I was originally going to call this post, "Microsoft OneNote - Better than Adderall," but then Stephen Wilson, Chief Information Officer for New South Wales Department of Education and Training, called it a killer app for education when he spoke at the Office 2010 launch yesterday, and I have to agree with him.
OneNote 2010 gives users an easily organized, tabbed workspace on which they can type notes, draw, grab links, and insert a variety of media. Click anywhere on the screen and just start typing. Click somewhere else and type again. Create a new tab, click on the fresh page and type some more. The notebook (as the collection of notes and pages is called) can be saved to a network location or a Windows Live Account and accessed via a web browser.
So why do I say that OneNote is better than Adderall? How many of you have add or adhd? How about your students? After years of self-medication with extraordinary amounts of coffee (I used to go to work with my mom as a kid and would pick out the coffee of the day in her Seattle coffee and tea shop), I finally realized that I might have ADD. A bit of researching and a couple conversations with my doctor later, and I had a prescription to try for a month. A little bit of Adderall goes a long ways and I noticed a significant improvement in my ability to focus and finish tasks (I have a tendency work simultaneously on 5 or 6 different things, which works to a point, but sometimes focus is a key).
However, even if I'm being focused and productive, invariably the streams of information that come at me via email, IM, and phone or the thoughts and ideas that pop into my head no matter how much coffee I've had or what dose my doctor prescribes need to be dealt with. OneNote is where this can happen. I use Google Docs for this, of course. A few open documents let me paste in important links or type notes and to-dos, but OneNote takes this to an entirely different level.
Students (and many of us who spend our days immersed in technology) tend to experience a degree of information overload and tech-induced ADD, regardless of what underlying conditions we might have. Being able to take the moral equivalent of sticky notes (with hooks to the web, documents, etc.) and organize them, create them intuitively, share them, and access them anywhere suddenly gives us a means for sorting all of the information that comes in and managing all of the ideas and activities around the data streams.
Add to that the fact that OneNote makes the notecards that many teachers still require students to painfully write out when conducting research completely antiquated and you really do have a killer educational app. Suddenly, it's OK to cut and paste into notes, including links and timestamps (no more wondering when you accessed a website; OneNote records it for you). Then, students actually stand a chance of synthesizing their copied and pasted notes into meaningful research and writing when they break open their OneNote notebooks and a word processor.
Although Office 2010 launched yesterday, the beta is still available. Download OneNote and give it a shot. It won't take long for teachers using OneNote to come up with countless use cases in class and ways for students to be more efficient, productive, and thoughtful with OneNote. In fact, I would argue that this is a reason alone to purchase Office 2010.