I wanted to share a recent article from Dr. Ole Lauridsen.  I met Ole over a year ago at the 2007 World Innovative Teachers Forum in Helsinki Finland.  Since we both have a passion for OneNote and education, we hit it off quickly.  Ole is a professor at the University of Aarhus in Denmark and director of the new learning styles lab.  He has done great work with learning styles and also happens to be a OneNote fan, especially in terms of OneNote’s flexibility and adaptability to learning styles.

Ole visited the Redmond campus last year and met with the OneNote team and we recorded a video of his talk about learning styles and OneNote

Ole has given me permission to post his article on my blog so here it is in it’s entirety.



Done with Style / Style with Dunn: MS-Office Applications and Learning Styles

Ole Lauridsen, Associate Professor

Director, Learning Styles Lab

Aarhus School of Business, University of Aarhus



There are many learners at all levels who know about their learning styles strengths, but are not familiar with an adequate ICT platform that supports these strengths. For these learners the Miscrosoft application OneNote is the solution. Conversely, there are OneNote users who tend to get lost in the many features and the flexibility of the program; their use of the program can be much more focused and efficient when they use their learning styles strengths as their points of departure.
This paper presents the learning styles model of Drs. Rita Dunn and Ken Dunn and shows how to implement the model by using OneNote.


In a couple of booklets­­­­ from 2006 and 2007 I have given an outline of the interaction between Learning Styles and two Microsoft Office applications: the so far relatively unknown program OneNote, and PowerPoint, which many people love or love to hate. The booklets OneNote and Learning Styles, a perfect match and PowerPoint and Learning Styles: A new and exciting approach are published by Microsoft in English, German, and Danish and are downloadable free of charge at www.learningstyles.net [Create an account and go to Community > Document Library > Research and Implementation].

In the case of OneNote, my reasons for writing the small study were firstly that learning communities are not aware of the enormous learning potential that is to be found in this “electronic notebook”; secondly, that many learners are simply not capable of choosing among the many features available in OneNote in a qualified way. They therefore get lost when trying to navigate among these features, and quite a few of them give up. In the case of PowerPoint, I wanted to oppose the widespread and rather unreflective criticism of a program that, used properly, represents one of the strongest presentation and learning tools today.

I would consider this a very unfortunate situation caused by ignorance of how these applications may be exploited in a learning context. This ignorance may be due to an unawareness of the central factors of learning, and thus unawareness of how deep learning in the sense of Biggs (2003) may be achieved. Admittedly, the concept of learning is exceedingly complex, and for most people, even professionals, it is not easy to define. Learning as conceptualized in the Dunn & Dunn learning styles theory (Dunn and Griggs 2003), however, constitutes a firm and easily manageable basis for understanding central factors in the learning process, cf. the section on Learning Styles below.

Of the two applications mentioned, OneNote is the one that embraces most learning styles elements and does it in the most direct way. In the following, OneNote therefore will be in focus. It will be shown how the Dunn & Dunn concept of learning styles can guide users so that they are able to exploit the many features in OneNote that support their learning and thereby contribute to making it as efficient as possible.

Learning Styles and Constructivism

What, then, is learning styles? According to the Dunns, learning styles can be defined as the way in which each individual learner

· begins to concentrate on,

· processes,

· absorbs, and

· retains new and difficult information.

(Dunn & Dunn 1999).

Basically there are around ten basic learning styles theories upon which 100+ models have been developed. The Dunn and Dunn theory is based on empirical studies in the class room. Approximately 1000 studies from all over the world, including 150 doctoral dissertations, have proven the efficiency of learning styles based activities and materials [www.learningstyles.net – go to Community > Document Library > References/Bibliography].

In addition to this, brain research and cognitive research have taken an interest in the theory in recent years, and the neurological and psychological processes behind are therefore being mapped. Essential knowledge about this has already been obtained and is reflected in e.g. Buli-Holmberg, Guldahl and Jensen 2007; Given 2002; and Thies 2001 and 2003.

Constructivism is the predominant learning theory today (Biggs 2003), and from a constructivist point of view, all learning implies the transformation of information into knowledge, and this goes for teaching, too, in the modern – i.e. constructivist – sense of the word: Creating an adequate environment for learning. This transformation takes place in an absolutely individual process based on the learner’s foreknowledge, experience, and cognitive potential (Lauridsen 2007). Knowledge, thus, is linked to the individual; encyclopedias, manuals, dictionaries, data bases, etc. contain information (of course based on other peoples’ knowledge), and the individual processes this information into knowledge.

Using this constructivist approach, the knowledge component can easily be integrated into the definition of learning styles. We will therefore now claim that learning styles may be defined as the methods we use when we

· begin to concentrate on new and difficult information,

· take in this information,

· process it into knowledge,

· absorb and store this knowledge, and

· retain and use this knowledge.

(Lauridsen 2007).

This might be considered an intellectual tour de force. However, the concept of knowledge, and the comprehension of knowledge and knowledge construction as aligned to the individual, is crucial to modern society with its demand for constant information processing, lifelong learning, and change, etc. If we as individuals do not realize that we ourselves are responsible for constructing the knowledge necessary for our professional and personal lives, our opportunities in the postmodern era will be limited.

In other words, we have to take ownership of our learning processes and to know our individual learning strengths. In this context it is worth noting that contrary to all other learning styles theories, Dunn & Dunn only work with the individual’s strengths. This means that the Dunns explicitly do not recommend that anybody take up his / her weak sides in order to widen his / her learning potential. Such a strategy very often leads to learner frustration and a lack of self-efficacy, and it therefore hampers the learning process. As a consequence of this, learning styles based teaching aims at making the students aware of their individual potential and at providing them with adequate strategies to exploit this potential. Furthermore, the diversity among the student group is taken into consideration when teaching and when preparing learning materials.

The Dunn & Dunn Learning Styles Model

The Dunn & Dunn definition of learning styles may be illustrated by a visual model, here shown in the version for adult learners (17+), BE (Building Excellence), developed by Rita Dunn and Susan Rundle.

[INSERT BE_engelsk]

As the above graphic shows, the model comprises 20 elements (with 28 variables altogether) that affect, or rather strengthen, the individual’s learning. These elements are grouped in 6 categories: Psychological Elements (orange color code), Perceptual Elements (pink color code), Environmental Elements (yellow color code), Physiological Elements (purple color code), Emotional Elements (green color code), and Sociological Elements (blue color code).

We cannot go into detail with all the elements of the Dunn and Dunn Learning Styles Model here; for an in-depth introduction, see Dunn & Griggs 2003 and Lauridsen 2007). Instead, we will briefly focus on those elements that are especially important when we use OneNote in our teaching and learning.

Psychological elements – information processing:

· Analytic Processing vs. Global Processing: Analytic learners prefer information presented step by step in logical sequences leading up to the whole concept. Global learners need to start with a preliminary overview of the whole concept in order to understand the details. Learners capable of using both ways are referred to as integrated.

Perceptual elements:

· Auditory: Auditory learners learn best by listening.

· Visual: Visual learners prefer learning through pictures and graphics of all kinds (visual picture) and / or through reading (visual text).

· Tactile: Tactile learners must involve their fine motor skills in their learning processes.

· Kinesthetic: Kinesthetic learners must use their whole bodies and / or themselves as persons in their learning processes (e.g. in cases or role plays).

· Verbalizing: Verbalizing learners need to talk (to others or to themselves) during the learning process.

Emotional elements:

Emotions are crucial to successful learning. Emotional problems hamper the cognitive learning system, and the system will therefore always try to solve such problems before focusing on the core cognitive process of constructing knowledge (Given 2002). Consequently, the learning outcome very much depends on the emotional state of the learner and on the emotional implications of the whole setting or learning atmosphere, i.e. the teacher’s attitude to the students and to the branch of learning leading to either positive or negative coding. Whereas the latter can be regulated by the teacher, the former cannot. Major human emotions like sadness and depression, happiness and contentment, are primarily rooted in the individual and his or her personal context, but there is one major emotion that can be taken into consideration in the teaching and learning process, viz. stress.

The emotional elements in the Dunn and Dunn model may thus be considered potential stress factors, and all of them can be addressed when we use OneNote:

· Motivation: Here understood as the need for or no need for feedback and not as the overall psychical energy applied in the learning process (Lauridsen 2007).

· Conformity: Conformists have no need for taking responsibility for the whole learning setup; they do not want choices as regards methods, do not want to have any influence on the objectives and anticipated learning outcomes, etc. Non-conformists, on the other hand, have these needs and, contrary to the conformists, they often initiate discussions on this topic.

· Structure: Some students need a given structure in the topics taught, other students want to create such a structure themselves.

· Persistence: This notion covers the contrast between single-taskers who need to complete one task before taking up another, and multi-taskers who learn more efficiently when addressing more tasks at a time.

Sociological elements:

Just like the emotional elements, social factors (working alone, in pairs, in peer groups, in teams, under an expert, varying constellations) are crucial to a successful learning process (Given 2002). Whereas only some of the many emotional stress factors can be taken into consideration in the teaching process, all sociological factors can be addressed.

OneNote and Learning Styles

Since it was launched in October 2003, the electronic notebook, OneNote, has been one of Microsoft’s best kept secrets. Fortunately, more and more people now seem to be introduced to the program – fortunately, for OneNote is a very strong learning tool that may be completely personalized in accordance with to the users’ needs, not least their learning styles needs. The comprehensive tutorials that come with the program very instructively show its immense possibilities and flexibility, and in order for the users to make qualified choices among the many features, they would be well advised to use their learning styles. As the above table shows, quite a few learning styles elements are directly addressed in OneNote and the rest of them are indirectly addressed.

The Analytic and the Global Learners

The OneNote interface (and the interface of other MS Office programs as well) supports both analytic and global processors. Analytic learners are often not visual-picture oriented, and they should therefore stick to the text based dropdown menus and remove the icons. Globals, on the other hand, tend to be strongly visual picture learners and should wallow in toolbars with icons, even if this makes the working screen somewhat smaller.

Both the notebook feature and the basic tab organization in OneNote make it possible for the analytic learners to organize their learning materials in great detail, according to their individual needs and wishes. Separate notebooks can be set up for e.g. separate projects, subjects, issues, or topics; and projects, subjects, issues, or topics can be broken down into small units through the tab facility: The main categories are organized in sections on the horizontal tab line at the top, and each section can be divided into subsections. Furthermore, each subsection can be analytically structured by means of traditional tools such as numbers or bullets.

Analytic learners can easily develop the very structure they need and prefer in order to build up knowledge. The flexible OneNote search feature prevents the analytic learners from getting lost in tiny details, and the use of hyperlinks between notebooks, sections, and subsections obviously has the same effect.

Global persons obviously need structure, too. Being global does not mean being disorganized, but global learners would typically not use as deep a structure (as many subsections) and as many bullet points or tables as would the analytic. Mind mapping, then, is a very strong tool for the globals, and mind maps are easily made in OneNote by means of the drawing tools (which, in fact, are better than those of the other Office programs). For those who prefer to regularly draw maps themselves, the use of a tablet pc would be the right solution. The possibility of increasing the pages beyond their normal sizes makes it easier to create a large mind map; the same applies to the full screen feature.

Perceptual Elements and OneNote

The Auditory Element

OneNote supports the auditory strength by allowing users to work with audio files. Whole lectures, group meetings, and also thoughts, ideas, brainwaves, can be recorded and stored for further processing, provided with relevant annotations (the latter as “sticky quotes” created through a mouse click on the OneNote icon in the notification area). A special feature makes it possible to search for words in audio (and video) files.
Beside this, text-to-speech programs such as the MS Narrator can be used for reading screen text; graphical text can be converted into text that may be read aloud via the OCR feature of MS Document Imaging (in the folder Microsoft Office Tools) or through other OCR programs.

Auditory learners are often non-tactile, and they therefore have difficulties taking notes. If that is the case, they can switch on the OneNote recorder during meetings, lectures, etc. and save the file in the right context afterwards.

The Visual Element

The use of text and all kinds of pictures obviously supports visual learners. OneNote contains many visual elements, and creative users can design their own as well. As mentioned above, it is very easy to draw mind maps by means of the drawing tool or by hand on a tablet pc, so altogether OneNote is a treasure chest in this respect.
Working with video files in One Note is very easy. Connecting a camera causes no problems within the program, and like pictures and audio files, video files can easily be integrated in sections and subsections with the annotations needed and perhaps linked to other notebooks, pages, subpages, or files. As for searching for words in videos, see above.

The Tactile and the Kinesthetic Elements

Tactile learners benefit from the mere use of a computer and thus of course from the mere use of OneNote. Drawing, making audio or video recordings, scrolling, following links, etc. are important activities for tactile learners and strongly support their focus and their learning process.

For the kinesthetic learners, it is most advantageous that audio and video files are stored in formats that can be played on mp3 players. Thus they are able to learn, go through their materials, or whatever while on the move.

The Element Verbalizing

Talking directly with others within OneNote is not possible; but via Microsoft Messenger, the learner who needs of verbalize may interact with fellow students.

Verbal learners often like to talk to themselves, and they may support this preference by using OneNote’s recording tool. Mentally, recording speech is more binding than saying words that just vanish into thin air; consequently, a recording has a much larger learning impact than mere speech that is not recorded.

Emotional Elements and OneNote

The emotional elements persistence (singletasking vs. multitasking) and structure are directly addressed in OneNote.

Of course singletaskers can always organize their work so that one task follows another, often so that they work with one application at a time. Before OneNote, multitaskers had to run various programs at the same time, constantly shifting between them or turning them on and off depending on the power of the computer. Therefore, OneNote is a gold mine for multitaskers. The smooth interaction with other Microsoft Office applications (first of all, Outlook and Explorer) makes it easy to switch between tasks; furthermore, the program as such with its notebooks, sections, subsections, and many features gives the multitaskers fantastic opportunities to meet their individual needs.

OneNote enables the individual learners to work on a structure provided by a teacher, for instance. Of course, this could be done in Word or other Microsoft Office applications as well, but the flexibility in OneNote surpasses the possibilities of the other programs – simply because the users can collect all their learning materials within one and only one application. A good example is working on a PowerPoint handout: Through the print option in PowerPoint, the handout may be exported to OneNote where the users can write their own comments or annotations on the keyboard or by hand on at tablet pc.

Sociological Elements and One Note

OneNote supports the learners’ preferences whether they want to work alone, in pairs, in a peer groups, or teams, and whether or not they need to consult a person of authority while working and, finally, whether or not they prefer variation between these options,.

The loner who wants to work on his own, can obviously just do so, and through OneNote’s share function, people who want to cooperate with others or under the guidance of an expert, may easily have their needs met; collaborative writing, (written) online discussions, etc. are only a mouse click away.

The direct interaction with Outlook and the blog-feature serve the same purpose; and online communication via Microsoft Messenger is an option as well, of course.

Other Learning Styles Elements and OneNote

As mentioned at the beginning, other Learning Styles elements are addressed through the use of OneNote, but in an indirect way. Here are a few examples:

For the learners who prefer a less formal seating (an environmental element), it is an advantage that the program comprises so many features and can hold all necessary materials. These learners do not need to switch between various files and applications and can work with only a few open windows (a fact that Windows Vista makes easier than before). It is therefore possible for them to work efficiently with their laptops on a sofa, in a bed or even on the floor – which quite a few learners actually prefer.

Since all learning materials or meeting documents may be stored in OneNote, learners have the opportunity to process the materials at the time of the day that suits them best; for asynchronous teaching or meetings, this is highly advantageous.

OneNote in a broader perspective

Obviously OneNote is a learning tool of major importance. It is very compatible with the concept of learning styles, but there is more to it than that. The authoritative Horizon Report (2008) states that grassroots video, mobile broadband, data mashups, collective intelligence, and social operating systems are “emerging technologies likely to have a large impact on teaching, learning, or creative expression within learning-focused organizations”.

OneNote delivers a perfect platform for these technologies, a platform that, due to its flexibility, brings together these “emerging technologies” under one hat. Perhaps OneNote needs some adjusting to meet the challenges of the years to come, but that would only be details. The whole basis is there. OneNote is a program of the future.

Concluding remarks

Learning styles put the learning potential of OneNote into words; and conversely, OneNote provide people who want to seriously work with learning styles, with some very strong tools.

The use of the applications would altogether be much more efficient if the users reflected on the important “Why and How”. If one understands why, one can easily cope with the how.


Biggs, J. 2003. Teaching For Quality Learning at University. Maidenhead: Society for Research into Higher Education/Open University Press.

Buli-Holmberg, J., Guldahl, T., and Jensen, R. 2007. Refleksjoner om opplæring - i et læringsstilperspektiv. Oslo: Cappelen Damm.

Dunn, R. S., and Dunn, K. J. 1999. The Complete Guide to the Learning Styles Inservice System. Needham Heights MA.: Allyn and Bacon.

Dunn, R. S., and Griggs, S. A, eds. 2003. Synthesis of the Dunn and Dunn Learning-Style Model Research. Who, What, When, Where, and So What? New York: St. John's University.

Given, B. K. 2002. The brain’s natural learning systems. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Lauridsen, O. 2007. Fokus på Læring – Læringsstile i Dagligdagen, Professionelt og Privat. København: Akademisk Forlag.

The NEW MEDIA CONSORTIUM and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. 2008. The Horizon Report. URL: http://www.nmc.ord/pdf/2008-Horizon- Report.pdf.

Thies, A. P. 2001. The Dunn and Dunn Learning Styles Model from a Neuropsychological Perspective. In Thies, A. P., Dunn, R. S., and Honigsfeld, A. 2001. Synthesis of the Dunn and Dunn Learning-Style Model Research: Analysis from a Neuropsychological Perspective, 49- 53. New York: St John's University, Center for the Study of Learning and Teaching Styles.

Thies, A. P. 2003. Implication of Neuroscience and Neuropsychology for the Dunn and Dunn Learning-Style Theory. In Synthesis of the Dunn and Dunn Learning-Style Model Research. Who, What, When, Where, and So What? Dunn, R. S., and Griggs, S. A., eds. 2003. 25-33. New York: St. John's University.