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.

School Is Finishing – How Do I Keep A Copy Of My OneNote Class NoteBooks?

One of the most common questions that I get asked my students and teachers is “How do I keep my Class OneNote Notebooks when the school year finishes?” It’s a legitimate query given this was pretty easy in a non-digital age: you simply walked off with your ring binder folder or exercise book.

In a new blog from the OneNote Team, they have explained a new way to effectively save a copy to your personal Microsoft account so you always have a copy of your class notes. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Sign in to OneNote Online, our web version of OneNote.
  2. From the Notebook list, click Class Notebooks to display all your Class Notebooks.
  3. Right-click to select a Class Notebook and then select Save a copy.

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Right-click a Class Notebook and select Save a copy.

  1. Click Next. You are prompted to sign in to a consumer Microsoft account. If you don’t have one, go here http://www.live.com to sign up.

OneNote Save a copy 2

That’s it! Your OneNote Class Notebook is copied to the consumer OneDrive and is available for you to use elsewhere.

On the blog, future developments are hinted at as well:

This is just the initial rollout of the Save a copy feature. In the near future, we will add the ability to choose any notebook type, not just Class Notebooks. We will also roll out the Save a copy feature to your own OneDrive for Business, which will allow students to save a copy of their Class Notebook from a teacher’s OneDrive for Business to their own OneDrive for Business.

If you’re a school leader please make sure you share this feature with your students so they can ensure they’ve kept a copy of their work.

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.

Dealing With Data Sovereignty: Why Government Agencies Must Use Cloud Services

One of the common objections I hear from schools around New Zealand when the topic of moving to the cloud comes up is “what about the security of my data? Who owns it if it is hosted overseas?”

Data sovereignty is a big deal and schools should definitely be thinking about these types of questions, however the New Zealand Government has significantly simplified this conversation by posting online about why Government Agencies must use cloud services:

Cabinet’s Cloud First policy requires agencies to adopt cloud services in preference to traditional IT systems because they are more cost effective, agile, are generally more secure, and provide greater choice.

Cabinet requires agencies to adopt cloud services

Cabinet requires agencies to:

  • adopt cloud services in preference to traditional IT systems
  • make adoption decisions on a case-by-case basis following a risk assessment 
  • only store data classified as RESTRICTED or below in a cloud service, whether it is hosted onshore or offshore

The last bullet point is especially important – it’s unlikely any schools store data at a security classification level higher than “RESTRICTED” – leaving only Confidential, Secret and Top Secret data not being permitted in the public cloud.

The Government requirement outlines the reasons why they mandate a cloud-first approach for agencies, with the value offering being:

The key benefits of cloud services for the Government are:

  • more cost-effective IT services
  • increased agility from quicker deployment times
  • greater choice
  • improved security.

From an Office Productivity perspective, the article also shows significant usage of Microsoft Office365 usage amongst Government agencies:

There is strong demand for adopting office productivity services, with over half of agency CIOs stating in our October 2016 survey their agencies intend to use these services within the next 12 months. Almost all of these agencies intend to use Microsoft’s Office 365, Skype, Azure Active Directory and Azure Services

From a school leadership perspective, this mandate from the New Zealand government simplifies the decision making process somewhat, by effectively saying the public cloud offerings outside of New Zealand are acceptable for all data classified as RESTRICTED or below. The closest Azure data centers to New Zealand are located in Sydney and Melbourne respectively:

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A Digitally Mediated Conversation

I came across an article in the Australian Independent Schools magazine today that highlighted the value of Microsoft OneNote and the evolution of interaction between teachers and students in the areas of marking, feedback and feed-forward. Technology has been a massive enabler in this process and the article references a significant amount of research highlighting the value of this feedback loop and how staff at All Hallows School in Queensland, Australia have used this. Of particular emphasis is the flexibility that OneNote provided in terms of:

  • Digital Inking – hand writing feedback directly onto student work in their Class Notebooks
  • Audio feedback – recording voice notes for students (and students in turn providing “thinking aloud” on their work for their teachers to listen to)
  • Video / Screen recording – teachers recording their computer screen as they’re marking the work and talking, providing students the next best experience to being present with the teacher when marking is taking place
  • Typed Feedback – traditional typed notes alongside student work.
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Click the image above to read the article on the original website.

(click here to read the entire article if the above link does not work)

A teacher in the English department at All Hallows even created a short YouTube video showing the progression of feedback over the years at the school, starting with the humble “insert comment” option in Microsoft Word right through to recording audio and the screen in OneNote whilst handwriting feedback directly on student work. It’s worth watching the two minute video below:

What I love about this article is that it finishes by noting that teachers at All Hallows have been active in sharing at various professional development conferences for teachers on the changes to their digital feedback processes and the impact of technology on their pedagogical practices. Being part of a wider community that is continually adapting and learning and sharing the journey is a key strength and indicator of a healthy institute, especially when it has been based on solid research as evidenced in the above article.

Thanks to the awesome Mike Tholfsen from the Microsoft OneNote team for sharing this article with me via Twitter so I became aware of it!

Harvest: Making Marking Easy in OneNote Class Notebooks

Harvest2OneNote Class Notebooks remain one of the most popular features in the Microsoft Office365 Education offerings and teachers love the simplicity of seeing all of their students’ work in one place. This is especially important when it comes to quickly and efficiently marking the work of students and providing feedback.

The One Education team, creators of the Infinity One laptop for students, recognised the power and popularity of OneNote and created a brand new product called Harvest to supercharge marking and sharing of student work for teachers. This is hosted entirely in the Azure cloud and harnesses all the power of Office365 API and OneNote Class Notebooks, demonstrating innovative thinking by helping teachers reduce the time consuming work of marking and collating student work.

I’ve created a quick six minute introduction to the product where I walk through some of the key features and you can see this below:

As you will have seen in the video, teachers can install the plugin into OneNote Online (note that for now OneNote desktop does not support the addition of third party extensions, so Harvest only works in the browser version of OneNote Online) and can get started marking student work immediately:

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Currently, Harvest supports a database of both New Zealand and Australian curriculum standards/strands meaning teachers can easily search for the standard they wish to mark student work against. This, in itself, streamlines the marking process for teachers as they do not need to manually enter the curriculum details that the student is studying.

Here is a simple example of marking a student’s Year 13 Calculus work:

On the left you can see the student’s Maths–>Calculus section in the OneNote Class Notebook has been selected and on the right the teacher has clicked “Browse” to identify the curriculum strand they’re assessing against. Mathematics and Statistics is selected.

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The teacher selects the curriculum level / year level to narrow down the selection of curriculum strands to choose from:

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The teacher then selects the most appropriate curriculum strand(s) they are assessing against:

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The teacher can now see the curriculum strand, give it a grade of “Below / At / Above Level” and can even add a comment of up to 255 characters (visible only to the teacher currently)

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Harvest Dashboard

Harvest Dashboard Link

What really sets Harvest apart is the use of existing API within OneNote to collate all of this work (essentially, these grades are Tags within OneNote) and then display them in a “single pane of glass” interface. This assists the teacher to get an overview of either a single student or an entire class based off the marking they have completed. To view this dashboard the teacher simply clicks the “Harvest” menu item and then “Dashboard” and it loads for them in a new tab in their browser:

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Some things to note in the above screenshot:

  • Teachers can select from multiple different OneNote Class Notebooks on the left hand menu
  • Teachers can also select from multiple curriculum areas within the same Class NoteBook which obviously makes a lot of sense for primary school teachers, or cross-curricular class environments.
  • Students are all listed in a grid (the columns), with a colour coded system showing whether they are Below / At / Above The Level based on each curriculum strand marked (the rows in the grid). Where a student does not have work marked against a particular curriculum strand it is grey indicating “No Rating”
  • Harvest will also generate a thumbnail of the student work when hovering over the grade in the grid – note at this stage thumbnails of digital inking is not available.

It’s not hard to imagine how beneficial the above view would be for a teacher when it comes to writing school reports or preparing for parent/teacher interviews – they would literally have ALL graded work collated into one place and able to show the parent at the click of a button. This is harnessing all the power of OneNote Class Notebooks, the associated API’s and the Azure cloud to streamline marking and reporting for teachers.

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Viewing larger thumbnails of student work in Harvest Feed, where the various grades are easily recognizable through consistent colour coding.

To top it off, teachers can choose to share selected student work directly to parents with a shortened URL (something Microsoft recently added to Class Notebooks):

Harvest Share

A teacher must first select “Student Feedback” along the top to make it publicly visible, and then simply copy the link to share with a parent.

I am really excited by the prospects of Harvest because it seems like a product that understands the challenges teachers have managing large amounts of assessment and aims to simplify the reporting process. With many schools moving to increasingly digital and paperless environments, leveraging the existing power within OneNote to support assessment and reporting is a smart move and something I’d imagine many schools will be very interested in.

For schools that are wanting to get started with Harvest straight away, check out these comprehensive set up instructions.

Create An Office365 CloudBook With Older Hardware For Improved Performance & Security

Microsoft recently partnered with Neverware, a company that have created a CloudReady OS to support Office365 Online apps. This can best be likened to a ChromeBook style interface where users sign in with an existing G Suite account and then use their Office365 credentials to access a “web only” interface.

Currently, it appears that you can not sign in directly with your O365 username/password (this would rely on Azure AD), but instead sign into the device locally using an existing Google Account. This is a downside for schools that are exclusively Office 365 for their identity management, as to make it seamless you’d need to also have users set up with a Google Account and then using ADFS for single sign on (SSO).

Nevertheless, you can learn more in this introduction video:

This is an intriguing concept, particularly because it allows schools to recycle older hardware that perhaps would not support desktop applications too smoothly any more, but could run a browser-based operating system. Neverware have created an extensive Supported Devices Catalog where you can easily search to see if your hardware will definitely run the CloudReady OS.

Schools can take advantage of the affordable pricing model outlined below:

CloudReady OS

Here is another video showing a webinar of the product from Neverware:

I deployed this to a Lenovo N23 device and it worked fine, aside from the above issue of having to sign into the device with my Google account first (and not directly using my O365 credentials). The knock on affect of this, of course, is that when you launch the “apps”, you need to sign into them in your browser as well.

For schools that have older hardware or who want to minimize the management of devices moving forward this could be an interesting option to explore.