Tips and tricks for cutting edge educators

Hopefully you have been getting up to speed on the incredible power of OneNote. Here’s an example of how OneNote can be combined with great pedagogical design to transform how your students engage with a topic.

This idea is a modern day version of Socratic Circles, and to my knowledge originally came from the Queensland Academy of Health Sciences, where it was affectionately referred to as “Digi-Circles”.  

How does it work?  For this example, we’ll say the class group is looking to explore a difficult concept through a debate format.

Step 1: The group is divided into two teams – in this diagram we’ll call them the RED team and the BLUE team.   The topic is given to the groups ahead of time so they can prepare some basic arguments.

Step 2: The physical learning space is set up with two concentric semi-circles facing the front of the room.  At the front there are two desks facing each other.  Next to the front desks are two “Captain” desks, which face the rest of their teams.  All students have laptops.

Step 3: Each team sets up a shared workspace using Microsoft Office One Note.  (the easiest way to do this is by placing a OneNote file in a shared network drive and have all students open it from there).

While the presenters are presenting, team members share their thoughts, research, ideas and opinions with each other inside this Shared document.  This allows them to all contribute to the same page in real time. 

Step 4: The role of the captain is to summarize the notes of the group, ready for the presenter.  The presenter can draw on this to strengthen their debate, to change direction or to rebut a previous point. This is a summary of the roles of the Red Team:


At any time during the activity, the teacher can move the Captain into the presenter chair, and promote a team member to captain.  Changes can be as fast as necessary to ensure the debate is dynamic and engaging.   


This photo provided by the Education Queensland Smart Classrooms eLearning Branch – Showing socratic circles in operation at the Queensland Academy of Health Sciences.


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