I haven’t been blogging lately or even wandering around Twitter very much, instead I have been focusing on re-vamping my Resource Room English class and trying to make it more flexible to meet the needs of the students. One of the things I am really trying to do is incorporate technology into the classroom that will help my students with their organizational skills.
Most of them do not have great organizational skills and using the traditional paper notebook does not work for them. Their notebooks, lockers and backpacks usually look like a bomb exploded and sent papers everywhere. I like and have used several electronic notebooks in the past. I really liked Microsoft’s OneNote and raved about it in several past blog posts, but there it has not been ported to the Mac yet.
Also OneNote is not available school-wide for my students, so even if there was a Mac version, it would not have been an option.
I have been to trainings, webcasts and seminars where NoteShare by AquaMinds has been used. It is on all the MLTI Laptops in Maine and a couple of teachers at my school quietly use it.
I thought it would be a pretty simple software package to pick up and just start using in my classes.
I was wrong.
Don’t misunderstand me, NoteShare is powerful and will do more than I will ever require of it. However, it is not a tool that you can simply open up and just start using. There is a pretty significant learning curve, to using the features that do make it so powerful and beneficial in a classroom.
I have gotten very frustrated over how to use this software and have spent at least a couple of hours a night trying to wrap my head around NoteShare for the past couple of weeks. I have been reading the PDF version of the instructions, watching the instructional videos on AquaMinds’ website and YouTube without much success. There was just something about NoteShare that puzzled and perplexed me, and I just couldn’t put my finger on.
The other day, I even asked the Tech Integrator at the school to help me with NoteShare, which is something I have never done in the past. She is really fantastic and quickly showed me how to do what I wanted and then coordinated some changes with our tech department that needed to be made to the server, so I could accomplish what I wanted. She told me that I was doing some pretty advanced stuff for someone who had never used NoteShare before. We talked a bit more about what I wanted from NoteShare and she agreed that it would be able to meet those expectations. We also setup for her to do an introductory training session for all of my classes next Thursday, I told her I would be one of the students that day, because there is still a lot about the basics that I really don’t know.
Upon reflecting back on my conversation with the Tech Integrator and my frustrations about NoteShare, I finally figured out a couple of barriers to my learning how to use it:
NoteShare’s User Interface (UI) is not a toolbar based UI, most of the other programs that I use today have toolbars or the ribbon as their primary UI. Noteshare does have a toolbar, however the primary UI is a drop down menu which forces you to look for and (memorize) where the commands are versus pointing and clicking on a Command icon. I have gotten so used to having a toolbar and it being the primary user interface, that going back to the drop down menu UI as the primary interface is not intuitive for me.
Maybe now that I know and have acknowledged this, perhaps using NoteShare will a bit easier to use for me (I know I kept looking for the right icon before I realized this). Although I have changed the Noteshare toolbar considerably from the “stock” one that is there when you first open it, the toolbar still is not what I would call user friendly by today’s standards. Maybe that is something that the good people at AquaMinds are working on???

The second thing that I figured out was that although I watched all the videos and read the manual, I was looking at things from the point of view of someone who wants to use the advanced features, but didn’t have a complete understanding of the basic functions, vocabulary and features that are used in this software.

This means that I will go back and start from the beginning to learn the basics and vocabulary of NoteShare and wait to use the advanced functions for after I have learned the basics (Yeah right-but I will try to wait). I believe that this will be a powerful and useful program for me – enough that I went ahead and purchased NoteShare (with my own money) through ACTEM, so that I can use it on my MacBookPro, and not have it just my MLTI laptop.

The reality is that this was really an eye opening and a rather humbling experience for me. There is a pretty steep learning curve to this program and you must learn the basics before you can use Noteshare effectively in the classroom. I tend to take for granted how easily I am able to use new software or web applications and I found it very frustrating for me to not just open NoteShare up and begin to use it. Perhaps this is why more teachers don’t use this powerful tool that is provided with the MLTI laptops?

I also wonder how often do teachers do this to their students or how many times have I done this same thing to my students? Given my students something new to use or do, assume that they know or understand the basics and expect them to be able to do what I have asked them to. Looking back honestly, I know that I have done it without realizing what I had done at the time.

What happens when a teacher does that? (Expects something from a student that they don’t know how to do or do not understand it fully) You get students who are frustrated, don’t give the teacher what they want or expect and then situations escalate to where no one wins are created.

This is why I attempt to periodically look critically at how I am teaching my students and how they are reacting in class. If a number of my student’s behaviors are off the wall, that probably means that how I am teaching is either not at their skill level or that what I am teaching has no connection to their life. Then I have to look at my curriculum, but that is a different post.

This weekend after I get done my Special Education paperwork and planning for next week, I am going back and learning the basics of NoteShare with the understanding that it is Menu driven and that I have to learn to walk before I can run with NoteShare. Hopefully I will now not be as frustrated over the lack of toolbars and look in the menus for the commands I need.

In the end learning how to use NoteShare will be worth the frustration, I just have to get past the frustration part. In 2-3 months I will be able to do the things that I want to do with NoteShare and hopefully be able to help some of my students with improving their organizational skills.

What have you done to make a difference today?

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