OneNote gets handwriting on iPad … Finally!

Finally it’s here! Microsoft has finally added handwriting to OneNote on iPad. After keeping it for Windows only devices, it was released on Android and now it has made its way to iOS.

Obviously as it’s iPad you have to use a capacitive touch stylus or you can use your finger to write. It was quite easy to do and handwriting wasn’t too bad. Up to now I’ve been using NotesPlus (paid app) which includes the excellent MyScript handwriting recognition.

It also includes OCR text search of images that are inserted, although it takes up to 5 minutes per image for any text be recognised and indexed.

Notes can be saved either to OneDrive or OneDrive for Business so you can keep all your notes in sync and switch between your iPhone, iPad and Windows devices.

If you’re used to using a stylus to write on OneNote on a Windows device (as I am for work), it does take a little getting used to but very quickly my handwriting improved to be something which is passable and I could share with others without complete embarrassment.

I use the excellent Bamboo stylus on my iPad which can be purchased as either a Solo stylus (capacitive touch stylus only) or the Duo stylus (which has a regular pen on one end for use on paper and the capacitive touch on the other end).  Many have also recommended the Pencil stylus from FiftyThree available in either gold, walnut or graphite.

So download the update from the App Store now and start writing on your iPad straightaway using OneNote.

Google, give us a Wave!

Google WaveSo along with the world and his dog, I’m writing about my initial thoughts about Google’s new service, Google Wave.

It’s only Google Wave Day 2 at the moment so the main themes running around the Twitterverse is people bemoaning the service and saying it’s too disorganised and didn’t live up to the hype … but things rarely live up to the level of hype that Google Wave generated.

Like anything on the internet, etiquette will form which will help to shape good practice for Google Wave.  The problem is that at the moment people are ‘Waving’ with anyone and don’t have a purpose to their Wave so it degenrates into utter chaos.  For an example of this, see the image below which is a small sample of the “Wave to all the educators” conversation.

Google Wave example


So when does it become useful?

Remember that Wave is currently only a platform, there are some amazing extensions and bots being developed at the moment that will really showcase it to the best of its ability and change public perspective from a glorified chat client.

Google Wave VideoThere is a Google Wave intro video with Steph and Greg that showcases an outstanding example of taking a Wave and bringing a ‘bot’ in that publishes the Wave onto the Blogger platform.  The clever thing is that when someone comments on the blog, this is embedded into the original wave.  Unfortunately there are no such plugins for WordPress as yet but I can’t see it being too long before they turn up.

They also showcase a ‘bot’ that translates the Blip (a Wave is made up of multiple Blips) into another language ‘on-the-fly’ which also looks great.

Another clever little ‘bot’ is the Wolfram Alpha bot which performs calculations for you as you type them.


So how can this be used in the classroom

It currently seems like the etiquette isn’t there yet to allow loads of students to be in the classroom collaborating on a document in real time but it certainly could work for asynchronous (or semi-asynchronous if that could be) collaboration on documents or synchronous collaboration between schools in different locations.

I could see students getting together to collaborate on homework and the link to blogs will certainly bring a new dimension to those using Google’s Blogger platform.

I really don’t think we’ll see the big ideas emerging until the invite pool is much larger or Google Wave is enabled on Google Apps for Education domains as then we’ll be able to tell what is practical with large numbers of users who are connected in some way.

If you have any ideas for the classroom then email me at stuart.ridout [at]
… or if you’re a Waver then ping stuart.ridout [at]

The great BIG netbook competition

lenovo_s10I’ve been absent for the last month … absent from twitter, facebook and my blog. All of my ‘gained time’ from the departure of Year 11 and Year 13 has been taken up with an exciting project for my school. The great BIG netbook competition!

We (like many other schools) don’t have enough provision for ICT and the pressure is increasing. A potential way forward for us is for students to have their own netbooks. We managed to secure funding to buy approximately 100 netbooks for a pilot to see how it works and to find whether it is worth a major financial investment a little further down the line.

We decided that we would give a class set of netbooks to a teacher to use all day every day with their classes but we were really interested in what would happen if we gave netbooks to students to use at school in all their lessons and take home at the end of the day.

So we decided we would give a set to a tutor group who are currently in Year 7 and another group in Year 8 in September 2009 (when they are in Year 8 and 9 respectively) but we have fourteen tutor groups in Year 7 and fourteen in Year 8 so how do we decide who gets them? This is where the great netbook competition comes into it.

We decided we would run a competition where groups would work together to demonstrate why they should get the netbooks. We put the idea to a panel of Year 10 students to help us decide how the competition would work. They came up with a points based competition which tested them as individuals and as a group. So the competition was as follows …

Individual Challenge
Register for Moodle and log in on five different days (5 points)
Post five different messages in the forums (10 points)
Have 95% attendance for the month of the competition (10 points)
* an average was calculated and then multiplied by 10 to get a maximum tutor group score of 250 points.

Group Challenge
Two equipment checks as a tutor group with a maximum score of 50 points for each check.
Maximum score – 100 points

The Pitch
Tutor groups to pitch to a panel of judges why their group should win the netbooks.
Maximum score – 200 points

Competition Handbook
Download the competition handbook

So the competition was launched at the start of June and the atmosphere was electric. The Moodle usage went up from 200 registered users to 1500 registered users. The forums went from 22 threads to ~1800 threads … and the conversations were fascinating! The Moodle effect spread from Year 7 and 8 students to their siblings higher up in the school.

It wasn’t without a struggle! To ensure equality, all of the equipment checks were carried out by one person. 56 equipment checks covering 850 students was extremely time consuming and the communication with 28 tutors was sometimes a bit of a struggle and the message didn’t always get through.

The positives

These students produced AMAZING pitches! They were innovative and we learned a great deal about what our students think about ICT at the school.

Moodle now kicks ass! Students love it and they see it as a valuable social networking tool for school. The educational content is growing on there and they see the educational ‘stuff’ as a bonus and actually use it and then discuss it in the forums.

So what now?

We ran the competition and two brilliant groups won the netbooks. They will receive them in September when they get back for the new academic year. We now need to train their teachers, generate ideas for how they will be used, look at access to Internet in lessons and how this can be controlled, deal with behaviour issues, deal with forgotten netbooks, deal with broken netbooks and see how the wireless network fares with a concentration of laptops in one place!

I can’t wait!

TeachMeet Gran Canaria

Although I unfortunately couldn’t be in Gran Canaria for Kevin’s TeachMeet GC, I did send a video for my presentation so he could show it.

I covered two things I use in the classroom and outside of the classroom in extra-curricular clubs.  The first one was Weebly which is a online website editor/creator and the second was Atmosphir, an amazing free games creator!

Check out my video below.  It’s hosted on YouTube so if that’s blocked at your school it won’t appear below and you’ll be left wondering what’s going on!  Sorry.

What makes them tick? Do you want to develop professionally?

One of the parts of my job that I really enjoy is working with other members of staff to increase their ICT knowledge and to help their professional development.  Today I worked with two members of staff with a contrasting experience for me in terms of their response.  One of these people bowled me over with her exuberant (and Tigger-like) attitude towards ICT and how it could improve access to her subject for students.  (You know who you are if you are reading this!)

tmm09-smallWe talked a little about Moodle and we spoke about my Moodle learning curve.  We look at where I started (just dumping resources) and how I got to where I am now with interactive and more interesting looking courses.  Her immediate response was how she could use it in the classroom for her A-Level History group.  It fills me with excitement when I see other teachers are so enthusiastic about the same things that I am.   During the course of the conversation we also spoke about the TeachMeet concept  and I shared some of the exciting things I had seen at TeachMeet Midlands.

I had been reflecting over the weekend about the TeachMeet and what makes people want to give up their Friday night to do more work!  I do it because I want to improve the experience in the classroom for my students.  When it is combined with some of the outstanding tweets from some of the people I follow on Twitter, I have found some of the tools shared are outstanding and get students going (my Year 10s loved Prezi!)

We are entering a time where students expect higher quality ICT in the classrooms and get frustrated when someone is getting them to do MORE POWERPOINTS.  There are a lot of great new tools out there and they can make a difference in the classroom.  Now I might not be able to get people out to a TeachMeet but would a TeachMeet work within a school context where people are sharing great stuff outside of their own faculty?

So here’s the plan …

  1.  Get a staff development day dedicated to ICT (already pencilled in for November)
  2. Create a staff delicious page where regular tools and tips are shared
  3. Share the excellent presentations such as 32 interesting uses of Wordle etc created by Tom Barrett
  4. Look at TeachMeet Stantonbury Campus – will that work?  … or at least TeachMeet Milton Keynes.