Sunday, June 12, 2016

Defying gravity

Andrew Campbell always encourages me to think about things, no less this time an utterance I boldly share from his Facebook timeline.
Prediction: Your TL will be full of reaction to the horror of the shooting in #Orlando insisting things must change. Nothing will change
Andrew, you're wrong. 
And you have to be wrong.
No, we're not going to get a rational approach to gun ownership in the US, no we're not going to remember that personal choice in religion stops at the end of your pew or prayer mat, or that engaging in political hate is any better than any kind of hate.
But I'll give you one change, Andrew.
I'm moving "gay" from the last in the list of descriptors to the first.  I always thought that being a learner, a teacher, a mathematician, a motorcyclist, a Canadian, an auxiliary Constable came before defining myself by who I chose to love.
But these fifty people were killed because of exactly that.  Now,  they were likely not going to be mistaken for living the kind of "gay" life that I enjoy ... They were enjoying what most people associate with being gay and where I utterly fail ...  Loud and expressive, dancing to music I've never cared for, worrying what they wore, gossiping about celebrity.  They were likely fabulous -  the gays the media celebrate, not the quiet, invisible gay that disappear into the heterosexual majority. But they were also learners, had jobs, helped others, had people care about them, and cared about others. But being gay was enough to kill them.
So I'm putting gay first.  And I'm going to work on fabulous. We lost fifty lives full of fabulous and I'm going to do my best to make it up to them, and for them.  I was once told by an administrator to keep my gay under wraps at school, that it was only for my personal expression on the weekend (like all my heterosexual colleagues do).  But in accepting that request, I did a disservice to my students and my community, I failed as a learner and teacher. By not clearly expressing who I am, I allow everyone off the hook...  They don't have to confront their homophobia, their fears, their assumptions and their prejudices.
This is career limiting and this puts me in peril in half of the countries of the world; this means people judge my statements and my actions on anything through a pink lens. So be it. 
You can choose your religion, you can choose your political ideology, you can choose what you say or do, but baby, I was born this way.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Why Google Apps Must Needs Die

There are two pillars in the education sector right now, Google and Microsoft.  Google has Google Appsfor Education which is made up of Google Drive (a file system), Google Docs, and a variety of other applications that work relatively well together.  Microsoft, on the other hand, has OneNote Class Notebook along with the rest of the Office suite, OneDrive (a file system) that also work relatively well together.

There is, however, an important distinction between the two.  Google Apps, with Google Drive & Docs at its core, is the last, desperate breath of the GutenbergParenthesis… the final phase of the (relatively) brief time in human history where knowledge, information, imagination, thought and creativity were held subservient to the linear progress of typeprint.  
Google Apps, tied to the discrete structure of the Drive and the typewriter-environment of Docs, keeps the students locked into the workspace of the earliest type-setters, albeit in a digital space.  There have been improvements in productivity and collaboration, but the cursor blinks relentlessly at the top of the page and moves in lines across and down the page. 
GoogleDocs purports to be digital but it remains stuck in the text-space of Gutenburg.  You can click around once you’ve added content but inexorably you return to the line.  Teachers create worksheets that students dutifully fill out in lockstep with the rigid margins and tabs on the page.  Their world, made up of point size, indents and carriage returns.  Students can work in the space together, but only by the Rules.

I contrast this with what happened before Gutenberg and what happens now with Microsoft OneNote.  Before Gutenberg, it was an oral history, there was communication steeped in performance, what text there was, was written by hand –and a personalized hand that reflected the writer and their intent --  text was illuminated with hand-drawn images in whatever space remained.  The sand, the slate, the cave wall was open to any initial input – and went on practically forever in all four directions.

Freedom of movement within the space they worked with, zooming in between or zooming out beyond, layering of ink onto ink, sketch on sketch, building ideas up.  While Gutenberg provided us a way to capture information and record fiction, he did also bind us to a sterile, rigid page; a Cartesian prison.  
Microsoft OneNote, although it uses the “page” as a naming convention, breaks through the Parenthesis by allowing the same vigorous freedom as the cave wall with the obvious digital advancement of images, audio, video, hyperlinks and any other modern content all within its own space, no additional apps needed.  Our students, like our ancestors once could, can place their pen anywhere on the page and begin to express their passions; they can spiral out or zigzag backwards.  They can write letters, scrawl equations, draw pictures, chart maps, inscribe their thoughts in a rainbow of colour, in broad slashes or narrow curves.  They can connect images with video, annotate graphs with arrows to written description, reflect on the contents of a PDF with scribbles of approval or disgust.   All in the same space without leaving to find another app.

And yes, they can type text in Microsoft OneNote. But text that is free from the top left of the page from its inception – at its core, the OneNote Page is designed by the student, not the man who pours the red ink in the Hilroy factory.  Or, more on point, the programmer at Google who decided the rate of the cursor flash.  Our students return to the flexibility their ancestors had meant to bequeath them, interrupted by 500 years of Gutenberg iron rule.

So, to move into the modern era, Google Apps will have to evolve away from the text it languishes in, or die.  The future, like the past, is written with the stroke of the pen, not the clack of the keys.  The students should live in a dynamic space, not dependent on the boxed letters caught in a QWERTY grid set before the student but rather free to write, sketch, doodle and design their learning through a natural extension of their hand. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Using Delve to Board up your School

So I mentioned that one of the apps inside of Office365, Delve, is my best friend in a previous post - mostly because it's an intelligent agent that helps me prioritize (and find) things I should be working on.  If you haven't clicked on the Waffle in Office365 and then clicked on the Delve button, you should stop reading and try it now!

Beside the intelligence behind what you see, Delve has another layer to help you and your students keep things together: the Board.  The Board helps you deal with a "Shared with Me" that has gone out of control (well, to be fair, it goes out of control because you're using the Cloud effectively, so that's a good thing).

When you see documents in Delve that "go together" you can pin them to a Board, allowing you to create a page of documents all on a particular project.
What you see below you is what I see this morning when I click on "Me" (Cal Armstrong) ... it shows the two documents we used school wide for our special day-before-March-Break (Attendance & Coverages), our Spreadsheet on Relationship Mapping at at our School, and then three attachments on an email that came in first thing this morning.   None of these are what I want... I need to see the documents for New Faculty.  So I click on NEW FACULTY under BOARDS at the lower left.  It's there because (a) I made the Board and (b) I've used the Board in the past.  New Faculty are shown the Board first thing so that it appears for them, too.

This is after clicking Me this morning at about 11am.  It'll be different now.
The reason we use a Board is that our new faculty have a whole bunch of documents that are going to be important for them... but some are stored in the general Faculty Site, some are Athletic documents stored in the Athletics Site, some are HR, some are on the Residential Site (we're a boarding school), some are (incorrectly) stored on individual's OneDrives (yeah, we still do that)... well, you get the picture, there are a lot of important documents in various spaces and our new faculty are least likely to know where to look.
So, instead, in Delve I (and several other admins) tag the documents "New Faculty" as we prepare for a new year (and throughout the year) and since Boards are public, the new faculty see the Board in their Delve and they can see all the documents they may need.  As we add new documents, they automatically appear in the list the next time the teacher clicks on New Faculty.  From Delve, they can open or email the document .... or jump into a Yammer discussion on the document.
Slightly edited for convenience

Now, it's important to remember in Delve that you only see the documents you have rights too.  If you don't have permission to read it, you don't even know it exists.  So if I pin a new document on the New Faculty Board, but the principal hasn't released it to the Faculty yet, only she and I see it.  When she opens up the sharing, it will automagically appear.

So... if you're working with a group of people and want to keep disparate documents located in a variety of locations (Course Site, my OneDrive, your OneDrive, the general Faculty Site, etc) just create a Board and tag each document with the Board's name.  When you're done, just click Remove From Favorite and the Board disappears.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

400,000 and 3.5 million

I wrote this on Facebook for my family and friends...

In the summer of 2012, I drew a diagram of a nested set of folders on a whiteboard and turned to Jason Llorin, our OneNote programmer, and asked "can you make me that?" And he could, and he did.
In 2013, I presented a paper & a poster to a conference on the results of that experiment at our school and ended up after my presentation being asked to have lunch with a guy from Microsoft Research.
I am immensely proud that my School said to Microsoft after that initial meeting in 2013 "here, take what we have and bring it to the world". And they did.
Through a lot of hard work of a lot of people at Appleby College, students, staff and faculty, we made a start to a technology that today Microsoft announced has been used by 400,000 teachers and 3.5 million students.  The OneNote Class Notebook.
We have laid the groundwork for a whole new approach to education, digitizing content and providing workflows that build on the past but provide for the present and future of technology, with a nod to a strong and vibrant pedagogy. Our faculty and students have continued to provide feedback on how to make things better and our approach is still the world leader in OneNote implementation.
At its heart, and the reason why I drew the diagram in the first place, was to bring to my classroom what I first read in Wiliam & Black so long ago: " Discussion, observation of activities, and marking of written work can all be used to provide those opportunities [of communicating their understanding], but it is then important to look at or listen carefully to the talk, the writing, and the actions through which pupils develop and display the state of their understanding " OneNote gave me a way of seeing and capturing through ink, text, audio & video my students' learning and then providing them feedback in multiple media without being impeded by physical space or time. I no longer lost them when they left the room with their notes -- and they no longer lost me when they changed classes.
And now, thanks to Appleby College, the whole world has the same opportunity.
 — at Appleby College.

My research poster at WIPTTE2013 ... likely also the first use of Aurasma Augmented Reality on a research poster.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Why Delve is my best friend

There's no question that I think the best part of Office365, the best part of Microsoft, heck, the best part of the entire technology community is OneNote.  Hands down.  But what's #2?

#2 is Delve.  Delve is the user face for every bit of intelligence that is developed from  "Office Graph", Microsoft's background data analyzer on the Office365 system.   People will never see the Office Graph... okay, programmers may... but they'll see the results of what essentially is a blend of Watson (from Jeopardy fame) and Rosie (from the Jetsons) when they turn to Delve.

The immediate problem? With everything saved in OneDrive, Office Sites, OneNote, Yammer and Office365 Video students and teachers have a ridiculously long list of files and folders available to them.  And not only do they have their own files & folders, they have people sharing files, folders and OneNotes with them, too.

This isn't just a Microsoft thing ... I also have a 120Gb GoogleDrive that's nearly full, and I depend on the Search in GDocs to find things.  But straight-out Search is inefficient since it doesn't reflect connections or priority.  It treats every document as equally important and doesn't give any context to the contents or the authors involved.  Delve does.

So every day, I go to Delve to start working.  It shows me the documents I should be working on based on (a) what I've been working on recently, (b) what others have been working on with me recently (including any new documents) and (c) what Delve has found to be important that I wasn't even aware of.

Delve knows who I'm working with, who I'm working with A LOT, and who I prioritize over others. 

How you, say?  Well check out my "People" list to the left of the image below.  Delve has picked these people as important -- the first is our Academic Director (yeah, we work a lot together) and the 2nd is our Head of School.  I've never worked on a document with him (ever) BUT any document that Innes has shared has been viewed by likely 90% of my colleagues within 2 minutes of him emailing something out -- people read his stuff, and they read it quickly after he posts it.  And OfficeGraph is reading all those activities in the background, measuring who is connected to whom and how quickly they react to things (as a mathematician, this data analysis just makes me go squee!)  So any document that Innes works on that is shared with me, boom! it shows up near the top.

So, instead of going to a huge list of files and typing in a search term and looking through a still-long list of files, I turn to Delve.  When I first open Delve up (now, this is on my desktop so it shows a lot more files) it shows me all the files I will likely be working on.  

Notice (well, let me point it out to you) that it looks through the attachments on my email, my OneNotes, the folders on sites that I work on... and gives me one-click access to start working on them.  And then, if I want, I can filter by people on the left or do searches by people or content ... but again, I don't get a simple list back... I get a prioritized list based on the above connections and behaviours.  

And the more I use Office365, the more OfficeGraph analyzes my behaviour in the background and Delve shows me what I need to work on.
What comes next?  The Delve App ... but more on that later.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

#My24Hrs Part 2

Teacher content displayed on projector
So it was optimistic of me to say I'd be able to post twice in the same day... so here I continue from #My24Hrs Part 1.

So as it turned out, I didn't have a lot of time to run around to classes.  I managed to pop into one geography class and saw what I would expect to see -- students working with each other, teacher roaming around the room after putting up a motivating question on the projector, and OneNote in high use.
Using Split Screen
(Window&CursorRight and then Window&CursorLeft)
so that students can pull ideas across applications
I did manage to stop by our Admissions Office for a meeting and recorded our admissions coordinator over how she uses OneNote with students (students volunteer as Tour Guides so all their material and scheduling is done in a shared OneNote with them).  I thought the most telling comment, from someone deeply engaged in the administration of information is that, while she might have liked a lot of training on OneNote, she didn't actually need it to get a lot of things done.

And then there was the things I just did in the course of #my24hrs

  • OneNote was everywhere, of course.  And it wasn't always just the teacher projecting it on the screen; students have it open at their desks, they share their tablets when working in groups, it's on desktops and phones.  It's really interesting to walk into a classroom and see information flow quickly between and amongst teachers and students like the passing of paper, but instantly, digitally and without anything physical.
I love how the pen is at the ready, but she uses the keyboard
to quickly get content down.

  • chatting with the PhysEd teacher about her Office365 Video channel for her Grade 9 Girls PhysEd.  She has a series of videos put together to have them practice their self-defense and workout routines.  Videos are taken from multiple directions so they can get their stances and motions correct.  They use their tablets and mobile devices to both access and add videos to the channel.  And, since we control the permissions to the channel, the videos are safe from the outside world.

  • talking to the Business teacher about using Office365 groups with the International Business class so that each group has their own independent work/conversation space.  
  • The organization that OneNote offers is
    extraordinarily helpful to students
  • spent an hour setting up the externally-shared OneNote Class Notebook for my webinar on Wednesday.  This has been a huge step forward, being able to assign an external individual as a "student" or "staff" member on a section.  We've used this to do a Class Notebook merging one of our Science classes with one in France for a project (instead of one student "owning" a tab, a Canadian and a French student worked in a tab).  But, since I was doing a webinar on OneNote Class Notebook, I wanted the participants to be able to experience it as a student 

    Just because we're almost paperless doesn't mean
    we don't use paper.  It means we use the right tool
    for the job at that moment.
  •  Discussed the new look of Delve with an administrator.  She was mentioning to me how much she depends on the intelligence of Delve to make her work easier -- she's never at a loss when looking for things and she encourages her colleagues to stop sending her links or files.  Once the material is shared with her and people begin to work on it, Delve shows her that there's progress and prioritizes her next steps each day.

Monday, February 29, 2016

#My24Hrs Part 1

I recently described myself as a devout pragmatist - and that has been reflected in the way I've taken on my role as technology liaison in our IT department.  I'm not an evangelizer; I'm a productivity and efficiency consultant.  If I can find 5 minutes of savings for a teacher in their class, that's time they can put to better use helping students learn; it's time they can assess better; it's time they can interact with parents.  Sure, I want them to be collaborative, encourage curiosity, differentiate for student needs, but they need time and a structure to do that in.
We hit our first major time saving four years ago when we designed the first OneNote Class Notebook with structured sections for teachers and students, with the added benefit of a workflow for assessment & digital portfolios -- and we've pushed for continual time savings every year through OneDrive and Office365.

So when Microsoft started the #My24Hrs hashtag to celebrate how technology was allowing us to empower ourselves and others through technology, to me... that's all about how things have been made better.

Today, I'll be asking faculty, staff and students how technology has made their lives easier, more efficient and more effective.  And tonight, I'll wrap up my thoughts.

Monday, January 11, 2016

5 Reasons Schools should run with Office365

It often surprises me when folks don't know about Office365 and/or don't know how Microsoft has changed its educational offerings in the past few years.  Although Google definitely had the lead up to say 2011, Microsoft has quickly come up from behind and re-invented the educational space for teaching, learning, collaboration and creativity.
So, briefly, my top five reasons* why any school would benefit from running Office365.

1) OneNote and the OneNote Class Notebook
There is nothing comparable to OneNote and the OneNote Class Notebook / Staff Notebook anywhere on the market.  It's paper... made digital!  It allows an easy transition from folks used to working with paper but also is a springboard to digitize everything in a classroom, office or home.  It makes it easy to take a quick note (on any device) or write a thesis.  It's a container for everything (documents, spreadsheets, presentations, sound and video files) but then allows you to organize, categorize and summarize.  It has collaboration built into its ecosystem and things can be shared for reading or editing.  And although it aids making a transition away from paper, it's also great kindling for those being transformative -- there are no barriers to creativity as you'll find in text-based environments and since OneNote is ink-based, it's open to happenings of creativity through easy sketching and doodling.  So much is built into OneNote (and linked through Office365) that you don't have to track down an app -- it's all there, tied into the ecosystem.  And -- most importantly -- it caches on the device so if you lose the internet (by geography or misadventure) you can continue working and things sync up when wifi returns).

It's cross platform so I can take an anecdotal note on a student (or a pic/video) from my phone and it automatically appears on my laptop - and on the student device if that's the section I posted it in.
I've written plenty on OneNote already so I'll just include these links for more information... and a series of educational examples that showcase the transition we've made away from and beyond paper.
But just to emphasize... if only for OneNote, people should use Office365.  It's that much of a game changer.  But more importantly, it allows people to easily begin to change their game, it's such a gate way drug to pedagogical and learning changes because of the low technological threshold and the near infinite opportunities not hog-tied by being text based and bringing all the convenience of paper in a digital format.

2) Delve
In a modern collaborative working space, a simple list isn't sufficient anymore.  And search isn't smart enough.  Having an intelligent agent available to every student, every faculty and every staff member has been an unexpected and universally appreciated boon.  Things don't get lost.  People know what they should be working on and what's important.
Delve is the face of the background search built into Office365.  It knows all the content and shows you cards of things that should be important to you.
When you first visit the Delve page, it shows you the global picture of things going on that involve you.  So for me, I see some math things I've been working on with my colleagues.

Then, you can drill down by person or search term.  So if I know that my principal, Katrina, has been working on a document for me, I can track it down.  I don't have to remember where it's stored or what it's named because Delve is more concerned that she and I have been working on it recently and it knows that Katrina is someone who I value.  (How does it know that?  It measures the volume, spread and how quickly I reply to emails within my environment.)
Delve also measures what my colleagues find important so a document that has been opened a lot recently gets moved up in priority - which is why ParentTeacher Conferences is showing up; we're coming into another PT conference shortly!
Given the vast number of documents we have emailed to us (it does attachments) and that exist in shared spaces (including OneNotes) it becomes impossible to know where everything is located - Delve does that organizational part for us.
And its mobile app gives you a daily "here's what's popular" list, too!

3) Collaboration
Every aspect of Office365 is collaborative.  Documents, spreadsheet, presentations, sways, sites -- there's a share button everywhere and in almost every situation it's synchronous collaboration.  Want to work on a presentation together?  Click to share... and it surfaces in Delve so you know what you're supposed to be working on together.. and who's updated it recently.  And you can pull or expire permissions easily (and it correspondingly disappears off of Delve).

You can work within the online Office365 system, which gives you basic editing options necessary to pull of most tasks or push your work into the full desktop versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint & OneNote with the press of a button.  The convenience of the online apps is noticeable when you're on a different device.  It really opens up the opportunity for BYOD because it really doesn't matter which device you're on ... the mobile apps are as responsive as the desktop ones even if they're not as feature rich.  But, since most people have their own full-powered device either at their desk or in their home, they can use the full power when necessary.

4) Depth of Ecosystem
For us, OneNote and the OneNote Class Notebook is the container for everything and we use it as a springboard to the other aspects of Office365 : our documents, videos, online meetings, etc are all linked from or embedded in the appropriate OneNote pages for students and faculty..
However in the administrative side of the school, they're still Site driven, so they use the more traditional site structure with document libraries and calendars.  It doesn't matter!  Delve ties everything together regardless of the way people work.

Everything is brought in to the mobile environment with all the productivity apps but also mobile specific apps like Microsoft Lens (which ties your camera to OneNote, Word, etc).  They added a complete video storage & distribution system so we can publish videos involving students and not worry about having them spread across the internet and we have our own discussion area in Yammer that is tied into every other piece.  You may notice the Y* Yammer button in the Delve screen above.  And faculty and students have been using data from Excel and moving to experiment with PowerBI, Microsoft's business visualizing software (that's again, both online and on device).
And it's all tied together with one password and one Waffle menu (circled in the image above).

5) Customer Response
Microsoft has been incredibly responsive to user suggestions.  They have an active UserVoice system that has prompted a great many developments.  There were over 400 additions to Office365 in 2015 - and these range from minor improvements to the addition of completely new applications like Sway (an online presentation system) to the forthcoming Planner (simple project management).
They also have a large Yammer community through which you get a lot of troubleshooting, training and roadmaps to ongoing development.  Because it's cloud based, things can change quite quickly -- when doing training, I emphasize that what I show will likely change within the month.
This is not the Microsoft I grew up with nor is it the Microsoft of five years ago -- this is a different company with a markedly different approach to infrastructure and education.  And I'm happy for my school to benefit from it.

*I am not including the fact that it's free.  Lots of things are free but everything carries a cost.  I'm also not including all the benefits of the paid plans because, well, they involve money.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Five reasons to learn Math with OneNote

So, Alice Keeler - @alicekeeler- who is an amazing blogger and an incredible resource for those using Google products, posted 60 Ways Math Teachers can use Google Classroom last April.  It came across my desk the other day and, since school hadn't started yet, I thought it might be a good reflection for me on how one could do similar tasks with OneNote Class Notebook.

I went through the list and checked that I could accomplish them all with OneNote and re-wrote her post with those modifications ... but it was looking a little "plagiarism-y" so, just to check, I emailed Alice to see if she was okay with it.  She was not, but encouraged me to do my own brainstorming.

So... Math Teachers & OneNote (including OneNote Class Notebook).  My top five... 

1) The Under-valued value of scribbles & notation

If you really want to be "paperless" (and that should never be a goal - you want to be digital so that content is no-cost) in a mathematics classroom, it's not enough to put a computer into a faculty or student's hands.  It has to be a pen-based device in order for students and teachers to express their understanding in as free a way as possible.  We should always try to minimize impediments if we want to have students focus on the problem.  Paper does that... until you want to do more with it.
OneNote gives the student and the teacher a blank page (or a template) and then the student/teacher can take it from there.  They can type, of course, but more importantly they can start drawing, sketching, scribbling, doodling anywhere on the page and build their ideas from there.
And since the notes sync between devices, everyone sees everything -- and if needed/allowed, can interact with the ink.
Students should not have to leave their environment to draw, sketch & scribble

Students should be able to easily build on and bring ideas together visually
I'll also add that because it's a blank slate that sits in front of them all the time, I get to see lots of great student doodles in their work.  Who they're thinking of, what they're dreaming of, and all the little sketches & designs that bring character to their notes and their feelings to the fore.

2) Breadth of opportunity to express ideas

Alongside the pen, OneNote lets the student and teacher type, draw, record both audio and video and paste any other object into their page to build upon.  They can also link to other resources outside of OneNote but annotate the links and keep them organized.  

3) Assessment of and for Learning
My feedback should not intrude and should build and by trackable from their work
The number one problem with paper is that I have to take it from them.  With OneNote, I see exactly what they see themselves without having to physically interrupt them from their work.  And, just like they can build on what they've done --- using ink, text, audio, video, links and, as this example shows, clips from other programs like GeoGebra -- I can give my feedback using the exact same tools.  Not only that, but I can use OneNote tags in their work for both exemplary examples of mathematics (and easily share those with the class) and I can also tag common errors to get a quick overview of how the class is progressing just by asking OneNote for a summary of the tags.  And I can do it from any of my devices anywhere, anytime.

4) Bring it all together
Everything can go into OneNote.  While my students construct all of their notes and do almost all of their daily work inside of OneNote using their pen or keyboard, they do work on the Whiteboards, they do work on paper, they do use other applications like Desmos or WolframAlpha, and they do take pictures and video of mathematical objects.  Everything can be placed inside of a OneNote page and built on right on the same page without having to link or leave for another application.  Files don't just get attached -- they get printed into the page so that you can interact and build on top of the content.  Spreadsheets become interactive within the page.

And with the Chrome web clipper, the built-in OneNote screen clipper and the OfficeLens app on their (and my) phones we can bring content in from anywhere, anytime.

5) It's there, safe, secure, anywhere, any time, always - and re-mixable & shareable 

Using the Class Notebook, my content is there for any student, any time.  Never lost. And something that is often overlooked is that everything works offline, too.  The students can still read my content and continue to build their own without the internet... And then when they get wifi it all syncs instantly between us.
Announcements?  Always on the top page, what we call the CoursePlan page or CP
Homework?  Always on the top page.  
My notes about the completing the square?  All my examples, all my writing about the algorithm, all the history of al Khwarizmi, all the worked homework examples, all the helpful videos?  All there, organized by unit, page.  And, additional examples pulled from other students.  And embedded videos from their fellow students on CTS problems.  And links to outside tutorial videos.
Missing a review handout?  There in my _Teacher section.  Take as many copies as you want.  
Need more review?  There's more questions, more problems, more feedback!
Broke their device?  Grab another device & sync.  Everything back safe & sound
Tutor wants to see how I approach a topic?  Available in my notes
Want to see another student's technique?  Have them drop it in the _Group space -- they don't have to be in the same room to share ideas
Collect homework?  It's in the _A tab and returned to the _R tab thanks to automatic syncing
Want last year's notes on trig?  Open last year's OneNote and take a look.

and most importantly... and the reason I got into using communication technology in the first place... 

Got a question and are too shy to ask?  Tag your question in your OneNote private section with the ? tag  (highlight your text and press CTRL-4) and I'll answer it and no one will ever know you asked.  Anywhere.  Any time.  Always.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

"So you've sold your soul..."

While at the Bringing-IT-Together conference (one of the best gathering of learners in North America) in November 2015 I had the opportunity to present at a few sessions, mostly on OneNote (of course?) but I also got to work with some folks from Microsoft and, in recognition of being a Microsoft Education Fellow and Innovative Expert Educator and my school being a Microsoft World Tour School, they gave me an amazingly red t-shirt with the image below on the back.
I'm not one for "labels" (Distinguished Educator, Certified Innovator... all those pretentious, self-aggrandizing badges from various companies... what was the SmartBoard one?) .  I'm not a fan of wearing corporate labelling, either, and am regularly removing tags, flags and the like from my clothing.  And except for PCMI, I'm not one for t-shirts at all (I used to have to wear a collared shirt to sit at the dinner table), but I was very humbled that our Microsoft Canada Education rep Lia De Cicco-Remu had gone to the effort of recognizing our contributions that I wore the shirt the second day of the conference.  And I liked the way the artist had brought a lot of important ideas together into one design -- I shall track down her name.
But sure enough, friends noticed and one of them said "So you finally sold your soul to Microsoft, eh?"  I replied as I have whenever my enthusiasm (or my wardrobe) emphasized a particular company's product -- I will sleep with anyone who produces a better learning experience for my students.  I will push them out of the bed, though, if something better comes along,  For the past eight years, right now, for the foreseeable future, Microsoft has been bringing their A-game, first with OneNote on a pen-based tablet computer (okay, and then we ran with it) and now the on-going development around Office365.  There is nothing better on the market for the learning that goes on in, around and beyond our School.  Not a day goes by that a different teacher (or staff member ... they're on board now too) expresses to me how one aspect of Office365 has made learning more visible, deeper, easier, more collaborative or their job/life more interesting, quicker, better.  Microsoft Canada has been incredibly supportive and their staff are nothing short of amazing. 
So I'm quite happy to sleep with them.