Skip to main content

Posts

Choose your own... PD.

When we return from March Break, we tend to have a teacher-only day of PD and meetings.  The admin had broken the faculty into 3 groups for two sessions and hadn't planned anything for the third so I suggested I run a tech PD.
Since this would be my swan song as the tech guy I wanted to do something interesting but also to value the time of the teachers. I would have 30-40 teachers at a time, so I knew I couldn't do a workshop or a "presentation" of tech so I turned to an idea I've had before -- a Choose Your Own Adventure PD.  Why?  Well, I haven't had any time to give them PD this year so I had a lot of things to share, I wanted to make sure they found it profitable, and I wanted it to be something different than what they'd done before.  (I've talked about Choose Your Own Adventure earlier on this blog here.)

I had a long list of things that were new, new-er or just hadn't reached universality.  I was a little restricted because IT doesn't…
Recent posts

The Universe decides...

For a number of years now, instead of a fixed (or no) seating plan for my classroom, I've been using visibly random grouping (PDF).  I have an Excel spreadsheet (link) that takes my class list and randomly assigns them to a 4-seater table (2 tables that seat two students). I project it at the beginning of class as they walk in.  And I use 5 plastic covered letters to randomly place the groups inside the space.
Now, my classroom has one fixed projector and the rest of the room is either whiteboard or window -- both vertical surfaces are used to write on, and the tables have been explicitly purchased so that the surfaces are write-able. So while we do a lot of work seated they will also go to the whiteboards individually or in pairs (the table seating decide the pairs).
While the pedagogical reasons for using visibly random grouping are laid out in the attached article above, I bring it up because of what happened the other day.  Someone else had used my room for a discussion and ha…

This is a Test... this is only a test...

This post wouldn't have been possible without Eric in our IT Dept -- he fixed a network setting that prevented us from using TakeATest last year... so a huge shout-out to him (he's likely relieved because I've been pestering him for the past couple of years!)
Built into Windows10 (right from its initial release!) is the option to TakeATest -- a way to lock down the device to a single web address.  It shuts them out from any program or content on their device and restricts them to whatever webpage you direct them to -- the only way to exit is to CTRL-ALT-DELETE back to the login screen.  They can't do screen captures, can't open up other pages, print, etc.
In most cases, this has been used to lock down the device and have the student take a Microsoft Forms based assessment (how? click here) -- the student clicks on the link to the Form and they answer the questions, typically multiple choice, short answer, sorting (all automatically graded) and long answer (not aut…

Post It Notes go universal

Microsoft recently began rolling out an update to their Post-It Note software, which they call StickyNotes - now at version 3.  You can get it in the Microsoft Store here.  For the sake of clarity, I'll continue to refer to them as Post-It Notes -- they're like Kleenex.
What's nice now is that the Notes now sync between devices that are tied to the same Microsoft/Office365 account.  So my school laptop, my home desktop and my phone can now access all the same notes all the time. (I did use my personal Microsoft Account rather than my O365 account because I use them for personal reminders and not just academic ones.)
The application is as simple and colourful as you'd expect.  You click the + sign to get a new note.

You'll briefly see a little check mark as the note gets synced to the cloud.  There are some basic formatting (bold, italic, underline, list ... and strike-out for when you get things done!).  And you can change the colour of the note by clicking on the…

Snip&Sketch

So the October 2018 Windows 10 Update has provided a new snipping tool ... now, it surprises me that this would be the thing I'm most happy about, but it is! Making things we do very often each day as easy as possible has immediate payoffs in the classroom, so this is a huge leap forward. If your IT Department hasn't yet given you the Update, you can update yourself by downloading it from here.
Here's what makes the new Snip & Sketch so slick....
Press WINDOWS-SHIFT-S
The screen goes grey and along the top you have the option to rectangular, freefom or full-screen clip.  I typically use rectangular to grab student content from OneNote or the web.
Once you've finished the selection, up pops a success note in the Notification area of your screen.

Click on that notification and up pops the Snip&Sketch App (which you can pin to your Taskbar or Start if you want).

In the app, you can use #digitalink to draw and highlight content -- although I hope they just bring in…

Making your own font

Slid in amongst all the announcements for Ignite, Microsoft's big conference in September, as a tool that I thought was quite cool.  Not original, since similar things have existed elsewhere & when, but a nice option nevertheless.
Microsoft's Font Maker allows you to create your own font using digital ink.  You get all 26 characters, numbers and punctuation (for English languages) on which you draw your font for each character. (For me, it's the first 128 printable characters out of the ASCII table!)
 Using your #digitalink pen, you draw out what you want each character to look like. I just quickly wrote out the alphabet as you can see below:

You don't have to do it all at once and you can keep working on your Font as you go; it saves as a JSON Project File which means you can send these between collaborators.
Once you have your font done, you can adjust the spacing between characters & words to make it look good (it uses a scene from Hamlet -- I'm curious w…

Other folks, doing stuff in OneNote

When I'm working in OneNote on the night before classes, I always find it interesting to see who else is there working.  The Windows10 version of OneNote (and OneNote Online) both include a People Presence option to show you who else is working in the same Notebook/ClassNotebook.
When you click on the name of the page, you jump there -- so you can work together. While I was doing screenshots, you can see how another student has entered the ClassNotebook, and the first student has moved from one page to another as they do their homework.
And then, when I flipped over into our Faculty OneNote, I had one teacher looking at how to send emails to parents for one of her extracurricular programs (in our Tech Help section), while one was working on our Student Leadership Conference and the other two working on incoming pages.

While there is an aspect to this of "surveillance", it's meant to energize collaboration.  
In the ClassNotebook, it keeps me aware of when and how stu…