Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Lync in a Snowstorm: Video-conferencing the Music Classroom

Okay, so it's not Buffalo, but one of our teachers lives out in the country and due to the recent snowstorm was unable to come to school.  Normally, that isn't a great emergency as we do our own coverages for missing teachers internally so students tend to get a teacher who can keep them moving in their subject areas.

But I was chatting with our snow-bound music teacher while she was at home and she was worried about one of her classes that she wanted to touch base with.   I mentioned that it wouldn't be a problem to quickly throw together a Lync video-conference with her students and I'd be happy to do the physical setup at the school end.

So she went to Outlook and created a Lync meeting -- it's easy if you've ever made an appointment in Outlook... click the NEW LYNC MEETING in the toolbar and it creates a conference room that everyone is invited to.  Although you set a time, it exists as soon and as long as someone logs in.
So, she sent the Invitation around to her students and me and waited for class.  I arrived with my tablet and had all the students enter the Lync room and mute their microphones.  I plugged in our Yeti microphone and set it as close to the conductor's stand as possible and turned my tablet's camera to face the students (next time, bring external camera!)

I also use the projector to display my screen.  This way the chat window and teacher video was visible when the students were performing for the teacher (and thus had tablets closed) and when the teacher was sharing her screen to go over the OneNote every student could see.

In fact, the teacher started the class by going over her Course Plan with the students, reminding them about upcoming assignments and the December Exam.  The teacher is an advocate of tagging (in fact, she's a master of it!) and so you can see how different items in the students' course calendar are "hashtagged" with meaning.  The students would unmute their microphone and ask questions and then re-mute and the teacher would respond by video. 

After discussing her plans, she turned to performance... while she couldn't conduct (she is on a slow rural wireless connection and there was too much lag) she had a student mark the time and the students played for her.  The clarity of the video and the sound was sufficient that she gave direct criticsm and praise to each student -- I have to admit to being surprised that she could see and hear how students were mis-playing.  They played and replayed a couple of pieces for her throughout the class and she gave feedback each time.  By the end of the class another music teacher had dropped by to see how things were going and he was quite taken with the setup. She concluded the class by returning to the OneNote Binder and going through reminders and then signed the students off.

Now, it's important to note that this will not be our approach to Snow Days.  In our context, Snow Days are a rare and special thing -- a Canadian treat to a boarding school that cannot be tampered with.  But in a situation where a teacher wants to directly interact with her class, the opportunity to use technology to facilitate that needs to be met.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

"You don't want to use OneNote; it's too hard..."

So I was sitting in the Faculty Lounge yesterday (as I am as much as I can... see It's too far...) and I was chatting with a Social Studies teacher.  She was asking about the Microsoft conference I had attended last week where I had the opportunity to share our story with folks from across the Americas.  She wanted to make sure I knew that she was thrilled with the OneNote Binder (our super-charged version of Microsoft's OneNote Class Notebook).  And then she said You know, when I first came to our school I noticed some math & science teachers using OneNote and asked about it in my department and was told by my colleagues
'You don't want to use OneNote, it's too hard'.

I, of course, cringed.  But then I asked her why she changed her mind and was now a big fan of OneNote.

She said I went on maternity leave [the year we introduced the Binder] and when I came back, everyone was using the OneNote Binder and it was just so easy!  I noticed how one of our teachers had all of his resources organized for the entire year but could still add breaking news and adapt his instruction throughout the year.  I could see all the students' materials and provide feedback really easily.

I asked her, how long did it take you to get used to the OneNote Binder.  She smiled (that raised my spirits) and said It was just so obvious that in seconds I realized how it worked.

A photo from Microsoft's "Dragon's Den" in Barcelona March 2014,
where we unsuccessfully pitched the idea for the OneNote Binder
So I uncringed.  What made all the difference was the push-button ease of having the structure in place of the OneNote Binder.  On its own, OneNote can often be frightening (I refer to is as the fear of the blank page).  When you add in the structure of the OneNote Binder, an environment teachers and students are already comfortable with, they can easily start the process of digitizing their curriculum, expanding the collaboration amongst students and classes, and broadening the space we define as the classroom.

Since Office365, OneNote and the OneNote Notebook are all free for K12 schools, you should likely give it a try!

*I paraphrase except for the quote in red.  That was way too memorable to get wrong!  And I had to write a blog post just to get it out of my head.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Feedback to Students in OneNote : A summary

One of our participants here at the Park City Mathematics Institute asked me how we did student feedback at our school; I wrote him an email but thought I'd illustrate it a bit more here:
So, we have a little bit of a unique situation at our school. We use OneNote for almost all student content.  We have a notebook for each course section and then it's specially designed so that the teacher's section is visible but not editable by the students/parents and then each student has a section that only they, their parents and the teacher can edit.  You can see a few of our support videos here: 

So for feedback, I can go in and write (pen-based tablet) any comments I want directly on their work (in real time, collaboratively, during class or at home after they've done their homework).  We also have them do some of their homework as a screencast, so they send me a link with the video of them solving the problem and then I either write or  screencast a response for feedback.  There is a large emphasis in our assessment from our government on communication so this really helps both strengthen and document their progress -- and you have a bunch of exemplars you can then share back with the class since you don't assign the same problem to the all the students :)

Each of the students' section has a special section called "R" ... everything I put in there the students can see but can't edit, so that creates a digital portfolio of all their assessed work. So if they submit an assignment (in OneNote) I mark it and drag it into R to hand it back.  They can see all my comments and their marks but can't change anything although they can create a copy and do corrections.

If I hand back a test there's no more having their work disappear into their backpack; they can always go back and see what they did wrong on major tests.  It is a bit of pain to scan them (tests are the only paper we use) so I don't do it for everything and everyone but for some students (and parents) it's a really important step.   Since parents have read-access to their student's sections, they can see everything their student has done -- for some students, this means I can send a link to their homework page to their parents reminding them that it was due the previous day :) 

OneNote also has a record audio and video function so you can give audio/video feedback; now, I don't use this a lot but the English/Social teachers do when they're giving feedback on student essays and presentations.  They've found that the students are more likely to listen to the video than read the written comments on their academic work and they feel (no proof) that it lessens the emotional impact of receiving criticism when the teacher's voice/face is visible and all the subsequent non-verbal communication is in play. 

So, we're married to Microsoft OneNote for most of our feedback but we've found it to do most everything except time-stamp student submissions.

10 Things Every Teacher Should Know How To Do With Microsoft OneDrive

I've been busy with the wrap-up of the Park City Mathematics Institute (PCMI) so this has had to wait. But I caught the article "10 Things Every Teacher Should Know How To Do With Google Docs" and felt a parallel article describing similar processes with the free offerings from Microsoft was required (not a Microsoft employee and I get no special favours from Microsoft!).  Not because I have anything against GoogleDocs but rather that Microsoft OneDrive offers a great alternative especially if you're in a mixed/BYOD environment.

Microsoft OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive) is, for starters, a cloud-based storage system like Dropbox or GoogleDrive - the Microsoft offering provides many GBs of storage space (used to be 7, now 15 and I expect it will increase over time) with the option to purchase more.  However, like GoogleDrive, it is tied to a powerful Office system providing support for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations and surveying.

1. Share & Collaborate with Microsoft OneDrive

Here is the online power of OneDrive... anything you put inside your OneDrive folder is shareable to anyone on the internet, either as VIEW or EDIT.
Sharing is relatively easy.  Select the file (and it could be anything) and click the SHARE button that shows up along the top of the window.  
You'll get the sharing options:
You can invite specific people by email (or, as you can see, by connecting your Facebook account, to your Facebook friends); they'll need to get a Microsoft account.  You can also just provide a link for general sharing (again, editable or read-only) that does not require a Microsoft account.  
This has been really handy for working with groups of teachers and/or students.

2. Comments & Suggested Edits

When you're in your Word document that you're working with online (inside the browser, which is powerful enough for day-to-day editing), you have access to a conversation-space next to the document where you can engage in chat with your co-authors.  As you may already be used to in desktop-Word, in the browser-based Word through OneDrive, you have the COMMENTS button on the INSERT or REVIEW ribbons... click it and you'll be able to provide feedback on the document.

3. Revision History

While it doesn't display the same granularity of editing history that GoogleDocs presently has (yet), by going to the FILE button you can get at the document's INFO and see major revisions of the document to see how the document has developed over time and then either revert to them or download them as a separate file.
I say "yet" because Microsoft is continually updating the options available on the browser-based Word inside of OneDrive, so capabilities you may be missing right now will suddenly show up the next time you start editing.  

4. Printing

The OneDrive-based Word-in-the-browser has a really nice printing method... you get a nice preview of the first page and then it automatically opens up your printer dialog from which you can print.  You can also download the PDF that it has created if you want to distribute the document separately from the Share process mentioned above.

5. Microsoft Clip Art

As we've come to expect from Microsoft Office, you have access to Microsoft Clip Art.  Choose the INSERT ribbon and when you click on Clip Art you can do a search by topic and insert your clip art into the the document.  You don't get a lot of image-editing tools after you insert the image (you can scale, wrap or assign styles like shadows)
You can can also upload your own images from your computer but not yet insert by web-address.

6. Insert Tables

You can insert Tables into your documents - but you do have access to some of the more common Table Designs you find in desktop Word.  While you don't have formulas, you have a lot more options for shading and border.  No merge or split, though.

7. Open in Word

If you have Word installed on your desktop, you can jump out of the browser-based Word and edit your document in the fully-powered desktop Word -- and still keep the collaborative and shared environment with other people.  Your SAVE button in desktop Word takes on green "sync arrows"
to show that you're updating a shared document.  You can use all the options on your desktop Word, although the folks using browser Word won't be able to edit them, only view things like Equation Editor.

8, 9 & 10. More Than a Word Processor - Excel Spreadsheets & Surveys, PowerPoint & OneNote

OneDrive allows you to share folders and also create & collaboratively edit & view Excel spreadsheets and a rudimentary online survey tool that will fill your spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations and, in what is ground-breaking and competition-killing, OneNote Notebooks -- you  haven't exercised the power of technology until you start working with OneNote Notebooks.

Monday, July 14, 2014

External Reviews - Using two Notebooks, Link to Page and Send to OneNote

We're just about finished here at the Park City Mathematics Institute (PCMI) and the afternoon professional development workshop creation process has only a few days left. The last big stage was actually this weekend when each group's work was sent out for an external review; those reviews have been coming in all weekend.
Using two OneNote Notebooks (one publicly readable but not editable and one for each group that they had complete control over) has worked extraordinarily well.  The participants can get at all the information that we present each day in the public NoteBook while at the same time they can read & write in their group NoteBook.
For the external review, participants had to supply their Facilitator Guide and a PowerPoint, along with any of the other handouts.  They've been building the Guide right inside of OneNote using a table to format the plan.  The PowerPoint, on the other hand, was created using the Office WebApp in OneDrive -- this allowed participants to work on the PowerPoint simultaneously and on the variety of devices they have (PCs, Macs and iPads).  They used the Word WebApp in OneDrive to make the handouts, again so that they could work collaboratively.

I had already created a "For Cal" section with pages for each miletone; they put an internal link to their Facilitator Guide Page in their own OneNote -- to do this, they Right-Click'ed the page name and chose COPY LINK TO PAGE and then pasted that link on their "W2 External Review" page.  It meant that I could just go to all their "W2 External Review" pages and click on the link and then copy the OneNote table directly into a new Word document to pass on to the Reviewer.  

For the PowerPoint, they created a Share Link in the PowerPoint WebApp and paste it into their Review Page.  Again, all I had to do was click on the link, their PowerPoint opened on the web and I could click Download to get a copy to send to their reviewer.

Now, I wish I could have use OneNote to distribute and collect the external reviews but I had a large number of reviewers and there was no guarantee they were ready or willing to work in a OneNote structure.  Yet.  Since OneNote worked so well this year with the participants, when we do the same thing next year, we'll ensure that the reviewers have had some experience with OneNote so that we can provide all of the content and have them put their comments directly into the pages.
In my "public" Notebook (we tend to just call them 'OneNotes' rather than Notebooks) I put the collection for each group so that the other groups could see what everyone else had done ... and it was easy for me to go back and refer to their work in its digital format.  Then copy the table from the OneNote page and paste it into a Word Document to send off to the external reviewers... no formatting issues at all even though they had embedded images inside the table.

The external reviewers then sent me back a variety of content -- some like using the Commenting inside Word, some just wrote a long email.  So that got put in the group's OneNote -- and here the SEND TO ONENOTE worked amazing.

Open up the document -- and the reviewers sent back both Word and PowerPoint files -- choose PRINT and then set the printer to Send to OneNote.... OneNote then pops up a Notebook selection and I tell it which Notebook and which Section I want to put it in.  It's also smart -- it knows which Section you had been working in and suggests it as the first choice.

As you can see from the image below, it puts in a printout of each Word page along with the comments along the right.
A little thing that was curious - in Word, the Reviewer's full name appeared in the comment but when it gets printed-out, only the reviewer's initials appear.

For those who sent an email, it was a simple copy-and-paste into a new page in the group's OneNote.  They now have access to all the reviewer's materials (some added comments to the handouts and PowerPoints as well).

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Excel Surveys

One of the activities in Reflecting on Practice today involved developing question stems that would promote math talk.  We wanted a quick and easy way of collecting the sample question stems each participant had created -- a survey lets us distribute the typing and simplifies the redistribution for tomorrow's task.

In the past we would have used GoogleDocs because it puts the responses into a spreadsheet for easy analysis and distribution.  But, since we've been using Microsoft OneNote extensively, the majority of the participants have managed to get a Microsoft account and have started to use the OneDrive Web Apps for Word, Excel & PowerPoint.  Alongside the web-versions of the desktop apps, OneDrive offers the Excel Survey tool and already participants have been playing with the opportunities.

It's relatively easy to get started.  Click on the CREATE button in your OneDrive and you'll get the opportunity to create an online survey, with the entries going directly into an Excel spreadsheet.

Now, this is not a tremendously sophisticated survey tool with conditional branching but in an academic setting, it works very well for data collection.  You can grab numbers, text/paragraph, date/time, yes/no or multiple choice from participants -- and it all gets put into an Excel spreadsheet, with the column headings as your question -- and the Excel WebApp lets you filter your response on line.

After you create your survey you can create a link to send to your participants; again, I use to provide a shortened, customized link that can then be shared with your participants.

You can also go in to the Excel WebApp and edit your survey in case you (as I did) made a spelling error on the survey or add another question.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A one-off OneNote Notebook for a specific PD session

Each day as part of the 3-week Park City Mathematics Institute (PCMI), we have a 75 minute session called "Reflecting on Practice".  We take the 60-or-so participants and break out into three smaller rooms of about 20 each, further subdividing them into 4 tables.

Each year we look at a teacher move and delve deeply into how and why.  This year's topic is "Discourse" or, more colloquially, "math talk".  In planning these sessions we have an obvious focus on good pedagogy - teachers learn by watching good models.  We are deliberate in our choices of how we have teachers collaborate, how they present their work and how they receive feedback.  Over the three weeks we try to showcase a variety of approaches and technologies.

Today's class asked participants to create a task with their partner that would specifically introduce a common error in the mathematics they taught (we run from Elementary through Secondary) and provide strategies for the teacher to deepen the conversation around the error.

Normally in an activity like this we would have used poster paper so that they could then put their tasks & strategies around the room and do a gallery walk, then bringing out themes and challenges that arise.  But, since we were asking teachers to create tasks for topics they would actually end up working on with students, we knew we wanted to keep and distribute them.  Teachers love to have a reservoir of good questions.

For this, we decided to use a shared OneNote Notebook on my OneDrive that would be visible across all three rooms. I created a Section for each Room (labelled with their facilitators' names) and then three pages for the three groups that may be at each table.  The partners would use a shortened address (I tend to use to get at the Notebook on any device and then put all of their content on their page.

As I mentioned on the earlier post, our participants have worked enough with OneNote now that they are very comfortable with the interface.  They brainstormed together on their devices using text; if they had a pen-based computer they included drawings and a few groups drew on paper and then snapped a picture with their smartphone and pasted the image in.  The facilitators watched as the tasks developed and tagged pages that would later be brought forward to individual rooms for discussion.

The feedback from using OneNote has been great; they have referred to it as an online whiteboard, an electronic notebook.  They have really liked the ability to be physically in one room while being able to see the content from another room - with poster paper, that's pretty much impossible.  They also now have access to the material when they get back to their home schools.

It would be nice that, after sharing an edit-anywhere link the owner of the Notebook could then "lock down" the Notebook after the exercise so that there's a snapshot that can't be changed.  I did download a OneNote package so that should any teacher accidentally remove content I can replace it.

I've use OneNote like this for conference sessions and it works really well to collect user content and feedback but it's usually limited to folks who are familiar with OneNote.  To use it with a group of now-experts has been a rewarding experience.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

How long does it take? Working with OneNote and the OneDrive WebApps

At Appleby College, we've been using Microsoft OneNote for a l.o.n.g time now ... and structured shared OneNote Binders for two full academic years now.  Folks often ask how much time it takes for teachers to get accustomed to working with OneNote and shared documents in general.  Since we have the advantage of a 1:1 tablet program and a background with the software, it's hard to be fair when describing how long it takes for teachers to become comfortable enough to use it in the classroom in front of students and to bend it to their pedagogical and administrative needs.

Well, we started using OneNote last week at the Park City Mathematics Institute (PCMI) to help with professional development creation.  Of the 50 or so participants, only a handful had used it before and for the vast majority it was brand new to them.  So far, they've spent 8 hours using OneNote and shared collaborative Word documents & PowerPoint presentations through OneDrive and the WebApp.  I can definitively say that 8 hours, using a series of practical activities that only tangentially required them to interact with and add to these applications rather than "training" is how long it takes -- people are already taking their own initiative and trying different things with the WebApps and determining when and how to use the desktop applications with shared files.  As well, people who have taken the additional step of using a pen within OneNote have commented on the power it provides them, in particular in a subject like mathematics.

There are a few issues with Macs but iPads (with all their limitations) are working fairly well although the browser implementation on the iPad does get a little wonky.

If you're planning on working with teachers through a PD course, at a conference or even in day-to-day school life, you should give OneNote and the OneDrive WebApps a try.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Teacher Professional Development and Microsoft OneNote

During the first three weeks of July, I have the amazing opportunity to work at the Park City Mathematics Institute.  It is, without exaggeration, the best professional development opportunity for teachers of mathematics.  Participants spend three weeks thinking deeply about mathematics and mathematics education.

There are three main aspects of PCMI:

  • learning mathematics
  • reflection on practice (RoP)
  • becoming a resource to others.
I'm part of the team for RoP and in charge of the third aspect, in which participants consider a gap in professional development back at their home districts and work in small groups to help fill that hole by developing a rich PD seminar on that topic.

It is not easy to develop professional development.  Teachers who haven't written PD have to patiently learn how to write (essentially) lesson plans for someone else.

This year, I used Microsoft OneNote to facilitate the process.  We have a central OneNote Notebook through which I lay out the daily schedule, supply all the resources, and provide access to the waypoints that each group creates.  The participants have full read access to everything but not write.  I would have liked to have had the deeper permissioning of Appleby College's OneNote Binder, but not having SharePoint meant I was only able to have group-level permissions.

I also created a OneNote Notebook for each group to work in. For each group Notebook I set up two sections, one for "Notes" and the other "For Cal" ... the former had a couple of blank pages already set up (so they could start brainstorming) as well as a page with our PD Facilitator Guide template -- they can collaboratively fill that in and then eventually copy & paste the table into Word for final editing.  The "For Cal" section had pages for all of their checkpoints set up in advance (they have to submit "homework" about every two days so that their progress can be review).  Having this dedicated dropbox area really helps with collecting the information when you want it.  I then just copy & paste the checkpoint pages into my group Notebook so now every group can see the other group's progress.  We felt we wanted to keep all the rough notes private.

Last year we used shared GoogleDocs for this process -- but fortunately, Microsoft rolled out OneNote for a variety of devices this spring.  And the OneNote web-app provides quick and easy access if the full application isn't available.  As they started their projects, OneNote was a nice collaborative brainstorming space. It then became a development space and resource library.  It's so quick & easy to just attach any kind of image, document, video.

The feedback from the participants has been excellent; many did not know of OneNote, including participants who came with Microsoft Surfaces or other Windows tablets.  The iPad app and web apps have helped to keep everyone up to date, and for PCMI support and administrative people it's been convenient to say "here's the link" and they can see what's developing day-by-day.

One caveat: ensure participants have a Microsoft Account before they arrived.  A few participants didn't do that and Microsoft has a daily limit of Microsoft Accounts from a particular network.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

How do you direct someone to a specific spot in your OneNote

OneNote, as well as I can gauge from the number of tweets I see tagged with it, has been undergoing a marked increase in user base.
So, I've been trying to mirror what folks do with GoogleDocs and show how it's done with OneNote.

To wit... "How do you direct someone to a specific spot in your Google Doc?"

How do you direct someone to a specific place in your OneNote notebook?  The thing about OneNote is, of course, that it can contain anything -- text, images, audio, video, files, links -- so that you can really direct folks to the exact content you want.  Objects in OneNote are in containers (you see them as light grey lines when you select them) and so when you RIGHT-CLICK on the object, you get the option to "Copy Link to Paragraph"

Paste that link in an email or on the web ... if they have the OneNote Notebook already syncing to their computer, it will open on their computer.

So, this link: onenote:{880DB613-1883-4202-BA87-B363571C0092}&page-id={9BD7FAAC-5155-4275-9A7E-12F7815C3213}&object-id={0EBA2678-D60E-0DE7-24DA-4D522095A63A}&2F 
 would open the page you see below and move your screen to the inked note "This is before winter", which is about halfway down a page below a table and next to a picture ... if you had privileges to this OneNote :)   And, it doesn't look like that above link when you paste it into a document or email.  Microsoft formats it so it looks like this: This is before winter  (Web view)

We use this a lot for students, linking directly to their homework or the rubric. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

OneNote Binders for all! Well, one step closer, at least...

We got great news today... Microsoft Office Labs  have released an app for Sharepoint2013 that will create a OneNote notebook for your class very similar to what we use at Appleby!

The direct link to the Store is

This is a great first step forward -- it brings the collaboration and planning to any teacher with access to a Sharepoint2013 server.  Our next goal is to make it work on Sharepoint Online (it works on Sharepoint online, too!)-- and distribute it in a way that doesn't require purchase and maintenance of an online space by the teacher.  Our pitch at the 2014 Microsoft Global Forum is, piece-by-piece, slowly coming to fruition.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Comfort Zone

"Working within our comfort zone is pretty much the antithesis of learning"

Monday, April 21, 2014

OneNote! "What are you waiting for Math Teachers?"

So this post is prompted by Dave Sladkey's post earlier on using Google Drive, namely Google Drive! What are you waiting for Math Teachers?

Now Google Drive/Google Docs has much greater visibility than Microsoft OneNote and even though I'm a long-time GDocs/Drive user I would likely recommend the OneNote Notebook approach over the GoogleDrive.  But I realized that maybe folks didn't know how easy it was to set something up.


Go to and, if you don't already have a Microsoft account, sign up for one.

Click on CREATE and choose OneNote Notebook

Now, you can think of a OneNote Notebook as a "Google Drive Folder".  It has Sections (like Google Drive Subfolders) and Pages (like Google Drive Files).  But these pages can contain anything.  And I mean anything.  They're like wiki pages in that you can drop text, images, links to other pages, you can embed files & videos... you name it!

After you're done playing with it (and you should play with it) you can click on SHARE in the upper right corner and GET A LINK.  Now, you can set it up so that others can edit (maybe you have a co-teacher?) or just to view

And ... everything syncs back to OneNote.

For a brief overview of how we use OneNote at our school, here's a YouTube playlist of some of our support videos.