Lament for OneNote

My husband is in the process of applying for the RCMP; to say that it is a rigorous and document-heavy process is an understatement.  One of the pdf forms is 21 pages long.  The pdf from the RCMP site is not fillable; print it and fill it out by hand.  Then scan. Thinking that there has got to be a fillable pdf out there somewhere, I did a quick search.  Lo and behold, a fillable pdf form was easy enough to find.  We went through the whole document, and then pressed print.  Not so fast, did I really think it would be that easy? I was directed to register and pay for the privilege of using the fillable pdf form.

At this point, I felt like a sucker.  If the organization was going to get my business, it would be under duress.  No, forget it.  I’d rather fill it out by hand and then scan it.

That leads me to OneNote.  I’ve been putting off writing about OneNote for a few weeks to gather my thoughts, and to take a breather.  My relationship with OneNote began slowly.  Over two years, I got to know its functions.  I always thought the layout was visually appealing.  When I stumbled onto its multi-user collaboration functions, that was it for me.  I had been searching for a planning tool for so long, and finally I found one that would work.

Using OneDrive to store OneNote notebooks, users can share and edit entire documents. Within my circle, I like to think I was at the helm in bringing awareness to this robust tool.  OneNote organized my work lessons. OneNote organized my Masters program. OneNote organized my committees.  OneNote organized my life.

I was the first in my school board to use OneNote with adult ESL learners as an e-portfolio. I presented no fewer than three workshops on OneNote.  I tweeted with enthusiasm about my OneNote experience.  I convinced others to explore OneNote.   OneNote, for me, was the planning, organizing, and sharing tool bar none.  Give me the purple cape.  I was firmly on board.

Then they pulled the plug.

If you want to make use of the multi-user collaboration functions, or if you need to use OneNote on several devices at different locations, you need to use OneDrive.  About two weeks ago, Microsoft decreased the space available in OneDrive by two-thirds.  Because my notebooks are so dense, this meant that I could no longer access my notebooks across devices.  The e-portfolio notebooks contain lots of data, rubrics, documents, photos, and voice-recordings.  5GB (edited – I had said MB, which is nothing; it is actually GB) is all that remains in your personal OneDrive.  Unless, of course, you want to pay.

I get that Microsoft is not a charitable organization; they are a business.  I don’t feel entitled to free stuff.  I do, however, feel entitled to know what I’m getting myself into.  I guess eventually you have to pay for the milk, or the cow walks off, bovinely, into the sunset.  Now the question is, do I commit to the OneNote/OneDrive cow?  What happens if a newer, better app is released?  (Wait – wait, oh, I didn’t see *that* one!!).

What this means for me is that my committee members won’t want to pay to use OneNote.  Thus, I can’t share and use the committee OneNote notebooks.  My adult learners can still use OneNote in the classroom, but won’t be able to share and save on the cloud because the data is too large.  I can’t ask my learners or committee members to pay for the space.  It simply won’t happen.

To be fair, after I realized that my space was gone, I did some research.  As it turns out, Microsoft had been telling users since December that they were planning to decrease the free space on OneDrive.  I’m just not that much of a techie that I would know that, or be attuned to the news until the carpet was yanked from under my feet.

You know that old adage, that if something looks too good to be true, it probably is?  I may ante up and buy more space for myself, but now I feel like I’ve been duped, and that I’ve played a part in duping colleagues about OneNote’s potential.

UPDATED: Like I said in here, sure I would consider paying for the product if it had been more apparent that this would be happening.  As for the email messages that Microsoft had sent, the only reason I have hotmail is for OneNote.  It is so full of spam and junk that it has been rendered virtually useless as email (and I have played with the junk mail filters, etc.  It just doesn’t seem to work.)

I think I also said that I’m not that much of a techie.  I have been using OneNote with OneDrive since 2014 and had no idea that it would be changing.  Sure, that’s my fault.  I also probably couldn’t tell you whether or not any other app that I use will start charging.  My point here is that the way I have been using OneNote/OneDrive in my classroom can no longer continue the same way because the files my students have created are larger than 5GB, and for the students to access their files across devices, collaborate etc, they would have to pay.  Many of my learners don’t have credit cards, so they couldn’t have access even if they wanted to.

Let me also say here that what has happened with OneDrive, and my subsequent loss of a major teaching tool in OneNote, is *exactly* why many of my colleagues are anti-tech in the classroom.  Why bother investing in a tool that will go obsolete, or will start charging for usage that was once free?  I know that when I return, these are the comments I will be hearing.

That hasn’t turned me against tech in the classroom; it is a lesson learned.  That’s it.  That’s the message of this blog post.  There is a responsibility for any teacher using tech to investigate it, and to stay on top of updates, or come up against what I have.  You can’t get too comfortable with any educational technology.  There’s always got to be a Plan B.





About jenniferartan

ESL instructor in London. Level 2 Google Certified Educator. Blended Learning. Learning Management Systems. TESL Ontario Webinar Manager. Edutech Conference Junkie. Smartboards. Reluctant Techie.
This entry was posted in Reflections. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Lament for OneNote

  1. Mark says:

    I have some sympathy but I rely a ton on OneNote so $1.99 a month is basically nothing plus I can back up my photos easily from my smart phone. Its worth having it available to me anywhere I am.

    • I may have access to 1TB through my school board, so hopefully I can figure that out. Regardless, $2 a month is worth it for me to keep the space I once had. My adult learners could likely afford that, but not all have credit cards. I wouldn’t want to make use of a platform that excludes some…

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