Teaching Portfolios: How to set up a OneNote portfolio

I’ve been using OneNote to build my teacher portfolio for a while now.

Back in 2016 I wrote a quick how-to about building your teacher portfolio in OneNote. Back then, of course, there were 12 criteria, and so the template is no longer valid. 

However, since that time, I’ve also been adjusting the way in which I use OneNote to collect evidence and artefacts for the portfolio and how they’re organised. This means two things:

1. Its okay to change as you go

Don’t feel like you have to keep your portfolio in the same mode for all three years of your registration. If something isn’t working, don’t feel like you have to stick with it just because that’s how you decided to do it before you had even started.

2. It's flexible

OneNote is completely flexible to keep up with however you want to organise it. If you want to have the years along the top sections, go for it. If you’d rather have each of the six standards along the top, you can do that too. However it works for your brain, OneNote is flexible enough to cope with it.

Getting Set Up

1. Install Microsoft OneNote

Firstly, you will want to install Microsoft OneNote. Most Windows computers already come with it. However, there are TWO versions of OneNote. There’s the App Store version (which is an all-operating-system app for iOS, Android, and Windows Store), and there is the BETTER version that comes with Microsoft Office – OneNote 2016. 

You will want to get the OneNote 2016 version and ensure you pin the icon on your taskbar so you don’t open the other version. 

The main reason for this is the ability to install macros, and there is a LOT more control over things like tags, both of which you’ll want to utilise to make your portfolio.  

2. Get an Account.

This isn’t a necessity to be able to use OneNote. However there are benefits to having an account, such as sharing, and accessing your portfolio on different devices. Luckily, Microsoft products are free for schools to use. Talk to your network administrator to get Office365 accounts set up for you and your staff. 

3. Create a New Notebook

You’ll need to make a new notebook. I would call this something such as “Portfolio 2020-2022” or whichever year range you intend (I just use my registration years).

The reason for this is that as you add evidence into your portfolio, the filesize of your notebook will get bigger and bigger, and cause things to take longer to load the more you have in it. By setting it to just three years, it keeps everything nicely in one place for one round of registrations. You can then save it off and begin a new one when your new registration begins!

I’m not going to go into details on how to create a new notebook. You can find multiple tutorials for this online.

4. Set Up Sections

The first decision you will want to make is whether you’re going to go with a date-based portfolio or standards-based portfolio. You can read more about that here.

Along the top of OneNote 2016, you will see your ‘Sections’. Here you can see I’ve gone with a date-based section portfolio, but you could just as easily go with standards, or even types of evidence. Dates is just the one that made best sense to me, and it allowed me to try different things each year of the registration period without having to stick to one method of collecting evidence. 
Adding a new section is as simple as clicking on the white ‘+’ tab. You can add as many sections as you like, as well as, have groups of sections. So – for instance – you could have a section group for each year, and within each of those groups, have each of the six standards as sections as well. This essentially creates two layers of sections at the top. Like I said, OneNote is pretty flexible for however you want to structure your portfolio. 

5. Create Page Headings

On the right hand side of OneNote are your pages (although you can completely customise this so that it is on the left).

You can make up to three layers deep of pages by indenting them under parent pages.

Here you can see I have an “Admin” parent page which holds my index, summaries, job descriptions, release records and anything else pertaining to my registration for the year.

Then I’ve made an “Evidence” parent page which I dump all my pieces of evidence in it. I’ve gone through and put it roughly in chronological order, but this hasn’t always been the case. You could put it in subject order, or leave it in complete chaos. Once again – however your brain works!

Below that is a quick screenshot of another way of setting out the parent pages. You can see that these are expandable with the drop down arrows. You can have anything as parent pages – you could even set up each of the six standards as parent pages that you then put evidence within. 

6. Create Custom Tags

OneNote comes with it’s own set of pre-made tags (and many of these are useful to keep). It also allows you to add in your own tags, and this is where comes the power of OneNote. 

Remember: this is in Microsoft OneNote 2016 – not the App version.

  1. Under the ‘Home’ tab at the top, go to the tags part and open the drop down list of tags.
  2. At the bottom of this is a “Customize Tags…” button. In there, you can create six new tags, one for each of the six standards. You can select an icon for them – I’ve just used the six coloured squares.
  3. You can then order them and see them within your list of tags. You could even move them to the top so you have the shortcuts for them (I’ve got other tags that I use for teaching in those slots…)
7. Macro It Up!

This step is a bit extra for those who like to have a list of their evidence somewhere. 

In Microsoft OneNote 2016, there is a ‘Macros’ part under the ‘Home’ tab. You can download a range of different macros which are like plugins for OneNote that carry out different tasks systematically. The one that allows you to create an index page like the one above is called ‘Tag Summary with Page Names‘. 

Once you’ve installed it you can create a new page and then run it. 

It will ask you for the ‘Scope‘. Select from Current Section, or Current Section Group, Current Notebook, or All Notebooks. I usually just select the ‘Current Section‘ option.

Under ‘Filter‘ make sure you select ‘All‘. The unchecked only and checked only are for the ‘To-Do’ tag which can be marked as checked or unchecked. Our tags are just tags.

Click ‘Ok‘ and it will go through and create a list of the pages that include the different tags. 

It could take a while depending on how many pages are in the Current Section. It’ll go along and show you the progress and page it is up to, and eventually be all finished and show you a page like the one above.

Now, bear in mind, you selected ‘All’ for the tags it would look for, and so it will also list the other tags as well. You can go through these and delete the list of pages under these tags, leaving you with just the six standards and the pages that include that tag on them somewhere

Other Macros

Another good macro to get is a TOC (Table of Contents) called TOC in Current Section and TOC in Current Notebook. Both of these will build a linked list of pages within your section or notebook and display it on its own page. It’s not dynamic, so it won’t update as you add pages, but is good to have at the end of the year for example.

Some Examples

And that’s it. Add your evidence as a page in the section, organise it and add it in a parent page, and you’re away laughing!

Below are some examples of evidence I have added into my OneNote portfolio. 

A great thing about OneNote is it is quick and easy to add evidence. Just create a new page in the right section, move it under a parent page if you need to, and then start typing. The date of creation is added at the top (I believe you can edit this if you’re adding evidence in retrospectively) and then you can add in an explanation or annotation of the evidence. It is easy to add screenshots or images, photos, or other media. If you have an iPad you can even write and draw in the page with Apple Pencil or a stylus. 

In this example, you can see at the top of the page I’ve added in the tags for the standards I believe that the piece of evidence links to. This is the strength of using tags, is that you create the evidence ONCE, and attribute the tags to that one evidence. There’s no copying it to different sections and organising it everywhere making multiple copies or anything. Just add the tags at the top. You can see the star one, which is my icon for PB4L stuff, which this also pertains to.

In Conclusion

I hope that is enough to get you started in using OneNote to house your teaching portfolio. It is the best system I’ve found for keeping your portfolio, and I’ve tried most of them. In my opinion it is the best for because of the following:

  • Adding evidence is easy, with the ability to copy and paste images and text into it. It also saves automatically.
  • It fits with my other OneNote notebooks that I keep for my other teaching work, allowing me to quickly copy work I’ve already done over into my portfolio as well.
  • Tags. Need I say more?
  • Flexible organising to suit my needs. Whichever way I need to structure my portfolio, it has a way of making it work with different layers of sections, section groups, pages, parent pages, and more.
  • Being able to draw, take notes, and annotate evidence with my iPad and Apple Pencil in OneNote has been awesome. These are at an additional cost, but add to the whole experience, and part of the reason why I use OneNote for all the other areas of teaching as well.