OneNote Class Notebook Tools for Desktop

Notebook Tools
One of the recent additions to OneNote is a specific set of tools to help manage your Class Notebooks. Without these tools the only way to manage a Class Notebook required opening a browser and navigating to the OneNote Portal. It was also difficult to “mark” student work, distribute pages and sections and share content between Notebooks. These tools roll up lots of those abilities into a new tab in the OneNote desktop app.

Class Notebooks Tools is available in version 15.23 of OneNote for Mac and via an Add-in on the Class Notebook portal page. On macOS you will only see the tools once you choose a Class Notebook.

So let’s go through each of the tools and explain what is possible –

Distribute Page

This will allow you to distribute a page from the Class Notebook into every students section of the Class Notebook. You will need to choose the section that the page will copy to. On macOS this is currently the only way that you can use the “Review Student Work” feature i.e. “Mark” student work on bulk. (More on this further down). On interesting point here is that the page you want to copy must already exists in the current Notebook. I guess you will just have the page in the Content Library and then distribute from there. In the past I just get the students to copy the page themselves – I actually think of it as a way of seeing if the student can follow my instructions.

distribute page

Distribute New Section

Distribute a new Section into every students section of the Class Notebook. You will need to name the new Section. This is similar to distributing a page, so you will need to do this for “Review Student Work” if there is not already a Section with the same name in each of the student sections. If you added a “Homework” or “Handouts” etc section during the creation of your Class Notebook, you do not need to do this for the “Review Student Work” tool to work.

name new section

Copy to Content Library

Choose a Section and copy it (including all pages) into one or more Class Notebooks. This is great for quickly copying content into other Class Notebooks, so to share to other classes or even across years.

content sharing

Review Student Work

This is probably the most exciting tool for teachers. As mentioned, on macOS you will need to first Distribute a Page or maybe a Section for this to work. On Windows you can choose any page from a student section and if it exists in other students section you will also be able to jump straight to it. It’s very frustrating that Microsoft has decided for the two platforms to behave differently and really the Windows version works very well. The way it has been implemented on macOS requires the teacher to be more in control of what is happening.

When selecting this tool you will need to choose the Section the Page is located, then choose the Page you would like to review.

review distributed page

By selecting each student name OneNote will switch to the same Page in each of the student sections. As you can probably see, this is fantastic!

View Student Notebooks

One of the most requested feature from the staff at my school is to have a vertical list of students to browse Student Notebooks. The “tab” section method can be a real “drag” – literally ;)

vertical student list

Manage Notebooks

This is basically a list of quick links to Create and Manage Class Notebooks. Selecting these will open your web browser and navigate to the OneNote Class Creator Portal. It certainly makes life easier.

manage notebooks


These tools are an awesome addition to OneNote and shows that Microsoft is working hard on Class Notebooks. I hope Microsoft realises the benefits of this app in education and how it differentiates them from other education apps out there.

These tools are not yet available to iOS and Android, but hopefully they will come in future updates, especially a way to Review Student Work seeing as those devices have access to drawing tools.

Creating a OneNote Class Notebook

Currently the only way to create a Class Notebook for the first time is via the OneNote Portal (please let me know if I’ve missed something but I can’t see it) and using a web browser. With the addition of the Class Notebook Tools on the desktop version there are quick links to the Portal pages, but on the Mac version you can only access these tools once you have opened a Class Notebook – it’s kind of strange but that’s what it’s like.
Anyway here we go –

Step 1

Go to and log in using your school email address and password.

Step 2

Look for “Create a OneNote Class Notebook” on left side of the window and click the link.

Click Create a OneNote Class Notebook

Step 3

Click the Class Notebook Sign In button

Sign in Button

Step 4

Click Create a Class Notebook button

Choose Create a Class Notebook

Step 5

Type the name of your class and click Next.
I highly recommend using a relevant name like “Science Year 9 Class 1 2016” and also include the current calendar year – it will help in the future :)

Type a Class Name

Step 6

You can now add other Teachers that can have access to the Notebook. This will assign them the same access rights as you. This is beneficial when you have teachers teaching the same subject and have different classes but you want to share the same content. I will suggest not going down the path of having all students of a Subject sharing one Notebook as this would be chaotic – it is better to create a Notebook per class. I will also add at this point (because you may be wondering), it is very easy to copy content from one Class Notebook to another.
Yes, this does mean that the added teachers can modify and delete pages, sections and content of the Notebook. (there are recovery tools btw)

Type teachers names

You can search for teachers by either typing their name or email address.

Step 7

Add the student names for the class and click next.
I always recommend holding off adding students until you have at least added some basic content. You can come back to this area at any time just by following Step 1-4.

Again this can be achieved by typing the student name or email address. If your LMS can handle exporting class email addresses into a comma delimited list, you can paste all of your class in one hit. Alternatively you can use this online tool by Stephen McConnachie. My school uses SEQTA and I can send emails to classes on bulk. When I do this it basically opens my default email client and places the student email addresses into the BCC field, I just then copy and paste the addresses into the add student box.

Step 8

Now add and remove the default Sections that each student will have.

add remove sections

With the Class Notebook Tool it has become much easier to add new sections on bulk to student sections. I would strongly consider removing the sections you are never going to use, just to remove any confusion by the students.

Step 9

The next screen provides a preview of the Notebook and how it kind of looks for teachers and students, it really is a strange step but 

¯_(◔ ‿ ◔)_/¯ . So just click next.

Step 10

After the Notebook has setup (it may take some time) you can click the link to open the Notebook in OneNote.

Open the Notebook

Step 11

During the creation stage all teachers and students should receive an email that contains a link to the Class Notebook. In early days I found this unreliable, but now it seems to work every time. It also seems to consistently send new emails as you add students or teachers to the Notebook. You can also copy a link to share with other teachers and students that you would like to have access to the Notebook – this could be then added to a LMS or the like.

Step 12

You can always come back to the Class Notebook creator to add teacher and students to the class or get the share link, just follow through Steps 1-4.

Again, I always recommend holding off adding students until you have at least added some basic content.

Once you have completed this you will have a Class Notebook that resembles what I discussed in the OneNote Class Notebook Overview.

OneNote Class Notebook Overview

What is a Class Notebook?

A Class Notebook is a way of creating notebooks in OneNote so that
– Teachers can share resources with students
– Teachers and students can collaborate
– Students can complete work that is viewable by their teacher
– Multiple teachers can be assigned to a notebook

The basic rights set to the notebook cannot be changed in the current version which does mean that students can “get up to mischief”. It also means that once students complete work it cannot be “locked” preventing changes after a due date etc.

In a recent update workflows are possible to
– Distribute a page to students
– Have the students do something on the page
– Quickly look at each students work.

I have created a summary of the parts of OneNote Class Notebook that you will need to get your head around – if you are not familiar with OneNote you may find it an initially very confusing app.

Class Notebook Chooser

Class Notebook Chooser
This is how you can switch notebooks. I highly recommend you create a notebook for every class – it will make your life easier in the long run.

Collaboration Space

Collaboration Space
Any member of the class can add, remove and edit content, sections and pages. Perfect for group work.

Content Library

Content Library
Teachers can add, remove and edit content, sections and pages. Students can see everything and also copy sections and Pages.


Sections can be used inside the group sections. They can help separate themes, topics, weeks etc. Sections can store multiple pages.

Student Section

Any teacher and individual students of the class can add, remove and edit content, sections and pages.


Pages can be added to each Section. Pages could be used to separate groups or work under a theme.


As you can see these images were all taken from my Mac. The Windows version does look different but has the same feel.

One thing Microsoft has to work on is functional compatibility across all platforms – yes I can open my notebooks on multiple device and operating systems but what I can do to those notebooks still varies.

OneNote Online
OneNote Online

OneNote iPad
OneNote for iPad

Podcasting Activity

This week I am beginning a new task with my Year 10 class. So far this year we have looked at photography, movie creation and coding. I wanted to finish the year with something that I am very interested in and will be fun for the students. I had come up with a couple of ideas; one was to create a TED Talk style presentation and the other was for creating a Podcast. I gave my class the choice and they (quite rightly) voted for Podcasting.

Below is what I will be providing the students with as our starting point.

Continue reading “Podcasting Activity”

Cyber Savvy Summit 2014

Over the last couple days I have had the privilege to be involved in the Cyber Savvy Summit 2014. This was the first official meeting of all schools involved in the Cyber Savvy Project which is

a world first study to support young people to make positive choices about their online behaviour, and in particular the use of images sent via mobile phones and the Internet. It is conducted by researchers at the Telethon Kids Institute and supported by the Telethon-New Children’s Hospital Research Fund 2012, Healthway and the Department of Education Western Australia.

Continue reading “Cyber Savvy Summit 2014”

A Reason for Windows 10 Being 10

If you have seen the news about Windows 10 being released, one of the “controversies” was the skipping of “Windows 9”. One “dev” has added a reason:

Microsoft dev here, the internal rumours are that early testing revealed just how many third party products that had code of the form

if(version.StartsWith(“Windows 9”))
{ /* 95 and 98 */
} else {
and that this was the pragmatic solution to avoid that.

Sounds like a good reason for some to stop complaining – “normal” people just don’t care.

Breaking my “friendship” with Facebook

So about 3 weeks ago I decided to take a break from Facebook; it was the direct result of commenting on a post and offended one of my “friends”. I immediately deleted the comment and made my apologies, a short time later a I thought that it may be time to take a step back and rethink how much time I spend on FB and what was this “friendship” that FB has me hooked on.

Continue reading “Breaking my “friendship” with Facebook”

Always impressed by the iPhone 5 camera

Recently I managed to develop an interest in photography due to teaching it to my year 10’s (I will start posting about photography at some stage I am sure). In the mean time I wanted point out how great the iPhone 5 camera is. Look at this photo of Quenda that my daughter rescued:


It’s a great photo (humble, I know) but the amazing part is that I did nothing except use the “rule of thirds” to get this shot, the iPhone 5 did the rest. Look at that depth of field

Social Media Slideshow for Parents

Social Media First SLide

Recently at my school I needed to present a session for parents on Social Media. Attached is the PDF version of the Keynote presentation that I created. If you would like a copy of the Keynote please let me know.

Social Media Slideshow for Parents.pdf

Soldering up the Adafruit Data Logger Shield for Arduino

So this week my Adafruit Data Logger arrived for my Arduino and I thought I’d share what it took to get it working.

How the kit arrives

Continue reading “Soldering up the Adafruit Data Logger Shield for Arduino”