Skip to main content

The structure of the Interstitial App, or, Observations & Conversations - Part 2

This builds on my earlier post (link here).

After my session at the OAME Conference (link to Presentation), a few folks asked me how I had put this together, so I'm going to give a brief run-down here. You're always welcome to ask me for more information, of course, if I've been too brief.
I used Microsoft PowerApps -- it's a quick-and-dirty way to make an app that uses your existing data and then you can muck around with the data, add more and then store it somewhere else.
What's nice is that the Apps are universal -- they work on the laptop, iPad, iPhone & Android phones. There's a web app version so they will work on a Chromebook too!
PowerApps are meant for quick development and refinement and for most users and applications in schools it's free. If you're not an Office365 school, or if your school blocks you from using PowerApps, you can sign up for your own Office365 just as a faculty member! (link here) It gives you access to the web-versions of Office as well as all the online spaces of Office365 so much more powerful than GoogleDocs/Drive on its own -- and you can do your own PowerApps, Classnotebooks, Sites, you name it! (I could go into a long story about how I started this project almost two years ago but lost all my work when IT shut down my access to PowerApps but I'm not going to.) You also have access to the power of Azure and Cortana intelligence -- but be careful, there's a cost there (ask me how I know thi$).
I needed one set of data to start -- who was in each course and who taught that course. That is easy to put together -- a quick Excel spreadsheet of student names, codes, course code & teachers. I also needed the Course Expectations -- I only wanted the General Ones but, since it's in an Excel spreadsheet, I can edit/add expectations all I want! I also created a smaller Excel for the Learning Skills so that I could track those at the same time (I used to use a Microsoft Form but this ties it together - link to blog post.)
Then I needed someplace to put the data once I collected it. There are a lot of options here ... you could leave it as an Excel spreadsheet. I'm just using an Office365 Site List -- which I can download as an Excel spreadsheet to work with. This means I never touch the real data; I always work with a copy. I also create a Picture Library to store the pictures in, and put a link to each picture in my Site List. I don't imagine I'll use the pictures a lot -- they're just there for backup to reinforce my comments/assessment. 

One caveat to the teachers who use the app -- since I don't do any image compression, they want to be on wifi as it pushes those pictures up to Office365! So all the data is stored in 4 lists, 3 of which are pretty much static (I haven't dealt with students adding/dropping courses or teachers changing... this is meant to be quick & dirty so that may be a manual edit of your class list in Excel.)

Now off I go to PowerApps ... it's an option when you visit and log in with your Office365 account ... or you can go there direct at the site. I started from scratch because this started as an experiment in learning PowerApps and got accelerated when a teacher said he wanted the app done yesterday. Remember, there's always an easier way than what I do :)

The PowerApps programs are based on "screens" so I have two screens:
1) a "choose a teacher/course" screen which asks which teacher is using the app and then, from the Excel spreadsheet, the app pulls up the courses for the teacher and they select the one they're in at that moment.

2) a "create an observation/conversation entry" screen which collects a picture, choose the students, sets the expectation/learning skill, gives a 0-5 rubric number and adds a comment.

The main sequence is RED -- Choose the student (1) and the General Expecation (2), assign a value to the observation/conversation (3) since the Ministry Inspector wants us to be able to say if/how it affects their reported grade (0 indicates you're not giving them a value obviously and then we use a 1-5 rubric at my school) then write a comment (4) in the Rich Text field since we sometime like to add emphasis and click SAVE (5).  This pushes all this data into the List on Office365.  If you want to do a Learning Skill instead of an Expectation, tap the SWAP button (1) and you'll see the Learning Skills list.

You can add a picture by tapping the picture (1) and then the capture button (2).  That puts the image you captured in the middle of the screen (3) so that if you don't like what you have you can capture a new one.  No, you can't do more than one picture right now but it's not an impossible change.  I thought about adding audio (an easy add) but video is another issue entirely.
That's it!  The CLEAR button and the X button are used to either re-use the picture/comment for another student (if they're working on the same problem or involved in the same conversation, say) or reset the entire screen.
Now, the coding goes on each of the objects on each screen.  To give you an idea, here's the first screen: 
The initial text box, nothing happens!  But when they type in their teacher id and tap OK, then it stores whatever is in the box to the variable for TeacherID, and, at the same time, the Course List gets updated from the Excel spreadsheet of Student/Courses/Teachers to only show those courses from this particular teacher.  When the teacher selects a course from the now-filled dropdown list and taps OK, then the app stores the courseID into the variable for CourseID and also sends them off to the next screen where they fill in the Comment.
Now, yes, this is the easiest screen so I'll pull apart the next screen in my next blog post.


Popular posts from this blog

Escape Room / BreakOut in OneNote

[[Part 2 of this article is here: Link] ] So when I was visiting  Anna in Edinburgh  during March Break, she showed me how she used Password-Protected OneNote sections within the OneNote ClassNotebook to help students check their work -- she set the password to the correct answer, so they knew they had it right when the Section opened up. I figured I could use this for Math Review, so I set aside a couple of hours (turned out to be 3 hours but a fair chunk of that was solution-time) the other night to put an Exam Review together for my Grade 10 Mathematics course.  I pulled together as many multiple choice questions and short answer questions on the topics as I could Google and tried to balance each Section with a mix of topics and then threw in a couple of pop-culture questions, too.  The students worked on the problems in each section and used the answers as passwords to unlock the next section until they got to the Prize section. Result?  Near total continual engagement

So you want to hack your OneNote Class Notebook

Taking a brief break from my "Getting Started with OneNote Class Notebook" series (you can start that one here )... This is a little advanced so if you're not comfortable setting permissions inside of Office365 you may want to avoid this.  Or set up a Class Notebook to play with so that it doesn't affect any existing Class Notebooks.  Yeah, the latter is a good option. One of the great powers of OneNote is that you can do some really neat permissioning of the Section Tabs. When the Notebook is created, of course, it gives you an "open permissions" on the Collaboration Space and student-read-only on the Content Library.  And then each student space is wide open to each individual student. But we've found that occasionally you want to mix up the permissions a little.  For example, you could create a space in a student section for your private notes that the student couldn't see, or maybe you want a tab in the Collaboration Space that students cou

Desmos, OneNote & Replay

So using Desmos activities are a great way to encourage exploration and discussion in math class -- if you haven't tried them, I encourage it.  They're collected at  But ... Desmos doesn't give you quite enough.  It doesn't have a way of capturing the work that the student does within their space, and it doesn't allow for annotation of class contributions as we come together to discuss.  Well, not surprisingly, OneNote comes to the rescue.  Using the Windows shortcut Windows-Shift-S it is really quick to snag the Desmos screen and pop it into a waiting OneNote page.  From there, we can grab our pen and (using wireless projection) talk about what all the different responses mean and where to go from there. (An aside : one of the nice features of Desmos activities are the way you can hit PAUSE and it will pause all the screens of the students working.  I always give them a heads up "10 seconds to pause..." and it's refr