Harvest: Making Marking Easy in OneNote Class Notebooks

Harvest2OneNote Class Notebooks remain one of the most popular features in the Microsoft Office365 Education offerings and teachers love the simplicity of seeing all of their students’ work in one place. This is especially important when it comes to quickly and efficiently marking the work of students and providing feedback.

The One Education team, creators of the Infinity One laptop for students, recognised the power and popularity of OneNote and created a brand new product called Harvest to supercharge marking and sharing of student work for teachers. This is hosted entirely in the Azure cloud and harnesses all the power of Office365 API and OneNote Class Notebooks, demonstrating innovative thinking by helping teachers reduce the time consuming work of marking and collating student work.

I’ve created a quick six minute introduction to the product where I walk through some of the key features and you can see this below:

As you will have seen in the video, teachers can install the plugin into OneNote Online (note that for now OneNote desktop does not support the addition of third party extensions, so Harvest only works in the browser version of OneNote Online) and can get started marking student work immediately:


Currently, Harvest supports a database of both New Zealand and Australian curriculum standards/strands meaning teachers can easily search for the standard they wish to mark student work against. This, in itself, streamlines the marking process for teachers as they do not need to manually enter the curriculum details that the student is studying.

Here is a simple example of marking a student’s Year 13 Calculus work:

On the left you can see the student’s Maths–>Calculus section in the OneNote Class Notebook has been selected and on the right the teacher has clicked “Browse” to identify the curriculum strand they’re assessing against. Mathematics and Statistics is selected.

Harvest Maths1

The teacher selects the curriculum level / year level to narrow down the selection of curriculum strands to choose from:

Harvest Maths2

The teacher then selects the most appropriate curriculum strand(s) they are assessing against:

Harvest Maths3

The teacher can now see the curriculum strand, give it a grade of “Below / At / Above Level” and can even add a comment of up to 255 characters (visible only to the teacher currently)

Harvest Maths4

Harvest Dashboard

Harvest Dashboard Link

What really sets Harvest apart is the use of existing API within OneNote to collate all of this work (essentially, these grades are Tags within OneNote) and then display them in a “single pane of glass” interface. This assists the teacher to get an overview of either a single student or an entire class based off the marking they have completed. To view this dashboard the teacher simply clicks the “Harvest” menu item and then “Dashboard” and it loads for them in a new tab in their browser:

Harvest Dashboard1

Some things to note in the above screenshot:

  • Teachers can select from multiple different OneNote Class Notebooks on the left hand menu
  • Teachers can also select from multiple curriculum areas within the same Class NoteBook which obviously makes a lot of sense for primary school teachers, or cross-curricular class environments.
  • Students are all listed in a grid (the columns), with a colour coded system showing whether they are Below / At / Above The Level based on each curriculum strand marked (the rows in the grid). Where a student does not have work marked against a particular curriculum strand it is grey indicating “No Rating”
  • Harvest will also generate a thumbnail of the student work when hovering over the grade in the grid – note at this stage thumbnails of digital inking is not available.

It’s not hard to imagine how beneficial the above view would be for a teacher when it comes to writing school reports or preparing for parent/teacher interviews – they would literally have ALL graded work collated into one place and able to show the parent at the click of a button. This is harnessing all the power of OneNote Class Notebooks, the associated API’s and the Azure cloud to streamline marking and reporting for teachers.

Harvest Dashboard2

Viewing larger thumbnails of student work in Harvest Feed, where the various grades are easily recognizable through consistent colour coding.

To top it off, teachers can choose to share selected student work directly to parents with a shortened URL (something Microsoft recently added to Class Notebooks):

Harvest Share

A teacher must first select “Student Feedback” along the top to make it publicly visible, and then simply copy the link to share with a parent.

I am really excited by the prospects of Harvest because it seems like a product that understands the challenges teachers have managing large amounts of assessment and aims to simplify the reporting process. With many schools moving to increasingly digital and paperless environments, leveraging the existing power within OneNote to support assessment and reporting is a smart move and something I’d imagine many schools will be very interested in.

For schools that are wanting to get started with Harvest straight away, check out these comprehensive set up instructions.

Hack The Classroom Is Back

hacktheclassroom.PNGMicrosoft run an annual “Hack the Classroom” event designed to engage teachers and inspire them with the teaching of computational thinking in their curriculum areas. You can learn more about this online event on June 27th at the following link:

Hack The Classroom 2017

By attending this session you will:

  • Learn from teachers by taking a glimpse into their classrooms to see how new tools are creating new possibilities
  • Engage, interact, and pose questions with speakers, product team members, and other educators
  • Gain access to professional development resources and tools to get started

You can calculate your local time zone for this event by clicking here.

This session will also include further information about the recently released Code Builder functionality for Minecraft Education Edition. Talking with educators, this is one of the most requested features for Minecraft EE and is a perfect way to teach computational thinking within a gamified environment like Minecraft.

If you are a teacher that has been wondering how you can include STEM/STEAM related content into your classes this is a great opportunity for you to be connected and inspired.

Using Power Query in Excel 2016 To Ready CSV Files for Student Data Sync (SDS)

Student Data Sync, or SDS, is a core tool from Microsoft that helps schools prepare their student, teacher and class data ready for use in great platforms such as Teams for Education (formerly Microsoft Classroom) and Intune for Education.

In countries outside of the USA (where API exist), schools need to prepare six CSV files containing the relevant information from their Student Management System (SMS). Fortunately, Microsoft has provided some sample scripts and files (along with a toolkit to verify your data integrity) to help.


Student Data Sync is the starting point to creating a correlation or framework that connects your students, teachers and classes together in a meaningful way, allowing you to leverage cloud based tools more efficiently.

However, often the challenge lies in the format of the exported data from the school’s SMS. This is where Grant Saul, the Director of ICT from Westlake Boys High School has powerquerystepped in and provided a fantastic tutorial on how to use Power Query, a tool that comes in Excel 2016, to tidy up the format of your source data and prepare it for import with Student Data Sync.

In Grant’s example, he takes a standard export from Kamar (a very popular New Zealand SMS) and shows how it can be transformed using Power Query into the correct format for importing into SDS. You can read his original post here (and I encourage you to do so) whilst watching his screencast below:

The great feature of Power Query is it records each step in the data transformation, allowing you to easily replicate / replay the changes when the source data is refreshed, creating a super efficient method of managing your data.

For schools that want to use Microsoft SDS this is a very helpful guide.

From The Garage: Presentation Translator

Presentation Translator

The annual Microsoft Build conference is running at the moment and amongst other announcements I saw this one from the Microsoft Garage called “Presentation Translator”

This looks to be a plugin for PowerPoint that will offer some pretty neat features and is described on the website as:

As you speak, the add-in allows you to display subtitles directly on your PowerPoint presentation in any one of more than 60 supported text languages.

Additionally, up to 100 audience members in the room can follow along the presentation in their own language, and on their own phone, tablet, or computer.

There is some obvious scenarios where this functionality will be awesome when you have a multi-lingual audience you’re presenting to, however I can see a lot of value for this within Education as well. One situation would be for students who prefer to be able to read content to deepen their understanding. Having real time transcription (and translation) will certainly be an amazing demonstration of technology that will add real value to students and teachers alike.

This is not an official release yet but you can sign up for the preview here.


Embed A PowerBI Dashboard In Your Application

I read the following blog post this afternoon that demonstrated how to embed a PowerBI Dashboard directly into a web application. It’s worth watching the 14min video if you’re a developer as there are a lot of tools and sample code that you can explore straight away to test this out:

I see this as particularly useful for schools that allow students to log into their Learning Management System (LMS) or for parents who may have a portal into the school’s Student Management System (SMS). To be able to build dashboard reporting of a student’s learning and display it visually and interactively is a great step forward compared to much of the reporting that students and parents currently receive.

Yes, currently it is quite technical to achieve this, however some schools have internal resources that could build a web app and incorporate this type of reporting, whilst others would be looking for their IT partners to build this in.

In the past, I’ve worked to embed open source reporting graphs into LMS such as Moodle (you can see an example here), however using PowerBI embedded dashboards would definitely take this kind of reporting to the next level!

Guest Post: Surprises When Using Office 365 In Class

Today’s post comes from Mr Ben Hilliam, Head of Junior Maths at St Andrew’s College in Christchurch, New Zealand. In this post he outlines how he is teaching basic programming concepts using Microsoft Excel and also the increasing versatility of Microsoft OneNote through the use of embedded applets that can show and execute Python coding.

You can read the original post from Ben here – please do check out his other posts as well. I particularly like Ben’s finishing comment when it comes to describing OneNote:

OneNote is more than a piece of digital paper, it is quickly becoming the universal canvas of expression for learning.

Here’s the entirety of the post:

With a new year I have begun teaching some new topics. For the first time in my career, I am teaching Probability Simulations to year 10s. As usual, OneNote is my go to, where I drop all my resources so that my students can access the problems I set them. In this topic I have come across two surprises:

1. Microsoft Excel is still a very cool program
2. Microsoft OneNote allows for a huge range of student expression

1. Microsoft Excel is still a very cool program:

One task I set my year 10s was the following:

Sara has maths on four days each week. 
Her teacher checks the class’s homework on only one of those days. 
The day is chosen at random by the teacher. 
Students who have not done their homework for that day get a detention. 
Sara says she did her homework on 32 out of the 40 days on which she had maths last term. 
Describe a simulation (probability experiment) that Sara could use to predict the probability 
(1) she had not done her homework 
(2) the teacher checked. 
Assume that you have access to: coins, cards, spinners, dice and a random number 
generator on a calculator or computer. 
You must give sufficient detail in your description so that someone else could carry out 
the experiment. 
You must state what you will record and how you will calculate the probability. 

Most of my students used Excel to run this simulation. One problem that quickly made itself apparent was how do you get the teachers to randomly check on one day of the week only, becuase most students assigned random numbers of 1-4 on each day which meant the teacher could potentially check homework more than once in any given week.

This is where Excel comes to the fore, with its conditional formulae:

A “1” comes up when an even that we are interested in occurs while a “0” comes up for events that are irrelevant. Where two events occur at the same time they add to 2 which is then picked up. Here’s the formula that makes it work:

The point I’m trying to make here is that if you have a problem that requires programming, Excel can actually do it. With a few choice “if” statements and other formulae, my students were able to produce a simulation that correctly estimated the probability they were investigating. So they could be accurate in their thinking rather than smudge a “near enough” response.So don’t forget Excel, it’s awesome.

2. Microsoft OneNote allows for a huge range of student expressionLast year, I did some coding with my year 9s. Specifically we had a look at solving problems from Project Euler using Python. So when we started doing Simulations, some students naturally wanted to use Python to run their simulations. My question to them was “How will you show me the results of your simulation?” Their response: embed an HTML window in OneNote with their Python code running in an applet:

In the part I have circled in red, my student has imported an HTML window with her Python code and an applet that will run it. This meant I was able to see the output of their simulation and check it was consistent with what was expected and I could look through their code if there was a problem. Such a simple addition to OneNote has such wide consequences for how we use it.

OneNote is more than a piece of digital paper, it is quickly becoming the universal canvas of expression for learning.