Focus on: Engaging Students, Empowering Educators

Today, Lisa Lougheed and her second-grade students are visiting the Lisbon Zoo. The eight children are on a special mission to help a clever princess reclaim her missing crown. Together they’ve scoured the reptile house, the aquarium, and the bear’s den, but despite their best efforts the crown is nowhere to be found. With dusk quickly approaching, the expedition ventures to their final location—the chimpanzee enclosure.

A chill starts to fill the evening air. The adventurers are restless, but wary—it’s no secret that chimpanzees are known for being as dangerous as they are cunning. The princess is anxious. They’re running out of time, and the importance of the lost crown shows on her face, her hopeful smile wavering and her eyes deep with masked concern.

A chimp laughs somewhere in the bush, the scent of matted vegetation lingering in the air. The bold adventurers descend into the enclosure and scatter across the space, checking under benches and around recycling bins. Then, just as the sun dips behind the zoo’s high walls, they find it. Tucked between the enclosure’s cool concrete and the dry earth, the missing crown sparkles brightly.

The princess thanks her companions for their help and courage and, with a wave, ends the Skype video stream.

Welcome to Holly SpringsA far cry from Portugal, Lougheed and her students are forty miles north of Atlanta at Holly Springs STEM Academy—an elementary school specializing in project-based learning and engineering design. The students wave as the feed cuts out, then scramble off the floor to their computers laughing about elephants and potbellied pigs. Shortly after, the room is silent save the tap-tap-tapping of small fingers on keys. The children are focused on their screens, each wanting to commit every highlight and observation to the digital page. They’re still writing ten minutes later—a miracle for any one second-grader, let alone an entire classroom.

Lougheed’s classroom runs on OneNote, and it has revolutionized the way her students learn. This is a real story of digital transformation.
Engaging Students with Interactive Technologies“Normally, you ask kids to write about what they did and they’re going to sit, they’re going to hem and haw; it takes them a while to get started. Then, you might get a couple of sentences out of them,” Lisa explains. “[With OneNote] my third and fourth graders write paragraphs.”

It’s no secret that most kids struggle to stay organized. Between bus lines, backpacks, and binders, and managing separate notebooks for math, science, reading, social studies, and language arts, it’s a miracle any time school work makes it from the classroom to the refrigerator door. That’s not to mention the traditional grind of student engagement. These days, children are rarely excited to write, and when they do it’s often out of obligation.

Then there are the teachers, who regularly struggle to help each individual student learn and develop in the optimal environment—with the ideal tools—without exhausting themselves and their resources. That means balancing time between students and finding the right method of communication with each child (and their parents), while still leaving room to develop lesson plans, set future assignments, make copies, and order additional resources.

Mrs. Lougheed leads Holly Springs’s gifted program for first through fifth graders, about 50 total students Monday through Thursday—roughly half of whom qualify for state-funded lunch programs and don’t have Internet access at home. It’s this new access to technology that’s driving the excitement in her students. With their OneNote notebooks, Lougheed’s students are interacting with new tools and ideas that they rarely engage with at home, and it’s bringing the enthusiasm back into their studies.

With OneNote, students drop in their own research or write their own stories. Lisa explains, “They’re so driven…They love to be able to enter pictures, or draw. They think OneNote is the coolest thing in the world. If they have free time in my classroom, that’s what they choose to do.”

Now, instead of having to push her students to explore ideas via pen and paper, Lisa has to interrupt their typing as writing time runs out. But, with OneNote in the classroom, children can record and store thoughts on their Office 365 account and come back next class to pick up right where they left off—no wrinkles, no tears, no excuses.

Lougheed continues, “Rather than just reaching those students with pencil and paper, ‘Read this page, here’s the assignment,’ OneNote gives them a lot more flexibility, a lot more choice…I’ve seen their writing progressively get better because they’re really taking into consideration what they’re doing.”

Mrs. Lougheed’s students aren’t just using the computer; they’re learning the tools of tomorrow, getting a leg-up on their classmates who don’t have these opportunities to engage with technology. They’re leaving her classroom and heading to middle school with the full confidence that they can, and will, succeed.

Just ask Aiden, one of Mrs. Lougheed’s fifth-graders: “OneNote has helped me finish work on time because typing is easier for me. In OneNote it is easier to keep up with things because it’s organized and saves for you.”

Mrs. Lougheed loves her classroom and is far from subtle about sharing her love for technology. She’s a huge advocate for technology in the classroom, sharing her experiences with not only teachers at Holly Springs, but at her own children’s school and districts around Georgia, “I love to go out to other schools and show them how they can use it.”

Empowering Educators to Facilitate Teaching and LearningWith OneNote’s cloud integration, Lisa doesn’t have to collect papers or guess whether that’s Ashley J.’s handwriting or Ashley M.’s. She can leave direct feedback on each student’s work as easily as she would update her Twitter feed. Students can then instantly view their progress and directly apply it to their work.

The simple ability to streamline her grading process has transformed the way Mrs. Lougheed manages her classroom.

“I love that in a matter of seconds I can insert a page and distribute it to my students,” Lisa says, “They don’t need bulky textbooks or workbooks, and I don’t have to copy off any pages because everything that we do is in their notebook.”

From the instant distribution of reading materials and worksheets to transparent lesson planning for substitute teachers, OneNote allows Lisa to keep her costs low and her enthusiasm high while engaging her students with new and exciting technology.

With assignments and study tools going paper-free, OneNote not only helps manage district budgets, but eliminates the “he-said-she-said” of misplaced assignments and creates an objective space where students, teachers, and parents can instantly view their previous assignments and current progress.

Lisa’s love for OneNote first started when the entire Holly Springs faculty started their Microsoft Innovative Educator certification. “Holly Springs was the first school in the world where the entire faculty became MIE certified. It was through those classes where OneNote really stuck with me.” The MIE program equips instructors at all levels with the experience they need to take these great tools to their classrooms through expert training and Microsoft’s unwavering support.

“The relationship with Microsoft has been a wonderful experience. They love to hear from the teachers that are using their products, and they want to know what’s working, what’s not, and how they can improve.”

Lisa hopes to spread these great tools throughout the Holly Springs district as new opportunities present themselves—Holly Springs has already adopted a BYLD (Bring Your Own Learning Device) policy and hopes to see more educators MIE certified and more students excited to learn.

At Microsoft, we’re proud to partner with Lisa and Holly Springs as we work to empower the innovators of tomorrow.


Related Content