an iPad on top of a stack of books / Un iPad sur une pile de livres

OneNote(new window) is a simple yet powerful note-taking  app which allows users to quickly create and sync documents on their iPhone, iPad, Android, Mac, Chromebook, or Windows device. The app is designed to provide users with a flexible note-taking platform that supports audio, video, and hand-written notes. And yes, it can transfer your handwritten notes into text.

OneNote Notebooks have the familiar organizational feel of a binder with colour coordinated tabs and pages. This makes it extremely easy to organize and find your notes. On top of that, every note is also dated and time stamped. Perfect for those who struggle with paper and keeping it organized. And if you don’t remember where you might have saved something, there is a powerful search function that lets you search your notes by keywords and even dates.

Graphic of a computer workstation

OneNote strives to provide a simplistic approach to note-taking, and does not overload users with formatting options, instead, its strength lies in its flexibility and adaptability. In fact, OneNote has become more and more accessible over time, and since its initial release, there have been a variety of accessibility options added to the initial suite of features, which has greatly improved the overall accessibility and usability of the program. Please note that the desktop version of OneNote 2013 (or later) is required to run the learning tools add-on. Click here(new window) to download.

Learning Tools Add-On

Earlier in the year, Microsoft released the Learning Tools plug-in, a suite of accessibility features which have been bundled together and made available for free as an add-on to OneNote. Currently only available as a separate download, the add-on can be found here(new window). In its current state, the Learning Tools extension is only available for Windows computers, as Microsoft has yet to develop a separate, mobile app.  Right now this extension is in its infancy, and is still in open-beta, meaning that the current set of features will likely change dramatically, and will be added upon over the coming months and years. Nonetheless, this software provides some great options for improving reading comprehension. Let’s look at the features that are available right now:

a pen and a notebook

Immersive Reader – The Immersive Reader option allows users to view documents in a distraction-free, text-only mode. There are also options for improving reading comprehension, and grammatical elements can be toggled individually or as group to highlight syllables, verbs, adjectives, and nouns. In this mode, each element is displayed in a specific colour, providing users with a visual map of sentence structure. Text size, spacing, and contrast, can also be adjusted. The Immersive Reader mode also allows users to have text read out loud, and it does so in multiple languages.

a graphic of a woman wearing a headset

Dictate – Currently only available for Windows 10, this feature converts spoken words into text. This feature requires a good microphone (built-in microphones are often inadequate), and a relatively quiet environment to work effectively. If everything is set up properly, when you click “Dictate”, you’ll get an audio cue, and a highlighted piece of text saying “Listening…” will appear on your screen, indicating that recording has begun. When you are finished, either click the dictation button a second time, or stop speaking, and the dictation will end.

Office Lens Add-on

Although it is technically a stand-alone app, Office Lens on your smartphones makes for a great companion to OneNote, as it allows users to capture and import scanned images directly into OneNote. This straightforward scanning and OCR (Optical Character Recognition) app allows you to scan, trim and enhance pictures, documents, and whiteboards, and convert them into editable documents and insert them directly into your desired OneNote Notebook, tab and page to keep you organized and on task. With this add-on, users can be sure to stay organized, knowing that pictures taken from their smartphone are not lost but saved directly in OneNote. Office Lens also takes accessibility one step further when combined with the learning tools, providing you with the ability to take a picture of a document, or a PowerPoint  slide with text, import it into OneNote, and use the learning tools add-on, to have the text read aloud. This combination of programs, apps and add-ons, provides a powerful set of Assistive Technology tools available at no additional cost for those with Office 2013 or later.

Little girl writing on blackboard


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