Strategies To Promote Deeper Student Thinking When Taking Digital Notes

The use of technology for note taking in classes, whether that is in the primary, secondary or even tertiary sectors, can still be a contentious topic amongst educators and parents alike. Today, I read a fantastic article that not only tackles some of the main areas of debate, but more importantly offers practical strategies to promote deeper thinking by students.

Read the full article here.

I am not going to re-post the entire article here, instead I encourage you to click the above link and read it in its entirety, however it  touches on some key points that I will mention below. It cites two important pieces of recent research as being detrimental to the wider conversation of digital technology in the classroom and challenges the conclusions by asking how teaching styles were adapting to use the technology more effectively. The research referenced was:

The key sections of the article are broken down into distinct strategies that students can use to improve their use of technology in classes, but importantly it emphasizes that the educators must take the lead in introducing these to students. Rather than simply tell the students to “take notes on the following topic”, providing them with strategies that leverage the full benefits of technology (such as tags in OneNote and search features across notebooks) is a more effective method of teaching.

  1. Digital Organization and Content Curation
  2. Multimodal Notes
  3. Concept Mapping
  4. Visible Thinking Routines
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Example of how a student might use a Concept Map to more effectively take notes. Digital Inking and an endless canvas in OneNote make this both an easy and efficient way to record critical ideas.

One of the telling passages towards the end of the article is:

Too often, educators project their own note taking habits onto their students, applying paper-based strategies to digital tools. With that mindset, it becomes far too easy for short-sighted studies to confirm previously held biases against technology. However, as students progress in an increasingly digital and connected world, one challenge for educators will be to view digital note taking as a unique, necessary and completely different skill set to be taught.

This accurately highlights the challenges educators face in terms of not being unduly influenced by older learning styles and remaining open to leveraging newer technologies that will benefit students. However, these new methods need to be clearly articulated and presented to students. Using the old adage, they are “taught, not caught” – in my view at least, it’s not enough to hand off note taking to students and simply hope they settle on a technique that works for them. Instead, by providing them with a range of options (like those above) and actively modelling this to them as they master the concepts, students will have the best opportunity to learn and process key information.

Again, I encourage you to read the entire article for yourself.

Using AzureAD Groups To Quickly Populate Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams is the new digital classroom platform from Microsoft and I’ve already reviewed the key features recently here, but if you’re unfamiliar with it here is the official overview video:

I have recently been asked by a few secondary schools and tertiary institutes what is the quickest way to populate students into a Team. You can, of course, use the official Student Data Sync tool which will take information from your Student Management System (SMS) and populate the relationship between teachers, students and classes in a very tidy way (full guide available here)

However, if you’re after a super quick way and you’re already using AzureAD Security Groups then it’s a 5 second job to add all your students into a class. Follow the instructions below to learn just how easy it is!

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You need to start by looking at your existing Groups in the Admin Portal and making sure that you have one that reflects the students/teachers that you want to add to your Team. In the above example this is a mail enabled security group called “Demo Students” with an alias of demos@educationgate.school.nz

Teams1

Next. go to your Team in question and by clicking on the Team name (in the above example, 11 History) you will see in the above example there are only three members of the team: 1 owner and two members.  You will also see the “Add Member” option on the right

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Once you have clicked “Add Member” will have the chance to add either individual students/teachers by searching for their name directly OR you search for your AzureAD Group name – in this case “demos”. You need to select this and hit “Add”

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Note that it automatically recognises that there is four members of the group and that it will add each of these members to your Team in one go.

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Confirmation that all four members from the AzureAD Group “demos” have been added to the team.

This is a real time saver for situations where schools are already using AzureAD to populate Groups with their students/teachers. In these examples, you can add an entire class of students as easily as adding a single student.

UPDATE: A keen reader reminded me that the above method is a one time import of the Members of the AzureAD Group – it will not keep them in sync if the membership changes dynamically (to achieve this, SDS is the better option). So the above is certainly a time saver in situations where you want to do a one off import and are prepared to add/remove additional members manually at a later date.

Consolidating Data Reporting With SQL2016 & PowerBI

UOT

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.