In August 2015, Microsoft held an internal hackathon where employees competed with other Microsoft staff from around the world to solve a problem with technology. Many of these pet projects never saw the light of day again, but the winning entry quickly grew to become an indispensable tool for a huge number of students and their teachers. It launched in January 2016 under the guise of Learning Tools for OneNote, but today you may know it better as the Immersive Reader.Read More »
Last week, Microsoft held a Surface event that took the wraps off a whole slew of new and innovative devices that the company is hoping will capture the imagination of its customers. Some of these devices were iterative versions of what is already available from Microsoft, but others were completely new product categories.
I’ve really come to admire Microsoft’s innovation. They are not afraid to push the boat out and try new things. These products don’t always pan out the way they hope, (see Surface RT), but a willingness to innovate and expand the boundaries of what is already out there, is something you have to at least respect, even if you are not a Windows user. Here’s what’s new.Read More »
Have you seen the new Microsoft Forms? One of the most popular articles on my blog in the last 12 months was related to its predecessor – Excel Surveys. Not only did that post get a lot of views, but it also got a lot of comments from people with questions about the features of Excel Surveys, or more importantly for some, the features it did not have. You can still use Excel Surveys, but Microsoft are in the process of transitioning to something better – Microsoft Forms. This version includes automatic grading and built-in student feedback. Here’s what you need to know.
You can find the homepage for Microsoft Forms by going to forms.office.com, or you may see Forms listed in the Office 365 App Launcher. Both links go to the same place. Technically, Forms is still in Preview but you can sign in with your Office 365 Education account today and start creating surveys and quizzes. The new Microsoft Forms work on desktop and mobile browsers.
Once you are logged in, click the New button to create your first form. Replace Untitled Form with a title of your choice, and add a description underneath if you want to provide any directions or information for students or parents who are filling out your Form.
Building a Form
Tapping the Add Question button gives you access to the question types that are available to you in this new version of Microsoft Forms. The options include:
- Choice: for creating multiple choice questions! Tap or click the slider to allow people to select multiple answers. You can also tap or click the ellipses button to shuffle answers.
- Quiz: a multiple choice question that you allows you to select a correct answer for automatic grading. Tapping the comment icon on each answer choice lets you add student feedback for each selection. Multiple answers and shuffled answers are also available to you when working on Quiz questions.
- Text: to collect short (or long) text answers use the Text question type. Tap or click the ellipses button to include number restrictions like greater than, less than, equal to, and more.
- Rating: for adding a star or number rating. Could be useful as part of an exit ticket or for voting on class favorites. Ratings can be out of 5 or 10, and tapping the ellipses button will allow you to add a label at either end of this Likert scale.
- Date: a question type that only allows for an answer in date format.
Inserting multimedia elements to your documents make them instantly more engaging and can save you jumping from one app to another. So, the next time you want to spice up a study guide or have your students submit a multimedia document with text, images, video and more, take a look at this handy guide. Here is what you need to know.
Add a YouTube Video to Word, PowerPoint & OneNote
Step 1: Open the app of your choice (Word, PowerPoint or OneNote), then place the cursor where you would like the YouTube video to go.
Step 2: Click (or tap) Insert and choose Online Video from the toolbar.
Step 3: Click (or tap) in the box that says Search YouTube and paste the URL to your video, or insert some keywords to search for the video from inside of Office, and hit Enter. (While a keyword search will work, a YouTube URL is more likely to give you direct access to the video you want).
Step 4: Click (or tap) the thumbnail of the video you want, and then hit Insert to add the video to your Office document. The video will appear where you placed your cursor, but and can be resized or moved to a different place in your document.
Advanced Tips & Tricks for Embedding YouTube Videos
Sometimes it is useful to embed the YouTube video with an embed code, instead of pasting a URL or searching with keywords. Here’s why you might want to do that instead.
- Not all videos will appear in a keyword search, and sometimes the URL doesn’t work either. For scenarios like this, you can always grab the Embed code from the YouTube video and go to Insert > Online Video and paste the code next to the option that says From a Video Embed Code.
- Is your video too long? Trim your video to the part you really need with TubeChop.com and add the embed code into your Word, PowerPoint or OneNote. You can also modify the YouTube embed code to choose your own start and finish times for the video.
- If you want to hide the grid of “related” videos that YouTube offers up at the end of a video, be sure to click Show More underneath the YouTube embed code BEFORE you copy it. This opens a drop-down menu that lets you uncheck a box that says Show suggested videos when the video ends. Once you have that box deselected, copy and paste your embed code and the related videos will vanish from the end of the video.
- Can’t find the video you want on YouTube? Embed codes from Vimeo and other popular video sharing sites are supported in Word, PowerPoint, and OneNote.
Troubleshooting Videos That Don’t Appear
Every so often you will find that a link to a YouTube video reveals no search results, and the video has no embed code on YouTube. Unfortunately, this means you will likely not be able to add this video to your Office document, because the video creator has chosen to remove the ability to embed their video on other sites. This is an option for all YouTube users and can be found among the upload settings when uploading a new video to YouTube.
You may also find that you don’t have the option to add YouTube videos in your version of Office. To add YouTube videos to PowerPoint you need Office 2013 or later for Windows. To add YouTube Videos to Word or OneNote you need Office 2016 or later for Windows. If you don’t have access to one of these versions of Office, you can always use the free Office Online which can be found at office.com.
When we think about ways to connect students globally and to think outside of traditional boundaries, I often think about the power of video conferencing. Microsoft has included a lot of opportunities for teachers to do just that with the education programs they have created for Skype in the Classroom.
At its core, the program allows teachers to register on a website that lets them connect with each other and arrange calls between their classes. However, there are often special events like the recent World Read Aloud day where classrooms can invite authors into the classroom via the Skype in the Classroom program. There was also the Just Say Hello program that partnered with O, The Oprah Magazine. Teachers can also take part in the Skype a Guest Speaker program where experts can brought to your classroom as part of a PBL unit or another program of study.
The following video on Skype in the Classroom is typical of the kind of benefits you get from programs like this. At one point the teachers says that for her, school has never been about happens in the four walls of the classroom, it is about how you can knock those walls down and connect outside of them. The reactions of the students that were involved in the call was priceless. There are numerous other examples in this video of the power of using a tool like this to connect students from around the world so take a look below.
An extension of this is the Skype Virtual Field Trip program. Teachers can browse and schedule a virtual field trip for their class in any number of different locations. This is an amazing opportunity for broadening the horizons of your students and can include different habitats, careers and countries so it has a lot of curricular ties. In the video below, students talked to a marine biologist who was in an underwater lab. These are experiences that you just can’t recreate by yourself so the power of doing that with technology is something that all teachers should give their students the opportunity to be a part of.
Of course, Mystery Skype is as popular as ever. It takes the power of a simple video conferencing call and gamifies it. Teachers can connect via the Skype education portal and play their classes against each other in a bid to try and guess the location of the other class. The video below explains what it is in more detail, but I especially like that the education team at Microsoft have even put together a free Mystery Skype curriculum for teachers. It is designed to help maximize the educational benefits and curricular connections of this fun, interactive way to connect classrooms.
Yet another Skype program that is potentially very powerful for schools to take advantage of is Skype Translator. It gives teachers the ability to connect with far more people than just English speaking classrooms, and that can be really valuable for building those cultural connections in the minds of our students. I have yet to try it, but one of these days I am going to befriend a foreign language teacher to help me test it out and see how well it works. Either that, or I have to brush the dust off my high school French and German textbooks and recruit one of my co-workers, but that won’t be as much fun! 🙂
So, when teachers approach me with ideas about connecting classrooms on a global scale, Skype in the Classroom is inevitably one of the first places I send them. If nothing else, because it has such a low barrier of entry, especially now that you can join a Skype call with just a web browser, no account or additional software is required.
If you use a mobile device, a scanner app is a very useful app to have at your disposal. There are lots to choose from, but my go to app is Office Lens by Microsoft. It is available for iOS, Android, or Windows Phone, and it could quickly become one of your favorite apps due to its versatility and time-saving features. Here’s what you need to know.
Why Do I Need a Scanner App?
I find all kinds of good uses for scanner apps, and I expect you would too. They are great when you don’t have access to a desktop scanner or don’t want the hassle of using one. I am also notoriously bad at keeping track of paper handouts. I invariably don’t file them and end up losing them, regardless of how useful they might be. So, I scan them and add them to my digital filing system instead. Business cards and posters can be quickly captured with Office Lens and it could be a great way to make some digital copies of student artwork.
What Makes Office Lens So Good?
Office Lens uses an intelligent scanner to automatically recognize and crop any paper document that you place under your mobile device and as you will see in the image below, the before and after results are quite remarkable. Regardless of the angle of your device, the final image is cropped, straightened and enhanced to look just the way you would want it to. Office Lens can even take your scanned image and turn it into an editable Word or PowerPoint file with some clever OCR technology.
However, I don’t just use Office Lens for documents. I often use it at conferences and other PD presentations to take pictures of a speaker’s slides. The same perspective cropping applies when taking pictures of a presentation and it works equally well, if not better, on notes you have written on a whiteboard. This could be extremely useful for both staff and students because it is a great way to capture some brainstorming ideas or some notes from class. Take a look at the example below that I captured while attending a Jim Knight instructional coaching workshop at Grant Wood AEA.
Where Can I Share My Scanned Images?
One of the great features of Office Lens is the variety of places that you can share your scanned images. You can export as PDF, send as an email, or save it to your device. You can also share directly to a number of Microsoft’s mobile apps like OneNote, OneDrive, Word, PowerPoint or Outlook. Office Lens works with personal Microsoft accounts as well as your work or school accounts in OneDrive for Business.
Completed scans can also be saved to Dropbox or sent to other apps on your phone as required. You will also have quick access to your favorite social networks so that you can share those awesome presentation slides the right way, as you can see below.
So, the next time you need a digital copy of a document, business card, whiteboard, presentation slide or any number of other things, reach for your mobile device and fire up Office Lens to help you complete the job.
Mystery Skype is a fun, engaging, and educational activity for students in the classroom, but it used to require both teachers to have a Skype account, and to have the Skype client installed on a Windows, Mac or mobile device. Recently, that changed because you can now join a Skype call with just a link – no account or desktop clients are required. All you need it is a browser. Here’s how it works.
- Open the Skype desktop client on your computer, (the person who is hosting the call needs to have a Skype account and the desktop client for Mac or PC. The guest does not).
- Press Ctrl + N (Windows), or Cmd + N (Mac), to begin a new conversation.
- Copy the link to the conversation and send it to the person you want to connect with. You can send it by email, with Facebook Messenger, via a direct message on Twitter, or with another service that both participants have access to.
When the person you want to connect with receives your link, and clicks on it, they will find that it opens a new tab in their default browser. If they have Skype installed, they will see a prompt to open the conversation in Skype, else the participant will join your call in Skype for Web as a guest user. (Mobile users need the Skype app to join a conversation link that is sent to them).
Once you are both connected, you can chat with the conversation box or conduct a live audio or video call, just like two registered Skype users would normally do. (Note that a browser plug-in needs to be installed for audio or video calls). The Skype for Web user does not get all the features that a free Skype account gets due to the current limitations of the web client, but they do get the facility to make free calls and connect with people anywhere in the world.
This method of connecting over Skype is great for classrooms who play Mystery Skype games because it removes one more technical hurdle and opens it up to many more users. For more information on Mystery Skype, as well as a full user guide with tips for success, please see the Free Mystery Skype Curriculum for Schools post that I wrote earlier this year.
PowerPoint gets a bad name, but in my opinion it is often just misrepresented. Are their a wealth of PowerPoint alternatives available for little or no cost? Indeed there are, but do you really know all that PowerPoint is capable of? Here’s a rundown of some common PowerPoint myths and the reasons that PowerPoint is still a worthy tool…in the right hands.
Myth #1: PowerPoints are boring
Let’s get this one out the way from the beginning. We have all sat through some terrible presentations at one point or another. We were bored, tired, and spent more time watching the clock than watching the slides. Death by PowerPoint, right? The real truth, as you probably know, is that it was not PowerPoint that made you bored, it was the presenter. Their performance, and maybe their slide design, were not good enough to keep you interested. Thankfully, performance skills can be learned, as can slide design. Kathy Schrock, for instance, has some great presentation tips and tricks that are well worth a read.
Myth #2: You can’t collaborate on a PowerPoint
If you save your PowerPoint to your school (or personal) OneDrive account, you can go to File > Share > Invite People (Share With People PowerPoint 2016), and add the email addresses of the people you would like to share your file with. Choose whether you want them to have view or edit rights to the file, and write them a short note explaining what you are sending them. Once you are done, click Share to send the invitation. You can also go to File > Share > Get a Link (Share With People > Get a Sharing Link PowerPoint 2016). Multiple people can work on the same PowerPoint at the same time, but as with Google Presentations and other collaborative slideshow apps, it works best when you are all working on different slides. You should also save often when using the desktop version to ensure you have all changes synced when working with other users simultaneously.
Myth #3: You need an Office subscription
You are probably familiar with Google’s online suite of Office applications, but did you know Microsoft has one that is also free? Simply navigate to Office.com and log in with your Microsoft account to get access to free online versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel and more. The online apps are not as full featured as their desktop counterparts, but you can create, share and collaborate on any Microsoft Office document for free. So, if you want to work on a PowerPoint with someone who does not have Office on their computer, Office.com provides that option.
Some students and teachers are eligible for free versions of Office through their school. To check on eligibility, visit this website and sign up. Mobile users can get all of the Office apps for free on iOS and on Android. This lets you create, view and edit existing documents on phones or tablets, and it will sync everything between all your devices.
Have you upgraded to Windows 10 yet? Microsoft are offering it as a free upgrade for consumers running Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, but is it really worth it? In a recent article for Hubpages I wrote about 10 Top Tips for Teachers Using Windows 10. Together, I believe that these features are a compelling reason to make that upgrade worthy of your priority list.
Being a brand new operating system, there are obviously a number of new additions that have been added to improve on the functionality of Windows 8.1, but there is a lot that is familiar too. To that end, many pundits are calling Windows 10 the best of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. The features that I most appreciate, from an educator’s point of view, include:
- Web Notes: Annotate the web with the new Microsoft Edge
- Reading View: A clean, uncluttered view of websites
- Virtual Desktops: A way to group and access your favorite applications
- Continuum: Mobile when you want it, desktop when you need it
- Wireless projection: Freedom to roam the classroom
So, if you are new to Windows 10, or need some tips on how to make the most of it, be sure to check out my 10 Top Tips for Teachers Using Windows 10. You can also check out my companion article, Microsoft Edge: Performance & Style for Students & Educators!
If you’re already using Windows 10, I would love to hear what your favorite features are, and how you are thinking about using it in the classroom. I for one think that it has a lot of potential and believe that it should go a long way to heal some of the wounds that were inflicted by Windows 8.1. What do you think?
Do you use Mystery Skype in your classroom? If so, you are probably familiar with how it works, but if you are looking for some extra tips, or want to get some other teachers involved, you should check out the new Mystery Skype Curriculum that Microsoft has put together for teachers who are connecting their classrooms all around the world.
The curriculum is free for anyone who wants to use it, but you do need a Microsoft account in order to sign in and view the latest version. Microsoft accounts are free, and you may already have one if you have a Hotmail or Outlook.com email address. If you are on Office 365 school, there is also a OneNote Class Notebook set up and good to go. You can find that here.
The curriculum is in the form of a OneNote notebook. OneNote, if you don’t already know, is a free, cross-platform, note-taking tool that is part of the Microsoft Office suite. You can download your own copy of OneNote for free on almost any device you can think of by visiting onenote.com. You can also read more about OneNote on this blog.
The notebook is divided up into five sections. Each one tells you more about the best ways that teachers can use Mystery Skype in the Classroom.
- Welcome: How to play, why you should play, how to get started, etc.
- Documenting Your Adventures: A section where you can record your questions, the questions of the other class, and job assignments for students.
- Teacher Resources: Assessment rubrics, a time zone converter, tips for a successful call, and more.
- Student Resources: Self-reflection rubrics, success criteria and a debrief sample.
- More About Skype: Additional resources about Skype.
I would absolutely encourage you to download OneNote and get your own editable version of the Mystery Skype curriculum, but if you want to check it out without logging in or downloading anything, you can access a view-only copy on the web right here.
Overall, the OneNote Mystery Skype Curriculum is a great resource for teachers that will save you time and make your Mystery Skype games more engaging and more authentic for your students. It is a great activity to do in the classroom and the new Skype for Web means you might not even need to download Skype for desktop. It also means you can even use Skype on Chromebooks or any other device you happen to be using that doesn’t have Skype for desktop installed! The web version is still in beta, but you can check it out here.