OneNote Fundamentals

Dig into this Microsoft OneNote fundamentals course, guaranteed to prepare you for best uses of standalone OneNote use with embedded content, in support of evidence-based instructional strategies, and organizational tips you will find useful.

Session Outline & Resources

A Quick Survey

Evidence-Based Instructional Strategies

  • Generative Note-Taking

  • Concept Mapping

  • Outlining and Summarizing

The Basics

    • Exploring OneNote

    • OneNote Activities


How does note-taking, outlining and summarizing help you learn something new? How do you take notes?

Listen and Share

Chat with a neighbor and find out what their reflection is. Compare their reflection to yours.

1- A Quick Survey

Questions To Ask Yourself When Going Digital:

  • What kind of notes am I writing? Grocery lists? Checklists? Outlining a reading selection of academic text?

  • How likely is your brain to remember what you've taken notes on or outlined?

  • Does what you're using match how you learned to take notes and outline?

Notebook Organization Skills

“When people type their notes, they have this tendency to try to take verbatim notes…students who were taking longhand notes in our studies were forced to be more selective — because you can’t write as fast as you can type..that extra processing…benefited them.”

(Source: Pam Mueller on The Pen is Mightier Than the Keyboard as cited in NPR’s Attention Students – Put Your Laptops Away)

Old-fashioned, handwritten notes make our brains work harder and smarter. Set aside the digital for later. Here are a few note-taking approaches that you may be aware of. Explore further on your own.

2- Evidence-Based Strategies

“The students who were taking longhand notes in our studies had to be more selective. You can’t write as fast as you can type. And that extra processing of the material that they were doing benefited them.” (source)

You may be familiar with a Surface Learning, evidence-based instructional strategy. This strategy is notetaking and enjoys an effect size of 0.51. Remember that standard growth has an effect size of .40, so anything greater than .40 is beneficial.

Learning how to take notes yields the following benefits:

  • Increased engagement

  • More generative learning

  • Greater self-efficacy

To take full advantage of notetaking, students have to learn the skills involved in taking good notes. This means that note-takers engage in an active process to work through material. Also important is making connections or relating it to their existing knowledge (source).

An Active Notetaking Process: 3 Steps

You may ask, “What does an active process of notetaking entail?” It is not transcribing verbatim. In other words, just having students copy notes that the teacher created is not effective.

Instead, students must paraphrase and summarize what they are learning, whether it is from the teacher, a resources like a textbook or website, or each other. These processes stimulate “deeper semantic processing,” and result in generative notetaking.

  • Generative notetaking pertains to “summarizing, paraphrasing, concept mapping.”

  • Nongenerative notetaking involves copying something verbatim (source).

As students take notes, it’s important that they put what they see and hear in their own words. That is, paraphrase and summarize concepts. This means a three-step approach may be useful when considering digital notetaking.

OneNote Features

  • Add annotations to any YouTube video

  • Add colors, lists, bold, and other styles

  • Take screenshots of the video and draw on it

  • Your notes get saved to the cloud, so no need to worry if they disappear.

Digital Notetaking: A Three-Step Process

When employing digital notetaking tools, you want to discourage verbatim transcription of information. Instead, encourage students to do the following:

Step 1: Take notes with paper and pencil.

The benefit of watching a video on the computer and taking notes by hand can stimulate learning as the deeper semantic processing gets the long-term retention results.

Step 2: Type up notes using OneNote.

Once you have jotted notes down on paper, review them. Type them up in OneNote as you watch the video a second time. Again, the goal is to revisit your notes over time to take advantage of spaced vs massed practice effect.

Step 3: Create a quiz on what you viewed.

Take advantage of the practice testing (a.k.a. retrieval practice) strategy. Create a quiz using one of the many tools available, such as Blooket, Vimboard, Podsie, or Knowt.

For example, with Knowt, you can copy-and-paste your OneNote notes into it. Knowt will then create a quiz for you or your students.

Two Other Strategies You Can Use

There are two additional strategies you can leverage when encouraging students to engage in the use of OneNote. Those include Outlining and Summarizing (d=0.66), as well as Spaced vs Mass Practice (d=0.65).

a) Outlining and Summarizing (d=0.71)

Definition: Identifying the main ideas and rendering them in one’s own words. The core skill is being able to distinguish between main ideas and supporting ideas. Or, main ideas and examples. Combine outlining with Summarization, a surface learning strategy that promotes deeper semantic processing. That is, semantic processing occurs when you encode the meaning of a word, then relate it to words with a similar meaning.

Tips for This Strategy

  • Scan the reading selection

  • Identify Main Ideas and Support Ideas, listing key vocabulary words

    • Re-read first and last paragraph of the reading selection

    • Set the main idea of the reading selection as Roman numeral one

    • Add sub-topics or big ideas, then

    • Repeat process until complete

  • Develop a summary in your own words, adapted from your outline

b) Spaced vs Mass Practice (d=0.65)

Definition: Students are better able to commit information to memory. This happens when they study that information in spaced (or distributed) intervals. Studying “massed” interval(s) does not work as well as spaced.

Example: Spaced vs Massed Practice + Retrieval or Practice Testing

Spaced vs Massed Practice has us space out over time the intervals when we study information. This ensures that significant learning occurs. Combined with retrieval practice, you can make long-term memory connections for new information. Flashcards, practice problems, and writing prompts can improve learning. Learn more here.

Guided Notes

When using guided notes with stuents, the teacher will give them an outline of material in a presentation or resource. However, the outline has space left for students to fill in missing concepts and/or vocabulary. Research shows that this practice can increase student achievement across all grade levels, including students with disabilities (Haydon, Mancil, Kroeger, McLeskey, & Lin, 2011 as cited in source). See A Quick Guide to Guided Notes Creation.

3- The Basics of OneNote

Adding and formatting Notebook Content

    • Applying formatting to Notebook Content

    • Inserting Images and Audio into a Notebook

    • Adding Quick Notes and Links

    • Using Drawing Tools

    • Embedding and Attaching Files

    • Embedding Excel Spreadsheets and Tables

    • Attaching Other File Types

    • Configuring Password Protection and Notebook Properties

    • Inserting Page Templates

OneNote Class Notebooks helps teachers organize class content, create and deliver interactive lessons, provide feedback, and collaborate. Teachers can create a personal workspace for every student, a content library for handouts, and a collaboration space for lessons and creative activities.

  • Class Notebook Assignment and Grade integration support for iPad: Now teachers using the iPad can connect to top LMS and SIS partners to make assignments and submit grades directly from the Class Notebook iPad toolbar. Our list off supported partners is here:

  • Additional LMS/SIS Support: OneNote Class Notebook is expanding to integrate with even more LMS/SIS partners, including Capita SIMS, IST, and Focus Systems to save time in setting up and managing the classroom. For more info, checkout

  • Stickers for Mac: A favorite of teachers and students alike, stickers are now available for Mac.

Explore OneNote through a list of activities that introduce you to what this powerful digital tool can do.

Looking for More Stories of OneNote in the Classroom or Office?

You can easily open another window in OneNote using the "Ctrl-M" key combination on your Windows device. In this way, you can refer to one page in OneNote while working on another.