Office for iPad: Free for Everyone

Office for Everyone

Last week, Microsoft surprised a lot of people when they made Word, Excel and PowerPoint completely free for iOS devices. The apps themselves were always free for viewing documents, but editing access required an Office 365 subscription. Not any more. The subscription element was removed and now anyone with a free Microsoft account can view, create and edit Office documents on an iPad at no additional cost. They also included support for Dropbox so that you can open documents stored in Dropbox, edit them, and save them back to Dropbox.

Microsoft Word for iPad: Free

So, what is it like using Office on an iPad? It’s very enjoyable actually. Your documents, presentations and spreadsheets all format exactly the way you would hope they would with no strange views for a mobile device like the iPad. Everything is saved to your OneDrive or Dropbox account, so all your work is still available to you if you leave the iPad and start working on a desktop or Windows tablet.

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Tech Literacy and the Modern Classroom

alphabet

Last week, we were very fortunate to have Jeff Utecht at Grant Wood AEA for three days. He spoke to teachers, administrators, and Grant Wood consultants on a variety of different topics relating to the use of technology in schools. He did an amazing job and was well received by all that attended his sessions.

One of the topics Jeff discussed was one that resonated a lot with me, and that was in relation to tech literacy. How much are we really preparing students for a world that is packed full of technology and used on a daily basis? Are we exposing them to the vocabulary they need to navigate such a world and are we adjusting the way we expect them to learn based on what technology can do to make that process easier than ever before? These are challenging questions.

For instance, how important is perfect spelling when Google, Bing and Yahoo! and any other search engine you care to use will compensate for your typos and spelling mistakes with a helpful “Did you mean…” at the top of the page? Well of course I meant that. Thank you for reading my mind!

It’s not just search engines either. Every modern browser or productivity program you can think of has its own built-in spelling and/or grammar checker to help us when we need it most. Words underlined in red, or blue for that matter, is something that students working on digital devices will see often. Do they know what it means and how to fix it quickly and efficiently? Do they know how to deal with false positives?

With voice search, you can take that a step further and have many modern devices perform a search for you without you even having to think about how to spell even one word. In Chrome you can say “OK Google, what is the tallest building in the world?” and see, or hear, the answer you need in a matter of seconds.

Spelling is not irrelevant, far from it, but the digital tools that are there to support it are increasingly powerful and help open doors for students that may not have previously been able to communicate their needs so effectively.

Jeff told us the story of one school he visited that had the alphabet proudly displayed around the walls of the classroom. Sounds normal right? It is, until you hear that each letter had a keyboard shortcut underneath it to show the function each letter performs with the Ctrl key as a modifier. I love that idea. You probably know some of these: Ctrl+C = copy text, Ctrl+V = paste text, Ctrl+Z = Undo, but is there really a complete A-Z for this kind of thing? Turns out there is. I looked it up. Wikipedia has a complete list of Ctrl commands that go from A-Z and beyond.

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Osmo: An Essential iPad Add-On for Schools

osmo for iPad header image

When I first saw Osmo, it was a Kickstarter project. I was curious. It looked like a great idea, but would it work in a classroom, and would it ever become a reality or not? Turns out the answer to both questions was a resounding “Yes!” Last summer at iPadU: Slide to Unlock Learning, our keynote speaker, the excellent Matt Gomez, brought one with him and let us try it out. Suddenly it made so much more sense. The Osmo is tailor-made for a classroom.

Since then, I have used it several times at work, and showed it off to lots of teachers. They all love it! Part of the appeal is undoubtedly its simplicity. It takes no time at all to set up and can be used by just about anyone, regardless of their experience on an iPad. However, it is also somewhat unique in the way that it encourages collaboration and the use of manipulatives to solve a problem.

osmo games

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Get Creative in the Classroom with Canva for iPad

Are you a graphic designer? Me neither, but when I use canva.com it’s easy to convince people that I might be. Why? I’ve written about Canva before. It’s a website that allows you to create a variety of stunning flyers, posters and graphics for blogs and websites with a minimum amount of effort. I love it, especially now that they have now taken the wraps off the new Canva for iPad app.

canva for iPad

Canva for iPad is extremely easy to use, and if you have ever used the web version, there will be almost no learning curve at all. You start by picking the design template you want to work on, or enter some custom dimensions for a specific size. After that, everything is a simple drag and drop away from the design that you want to create.

using images on canva for ipad

You can search for images, icons, and shapes that you want to add to your creation using the search button in the top left-hand corner. There are hundreds of free, stylish elements that can be used in your image, as well as a variety of background colors and textures. There is also an amazing collection of designer fonts that you can adjust the size and color of, and the ability to add photos from your iPad. When your image is finished, it can be saved as a PNG or PDF and saved to the iPad, or opened into another app to use as part of another project.

So, if you are looking to design some new images for your classroom website, or need something to spruce up your blog, the Canva app is a great choice. It is also a great tool for students to create posters, infographics, postcards, flyers and more. Check out the video below for more information.

Keedogo: Child-Friendly iPad Keyboards for iOS 8

I’m a fan of the iPad keyboard. For me, it does everything I need it to, and it does it very well. It’s intuitive, predictable and got a whole lot better with iOS 8. However, I am an adult, and a proficient user of technology. Younger students may not find it as easy to use, and they may not be able to remember the hidden secrets and power-tips for using the iPad keyboard. Enter Keedogo.

keedogo keyboard

Keedogo is a third-party keyboard app that simplifies the keyboard interface and makes it more colorful and appealing for students who are learning how to type. It is optimized for ease of use. For instance, there are only two keyboard screens, as opposed to the three layers you get on the standard iOS keyboard. The exclamation point and the question mark get their own keys that don’t require the use of the shift key to activate them. It uses lower case letters, has the vowels highlighted in a different color and can be used in a QWERTY or ABC layout.

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Sway: A Brand New Multimedia Presentation Tool

Sway logo

Today, Microsoft took the wraps off a brand new, multi-platform presentation tool called Sway. It lets you create dynamic content that pulls media from a variety of sources like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and OneDrive. There are a variety of styles and layouts to choose from but if design is not your strong point Sway will suggest some layouts for you based on colors it finds in your media. Everything you do is built with a simple drag and drop interface and you choose a variety of navigation paths for your viewers.

Finished creations can be shared with a link, embedded on a website, or shared on social media. Better still, your Sway presentation will adapt to any screen size  so that it looks great on all devices. Check out more in the video below:

Find out more by visiting www.sway.com where you can sign up to be on the waiting list for early access and see some sample Sways. I for one can’t wait to try this. It looks like an incredible option for the classroom and will have broad appeal due to the fact that it works on all modern browsers and has dedicated mobile apps on the way. A more in-depth look at Sway with a demo of how to build one can be found below:

Source: Office Blogs

How (and Why) to Add Links in OneNote 2013

We live in a connected world, so the ability to add links is a valuable skill for students and teachers alike. Here’s how to add links to notes in my favorite note taking app – the Windows desktop version of OneNote 2013. 1. Typing a URL The first method is by and large the easiest. All you have to do is start typing the URL of the website you want to link to and OneNote 2013 will detect that you are typing a web address and automatically hyperlink it. If the URL is on the long side, you can copy and paste it into OneNote and you will see that it also gets automatically linked on your page.

type links in onenote

2. Hyperlinking Text If URLs take up too much space on your page, or just don’t look right with the rest of your text, consider highlighting some text and linking that instead. Once the text you want to link is highlighted, go to the ribbon menu at the top of the page and click Insert > Link. In the pop-up box that appears, type or paste the name of the website you want to link to in the Address field, and then click OK. You can access the same linking option by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl + K on your keyboard, or by right-clicking on the highlighted text and selecting Link…

hyperlink text in onenote

3. Linking to Another Section/Page Another useful linking strategy is the ability to link to another section or page in a notebook. This can be useful for creating your own table of contents. There are a few ways to do this, but perhaps the most elegant way is to combine it with the method above. So, start by highlighting the text you want to link to another section or page. Then right-click on it, go to Insert > Link, or press Ctrl + K, to open the Link options menu. Now, navigate to the page or section you want to link to by clicking the “+” sign next to the notebook that has the page or section you need. Click the location you want to link to, then press OK. You can also get the link to a page, or a section, by right-clicking on the page or section you need and clicking Copy Link to Page or Copy Link to Section.

link to a section or page

4. Linking to a Specific Paragraph Need something more granular than linking to a page? Try linking to a specific paragraph. This can be a great way to direct students to the homework questions, or to definitions in a glossary. All you need to do is click on the paragraph you want to link to, then right-click your mouse and select Copy Link to Paragraph. Once you have the link you need, you can highlight some text, open the Link options menu, (like we did above), and paste it into the Address field. Anyone who clicks on the link will then be taken to a specific paragraph on a specific page.

Link to a paragraph in onenote 2013

Need an example of how all this linking can be put to good use in the classroom? Check out my lesson on the Microsoft Educator Network: Choose Your Own OneNote Adventure Stories.