MIEExpert Spotlight #17: Peter De Lisle shares on ‘Using OneNote to teach the 16 Habits’

This is the 17th post in the series “MIEExpert
Spotlight for South Africa”. The tab with all the posts can be found at . Today we focus on Peter
De Lisle from Kwazulu Natal, one of our Microsoft’s 2016 #MIEExperts from South
Africa. Peter de Lisle originally came to Hilton College as Head of IT, but has
moved from that to being more involved with curriculum and the learning platforms.
He does the school timetable, and he is the Moodle administrator. He gets
involved in various other ways with managing databases. Peter says: “I teach
English and Life Orientation, and I have been part of an amazing team working
on a cross-curricular Grade 8 programme which we call the Learning Journey. It
is an attempt to teach foundational academic/research/thinking/ICT skills, as
well as core attitudes to work. I also am involved with the fairly extensive
research essay which all or Grade 11s undertake.” In this post Peter describes
how they use OneNote for this Learning Journey project.

Background – The Learning Journey

At Hilton College we run a course for Grade 8s called The Learning Journey. The aim is to establish foundational academic skills and attitudes. We are a group of teachers who team teach.

Perhaps the most important thing we try to instil is a Growth Mindset, the idea that your intelligence is not something fixed (see https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/01/29/carol-dweck-mindset/ and https://www.ted.com/talks/carol_dweck_the_power_of_believing_that_you_can_improve?language=en ). The boys we teach at Hilton are very privileged, and so can easily fall into the trap of believing that makes them special. A Growth Mindset approach says that you are not special until you have earned “specialness”.

Building on that, we work with a range of academic skills that provide the boys with a toolkit for developing themselves into better students. We explore technology tools that facilitate learning fundamentals such as reading, writing, notemaking, researching, referencing, spreadsheeting, presenting, etc. The emphasis throughout is on using the skills as strategies to deal with difficult academic tasks. Our Moodle course page gives an indication of some of the journeys that have made up the entire Learning Journey this year.

To finish off the year, we were keen to get the students using OneNote as a notemaking app, and at the same time get them more familiar with and exploring the 16 Habits of Mind.

Why the 16 Habits?

The 16 Habits of Mind described by Costa and Kallick (see: http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/108008/chapters/Describing-the-Habits-of-Mind.aspx ) are sets of strategies employed by effective people (derived from empirical research) when dealing with challenging situations. They are a practical way that Growth Mindset can be operationalised and developed, and hence flow out of the basic approach of the Learning Journey.

For example, at the end of a test, a student might feel tired and bored. But, if s/he has a Growth Mindset, that is clearly not good enough. So, the Habits of Mind kick in – Persistence and Striving for Accuracy. What strategies does the student have for checking and keeping focused? Each person needs to be encouraged to develop their own strategies, and keep working to hone them. As teachers we need to assist with the development of effective strategies by teaching routines, skills and tools.

Why OneNote?

OneNote is a thinking tool. It is flexible and powerful, and cleverly manages to combine the messiness of much information, with the brain’s need for order, making it ideal for students to collect, process and organise information in ways that make sense to them. It is a powerful means of moving away from the perception immature readers and thinkers have that information is a string of fixed words in a book or on a website. It allows one to play with ideas, combining, rearranging and reorganising until they make sense.


This project was conducted in three stages. The relevant project briefings are attached.

1. Familiarity with the Habits and OneNote

Step one required the students to create a new notebook, and set up a section for an introduction and each of the 16 Habits. Each section’s first page was required to have the relevant icon, and a short description. This in itself was an exercise in Persistence; by also including the challenge of not eating a marshmallow for the entire lesson, we added in Managing Impulsivity. This resource was a useful one to provide for this exercise: http://habitsofmind.org/single-page-summary1/

2. Trying out the Habits

The second stage required students to return to the 16 sections, and add at least one other page to each, in answer to specific questions designed to call on specific Habits. For example, the section on Thinking Flexibly contained some exercises to do with understanding the notion of perspective – ie the way you see something is not necessarily the only way it can be seen.

3. Applying knowledge in more depth

Finally, students were paired off, and were given a famous person to research. In this we tried to find a good variety of people: Male/Female, Black/White, from all continents, and from all aspects of life (sport, conservation, politics, peace activism, music, art, etc). The task of producing a PowerPoint to present to the class is nothing special, but we started off by modelling an excellent presentation, and also built in sufficient time for each pair to do a practice presentation away from the whole class, and so get detailed feedback (see the work of Hattie on Visible Learning: http://visible-learning.org/2013/10/john-hattie-article-about-feedback-in-schools/ ). In this way we showed them how to go about having a Growth Mindset through working on their Persistence and Striving for Accuracy.

This is the list of people as displayed on the project Moodle page:

Setting up OneNote for this project

Peter has included a PDF entitled ‘Habits of Mind/OneNote Treasure Hunt’ showing exactly how to set up OneNote for this project. This document can be accessed and downloaded .


Since we work as a team, we have been on an exciting Learning Journey. We have modelled the habit of Thinking Interdependently, whilst also always being open to Continuous Learning as we strive to improve the course and learn new skills from each other. In short, it has been a very fulfilling and challenging experience for us as teachers – a real source of growth for us too.

Get involved in the Microsoft MIEE program in 2017

If you are a teacher who likes to be innovative in the classroom, think about entering Microsoft’s Innovative Teacher MIEExpert program in 2017 when applications reopen later. You can learn more about the program at this link:  on the Microsoft Educator Community.

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