I was wondering aloud the other day about how students use OneNote in a class environment.  I've heard a little bit of feedback through our newsgroup and from a few other websites like www.tabletpc.com.  Nothing compares to first hand use, though, so I decided to try it out myself in a classroom setting.

I went to the MIT open courseware site (http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/web/home/home/index.htm) and downloaded a complete course on Ordinary Differential Equations.  I figured this would be sufficient to keep me from trying to type and force me to use my pen.  It did.

Here are the lessons I (re)learned:

1. Instructors do not pause for me to take notes.  Admittedly, since I had recorded video, I could go back any time to get the information I missed.  Since I was trying to simulate a classroom setting, though, I did not pause and just kept the video playing.
2. Practice switching pen colors!  I enabled the pens toolbar, but spent a few precious minutes of class time trying to move it to a spot on screen in which it felt comfortable for me to quickly change pen colors.  After that was settled, it worked for me much better (I put it on the left hand side of the screen).
3. The control to add more space at the bottom is small - very small.  My pen is fairly well calibrated, but it's still hard to click the control.  Needs to be bigger and more discoverable.
4. I always need to add more space.
5. Handwriting recognition does not work well for formulas.
6. Erasing takes too long in class.  This is the same thing I experienced when using a pencil and paper when I went to school, so it may be me more than anything else.
7. You still need to go back after class and clean up your notes.
8. Almost all ODEs can't be solved <g>.

Now to apply this to testing.  First, I'll keep in mind for scenario testing the needs of the student now that I understand them better.  Having an option to perform a needed task is the first step (like inserting extra space at the bottom of the page).   Insert | Extra Writing Space as a menu item is the first step, but clicking it, then resizing the page takes too much time in a classroom environment.  The control at the bottom right is much faster, but is too small, so I can recommend enlarging it.

Second, I'll need to think about erasing.  The Lenovo I had had an "eraser" at the end of the stylus.  Flip it upside down, and the eraser worked (albeit slowly).  The Gateway doesn't have that functionality, so I have to click the eraser toolbar icon.  This is too slow for classroom use - I'll make my scenarios weighted to simply scribbling over mistakes instead of erasing them in class.

Third, I wanted to use the drawing tools for making graphs.  It was quicker just to draw the XY axis myself.  I'll call this a personal preference, but still make sure my student scenarios include cases for students who want to use the tools for drawing graphs.

Questions, comments, concerns and criticisms always welcome,
John