Friday, August 19, 2016

OneNote: Too many notes.

One of our final assignments is to explore the program Microsoft OneNote for use in the classroom. I will preface this with a little history. Years ago, my brother-in-law worked for Microsoft and was a big proponent of their products. He was upset with us for buying an iPod, and told us Microsoft's version (something like "The River") was so much better. I never saw anyone use the River, and you can't find mention of it on the web. He said it had so many more and better features, but by the time they developed it, iPod had the entire market share and it was too late. His knowledge of Microsoft products was obviously extensive, but it never worked well for me. My husband built a PC in 1999, so I knew how to use them and was able, but it always bogged down and became frustrating and unusable. I have a condition where my blood, due to the iron ions, is magnetic, so over the years many types of tech have failed me. This is a condition my mother and great uncle also had. We tend to stop watches (we always had to wear Timex wind ups or Quartz watches), I used to drain cell phone batteries if I carried them in my pocket, could crash computers by walking into the room, vending machines would stop working on me, etc. I know it sounds crazy, but it is a real thing and it is very frustrating. Microsoft's products generally didn't work for me in the past, and I had much more luck with Apple and now Google products (though it's still not perfect, as our IT people will attest). I work exclusively on these two platforms (unless forced to use Microsoft for some reason.) All of my work is done on either my school Macbook, or my home Chromebook, and I use Google Drive and the cloud to keep and use my information. I also have a Google phone.  When I have to use Word, I usually cut and paste from Drive because it saves me time--I hate watching the spinning wheel of death.


I followed instructions and watched the videos for OneNote, and downloaded the software. At first, I had trouble just getting it to load on my computer. It took a fair amount of time, there were updates required, and I ended up restarting. It had installed itself without help from me, which is unusual for my computer, so it took a while to find it. I watched many more of the videos, and frankly, I was a bit bewildered by all the possibilities. It looks like there are a lot of neat things to use, but fairly complex and would definitely take some time to get used to. The video describes it as "intuitive", but perhaps that's for habitual users of Microsoft platforms, because it wasn't that way for me. I was able to find things by looking around, but it was very different than what I was used to using.

I started by creating a page for my band. I wanted to include a video for practice. I looked everywhere for an "embed video" link, menu item, etc. I couldn't find anything, and rewatching the tutorial videos just showed them embedding links for videos, not videos themselves. I searched online and didn't find much help, either. Then I tried putting in the link, and voila! The video automatically embedded. That would be a nice thing to note in their tutorials!

I added some comments, and was able to move them around, change fonts (though that was slow), and highlight fairly easily. Then I added an audio recording. Unlike Camtasia, the interface didn't appear until I'd started recording, and I wasn't able to adjust it at all, change levels or volume or anything. It just started instantly as soon as you hit the button, and then the monitoring information appeared. I also was unable to change the name of the audio file by double clicking it, which I'd been able to do with other things.

I made some other pages, and tried to insert files. I inserted a long pdf as a pdf printout, and it laid it out end to end. It would be nice to have the option to stack the pages, because it was a file of audition materials and that would avoid the tuba player having to scroll through everyone else's parts to find hers. When I inserted it as an attachment, there was just a link to click that opens it in Preview. My students use Chromebooks, so they would have to download it to open it.

I also went to make a table of my schedule, but was limited to only 8 blocks long. This doesn't help when your day has 9 periods plus lunch. It auto-populated the title to the last thing I added, which was a pdf of the yearly schedule. I don't know why it did that.

Then, I decided to share it with myself and open it with Firefox, my browser. I couldn't get the files to work, and would have had to download the audio file, the pdfs, etc. I also had to have a specific Microsoft login to see it, so that gives Microsoft more access to my information--and thus to my students' information. 

 When I went to look at the pdfs of the Symphonic Band auditions, I had a blank, white page with no files to download.
 And then it prompted me to download the files I could see.
After this, I went to my Chromebook to see if things would work. I logged in, and found the pages. The audio links worked, but the tabs showing my different pages were no longer at the top, my fonts were gone, and the interface had things laid out differently.

I also took a look at reviews of the program, so I could see how others liked or didn't like it. I saw many who rated it low, and said it was cumbersome, required downloads of lots of things, and didn't work well on non-Microsoft platforms.

Overall, my opinion of this software is not so great. My school uses Macs and Google, and we are all adept at using Google Drive and Gmail, which offers many of these same options without requiring downloads. Perhaps this has more features than Google's options, but the cumbersome nature of all of it and the learning curve don't make that worth my time. I don't want to make my students download more stuff and I am not even sure Chromebooks would allow that. Though I wish Google was a bit more streamlined with organization, I am going to stick with their products in my classroom.

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