MS Logo When I talk to teachers around the world the one feature in Windows 8 that I hear the most about is the beauty of OneNote.  Whether it is teacher to student, student to student or teacher to teacher -- the sharing and collaboration features in OneNote offer a great classroom experience.  We’ve seen them capture information, create and deliver notes, build projects, design presentations and more.  Then, the experience is shared for  seamless classroom collaboration.  It is a win-win for both teachers and students and all the while developing great skills for the future.

The value of tablets and OneNote in K–12 education is evident, yet adoption is slow perhaps because OneNote is not widely known. OneNote is of most value when students carry their virtual notebooks between classes and home just as they do physical paper workbooks. Although “OneNote schools” have shown creativity and benefit, only a few have realized the complete benefits that reward a full deployment of shared OneNote notebooks across classes, with access outside the classroom.

A dramatic shift is underway. Schools across 45 states in the U.S. are committed to deploy the Common Core State Standards for K–12 mathematics and language arts education by 2014-2015. New annual online-only assessment tests are being pilot-tested with students now, to fully replace pen and paper testing in 2015. Testing logistics in larger schools may require 1:1 device deployments and in all schools students may test better with online experience that 1:1 deployment provide. By 2017 assessments could require stylus use.

Many schools around the U.S. are preparing now for these online assessments and embracing the full functionality of a Windows 8 device.  One example is the Fresno Unified School District in California.  To prepare all students to be successful in college and career, the fourth largest school district in California will be standardizing on Windows 8 as its desktop operating system for 10,000 teachers/staff and more than 73,000 students. Windows 8 will prepare the district to align with curriculum and assessment standards ensuring students are embracing the next generation of learning and teachers are able to take advantage of cloud computing and productivity software on devices that will ensure they are able to conduct assessments that also support Common Core State Standards. Windows 8 and Office 365 for education together provide educators with technology that supports 1:1 personalize learning experiences and real-time collaboration to teach students critical 21st century skills.
Fresno Unified is at the forefront of addressing the new technology needs and adhering to the Common Core State Standards.  This will certainly  be a big shift for many schools and initially some schools may not deploy on time. Others will adopt lean-back content-consumption devices with low-resolution capacitive touch such as iPad and Kindle, but the limitations of these for Common Core education focused on communication, collaboration, and project-based learning, are already apparent.— To understand the future, we can turn to the few schools that have already engaged in such deployments, such as Whitfield in St. Louis, Cincinnati Country Day, and Appleby outside Toronto.

These schools make a remarkably powerful case for the benefits of OneNote shared notebook deployments. OneNote in the more common unshared environment can be remarkably effective, but in a fully shared setting the effects are transformative: “the holy grail of education” some have said. This may sound like hyperbolic evangelism, but the speakers are educators who have experience with other systems, who are not actively supported by Microsoft, and whose commitment is to educating students, not to any specific vendor.

The app we want to highlight this week is the Kno app, developed by Kno, a well-regarded partner.  This app provides a rich and immersive textbook and online search experience by providing digital access to dynamic books in a swift and efficient search process.  Kno is designed for K12, college students and faculty. They offer 200,000 etextbooks available from 60+ educational publishers.  Check out the Kno app today and your world opens to endless possibilities.