Docs.com – Soon To Be Retired

On Friday 9th of June Microsoft announced that it would be retiring the Docs.com platform, effective as of Dec 15th 2017, at which point all content would be deleted:

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The homepage of Docs.com with the banner advising it will soon be retired in mid December 2017

An in-depth help article is available to assist you with managing the impact of this announcement, including advice for how to migrate your content to other platforms such as OneDrive For Business. Given many school users already have Office365 accounts the following advice is helpful:

For Office 365 Users with OneDrive for Business

We can automatically back up all compatible content to your OneDrive for Business account if your Administrator enables the auto-migration service for your organization (this option is available as of June 19, 2017). If you would like your school’s or company’s Administrator to initiate this process for you, please contact them and include a link to this article.

You can also choose to log in to Docs.com and follow the auto-migration prompts yourself. When the process is complete, you will find all compatible content you had previously published to Docs.com backed up to your OneDrive for Business folders. The original content on Docs.com will thereafter only be available to view, download, and delete.

The help article will be updated after June 19th 2017 with further information specifically for O365 Administrators so they can support their users.

Microsoft is encouraging regular users of Docs.com to explore SlideShare.net as the recommended replacement platform for sharing content publicly.

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SlideShare was acquired by Microsoft as part of LinkedIn.com  and allows users to sign in with either their LinkedIn or FaceBook profiles to start sharing and commenting on the platform. From the announcement article:

Following Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn, SlideShare has joined the Microsoft family, and represents the ideal platform for publishing your Word, PowerPoint, and PDF content with its audience of 70 million professionals, and vast content library

There is six months remaining before the retirement of Docs.com and the subsequent deletion of all content on it. If you’re a regular user of the service it is time to get thinking about backing up your content to OneDrive for Business and migrating your public content to SlideShare.

Simple Addition To BYOD Laptop: A Retractable Handle On Spine

I’m seeing a wide range of devices aimed at the education market these days in my job with Microsoft and BYOD in particular is getting increasing choice of really good hardware designs.

One option that has stood out the most to me as a real benefit for students was a laptop with a built in handle that retracted into the spine of the laptop. I actually did not notice this for over a week after I received the laptop but now I use it all the time when moving the device around. Here are a few pictures of it:

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View from underneath the laptop with the handle fully retracted, it is flush in line with the spine of the laptop.

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Viewed from above, the handle is pulled out.

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Viewed from “behind” the device with the screen closed. The handle automatically retracts into place when released.

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Holding the laptop naturally with the handle taking the full weight of the device.

The other neat feature of this device is that it actually has a loop for the stylus attached to the keyboard side of the laptop (not the screen) as well as a lanyard tie to the loop on the laptop so the pen is always attached and can not be lost:

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It’s small design features like this that can add significant value to students in the BYOD market and it’s great to see innovations like this happening.

If you have seen a great feature on a device recently, leave a note in the comments explaining what it was and why you think it added real value to the device.

Limitless Learning: Four Key Learning Styles

Many moons ago I came across VARK Learning Styles,  a website that acknowledged the different learning styles of students and provided a questionnaire to help learners identify their strongest / preferred learning style.

Today I was introduced to the Limitless Learning website put together by Microsoft NZ that acknowledges students learn in four quite different ways:

  • Visual
  • Auditory
  • Tactile
  • Kinaesthetic

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As teachers work towards increasingly differentiated and personalised lessons for students, the above website is a great resource to assist them in planning lessons and ideas that cater to all the learning styles of their students.

With additional teaching resources and guides for schools and parents in choosing the right device for their student, the website is a great resource to check out.

ANZAC Reflections – We Will Remember

WW1 Memorials in Cranmer Square, Christchurch

WW1 Memorials in Cranmer Square, Christchurch in the lead up to Anzac Day 2017

It’s not often I write about things other than technology and education on this blog, however one of my other great passions is, in fact, history. I was privileged to teach history for four years at Linwood College and Catholic Cathedral College when I first started teaching after leaving my first career in the ICT sector.

When I moved to St Andrew’s College in 2012, my job as the Director of ICT was full time, precluding me from continuing to actively teach history, however I was fortunate to be given a number of opportunities to speak at the weekly Chapel services the College held. It was at two of these that I researched former students and staff members and their roles in World War 2 and then shared their stories with students. I recount all of this because tomorrow, April 25th, is ANZAC Day in New Zealand and for those unacquainted with this, this public holiday commemorates the war time services of the Australia, New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who first served together during the ill fated Gallipoli Campaign in World War 1.

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Laying a virtual poppy for Barry Martin at the Auckland War Memorial Museum Online Cenotaph

I was thrilled, therefore, to learn that at the ANZAC Memorial Service that will be hosted at the new St Andrew’s College Centennial Chapel tomorrow, a video will be shown of the College’s World War 2 Memorial Tour of Europe that happened in January. During this trip, each student was required to research about an Old Collegian and then a wreath and College thistle was placed at the grave site. You can see the video showing this tour here:

Keen observers will have heard two names mentioned:

  • James Samuel Cartwright – a former teacher who was killed days after the D-Day landings when his destroyer, HMS Boadicea, was torpedoed and sunk in the English Channel
  • Barry Martin – a student of the Preparatory College who was a navigator in Stirling Bombers and was shot down and killed over occupied Europe (his plane crashed near Rotterdam).

These names were two of the men that I had researched whilst at St Andrew’s College and shared their stories at Chapel services. At the time, I wrote a blog post showing off the considerable technology that went into researching and presenting these stories, including a Skype video call with the 92year old surviving sister of James Samuel Cartwright.

It seems appropriate at this time of ANZAC commemorations to revisit these presentations and, through the retelling of their stores, we will not forget the ultimate sacrifice these men made.

James Samuel Cartwright:

Barry Martin:

Technology is certainly enabling new generations to learn more about their forefathers’ service in both The Great War and World War 2 and it seems the fascination with new stories from this period are not diminishing. I read with interest this story in the press today, this story in the press today,  bringing a degree of closure to a 93 year old Kiwi who piloted Lancaster bombers during the WW2.  A great resource for New Zealander’s looking to find out more about relatives that have served (as far back as the Boer War), is the Auckland Museum’s Online Cenotaph:

Online Cenotaph

The Online Cenotaph allows visitors to search up known information on former soldiers, contribute additional information if they have it, as well as lay a “virtual poppy” on the cenotaph.

For those interested, I have read the following history books over the last few months – they may be of interest to you as you pause and reflect this ANZAC Day:

Student Note Taking: Typing or Hand Writing?

I’ve written a few posts lately about the power of Digital Inking and ways to “Think in Ink”  and I am more convinced than ever that equipping students with devices that allow them to doodle, draw, annotate and just straight hand write notes and ideas is a necessity.

I know there is also the following quote from Microsoft promotional material:

Studies indicate that diagraming thinking before solving a science problem leads to a 25%-36% higher score

A quick search on the web reveals people doubt this but a link to the research findings can be found here. Tonight I read an article on LinkedIn titled:

What is a more effective way of taking notes – laptop or notepad?

As usual, I encourage you to read the entire thing yourself, it’s only a 3 minute read after all, and it talks about research completed in 2014 showing that students that hand wrote notes had far better conceptual comprehension of the content they had been taught compared to students who typed their notes up. Even when students who had typed their notes were given ten minutes to revise them before a test a week later, they still scored worse than those that had handwritten their notes in some way.

I’ve seen similar tests completed elsewhere so this finding is not new to me, however it certainly highlights the value of digital inking and usefulness of the basic “ruled lines” in OneNote:

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I find it interesting that when testing for factual recall, students scored the same whether they handwrote their notes or typed them, but only when testing for conceptual understanding did the differences emerge:

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Again, do take time to read the original article and ponder how you record information in your daily life and if you’re a decision maker in a school, what devices are you recommending to your students to bring along.

Guest Post: Cultivate Collaborative Learning With OneNote

This post originally appeared in the Interface Magazine, April 2017 edition and has been republished with permission. You can see the online edition by clicking here.

Spade … check. Seeds … check. Compost … check. Watering can … check. OneNote … er … um … what? Three teachers and a group of Year 10 students at Mairehau High School are running a collaborative gardening project, with the aim of:

  • Giving the students practical gardening (as well as digital) skills;
  • Seeing something come out of their time; and
  • Offering an authentic context for their learning.

“It has grown and is not just about their learning but also providing for families and home, and potentially a market garden,” said Tania Swann. “It has become a bit of an entrepreneurial project for the students.

1

Making a connection

The school’s planning team was assisted by Tim Muir, Microsoft Teacher Ambassador, Cyclone, Arnika Macphail, Professional Learning Manager, Cyclone, and Curriculum Consultant Kate Brown.

“In order for this to be successful, we needed the right balance of curriculum support and digital support. Kate helped us to come up with our big idea: ‘Communities work together to connect, nurture and grow’. We’d been using Google Docs with our staff and students. However, after hearing from Tim, we felt OneNote was going to be the right tool for this project. With the help of Tim and Arnika, we set up a OneNote Class Notebook for all the teachers and students.
“We’re also lucky enough to have our hands on the Digital Learning Experience from Cyclone, which means each one of the students and teachers involved has a Surface to work from, which definitely added hype to the project.”

Share and articulate

The project was allotted three hours a week in Flexible Learning Time.

“The students have had such a great attitude towards getting outside and it’s created a nice atmosphere to work in. They opted in and can opt out at any time but no one has.”

Among the green-fingered skills students learned were:

  • How to plant potatoes;
  • How to create beds; and
  • Watering, digging and sieving.

“They love getting into the garden and out into the community, and enjoy doing their classwork on the Surface. We have made the most out of our trips to local nurseries, Cultivate Christchurch, and Bunnings by using the devices to take pictures and notes, all in the OneNote. Students can draw diagrams, annotate work, add videos, add audio, and share their ideas more freely.”

2Everyone is enthused

The project has had a “massive ripple effect” through other staff members.
“We started with a big picture of the fact that it was so cross curricular in possibility, incorporating Biology, Maths, Media, etc., and wanted to connect all of these,” explained Kimberley Walker.

“On a daily basis, a person comes to the team to ask about it and how they can help. It started off as Social Sciences, English and Maths. We now have Hard Materials, the Arts and Science involved. Everyone involved is enthused.

3“We have achieved so much from this one project and it has certainly snowballed into other ideas. The best bits have been the collaborative learning. The students are passionate and enthusiastic. Running something like this has kept them engaged at school and keen to participate.

“Having a shared outcome that we can physically see and touch has brought us closer together. We have things growing in our school garden. That is an achievement in itself. But thanks to the technology, we also have a detailed, up-to-date, accurate record of learning. OneNote has been fantastic. Through using the program, the students have been more forthcoming to share and articulate their understandings.”

Surface Studio Available For Pre-Order in NZ

studioThe Surface Studio was one of the most hotly announced devices in recent years however it has not been available outside of the US since release.

It has now been made available for pre-order in APAC and the direct link to the New Zealand store is below:

Pre-Order Surface Studio Here

If you’re not familiar with the Surface Studio here is the initial release advert:

To be honest, I found this video showing how it was being used, along with the Surface Dial more compelling:

At a steep entry level price this won’t be for everyone, but at least those keen on it can buy one now.