. OneNote saves paper, ink, time and money and makes working with technology much easier and quicker.

Be sure to follow the Wymondham High O Team on Twitter for regular Wymondham High IT updates: @WyHighOTeam

The O Team also has a YouTube Channel with several Office 365 tutorial videos for students at Wymondham High Academy.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter so you can read all about my amazing life(!):@JasonBrown2K13

Also be sure to follow Kevin Sait’s Twitter for Microsoft Educational updates and updates on IT in the classroom at Wymondham High: @kevin_sait

Last updated: Saturday 14th February 2015, 21:12 PM