PowerPoint Myths: Busted!

powerpoint myths

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.

sharing link for powerpoint

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.

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10 Tips for Windows 10

10 tips for windows 10

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

Web Notes in Microsoft Edge

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?

Free Mystery Skype Curriculum for Schools

mystery skype curriculum

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.

skype globe

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.

  1. Welcome: How to play, why you should play, how to get started, etc.
  2. Documenting Your Adventures: A section where you can record your questions, the questions of the other class, and job assignments for students.
  3. Teacher Resources: Assessment rubrics, a time zone converter, tips for a successful call, and more.
  4. Student Resources: Self-reflection rubrics, success criteria and a debrief sample.
  5. 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.

Getting Started with Office Sway & Office Mix

Office Mix & Office Sway Logos

This week I am happy to be attending the Technology Integration Conference that Keystone AEA has organized for educators in and around Iowa. I am looking forward to learning from a host of great speakers, but I will also be giving a couple of presentations of my own on two of Microsoft’s newest tools for the classroom: Office Sway, and Office Mix. So, in this blog post, I thought I would share some resources to help get you started with one, or both, of these free tools in order to help you decide if either would be a useful addition in your classroom.

What is Office Sway?

Sway is a free, online, presentation and storytelling app. It is also the newest member of the Microsoft Office suite. It was designed to work on all devices, and is available to anyone with a free Microsoft account or an Office 365 school account. If you haven’t seen it before, you can read my introduction to Sway from an earlier blog post. You can also read the blog post I wrote for Microsoft UK on classroom uses for Sway.

The slides to my upcoming presentation below, as well as some examples of some great Sways that have been created by students and teachers for a whole variety of different educational outcomes.

Educational Examples of Office Sway in the Classroom

What is Office Mix?

Office Mix is a free add-in for PowerPoint 2013 or later. It allows you to add more interactivity to a typical PowerPoint presentation and is a great tool for flipped and blended classrooms. With Office Mix you can create screencasts that include video, simulations, inking and live quiz questions. Once finished, you can publish your Mix online for your students to access, and see the data associated with each student who views your Mix.

Right now Office Mix is only available for Windows devices, but it is a free download and can be used with a free Microsoft account or a school Office 365 account. I first wrote about Office Mix several months ago, but it is evolving all the time and new features are being added regularly. The slides from my presentation are below, along with some great resources to learn more about Office Mix.

Learn More About Office Mix

So, if you are looking for something new for your classroom, Office Sway and Office Mix are well worth a look. Both have a lot of potential, and both are free! 🙂

How to Set Document Alerts in OneDrive for Business

ONEDRIVE for business alerts

Working collaboratively in the cloud is a great convenience, and something that you can do very well in Office 365 if you use OneDrive for Business, as many schools do. However, sometimes it is nice for teachers (and students) to know when others have changed or modified a document that they co-author. To achieve such an outcome, you can set up document alerts. Here’s how.

1. Navigate to your OneDrive for Business page and find the file that you would like to set up an alert on. (You can set an alert on any Microsoft Office document).

2. Select the document by clicking on it, and then click the Files tab in the top left-hand corner of your screen to open the Files ribbon.

files tab in onedrive for business

3. Look for the Alert Me icon on the middle of the toolbar, (it looks like a bell). Click Alert Me and then choose Set alert on this document.

set alert on this document

4. The pop-up window that follows gives you a number of options as to what you would like to be alerted for and how often. These options include:

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How to Use the OneNote for iPad Drawing Tools

onenote draw tools for iPad

Recently, Microsoft updated OneNote for iPad to include the one thing that iPad users were missing most from their Windows versions of OneNote – Draw tools. Given the touch capabilities of the iPad, this is a very useful addition. For the classroom this means students and teachers have the option to use handwriting in OneNote, or annotate existing notes, images and more with the new drawing tools. Here’s how they work.

The drawing tools are accessed via the new Draw tab on the toolbar. If you don’t see a Draw tab, make sure your OneNote app is updated to the latest version. Tools available include a thin pen, a medium pen, a highlighter, an eraser, a selection of inking colors, pen thicknesses, and a variety of palm rejection options.

onenote draw tools ipad

To start writing, select the type of pen you want to use then choose a color from either the four default colors on the toolbar, or from one of the 16 colors that reside in the color wheel. Note that there are only four colors to choose from with the highlighter pens.

Next, choose pen thickness. You will see that line thickness varies depending on whether you choose the thin, medium or highlighter pens, but there is enough variety here that you will likely find the thickness you want from one of these pens.

The palm rejection options are a little more sophisticated than the horizontal guard you get in apps like Notability. In OneNote for iPad, there are different options for left and right handed people, and accommodations are made for a few different ways that you might hold your hand on the screen while writing on the iPad.

palm rejection onenote ipad

If you make a mistake, the eraser can come to your aid, but it might not work exactly the way you think it might. The eraser will remove entire lines at a time, as opposed to small parts of a line. For writing, this generally means the entire letter. Basically, everything you draw until you lift your stylus, or finger, will be erased in one fell swoop when you use the eraser tool. In essence, it works the same as the undo arrow. Both tools produce the same results.

To add text to your page, you don’t have to revert back to the Home tab. Instead, you can tap the text mode button to momentarily revert to typing. Once you are done typing, you can tap a pen to resume your drawing activities.

All in all it is a very successful implementation. In the future it might be nice to see the addition of a shape or line tool, but this is a great start and it adds some very useful functionality to an already great free app. The draw tools are perfect for annotating over pictures, screenshots, maps and more, but many will just use it for handwriting, and as research shows, there is nothing wrong with that.

10 Alternatives to InfuseLearning for Assessments

formative assessment tools for teachers

Yesterday, it was announced that InfuseLearning, the popular, free online formative assessment tool, will be closing its doors for good on April 3, 2015. Those that have used it know that it was a great tool for teachers who were looking to gather data on their students to help inform future instruction. However, of late, it did not work as well as it used to, and ultimately this looks to have led to its eventual demise. So, here is a roundup of some of the best alternatives to InfuseLearning.

1. Socrative – It has been around for a while, but the recent 2.0 update gave it a much needed facelift and some new features to boot. It’s free, multi-platform, and a great way for teachers to get data on how well their students understand the content. They also have a great resource page with training materials to help you introduce this tool to others.

2. Kahoot! – If you’ve been to an edtech conference in the last 12 months, the chances are good that you have already been part of a Kahoot! quiz. Kahoot is a gamified approach to assessment, and it definitely adds a fun factor to a traditional quiz. Like Scorative, it can be used on any modern device. Read more about Kahoot here.

kahoot

3. Google Forms – Google Apps schools have been using Forms to collect assessment data for some time now, and over the years Forms has evolved to become an interesting online quiz tool. There are a variety of useful question types that include the ability to add images and videos. Pair it with Flubaroo, and you have a powerful self-grading assessment tool.

4. Excel Surveys – Not a Google school? Microsoft offer their own version of survey tool called Excel Surveys. It is available to Office 365 schools, or anyone with a free personal Microsoft account via Office Online. It lacks some of the more useful options found in Google Forms, but there is still enough to make it worth a look. Read more about Excel Surveys here.

5. Plickers – If devices are not plentiful in your school, then Plickers is exactly what you need. If you’ve never used it before, you will be amazed at how it works. You print out a collection of four sided QR code-like markers for students. They select the answer they want to give by rotating the card to the letter they want to submit, and the teacher scans the cards with a smartphone or tablet to record student responses. Read about Plickers here.

plickers.com

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