Skip to main content


Showing posts from 2017


A few years ago there was a great Twitter hashtag #NeedARedStamp about errors that students continually make and how it would be easier to just stamp your usual response on their papers.  Check 'em out here! I need a red stamp.  But not for kids' math papers. Everybody and their cousin has tweeted the latest  (in this case NYTimes) opinion piece " Laptops are great. But not during a lecture or meeting " at me.  And quite frankly, I'm too busy doing real work to spend a lot of time on a response.  So I include below a response I wrote earlier this summer as part of a discussion on another professor that said the same thing. I think I buried the lede, so I've bolded it in this posting. And I haven't even dug into the #digitalink possibilities that these professors ignore in their ham-fisted "device bad" response. -------- [personal references omitted] You’re likely speaking to the wrong group – I doubt that most of our pedagogies rely

"Geez, it's so easy!" - Skype for Business for Education

I had a teacher message me on Monday saying that he was having a guest talk to his class from Bogotá, Colombia and what would be the best way to web-conference with her and record it?   The absolute easiest way for anybody to do that is with Skype4Business, a business-level version of Skype  -- it's surprising robust with weak internet connections and provides almost any option you'd expect for web-conferencing.  We have used it each summer to teach French and now Math to students around the world. The result today ... he runs up and says "Geez, it's so easy!" Office365 -- the Microsoft productivity infrastructure -- is free to schools, and Skype4Business (Skype4B) is included in that, Don't worry about the "business" nomenclature... it's got the teaching add-ins you'd expect like screensharing, attachments, colalborative Word/OneNotes, quizzes/surveys all built-in. Here's the guide I gave him: 1) Head on over to Office365 --

BYOD. It's not about the device until it's the device.

I had a great conversation today with a tech director who was asking how we dealt with our 1:1 program and what my thoughts were on BYOD.  So I thought I write my thoughts down here as well. We have been 1:1 since 1998 - now, I didn't start at Appleby until 2001 but all my previous schools since 1996 were 1:1 so I consider it a continuous experience.  We cycle our devices every two years; we considered moving to a 3-year-cycle but our devices get so much use that they begin to display signs of extreme use by the end of the 2nd year that it seems to be a trade off of keeping them serviced versus a new device. When we sit down to think about the new device, we do debate, "Should we go BYOD?" and both the IT side and the Classroom side bring forth arguments. Invariably we realize we can't go BYOD without damaging what happens in the classroom. We use our devices essentially every minute of the academic day, and then whenever we do work outside of class.  All, and I me

Write anywhere

As folks know, I'm a big fan of #digitalink -- as a math teacher, as an aspiring creative person, I always want to scribble. I write on everything at home, and always have.  The back of envelopes (when people use to send them), post-it notes, boxes... I scribble everywhere.  I also doodle a lot when I'm bored. Lots of geometric figures, fractals and attempts at people. But it's also math -- math is drawing, sketching, inking the patterns & graphs we ask them to provide the algebra for.  And algebra! Lord, the notations. That's why, when we were rebuilding our classrooms and someone asked me my opinion, I asked specifically for desks that would allow whiteboard markers.  And it's been great!  My students aren't encumbered by the limits of paper or the laptop's screen and they don't have to go up to the board to collaborate.  They use the desk-top and a whiteboard marker.  In this digital age, they then use the Office Lens app on their phones to p

Web Content into OneNote

Getting content into OneNote is incredibly easy ... since every page acts like a clipboard, just drag&drop or use the INSERT ribbon. You can use the smartphone app  OfficeLens (which takes pictures of "real" content, cleans it up, and pushes it right into OneNote) or you can use the WebClipper  -- a browser add-in for Edge, Chrome & Firefox on Win/Mac devices which captures any webpage, cleans it up, and pushes it right into OneNote. Both are amazing tools ... but there's more than one way to skin a cat!  If you're using Edge browser, there's an even more powerful alternative built-in -- the "Make a Web Note" button (pink emphasis added).  Now, I know there are folks in the crowd smirking at the thought of Edge browser.  Well, I use both Chrome & Edge simultaneously -- because while Chrome is a good general-use browser, Edge offers some great opportunities for productivity & creativity, including the WebNote.  And, Chrome is a huge

Using OneNote to create a Choose your own Adventure book

[I did have 3 hours of Parent Teacher Conferences tonight, but I wanted to make sure I got my November daily post in!] I spent way too much time as a kid reading through the Choose Your Own Adventure books. Like these folks ( link ) I would map out the different paths to see what possibilities existed in the text. If you haven't ever read one, the format is pretty simple (well, to the reader).  You start at Page 1 and read a few paragraphs that are on the page, describing your situation. In "The Cave of Time" you're out hiking in the woods and come across a cave that you decide to explore.  After turning to the next page (as instructed) you are then required to make a choice, which will require you to jump to a much further page in the book (say, 18 or 27 as in the example below). From there you keep reading one page at a time, with the bottom of the page asking you to make a choice (or sending you to another page without choice).  As you can see from the na

Who are you?

In preparation for my next blog post (I'm blogging once-a-day in November!) we should talk about who you are .  In today's cloud-based services, you need an identity.  It's typically based on your email or your phone number.  One option is your Microsoft Identity . Most folks already have a Google, Facebook or Twitter identity... and this is the same idea.  Having a personal Microsoft Account does not mean you have to get another email or really do anything except register to get your Microsoft "space" and allows you to use cloud-based services like Word, PowerPoint, Excel & OneNote. If you don't already have a Microsoft Account, attach it to one of your existing emails.  If you're okay with it, I would recommend creating a new email through this process (even with the same name @ but I've also just attached it to my gmail account. Do NOT use your School email.  It will work and you could do it, but then you can't tell just by l

Stop Ditching Homework

I know it's trendy for folks to proselytize "Ditching Homework" - it's a catchy phrase, great memories of your own homework are likely hard to find and you won't get invited to speak at conferences or sell books if you're encouraging folks to do the something they're already doing. Now, I'm only speaking of high school -- to elementary teachers, I would suggest you follow Hattie's advice that 5 effective minutes is as good as 1-2 hours and to avoid "projects"( Link ).  But people arbitrarily throw out statements that have little basis in research, or produce straw arguments to avoid the "homework as an effective learning device". So my suggestion is not that it will teach responsibility (one blogger insists there is no research indicating this, but of course, there is, but I don't care either way -- it's not my goal) or will prepare them for post-secondary studies (who says they're going to post-secondary?). Inste

Making Microsoft Forms Quizzes with Math (Free, Easier and Quicker)

So Twitter serves up a lot of great tips, tricks, techniques and shortcuts for busy teachers. Choosing to follow the right folks helps prevent a lot of the nonsense. Eric Curts ( Twitter ) provided one to help Math teachers with quick formative assessments : Making Google Forms Quizzes with Math (Free, Easy, and Quick) . It's just as free, quicker and easier with Microsoft Forms ... and remember that Microsoft is free to all schools, teachers & students. So Eric wanted to make this problem below into a self-marking Quiz.  He had to use a separate app to create the math, change it into an image and then paste the URL to get the Math into Google Forms.  With Microsoft Forms, it's all included -- reduces the workload considerably! From Eric Curts (@ericcurts) Visit and click on Getting Started and log in with your School Microsoft Account. Don't have a School Microsoft Account?  Again, it's free for schools, teachers & students -

Why students OneNote

So my good friend and colleague Anjuli Ahooja and I were fortunate enough to host a student panel on learning technologies at the STAO (Science Teachers Association of Ontario) and teachers in the audience asked the following questions.  I tried to keep to actual student quotes. "I use Google Classroom... What is the advantage of using OneNote ClassNotebook?" "I've used both ... this [OneNote] is more seamless" "Google is so dependent a lot on internet connection, because they're internet based software and systems they have limited functionality in terms of the things you can be creative with... we're able to do more things" [OneNote works without need for continuous wifi]" "Because you have so many resources at your fingertips, you're able to use them all in one common space... I feel a lot more engaged and I'm a lot more easily able to integrate aspects into one common note instead of having multiple [files]" &

Audio in Learning (in OneNote)

Last week was crazy busy (3 conferences, report cards and my Dad's memorial service) so I'm catching up on my November committment. As Richard Byrne laid out today in his post, " Voice Recording Tools ", audio can be very effective for both students as content, as product or as feedback from teachers. OneNote doesn't require any additional plug-ins, programs, apps or logins -- you just click INSERT The instant you click on the AUDIO button, it creates an audio file next to your cursor, titles it with the name of the page it's on, and starts recording.  It starts recording the instant you click the button, so be ready!  The instant.  (Ask me how many times I've deleted the audio recording and started again cuz I wasn't ready!) Having Audio incorporated into OneNote makes it really easy to tie audio content to documents.   So easy to give feedback to a student exactly in their work where they need it.  And students can show you they know h

Report Cards & Learning Skills - Student Self-Assess

We just finished our report cards for the first Report Period and, in anticipation of giving them formal feedback, I asked my students to do a self-reflection of their Learning Skills, and to provide me with some feedback.  (If you'd like to know more about the Learning Skills we assess, the chart is on Page 11 in Growing Success ). I headed over to Microsoft Forms and copied the text from our Report Card so that they would read the same text they'll get at the end of this week.  They then had the ability to rank themselves just as I had to.  I also added two text boxes at the bottom of the Survey: What comments do you have to explain your ratings above? What evidence do you have that the highest or lowest rating is true & fair to you?  What feedback do you have for me or for the course? I always add the last comment on any survey I send out to anybody ... it's always important to give folks a chance to add on anything they haven'

Tech is not the be-all and end-all

Although I said I'd blog every day in November, I meant "school days" and didn't intend to blog on the weekend. But I had a few minutes between tasks and was browsing Twitter and came across Draper's post: It’s (still) not OK for teachers to remain digitally illiterate. Here’s why… Now, for starters, I encourage any and all teachers to aim towards integrating technology into their classrooms in a meaningful and appropriate to their task way. I'm a tech guy.  I enjoy experimenting, and failing, with technology in my classroom as we push against physical & virtual pedagogical boundaries. However, I decline to agree that a teacher who does not integrate technology into their classroom is in any way neglecting the best interests of the student so long as the teacher is focusing on critical thinking and social & emotional learning (and their subject matter), and is, in their own way experimenting with their craft.  That latter part is important -- i

Keeping up with Microsoft

So on Fridays, I sit in the Lounge at School so that folks can get assistance with things. It's good because just seeing me will prompt them "Oh, I had a question for you!"  Today, someone sat down with a coffee and asked me "So, if you have a question, who do you ask?" The question serendipitously coincided with my Feedly highlighting a new post from Richard Byrne, an avid tech blogger (who I recommend following). He gave a good run-down of Twitter accounts to follow to keep up with tips & changes with Google .  Since I'm committed to blogging every day this month, I thought I would respond with whom I follow on Twitter from Microsoft. @Microsoft  - the primary Microsoft Account.  I don't actually follow it; I rely on the rest of my Twitter folk to provide an important filtering action to let me know what's important. @MSFTEnable  - one of the most impressive things I learned at  Ignite2016  (the all-Microsoft conference held an