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Showing posts from 2018

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

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 a

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 clic


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 t

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'

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

Teacher as Student in Anonymous Desmos

I thought that everybody did this! But apparently, not.  So this was my XKCD 10,000 moment this week.  I happened to tweet the following -- and I think it's my popular tweet of all time.  And as you can see, I was just at the end of class and tapped it out quickly... error included! The year is just starting and students aren't yet used to the expectations of responses when we do a Desmos activity, I've found I've had to prime the pump sometimes. I am logged into Desmos as the teacher and I project the Dashboard on the projector.  I try to get to the dashboard as quickly as possible so that I can click Anonymize, which makes the students' login names those of famous mathematicians/scientists/engineers. (Suggestion to Desmos -- it would be nice to be able to enter an activity with Anonymous turned on.)   This means students can make errors without making them publicly although invariably, some students will yell out their pseudonym. Then I use the PAUSE bu

How do you know you're right?

So I'm only on the 2nd class of the year in my Grade 10 Math course so far.  We start late, and we only see them for 3 hours a week, so yes, we move a little slow. I had set them some review problems in Grade 9 Math, mostly questions of simple algebra, linear equations, graphs of lines, etc.  And had them work on the questions about as freely as I could -- but since they're new, they didn't express much freedom. They didn't talk much, they certainly didn't talk to each other, and they didn't check their work with each other. This will change.   I had deliberately told them that I did not put the answers at the bottom of the OneNote page and that they would have to check their work somehow. Ten minutes in, I did a screen capture of a student's work from their OneNote Section and pasted it into my OneNote page for the day and asked them " How does the student know they're correct ?" The obvious answers came up: Do it again Check with anot

Book 'em, Dano... using Office365

I don't usually talk about aspects of Office365 that require one of the paid subscriptions because, well, they cost money and I know teachers and schools have to prioritize their budgets (or have it prioritized for them). Remember that Office365 level A1 is free for schools, teachers & students and the tools you do get are very powerful -- you can check it out here .  But if you are a paid Office365 user, you have access to another handy little tool included in your subscription (and since you're paying for it, you might as well use it!) Bookings is a (relatively simple) appointment booking web service. It works like this: Visit and click on "All your Apps".  It is hidden away under the main Office Apps -- and your admin could have it turned off, although it is turned on by default, so shhhh...  It's available in the paid A3/A5 levels, just not the free A1 :(   Now, it's okay that it's not immediately visible because your

Your Team's Files, where you want them

Even though everything is in the cloud, we really like to have a copy on our computers (we work on public transit, in places with no or poor wifi, and we never really trust the cloud). So when we're working in a cloud space, here's how you can sync the files to your device. We have a Math Department Team on Microsoft Teams (it is free if you'd like to do the same thing at your school) and a Channel within the Team for each course to discuss, build and share resources. I teach MPM2D, our Grade 10 course, and so all I really care about is Grade 10 math.  Sorry, Calc & Stats! So, within each Team Channel there's a dedicated file space - and we work on files together there. Course descriptions, tests, projects, you name it.  But I don't want to have to go to Teams to get the files! I'd like them on my hard drive and be able to get to them through File Explorer (like I have since 1995!) Click on the FILES button when you're in the Channel that you wan