Microsoft Learning Tools: Where Independence Is Free For ALL Of Us

reach out learning tools

  • Remember last year, or the year before, when students who couldn’t read called the teacher over to come read it to them…whether it was a text, an assessment, or even the directions?
  • Remember not long ago when students submitted rough drafts a dozen times, returned by the teacher for corrections again and again because the drafts were still riddled with errors that were truly unintentional – the student just hadn’t noticed them?
  • Remember how just the other day, teachers and classroom aides acted as scribes for students who had difficulty writing?
  • Remember when – ages ago – a student didn’t know a word’s meaning, we sent him to go look it up in a classroom dictionary? Remember how that “stoppage in play” totally interfered with the flow necessary for comprehension?
  • Remember how teachers would prompt students again and again to “just follow along” because they always lost their place when text was being shared or read in class?
  • Remember how it was a struggle for some of those students whose families speak different languages at home? Remember when those English Language Learners who still didn’t know every word, phrase, or colloquialism had their own special teacher – or even left class to go to another room?
  • Remember the time, it seems like only yesterday, when teachers were at the copy machine enlarging text and then highlighting key parts so that students who had trouble seeing it were handed their own special copies in class…just for them?
  • Remember back when some students had to pull out index cards or bookmarks to read in class, because too much text on a page made it impossible to focus? Remember how sometimes the teacher just copied chunks of text on individual photocopied pages to reduce visual distractions?
  • Remember how stigmatizing it all seemed…it was all done with good intention. It was all meant to help.  And it all relied on students needing PEOPLE to help them achieve success.

Thank goodness those days are gone!  Thank goodness for Microsoft’s Learning Tools.  If you are in education: teachers, principals, administrators, counselors, therapists, specialists, paraprofessionals, and even parents…the most critical thing that you should do is to learn about Learning Tools, and then show ALL your students how to use them.

First of all, everyone needs to know that Microsoft Learning Tools are free – completely free – for everyone in the world.  This is not a special license, or a paid service, or a subscription, or only something that certain schools have.  And yes, even if your school is a “Google school”, you can still use Learning Tools.

Secondly, I mentioned teaching ALL your students how to use Learning Tools.  I mean that.  These are not just tools to help students with special needs or disabilities or who require accommodations.  All students – all people – can benefit from knowing that there are helpful tools built into their computers or devices.  A tool by definition is just something that makes a task easier.  I used two Learning Tools to write this article.  First, I used the Dictation feature because I work faster with speech to text capabilities.  Don’t you?  I also like to get my thoughts out verbally and then go back to tweak or edit later.  Second, I used the Read Aloud feature and had this whole text read back to me (several times).  I listened for errors – typos, misspellings, grammatical errors, omissions, etc.  I was able to change the sound of the Read Aloud voice and also the speed at which it was read to me.  When I heard something that didn’t sound right, I stopped and fixed it.  It’s the best editing tool I’ve ever used.  (Bonus tip: I often use the Read Aloud feature with my Outlook emails, too…I have long ones read aloud to me while I do paperwork or some other task.)

read aloud feature.jpg

I’m writing this in English and I’m a native English-speaking person, but what if you’re not?  What if you don’t understand parts of this?  Please let me direct your attention back to that ribbon above.  Look at that Language section of the ribbon.  Push a button, and this whole document is accessible in dozens of different global languages – and that list is growing!  Accessibility is a HUGE focus for all of Microsoft products.  Your ELL students can stay in the class, push a button, and be included.

translator.jpg

Learning Tools also has an invaluable tool called Picture Dictionary.  It’s not just for elementary, or special education, or non-native language speakers – it’s for anyone who comes across a word in text that they don’t know!  That certainly happens to me, and I’m pretty sure it happens to ALL of us from time to time.  Don’t run for a dictionary, and don’t open a new tab to find one of those online dictionaries with gobs of big words and parts of speech and definitions that still often don’t make sense.  Just open Learning Tools Immersive Reader, click on the word, and a picture appears.  There’s also a reader button on that picture that will pronounce the word…another ability I’m grateful for from time to time!

picture dictionary.jpg

There are other invaluable features in Learning Tools depending on your students’ needs.  Show it all to them.  Teach them all to access what they need when they need it.  Let them turn on the Line Reader to focus.  Let them turn on the Syllabication feature to help them “sound it out” or the Parts of Speech feature to let them know exactly what kind of word they’re trying to read.

line reader      syllables & parts of speech.jpg

These are tools that STUDENTS can turn on or use, WITHOUT asking another person to help, WITHOUT calling someone to their desk, and WITHOUT drawing attention to themselves.  They’re free, they’re embedded, and once students know that they’re there and how to access them, they are empowered to learn better.  I need to say that again:  They are empowered to learn better.

When you need a little help to do something, you either reach out for a person or a tool.  Give your students the gift of independence.  Show them the gift of Microsoft Learning Tools.

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Endnote: I wrote this whole article in Microsoft Word – both the desktop and the online version.  I generally do this rather than writing directly in my blog platform because I truly and honestly like to take advantage of the Learning Tools and other features that Microsoft has made available.  I then copy/paste it into my online blog.

Presenters:  If anyone has an upcoming opportunity to present Learning Tools, please feel free to use and reference this blog post.  The “Remember” questions at the top are sure to get a hearty dialog started in your presentation, which will make the magic of Learning Tools all the more powerful once you demonstrate it.  If you’d like for me to share the Word version of this article with you so that you can use it as the interactive piece for your presentation, please just contact me and I’ll email it to you!

As always, I’m available here at my WordPress site (wordpress.kerszi.com), on Twitter as @kerszi and on my Facebook page called “Integration Innovation”.  I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas!

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Type Accented Letters on iPads

📱Micro-tip: If you have an iPad or iPhone, did you know that if you “long hold” on some of the keyboard letter keys, you get variations of that letter with accents? If I long hold “n”, I can type señor. If I long-hold the “u” key, I get über-excited! If I long-hold the “e” key, I see this:

This is especially great to know if you have students and families from other countries, but I think it’s a wonderful tip for all teachers and students to know. Add that to your edtech resumé! 😉

As always, you can find me on Twitter as @kerszi or on my Facebook page called Integration Innovation!

Text Giraffe

I love fonts & strong graphics, so when I found this website called Text Giraffe, I got happy! If you’re looking to create a logo, or you just need to build strong graphic for a blog post, website, newsletter, or even to make a Twitter post stand out, try Text Giraffe!

This site is super easy and self-explanatory. Just type in your name/word/phrase and hit GO! Pages & pages of cool, colorful choices appear!

Choose the one you like, and it’s then available to download in five different sizes as shown below:

I think you’ll really love Text Giraffe, too! Just for fun, I’d love it if you’d post your Text Giraffe creation in the comments!

As always, you can find me on Twitter as @kerszi, and at my Facebook page called Integration Innovation!

What’s A #Fliphunt?

This #Fliphunt movement has absolutely been an evolution of ideas.  It started with:

EdTech? On a Field Trip?… which led to …

I Had a Flipiphany!… which led to….

Fliphunt LOGO

So what’s a #Fliphunt?  It’s a video-based scavenger hunt that is completely organized and run in the AMAZING Flipgrid environment.  Since the entire UNIVERSE is using Flipgrid now…or should be…this is a wonderfully fun way to get students up and moving while exploring new learning or documenting understanding using the most beloved edtech site for amplifying student voice and student engagement in ways never known before!

Would a #Fliphunt motivate even the most reluctant learners?   Is video a powerful way to capture student learning?  Can a scavenger hunt be a formative assessment?  Can it be differentiated?  Do kids like stuff like this?  Uhhhh….yeeessssss!  Just take a look at this simple example of one Geometry #Fliphunt:

geometry fliphunt.jpg

Here’s another one I created to assess students’ knowledge of the skeletal system:

skeletal fliphunt.jpg

Here’s a super simple visual of how it’s done…

rrr.jpg

Are you starting to get ideas about how you can adapt this to your own curricular content?  These can literally be created and used for every subject and for every age!  I have created this infographic of planning considerations to help you think through a few things as you begin to craft your own #Fliphunt:

Fliphunt Planning Considerations.jpg

Here’s some extra-great news for those of you who are eager to jump in and get started.  Next week, at the #FlipgridLive event, Priscilla Heredia and I will be formally introducing and running THE FIRST grand-scale, crazy, off-the-charts, not-actually-educational #Fliphunt for folks who are there at Flipgrid HQ in Minneapolis.  I have a pretty good feeling that that grid and the not-too-secret password are going to be released via social media…and the WORLD will be able to play along (somewhat)!  I also happen to know that that grid is going to have bells & whistles that you REALLY, REALLY want:

  • other sample #Fliphunt ideas organized by subject
  • a place for you to add your OWN creative awesome #Fliphunts for others
  • clever #Fliphunt game adaptation ideas
  • …and even more #Fliphunt resources!

My favorite thing about the WHOLE #Fliphunt thing is that once this grid is released…..the content is forevermore totally created & curated by the Fligrid community!  YOU ALL will be the contributors, the askers, the solvers, the brainstormers, and the make-it-betterers! 😎

I have one teensy request….share loudly and widely!  Please use the hashtag to share cool #Fliphunt success stories and pictures and link the #Fliphunts you create, and most importantly please add the things you create to the new, collaborative grid once it’s released on 8.1.18.


As always, share your thoughts & amazing ideas with me here on the blog, on Twitter at @kerszi, or on my Facebook page Integration Innovation.

PD for Me – in OneNote!

If you’re like me, you’re constantly finding cool education ideas and things that you want to learn about – later, when you have time. I literally find things daily. For a long time, I struggled with the best ways to save them so I could easily find and access them later. Here are a few of the things I tried…

  • Screenshot & save to iPhone photo album
  • Google Keep
  • Email them to myself
  • Evernote
  • A Google Drive Folder with subfolders

Each of these had organizational problems for various reasons, and none of them ever worked for me all of the time. I had some things in my iPhone photos, but when I found Word documents while I was on my work laptop, I generally stuck them in a Google folder. I threw some things in Evernote, but I never really fell in love with it. I got really good at putting everything in Google Keep for awhile, but it soon was a jumble of everything – despite all my color coding and tagging. I kind of had things all over the place, and I kind of tried everything.

I HATE being disorganized, and I hate losing resources.

Then came the holy grail of organizational tools, and it works for me all the time, on every device, for any type of resource (photo, article, link, interactive media, video, etc.). It’s Microsoft’s OneNote!

I created an awesome little notebook that I called “PD for Me”. I actually did this right from my iPhone, because it’s the device I use most often. Then, I created sections in that notebook. If you’re not really familiar with OneNote, it works like a digital binder. The binder is called a notebook, so my OneNote notebook’s title is PD for Me. Within a OneNote notebook, I create sections – and the sections are like those tab dividers that you would normally put in a binder. Within sections, I can put pages…and I can even create a second tier of sub-pages if I need to. Below is a screenshot of my PD for Me OneNote notebook. (There are several more sections below AR & VR – I can have unlimited sections and unlimited pages, so I really take advantage of that!)

As you can see, I can set the color for each section tab, and I also usually add an emoji to each section title because it makes it more visually appealing it helps me to find it more easily.

As I said before, I spend most of my time on my iPhone, so that’s where actually end up doing a lot of my resource curation.

Tonight, I was on Facebook and found a great resource I want to save to my Seesaw folder. I opened it in my Safari browser in my phone, and then clicked the little “send to” icon as shown below….…and then just choose OneNote from my send options.

From there, it just asks me into which notebook and which section I’d like to drop the resource! It’s so easy! Similarly, I can take any photo (or screenshot, of course) from my iPhone, choose that send option, and repeat the process…just choose OneNote.

So I’ll show you one last thing. Let’s look inside my Seesaw section to see the pages I’ve put in there so far…

Photo of OneNote Notebook section with 5-6 pages listed

I wanted to point out four fun features in the page image above…

  1. I can still add emojis to keep things fun
  2. I can make subpages (indented) to maximize organization
  3. See the little checkbox in the lower right-hand corner? I LOVE checkboxes! I’m addicted to list-making, so I use this all the time!
  4. The camera icon lets you snap a photo of any class project, sign, screen, idea, magazine page, etc.! It embeds right on the page! See why I love using my iPhone for this?

My “PD for Me” is just one of a gazillion notebook ideas. I can create unlimited OneNote notebooks, so I choose OneNote for work and even personal organization- Holiday Planning, Recipe Collections, Vacation Organization, and so much more!

OneNote – It’s the answer to ultimate on-the-go organizational convenience!

I Had a Flipiphany!

It wasn’t a real word.  Until now.  I just made it up, but it’s a real thing so I’m keeping it.  A Flipiphany is when you suddenly realize that Flipgrid would be the ULTIMATE tool for doing what you need to do.  And that just happened!

About 20 minutes ago, I posted another blog post called #EdTech on a Field TripClick over and read the whole thing, because I really was proud of the idea.  It is the story of how I created a fun, curriculum-based, tech-infused photo scavenger hunt for 1st graders at the zoo, and then I offered the teacher a diverse menu of choices as to how to implement the photo scavenger hunt with her class.  After I hit publish on that blog post, I went to bed…..and 15 minutes later I came right back downstairs because I had a serious Flipiphany!

img_5398-1

My original list of options for ways this teacher could USE the scavenger hunt list didn’t include Flipgrid – and it ABSOLUTELY should have!  It needs to!  I’ve already revised the original option sheet from my earlier post – check it out:

flipiphany zoo list

There are lots of ways this could be organized in Flipgrid, but for folks using the free version, I’d suggest setting it up as described in the last option above.  Since most of the scavenger hunt items on my hunt are photos, 15 seconds will be plenty of time.  Removing the selfie decorations will allow viewers to see an accurate thumbnail of the students who participated.  I’d also suggest leaving the “Response Title” on so that groups could use their group name or a brief caption of their grid post.  The topic in Flipgrid might look something like this:

phillyzooflipgrid

I have now decided that this is my new favorite thing in the world….Flipgrid Photo Scavenger Hunts!  Seriously.  I need to do these with other teachers for my PD sessions (this is a Tech Integration Specialist’s dream toy tool), with friends and neighbors, and on my family summer vacation!

Ohhhhh…..and if you happen to be going to Flipgrid Live this summer, you’d better believe that there will now be a big ol’ super-fun, kinda crazy, official #FlipHunt happening in Minnesota.  That’s a real word now, too.  The #FlipHunt is ON!

 

You know I just love to hear from you and connect with other awesome educators.  You can find me on Twitter as @kerszi, on my Facebook page “Integration Innovation”, or leave comments right here on the blog! 

EdTech on a Field Trip?

As a Technology Integration Specialist, I get all kinds of interesting requests from teachers. They never cease to amaze me with their ideas and the things they want to learn. One of my very favorite unique challenges this year came from one of my first grade teacher friends.

She wanted to know if I could help her think of ways she might be able infuse technology into her field trip to the Philadelphia Zoo. No teacher had ever before asked me anything like this, and I fell in love with the idea! Adding to the challenge was the fact that it involved our littlest littles – 6-year-olds!

I began by checking to see if the zoo offered free WiFi access. We have iPads, but they don’t have 4G, so my planning would be influenced by WiFi availability. Philadelphia Zoo does indeed offer free WiFi, so I knew we had that option if we needed it.

I looked at the educational activities on the zoo’s website. They do have some there, including printables and lesson plans. I found a scavenger hunt, which I thought was a good idea, but I wanted to really personalize it for our first graders from our district.

If you follow me, you know that my mantra/ tagline/ philosophy is P.A.R.T.I., which stands for “Purposeful And Relevant Technology Integration.”

So I found our district’s first-grade Life Science benchmark, and I built a field trip photo scavenger hunt from it! I combined content knowledge with the silliness I knew our first graders would love.

Take a look at the simple but fun list I created, and you’ll see how it challenged students to apply knowledge in amusing ways:

The next thing I needed to do was to think of the teacher’s needs. How many groups would there be? How many chaperones? Was she sharing this with all the other first grade teachers? Did she want to upload photos to some sort of app while at the zoo (which would require WiFi) or just take photos? Did she want chaperones to be able to use their own devices/phones, or did she need our iPads? I met with her once to discuss options and get a feel for what she would consider, and then I went to work creating a printed list of options for ways she could deploy the scavenger hunt. It was SO fun to create this list!!! I gave it to her several days in advance, because at least two of the options would require additional set-up. (Goose Chase and QR Wild, which are both awesome!)

I had an absolute blast creating these resources, and I didn’t even get to go on the field trip! If you’re wondering how that teacher decided to use the scavenger hunt, she went with the second option. That night, she created a beautiful PowerPoint slideshow of all the pictures so that she could share with students the next day in class! (See just a few of her slides below!)

I ended up sharing this idea with five first grade teachers from another one of the schools I serve. They each decided to do their own thing – some did option 3, one did option 4 (the Bingo board), and some did option 8 (using Seesaw). Oh, and I heard that those “live interview” questions were a big hit – I’ll go back and add more of those next time!

In the end, no matter which way they chose to use it, this tech-infused field trip photo scavenger hunt was a big hit with every single teacher, parent, and student!

Bravo & big thanks to the teachers who continue to challenge and inspire me!

Thanks as always for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts & feedback! You can find me on Twitter as @kerszi, on my Facebook Page “Integration Innovation”, or leave comments right here on my blog!