This year I want to focus on improving the learning of literature at KS4 where students are learning to become more independent.

The key question, as Dan Willingham says, is how do we actually get students to think? How can we do with a PowerPoint? From a social constructivist point of view, how can we create the social conditions to encourage students to respond to each other? Would an emphasis on dialectic help? The discussion of different points of view?

My ambition in my teaching of literature this year is inspired by Daisy Christodoulou’s research into teaching literature: that focusing on plot knowledge improves analysis more than a focus on the style of analysis. To really do the simple and fundamental things well, and to have students do more than simply work through PowerPoints, is my focus.

The question, therefore, is how do we get students to think individually when we also want them to complete the same work at the same time? Using OneNote, we will:

  1. Give PowerPoints ahead of time, and set expectations that students will view and comment on some aspects of them.
  2. Work from study guides at the same time, especially on the basis of those with precise questions.
  3. Create social conditions where people can respond to each other at the same time, and asynchronously.

So, looking elsewhere, it is clear that the combining of Cornell Notes and OneNote will enable this.

The purpose of the Cornell Notes and the OneNote is three-fold. One, as a teacher I can model and share in a much easier format what I think for students to revise from later. Better for my own soul and expertise…

One, as a teacher I can model and share in a much easier format what I think for students to revise from later. This is better for my teaching soul and more challenging and enriching for my subject expertise. Using Screencastomatic and the audio function on OneNote compels me to share material more frequently, and to a more public audience. Whilst this is challenging, it is an apt challenge. Any inaccuracies (inevitable) will hopefully be challenged by students and colleagues, leading to an atmosphere of mutual collaboration and academic ambition.

Secondly, students can respond to each other in a far more profound format. They can comment on the points of their peers, and lessons can begin with this. We can plan in advance which students have explicit responsibility for which lessons, and I look forward to seeing what ethos this might create.

Three, students are able to complete short factual/recall work in a far easier format if they record such answers via phones and/or via OneNote. If nothing else, this can help create momentum. To answer the questions to say 20-100 questions takes time. To do so verbally allows more thinking, perhaps surface level but useful nevertheless.

If you are interested in how this might go, you need to ask yourself this logistical question: how can we have everyone in school do these things if not every teacher has the training or inclination or time to do so?

For us, we ensure every student in KS3 and KS4 have a generic OneNote link. Students are welcome to save to their own areas and create these social interactions as they desire. Hopefully the working examples created elsewhere will then prove to be guides to how this can work. More on that to come, perhaps along the lines of a more formalised Microsoft study or similar…