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What is Microsoft OneNote and How Can It be Used for Teaching?

Microsoft OneNote
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft OneNote is, as the name suggests, a note-taking tool that also works as a way of organizing those digitally jotted down thoughts. It's free, it's feature rich, and it's available on nearly all platforms.

Both computer and smartphone app-based use of OneNote allow you to access its many features that include written notes, drawing, importing content from the web, and plenty more.

OneNote also works with stylus technology, such as Apple Pencil, making it a powerful alternative to the likes of Evernote. It's also a great way for teachers to provide feedback and annotate work while keeping everything digital.

Read on to find out everything you need to know about Microsoft OneNote for teachers.

What is Microsoft OneNote?

Microsoft OneNote is a smart digital notepad that allows teachers and students to get their ideas down and organized. All the notes stay in the cloud, via OneDrive, so you can access any across devices.

OneNote lets you type text, write words, and draw with a stylus, finger, or mouse, as well as import images, videos, and more from the web. Collaboration is possible across devices, making it a great space for classes or students in groups working on projects.

Microsoft OneNote

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft OneNote is useful for teachers to organize lesson plans and courses for the year and can act as a handy personal notebook. But it's also useful in that way for students. The fact you can search digitally is what helps make this a very valuable tool over, say, a handwritten notebook.

Sharing is another big feature as you can digitally export notes, in various formats, to be viewed by others or used in projects. 

All this has been a bit more business-focused, with schools as an afterthought, but this is improving all the time and has seen growth since schools moved to more remote learning.

How does Microsoft OneNote work?

Microsoft OneNote works with an app, on smartphones and tablets, or software on a computer. It is available for iOS, Android, Windows, macOS, and even Amazon Fire OS, but you can also use it via a web browser, making it accessible from nearly any device.

Everything can be stored in the OneDrive cloud, allowing you to work between devices seamlessly. This also means collaboration between students, or for marking, is super simple with a single file being accessible to many.

Microsoft OneNote

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Teachers can create Class Notebooks then, within that space, it's possible to create individual notes that can be assignments. This creates a space that's easy to monitor and work within both for teachers and students.

The integration with handwriting tools is impressive and helps to make this a cross-subject platform that can support English Lit and Math as well as Art and Design lessons.

What are the best Microsoft OneNote features?

Microsoft OneNote is truly multimedia, meaning it can be home to lots of different formats. It supports typing, written notes and drawing, plus imported images, videos, and audio notes. The audio notes, in particular, can be a nice way to annotate a student's work, for example, giving it a personal touch while also helping to clarify any point that needs to be made.

Immersive Reader is a great teacher-specific feature. With it, you can adjust the page for reading with aspects such as reading speed or text size as you use OneNote as an e-reader.

Class Notebook is another teacher-focused addition that helps with organization. Teachers can manage a classroom and feedback all in one place. And since it is a great space for students to compile information for a project, it gives teachers a chance to check in to see if they are progressing in the right direction.

OneNote is well-built for presenting as it works with Miracast so can be used with lots of wireless devices. You can work on a screen in the classroom, live, as ideas are noted and changes are made by the whole class via the teacher's device – or collaboratively by students and their devices both in class and remotely.

How much does Microsoft OneNote cost?

Microsoft OneNote only requires you to have a Microsoft account to download it and get started, making it free. The apps, on various platforms, are also free to download and use. This comes with 5GB of free cloud storage on OneDrive but there is also a free education edition that comes with 1TB of free storage.

While OneNote is free to use, with few feature restrictions, there are extra features for which you can pay, such as local hard drive storage, the ability to record video and audio, and version history. Paying for an Office 365 account also includes extras such as access to Outlook, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. 

So, for any school already using a Microsoft 365 setup, OneNote is free and inclusive of plenty of cloud storage space that can be used by teachers and students.

Luke Edwards is a freelance writer and editor with more than two decades of experience covering tech, science, and health. He writes for many publications covering health tech, software and apps, digital teaching tools, VPNs, TV, audio, smart home, antivirus, broadband, smartphones, cars and much more.