Digital Inking – Improves Teaching & Learning

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I have visited a number of schools recently and demonstrated many of the natural hand gestures for editing and Ink Replay available in Office365 and the response is always very positive from teachers and students alike.

I have recently found the above infographic showing independent research from Sharon Oviatt, an expert in human centered and multi-modal interfaces and use of pen inputs on computers. I find that the numbers in the infographic resonate with teachers that I’ve been working with who are using Digital Inking to prepare student work, provide feedback and mark assessment.

When I was still at St Andrew’s College I recorded an interview with the Head of English and she explained how she marks English assignments using her Surface Pro 3 and digital ink:

DigitalPenUsageThere are many and varied compelling reasons to try Digital Inking and with a wider range of devices now supporting this, from entry level OEM offerings through to the newly announced Surface Laptop,  there is bound to be a device that meets your budget and requirements.

If you are interested in further research and information from Sharon Oviatt on the “power of the pen” then I encourage you to check out this blog from the Microsoft In Education team where it goes into more depth about the impact of computer interfaces on learning.

You can read the full blog post here.

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

Limitless Learning.PNG

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.

Windows 10 Creators Update Is Here

Many of you will have been waiting for the official release date of the Windows 10 Creators Update last week and now that it is launched the best place to get an overview of the new features is the official Windows Blog.

You can read the post introducing Creators Update here.

For a visual overview, here is a good video clip:

Some of the features that really stand out for me are:

  • 3D Paint – the ease of building out 3D apps in Creators Update is a neat feature with plenty of real world application, especially in education.
  • Mixed Reality – the announcement of lower-cost devices that will support mixed reality is exciting as it means more students can develop in this space without the cost of a HoloLens headset.
  • Beam Game Broadcasting – for the gamers amongst us, you can now easily stream your games in real time to the web for others to follow along with – no need for third party tools.
  • Updates to the Edge Browser, including better tab management and preview options, default support of PDF and eBook reading is now a feature as well.
  • Mini View Feature – an “always on top” frame allowing you to keep an eye on a critical app, skype call, or browser window, whilst working in another window at the same time.
  • A whole range of new security updates to keep your device safe.

Read the blog overview here.

There are a range of different ways to get Windows 10 Creators Update, from the blog link above:

You can get the Creators Update in a few different ways. If you already have a Windows 10 PC and have automatic updates enabled, the update will be delivered to you when it’s ready. If you are an advanced user and would like to get the update manually, visit this blog post to learn how to get the Creators Update.

So go get started creating and leave comments with your experience below.

Guide For Deploying Office365 ProPlus

office-365-appsI am writing a quick blog in response to the confusion I’m seeing in schools around the different versions of Microsoft Office 2016 and the varying ways this can be installed for users. The main reason this is causing confusion and problems is the release cycle of new features, in particular ones that tend to be appealing to schools such as embedding features in OneNote and digital inking options.

A colleague of mine is going to write a more technical overview of this and I’ll update this blog post to reflect this, but thought I would at least point users to the following fantastic overview:

Deployment Guide for Office365 ProPlus

This is broken down into the following sections:

  • Get Started – an overview of what’s new.
  • Deploy Office365 ProPlus – deploying from a local network directory or use SCCM
  • Manage Updates – choose frequency and source of updates for your users
  • Upgrade to Office365 ProPlus – tips for organisations that are not already on ProPlus and how to manage a smooth upgrade
  • Best Practices For Deploying – key considerations to keep in mind when deploying ProPlus

The key consideration for organisations is whether to move away from the traditional Volume Licensing version of Office, usually pushed out with an MSI package, and instead use the “Click 2 Run” version of Office365 ProPlus. Whilst many schools are simply getting students to download and install Office2016 directly from the Office Portal, when it comes to managing this for staff machines having automated options is important.

The Deployment Guide for Office365 ProPlus should provide all the information school IT administrators need to make these decisions on how best to get ProPlus onto devices.

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.”

Editing With Natural Hand Gestures & Digital Inking

Over the last couple of years I have had innumerable conversations with teachers who love the power of OneNote for editing student work quickly and easily, especially when combining the digital inking experience on a tablet such as a Surface Pro. Perhaps the best example of this was the recorded conversation I had with the Head of English at St Andrew’s College:

I’ve been really excited to see that a couple of new editing features have been added to Word, Excel and PowerPoint in Office 2016 and these are:

  • Ink Editor – easily markup / remove text using natural hand gestures with your pen
  • Ink Replay – if you’ve made significant comments on a Word, Excel or PowerPoint document sometimes it can be hard for your fellow editor to understand your train of thought. With Ink Replay, they can watch your edits all over again.

I’ve made a short video showing how this can be achieved:

Sticky Notes Powered By Cortana Intelligence Suite:

Another cool feature of Windows 10 is the Sticky Notes. In and of themselves, they operate very similarly to sticky notes on any other operating system. However, you can now give them a real power boost by linking to the Cortana Intelligence Suite to give you insights and do more.

To do this, you first need to enable the insights:

sticky-notes

To leverage the power of Cortana you need to Enable Insights

Once this is done you can see the power immediately as demonstrated here:

Putting to one side the very clever intelligence that lies beneath the surface to enable things like Ink Editor and smart Sticky Notes, the real benefits here is the saving of time. Editing a document with natural hand gestures and a digital pen remains the most efficient method for most people. Similarly, having your natural handwriting analysed for key words or phrases and reminders generated speeds up some of the more mundane tasks we all have to deal with in life.

If you’ve not given these a go, try them out now and feel free to leave a comment below on any neat ways you’ve used this technology.

 

 

 

Professional Learning Communities Groups in Office365

office-365-fi-625x321Back in mid-2016 Microsoft released PLC Groups for Office365 and I have to admit, I completely missed this feature release.

You can read the full announcement on the official Office365 blog post here.

I guess I’m pretty excited about this for a few reasons, primarily because it links into the professional development model that is increasingly being adopted in New Zealand schools – that of Professional Learning Groups (PLG) using inquiry based models. Certainly, at St Andrew’s College where I was the Director of ICT for the last five years, this was adopted back in 2012 and resources for these groups would typically use a OneNote or a Moodle course to collate resources over the period of the inquiry. Whilst this was fine, it was always a pain to keep track of group members and making sure that everyone was being included in group messages. The official blog post above highlighted some of the challenges as well:

  • Teachers can be isolated, time is severely limited and collaboration is difficult.
  • Professional collaboration tools are disconnected and don’t always support meaningful, sustained collaboration.
  • A challenge for many PLCs is extending the work and relationships in the times and spaces between physically coming together.
  • It can be difficult for new teachers to ramp up.
  • Information is often stored in personal spaces as opposed to one common place that can benefit others.
  • New members need to better understand the journey, story, exploration and history of a PLC, its activities and areas of inquiry.

To address these short comings, the following features are available in these O365 groups designed especially for educators:

  • Inbox for group email communication, including Connector for connecting your group to Twitter and following topics or Twitter handles that interest your PLC group.
  • Calendar for scheduling group events.
  • Document library for storing and working on group files and folders.
  • OneNote notebook for taking project and meeting notes.
  • Planner for organizing and assigning tasks and getting updates on project progress.

What is not listed above, but has huge value for me, is the ability to add guest members to your PLC group. What this means is that teachers/experts (or even parents) who are outside of your O365 tenant can be invited on their personal email address and they only need to activate this address as a Microsoft Account, to be able to sign into the O365 group and contribute.

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Screenshot from the Professional Learning Communities shared OneNote with guidance on how to run the inquiry.

This opens up a huge range of possibilities for schools where there is likely to be inter-school professional inquiries taking place. In New Zealand, this could be the Communities of Learning which connect different schools together in the same geographical region. To be able to use a shared inbox group and calendar to co-ordinate meetings (either in person or via Skype) as well as a central location for all documents shared (either uploaded or simply attached via emails through the group) and a OneNote means the key tools to promote a successful inquiry are all in one place and accessible to every member, whether they are at the same school or not.

The experience of the Omaha Public Schools District using PLC is shown below:

Last week, Darrell Webster hosted a virtual meeting with a number of people to discuss how PLC work and the effectiveness of them in schools. There are a few technical glitches at the start of the meeting but it’s worth watching past these to see the quality discussion. Attending the meeting are:

  • Darrell Webster  (host) and Microsoft MVP award winner since 2013 and self described “Office365 Enthusiast”
  • Krish Gali, Product Manager for Office 365 Groups
  • Robert Dickson, Executive Director at Omaha Public School
  • Rachel Chisnall MIE Expert and teacher at Taeri College, Dunedin
  • Morgan McKeen MIE Expert and teacher at Parnell District School, Auckland

My Thoughts On This:

There’s a lot to like about PLC Groups in Office365, not least that it reflects that Microsoft is continuing to actively invest into technologies that improve the way in which teachers manage their growing administrative workload. A few other highlights for me (in no particular order):

  • The PLC group OneNote comes pre-populated with templates to assist teachers with their inquiry and smooth running of the Professional Learning Groups.
  • Guest Access – it’s hard to overestimate how valuable this is. Too often schools are dealing with disparate groups of people and being able to link them all into the one-stop-shop of resources is incredible.
  • Central Access – the PLC group is not owned by any one individual teacher, but instead is part of the school’s O365 Tenant meaning that if one teacher leaves the school or is no longer involved in that particular PLC, the resources are not locked down preventing others from getting access to them.
    • Similarly, this means that if a PLC inquiry is likely to be a multi-year group, staff can come and go but all the previous resources, conversations and research is maintained and accessible.
    • Additionally, the staff member in charge of professional development can be added as a member to all PLC groups and can see progress and add comments etc at anytime ensuring full transparency.
    • Again, having a single email address to email all members of the PLC means there are no excuses for accidentally excluding a staff member from a vital communication!
  • Connectors – in particular, the ability to add Twitter and follow users or hashtags means the PLC can extend their reach and pull in valuable resources directly into the PLC group – priceless. I became a Twitter convert back in 2014 and wrote a lengthy blog explaining why teachers should use Twitter to grow their Professional Learning Network
  • Planner – this is a simplified GANT chart type organisational tool, very similar to the popular Trello. It’s a great addition to the Office365 tool box and you can read more about it here. I’d certainly encourage teachers that are already using Trello to consider migrating to Planner given the deep integration into O365 that it offers.

So there you go – don’t make the same mistake I did and overlook the value of the Office365 Professional Learning Communities groups; they will definitely find an indispensable place in your school.