Guest Post: Cultivate Collaborative Learning With OneNote

This post originally appeared in the Interface Magazine, April 2017 edition and has been republished with permission. You can see the online edition by clicking here.

Spade … check. Seeds … check. Compost … check. Watering can … check. OneNote … er … um … what? Three teachers and a group of Year 10 students at Mairehau High School are running a collaborative gardening project, with the aim of:

  • Giving the students practical gardening (as well as digital) skills;
  • Seeing something come out of their time; and
  • Offering an authentic context for their learning.

“It has grown and is not just about their learning but also providing for families and home, and potentially a market garden,” said Tania Swann. “It has become a bit of an entrepreneurial project for the students.


Making a connection

The school’s planning team was assisted by Tim Muir, Microsoft Teacher Ambassador, Cyclone, Arnika Macphail, Professional Learning Manager, Cyclone, and Curriculum Consultant Kate Brown.

“In order for this to be successful, we needed the right balance of curriculum support and digital support. Kate helped us to come up with our big idea: ‘Communities work together to connect, nurture and grow’. We’d been using Google Docs with our staff and students. However, after hearing from Tim, we felt OneNote was going to be the right tool for this project. With the help of Tim and Arnika, we set up a OneNote Class Notebook for all the teachers and students.
“We’re also lucky enough to have our hands on the Digital Learning Experience from Cyclone, which means each one of the students and teachers involved has a Surface to work from, which definitely added hype to the project.”

Share and articulate

The project was allotted three hours a week in Flexible Learning Time.

“The students have had such a great attitude towards getting outside and it’s created a nice atmosphere to work in. They opted in and can opt out at any time but no one has.”

Among the green-fingered skills students learned were:

  • How to plant potatoes;
  • How to create beds; and
  • Watering, digging and sieving.

“They love getting into the garden and out into the community, and enjoy doing their classwork on the Surface. We have made the most out of our trips to local nurseries, Cultivate Christchurch, and Bunnings by using the devices to take pictures and notes, all in the OneNote. Students can draw diagrams, annotate work, add videos, add audio, and share their ideas more freely.”

2Everyone is enthused

The project has had a “massive ripple effect” through other staff members.
“We started with a big picture of the fact that it was so cross curricular in possibility, incorporating Biology, Maths, Media, etc., and wanted to connect all of these,” explained Kimberley Walker.

“On a daily basis, a person comes to the team to ask about it and how they can help. It started off as Social Sciences, English and Maths. We now have Hard Materials, the Arts and Science involved. Everyone involved is enthused.

3“We have achieved so much from this one project and it has certainly snowballed into other ideas. The best bits have been the collaborative learning. The students are passionate and enthusiastic. Running something like this has kept them engaged at school and keen to participate.

“Having a shared outcome that we can physically see and touch has brought us closer together. We have things growing in our school garden. That is an achievement in itself. But thanks to the technology, we also have a detailed, up-to-date, accurate record of learning. OneNote has been fantastic. Through using the program, the students have been more forthcoming to share and articulate their understandings.”

Surface Studio Available For Pre-Order in NZ

studioThe Surface Studio was one of the most hotly announced devices in recent years however it has not been available outside of the US since release.

It has now been made available for pre-order in APAC and the direct link to the New Zealand store is below:

Pre-Order Surface Studio Here

If you’re not familiar with the Surface Studio here is the initial release advert:

To be honest, I found this video showing how it was being used, along with the Surface Dial more compelling:

At a steep entry level price this won’t be for everyone, but at least those keen on it can buy one now.

Azure Media Analytics – Search EVERYTHING In Your Videos

Azure Media Analytics

Last week I was in Singapore at the Microsoft APAC Education Partner Summit where over 140 partners attended two days of sessions. One that really stood out for me was a session on Azure Media Analytics.

The idea behind this service is to deliver deeper insights into the media content of an organisation, far beyond the simple number of plays on a video. The best platform for viewing this concept is below:

The demo was impressive and highlighted a range of really interesting use case scenarios on how Azure Media Analytics might be leveraged by organisations. As per the graphic above there is a lot of individual features and some of the ones that stood out to me included:

  • Facial Identification/Recognition – tagging of names to faces
  • Transcription – automatic transcription of content either live or post-recording
  • Translation – automatic translation of the above transcripts
  • Visual Text Recognition – a really unique one that allows you to search for any text that appears on screen, whether a sub-title or PowerPoint deck being shown.
  • Indexing – all of the above is searchable from a global search box

From a real world usage perspective there is a range of very clever scenarios that could leverage this type of technology e.g.

  • An organisation tags important people e.g. their senior leadership / VIP guests. They could then search their video archives to find footage where two people are in the same video shot such as a Prime Minister coming to open a new building at the school and the Principal is in the video shot with the Prime Minister.
  • Recorded Lectures – students/lecturers could search recorded lecturers for anything e.g. key words either spoken or displayed on screen.
    • Because indexing is applied the above search results will play a few seconds before the keywords are spoken/displayed on screen.
  • Providing searchable transcripts for visually/aurally impaired users, increasing the accessibility of content to all users.
Azure Filters

The search capabilities available on the website

Another cool feature demonstration was Microsoft Hyperlapse a tool that was released last year that allows you to create smoothed accelerated time-lapse  videos. Designed to improve the viewing experience of “first person” videos filmed on devices like GoPro cameras that are often very shaky, the significant processing power of the cloud is used to improve these videos.

Video showing actual speed, 5x accelerated time-lapse and then 5x accelerated time-lapse with HyperLapse

There is a good summary from The Verge here, and the video below shows how Hyperlapse Pro can be used:

These all represent new ways to engage with rich visual media and maximise the value of it by making it searchable.

Consolidating Data Reporting With SQL2016 & PowerBI


This afternoon I read a really interesting case study from the University of Tennessee on how they transformed their business reporting and compliance through consolidating their data onto SQL2016 & PowerBI.

Read the full case study here.

It’s worth reading the entire article (about 5mins) as the University has five campuses and two institutes which previously had individual reporting and analytics tools. To resolve this, a three pointed focus was created around:

  1. Consolidated repository
  2. Report verification process
  3. Data access and stewardship process

As the University was already using Office365, the decision to use PowerBI and SQL2016 as the backbone of their new BI solution made a lot of sense. Some impressive gains were made from this digital transformation project:

  • Data verification time decreased from 45minutes to 10 seconds (a 99% reduction)
  • This allowed the organisation to do multiple validations a day, rather than waiting until the close of business to perform a single audit.
  • The University is a USD$1.2 billion dollar enterprise and yet despite their size they are able to support their BI with a team of just six staff.
UoT by Degree

Click the above to view some sample reports of real data. Note that you can scroll through five different reports using the arrows at the bottom of the report (visible once you’ve clicked above).

For larger HigherEd / Tertiary institutions the above is likely a compelling story in data transformation and reporting.


Cool Ideas For 3D Printing Project


I am in Singapore this week at the APAC Education Partner Summit and it has been great meeting partners from across the region and hearing their enthusiasm for their businesses and how they’re connected in various ways.

Whilst here, I came across this great example of contextualising 3D printing for students. In the image above, students have designed and 3D printed scale models of various buildings in downtown Singapore and then placed them on a large map of the CBD. Most of the models were between 10-15cm high which gives you a sense of scale of the project. This project was on display at the Tanglin Trust School and various students were working on it.

To give you an alternative view of the same setting, here is two photos from the 22nd floor where some of the Microsoft offices are located:

You can identify the distinctive Marina Bay Sands hotel with the boat on top spanning the three buildings and in the first photo the tall buildings on the right are also in the 3D models made by the students.

I thought this was a cool idea for students.

UPDATE: I had a couple of other photos from another school in Singapore today also related to 3D Printing that I thought I would share. This is a 3D printed “Pi” Cup, where the sides of the cup are the number Pi:

Digital Inking – Get Graphing In OneNote!


It’s awesome to see the pace of new features coming out for Microsoft OneNote. It was only earlier this week that I was blogging about using Desmos for graphing and then with OneNote Clipping tool bringing the graph into OneNote.

Well, now this functionality exists in the OneNote Universal app natively!

Read the full blog post here from Microsoft

I decided to give this a test myself and see if works, and it did immediately:


As per the blog, there are five steps to digitally inking graphs in OneNote:

Five steps to graph an equation in OneNote

  1. Begin by writing your equation. For example: y=x+3 or y=sin(x)+cos(2x).
  2. Next, use Lasso tool to select the equation and then, on the Draw tab, click the Math button.
  3. From the drop-down menu in Math pane, select the option to Graph in 2D. You can play with the interactive graph of your equation—use a single finger to move the graph position or two fingers to change the zoom level.
  4. Use + and buttons to change the values of the parameters in your equation.
  5. Finally, click the Insert on Page button to add a screenshot of the graph to your page.

For now, this is only available in the Universal OneNote app, not in the OneNote 2016 application that comes with Office 2016. This is a great new feature further highlighting the power of digital inking as well as the speed of evolution of the educational products in OneNote.

Think In Ink – Examples Of Digital Inking


This is a good video showing the various ways that Digital Inking can be used in schools. These examples are taken from the Tanglin Trust School in Singapore and include ideas from:

  • Automatic citations using the OneNote Clipper and then annotating the content directly in OneNote.
  • Sketching scientific diagrams in OneNote to reinforce learning and ideas (in this example, around erosion).
  • Language features in English – highlighting verbs/adjectives in poetry.
  • Using the Learning Tools (Immersive Reader) to support literacy in all subjects.
  • Maths annotations by clipping graphs made in Desmos and then inking over the top of the graph in OneNote.
  • Ink Replay – learning the correct stroke order of Chinese characters by using Ink Replay and then attempting to replicate this in OneNote.