Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Microsoft Office 365 Symposium #itip365

I am excited to be using Microsoft Office 365!

I never thought I would say (or type) those words. For awhile I advocated GAFE at my school and pouted a bit when the decision was made to stick with Microsoft. Then again, I was surprised to hear that as of last year, there were 110 million Office 365 users in education and only around 50 million Google Apps users. While I still believe that Google is doing some great things in education, I am getting more and more excited about what I see coming out of Microsoft these days. 

Last week, I attended the Microsoft Office 365 Symposium in Columbus, Ohio. As TechLead at my school, it's my job to stay ahead of the curve on new technologies and help guide the push to bring new things in.  I really wanted to learn more about OneNote and how it can be used in education. (Ironically, I had mentioned to the organizers that I teach OneDrive in my computer classes, and I wound up presenting that during the conference.)

OneNote is a very powerful note taking app. Do you remember college? I don't know how you organized your notes, but I had a separate folder for each class. I went through reams of paper handwriting notes and shoved them in the appropriate folders. When college was over, I had stacks of these folders which followed me for years (mainly collecting dust till I decided to throw them away).  Today, a college student can use OneNote, and one OneNote notebook could feasibly cover an entire college career. You can create separate notebooks within the major notebook, and tabs within those notebooks, and this could go on forever. Of course, there are numerous other applications for OneNote, but I'm seeing value in teaching this tool to our high school teachers who can teach it to their students. However,...

I found out during the conference that Microsoft recently released OneNote Class Notebook. Here is an extremely powerful tool that could make huge strides in how you manage your class. Before you read anything else, you need to watch this. 

I first saw this video in the spring and got very excited but had no way to replicate it in my school. When they started talking about OneNote Class Notebook, I immediately tweeted Cal Armstrong (from Appleby College) about it. It seems that Microsoft took this idea and made their own version, which does some similar tasks.

I walked away from this conference with the determination to learn how to use OneNote and OneNote Class Notebook and teach these tools to my upper elementary classes. Once I am comfortable using it with students, I want to take the ideas to my colleagues with the hopes we can see the OneNoteLove spread across campus.

Microsoft has a number of other great innovations rolling down the pipe to schools these days. It seems that they have really started taking education programs seriously and are determined to keep a foothold in the education market. I'm looking forward to learning these new technologies and introducing them to my colleagues...and I'll continue to share them with you here.

As an extra bonus (if you want to all it that)...

As I mentioned earlier, I was offered the opportunity to present at this conference, my first time presenting in any way outside of my school.  You can click here to see my digital handout, and of course you can enjoy the picture one of the people in the crowd took of me while I yammered on.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

#HourOfCode 2014

Unless you are hiding under a rock and avoiding the edtech world, you probably know that this is Hour of Code week all over the world. I've been looking forward to this week since we completed Coding Week last year.  My last few classes this week will be covered by a sub while I'm in Columbus for a conference. I thought now would be a great time to reflect on the week.

This has been a hard post for me to write, because I'm not sure I'll add much to the Hour of Code conversation. My guess is that I'm a part of the vast majority of teachers who directed students to code.org/learn to do the various activities. Just before I decided to scrap the post completely, I decided to just highlight some of the better moments rather than summarize every grade level like I did last year.

I really like LightBot. In this game, you need to send a little robot around a maze of blocks, moving forward, turning left or right, and jumping till he hits a blue square. Then he lights it up. The concept is easy but each level gets a bit harder. One of my 5th grade girls, asked for help on a particular stage. I gave her a hint or two then moved on. A few minutes later I sauntered by. Seeing she was on the same stage, I made a comment. "Oh, it looks like you're figuring it out." Her response? "I already solved it. I'm just trying to do it a different way." #win!

Literally minutes before my kindergarten class came to the room, I had second thoughts about directing them to Daisy the Dinosaur. I knew some of the kids could handle Daisy, but most of them don't have the reading skills yet.  I decided to download The Foos to the iPads and see if it would be good. Yes, I realize last second lesson plan switches are not necessarily good ideas. Yes, I realize kindergartners need more individual attention I was able to give them as I frantically downloaded an app to each iPad in the room, but here is the beauty of my story. Just as I directed the kids to The Foos I realized some iPads didn't have the app completely downloaded. As I was working on those, I heard students excitedly interacting with the game. "You figured it out yourself?" "Yes! It's fun!" Needless to say I introduced it to my kindergarten daughter that same night. #thankyoufoos

For better or for worse, I tend to give students few directions when starting a new app. I want them to figure it out themselves and spread the joy to others. That's why I was excited to overhear a second grader exclaim, "I love Scratch Jr! It's a lot like Educreations!" Now, I have to say I'm not exactly sure how the two apps are similar, but that's not the point. I now have a student comparing and contrasting apps, and will no doubt be messing with Scratch Jr in the future.  #score!

I'm planning on dipping into coding again next week.  With visions of sugar plum fairies dancing in their heads, along with parties, play practice, and the like, I decided Coding Week, Part Two would be a glorious way to finish out December. I'm looking forward to seeing what great stories come from a second week of coding fun.