Merge Cube: Curricular “Magic” With The Explorer App

WHOA! 😲You’ve just GOT to see this! There is 🔮magic🔮 in this cube, I swear! Check out this quick video I made to see some of the new awesomeness brought to us by our friends at Merge!

Note: I am sharing this video that I created today, but there are folks around the world who are taking Merge skills to a whole different level! I am in awe of the creators, those who are curating new AR and VR material…..and even better – those who are teaching students to curate new AR/VR material to inspire all of us! Our friends at Merge are opening whole new worlds and learning possibilities for us. They are to be commended, congratulated, and thanked.

I am just a newbie…I’m standing back and am just awestruck by all of it. I’ll keep sharing the things that I’m able to understand, and hope to guide a few newcomers along on my journey. The most profound thing that I’ve learned is that it’s all attainable – everyone can do this at some level.

Let’s Merge together.

OneNote As A #OneWord Journal

Like so many people across the country, especially educators, I made the decision a few years ago to forego making a New Year’s resolution and instead choose a #OneWord.

If you haven’t heard of #OneWord before, it’s not a specific goal like a resolution might be, but rather it is a mindset to guide a person toward some sort of self-improvement throughout the year. It’s a focus word, a personal challenge word, a #OneWord.

I’ve seen hundreds of incredible and inspiring #OneWord examples on Twitter. Just search the hashtag, and even add the year (#OneWord2019) to see examples from people all over the world! Last year, I chose the word BETTER, and I truly did focus on achieving that word in a variety of ways. I came back to that word often throughout the year to ground myself and be mindful of exactly what it was I wanted to accomplish. On December 31, I sat down and reflected on ways I accomplished my #OneWord. It took me several hours to go back through my calendars, tweets, blog posts, photos, Facebook posts, etc. to try to form a timeline or list of ways I had achieved BETTER – and I was pretty astounded when I was finished! It was a laborious process, but it was really personally rewarding.

This year, I chose CREATE as my #OneWord. Like many others, I created a graphic as my inspiration, and I even went so far as to explain exactly what I hope to accomplish by focusing on the word CREATE .

Without going into too much detail, last year I felt like I spent most of my energy on learning and consuming knowledge. This year, I really want to be more mindful about actively creating. I feel like it will not only engage me in a different way, but also give me a chance to be more of a giver than a taker…and that’s important to me.

For 2019, I decided to use OneNote to help me document my #OneWord progress. I’m all about keeping it simple, so I just titled my OneNote Notebook “CREATE”. I made a section for each month, and I’ll add a page for each day that I feel that I’ve created something.

I set up all my sections as the months of the year. I LOVE using emojis to make my notebooks look awesome!


The pages from my January section. I already know that there won’t be one for every day, and that’s fine. I don’t want this to become an unattainable #OneWord by putting too much pressure on myself.


This is a screenshot of my page for January 2nd. In OneNote, I am able to add text, a link, and even a photo to document whatever I’ve created!

Some days, I already know that I will create and write notes on a dated page in advance – a way of pre-planning or outlining a particular goal or project to work on for that day.

Lastly, I want to point out that I used my OneNote iPhone app to do create all of my entries so far. I love the ease of having the handy app in my mobile phone, and also the fact that I can take photos and add them directly from my phone. When I’m on my laptop, I generally use the Windows10 OneNote app, because I totally love how many choices I have for page color in the app, and I can also have the most fun with digital inking. I could always use my desktop OneNote 2016 or even OneNote Online, too. So many choices!

December 31, 2019 is going to be really fun. When I’m ready to sit down and reflect on the year, every single thing will be organized and chronicled in my OneNote CREATE Notebook!

I hope this gives you an idea or two about how you could use OneNote as a journal – either for your own #OneWord or whatever else inspires you!

PS – Blogging is creating, so I’m adding this very blog post to the OneNote!


I would absolutely LOVE to hear if you’ve learned or incorporated any of these ideas into your own practices! You can always reach me on Twitter as @kerszi or on my Facebook page Integration Innovation.

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!

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!

Take the Leap.. to the OneNote for Windows 10 App

Anyone who knows me knows that this sign on my desk is pretty indicative of the way I go about things:

leap2

I’m a risk-taking, jump-right-in, what-could-possibly-go-wrong, all-in kind of girl.  So when I heard OneNote desktop version is being sunsetted, I just sort of moseyed on over to the Windows 10 app and moved in.  I’ve been living there almost full-time because if that’s going to be my new OneNote, I want to really start to form a friendship with it.  I know, I know….it doesn’t have ALL the cool stuff from OneNote 2016 desktop yet, but it will.  So for now, I still just pop in for visits with 2016 when I need a certain tool, but for the most part, I’ve migrated!

windows10appSo if you haven’t even looked at the app yet and are brand new to all of this, take a look at the image above.  #1 shows you where to click to open your apps.  #2 shows you where you can find OneNote (it’s alphabetically listed).  I will use it A LOT, so I right-clicked on the words in #2 and clicked “Pin To Start”, which put #3 out there where it’s nice & easy for me to find!

FOUR FAVES

Whenever I make new friends, I like to notice all the positives about them.  That’s exactly what I’ve been doing with the OneNote app while I’m waiting for all the bells and whistles from 2016 to be added over the next few months.

As Julie Andrews would sing, “These are a few of my favorite things….”

pensarefun.jpg

  • The pens!  I just love how the pens are laid out on the Draw tab.  I’m no artist, but digital inking is just so fun!  Of course, I gravitated right to the rainbow pen,the outer space pen, and the fancy-schmancy golden pen!  The cool trick is to click that little plus at the top – it lets you choose and add your own favorite pencils, pens, and highlighters to to that row that’s displayed, so you always have your most beloved inking tools right at your fingertips!

addemoji.jpg

  •   The emoji keyboard.  This actually works in all the Microsoft spaces (Word, Outlook, etc.) in Windows 10, but I’ve been especially enjoying it in OneNote, where I’m more apt to use emojis.  My favorite trick is to use emojis in Section names, Page names, and even Notebook names!  As the photo above shows, just hold down the Windows button and the period and that cute emoji window pops up for you!  I love the clean graphic style of these Microsoft emoji’s, too!

MEC.jpg

  • Link right out to the Microsoft Educator Community.  I spend a lot of time in the M.E.C., and I try to teach others to do the same.  It’s my community center where I go to learn, grow, find resources, and even make connections.  I love having the icon right there in the Class Notebook tab so that if I have a question or want to learn something new, it’s just a click away!

inserttab.jpg

  • Watching Growth.  The little image above is a screenshot of exactly what is on the Insert Tab as of today, right now, on April 30, 2018.  Over the next few months, the good folks at Microsoft have listened to the community and promised to add in (almost) all of the excellent tools we all love in 2016 desktop version.  This is fun for me.  I love that Audio and Forms are already there, and I will thoroughly enjoy watching more and more tools festoon the Insert Ribbon in the coming weeks.

So if you weren’t sure how to make the move or even wondered why it might be fun to go all-in with the Windows 10 OneNote app, I hope I’ve given you some inspiration!  Give it a shot…you have everything to gain.  Leap, and OneNote will appear!  😉

If you ever want to talk #OneNote, anything #MicrosoftEDU, or anything #EdTech at all, you can find me on Twitter at @kerszi, on Facebook at Integration Innovation, and right here on the blog!

Accessibility Oooh & Aaahs With Microsoft’s Learning Tools

It warms my heart and brings me joy to see that glowing joy on a Special Education teachers’ face exclaiming, “We can DO that?”, “I didn’t know that was even A THING”,  “I never even THOUGHT of it”, “NO WAY!!!”… and the unforgettable, “This is like a miracle!”

This new phenomena is spurred by some mandatory PD that all of our teachers in grades 3-5 needed to attend this month.  I was teaching them the wonders of Microsoft’s OneNote Class Notebook.  That in itself was an extraordinary mind-blowing tool for teachers who JUST entered the world of teaching in a 1:1 environment.  For now, I’m thrilled to report on an unexpected byproduct of those PD sessions.

The Special Education teachers (and many Basic Skills and even general education teachers) were blown away by the Learning Tools that are embedded in Microsoft’s OneNote and Class Notebook.  In the Learning Tools, there is a remarkable ribbon tool called “Immersive Reader”.  I am both a former Special Ed teacher and a crazy-avid EdTech junkie, so I thought it was maybe just me who was awestruck by the way these tools make text accessible to all students.  The text-to-speech alone can bring tears to my eyes when I see it being used independently by a struggling reader.  The other options – font size, spacing, and color readability options can also be set by the learner to meet his/her own learning needs.  I ADORE that students may choose to speed up the reading voice or slow it down if processing is difficult!  I marvel when a student who has difficulty decoding can turn on the syllabication option and just read syllable-by-syllable.  Most of all – and I exclaim this with joyous fervor in my PD sessions – this is not something that a teacher has to “push out” to students or that draws any attention to that student!  The students who need it can just “turn it on” themselves – determining for themselves when they need those accommodations – and they don’t look any different than anyone else in the class!  Students can go to the same OneNote page as everyone else, and then discreetly slip in a pair of earbuds, click on the Learning Tools tab, and make the learning accessible without ever leaving the page (or the group, or the classroom!)

I also showed our teachers that their students will also soon have the Dictation feature available (speech to text) as soon as our district upgrades us to Windows 10.  I think a few of the teachers may or may not have fallen out of their chairs.  I know that I heard audible gasps.  One teacher threw her hand over her mouth and mumbled, “Oh, all those years we wasted money and time on that OTHER speech to text program, and now all of our kids will have it RIGHT HERE, RIGHT in their own OneNote notebooks and not having to go out to another program.”  Another teacher exclaimed, “This is like a miracle!”  I LOVE that these teachers get as emotional about this as I do.  That’s exactly how I feel!

Speaking of miracle, this is where something pretty magical began to happen!  Special Ed teachers – and some other speciality teachers, and Child Study Team members – started asking for more sessions just for them that dealt specifically with Adaptive Technology!   They wanted more time with the Learning Tools and to explore samples and brainstorm ways that these could be used.  Nothing – NOTHING – warms the cockles of my heart like teachers who are craving personalized PD that will help them help their students…so I created this to start:

nnnnnThese teachers are especially fascinated with Microsoft’s Audio Recorder, which is a standard part of ALL OneNote notebooks and Class Notebooks…sitting right there in the middle of the Insert Ribbon!  I showed them about 10 ways just that one little microphone tool could be used by both teachers AND students to make learning accessible, productive, and fun!  They played and came up with much better ideas than I had.  We researched and Googled and Pinterest-ed even more practical ideas…and the time flew!

We started with 1/2 day PD, and I’m thrilled to say that it wasn’t enough.  I never even got to demo all the the items on my very short list above – and I had about a dozen others on backup reserve in case we had more time!  As the teachers learned and shared and brainstormed, it gave ME even more ideas about things I want to show them…to teach them…to learn with them!   Going forward, those teachers have inspired a much longer list – I’ve begun compiling a list of apps, websites (like Buncee…see photo caption above), and simple general computer user features that I’ll be offering and sharing at all my schools…and beyond.  I have a bunch of creative “PD Delivery Options” – newsletters, online resources, screencasts, virtual meetings with screensharing, Tech Playdates, Morning Munchies & Lunch Bunch mini-sessions, etc. – so that all of my in-district teachers have diverse options for accessibility, too!

We are all SO very lucky to be at such a great and powerful time in regard to educational technology.  Technology isn’t an answer or a cure-all, and it needs to be planned well and done right, but OH, the possibilities!  Our teachers are lucky – there is so much that is FREE to us these days, and there are so many helpful tools embedded right in the sites and apps we use every day.  Our students are lucky – to be learning how to learn with technology that assists them when they need it.  As for me, I’m quite sure that I am the luckiest of all – to have Special Education teachers with real heart and sincere ambition, who crave and ask for professional development for adaptive technologies to make life the best it can be for their exceptional learners!


As always, I really love to hear your thoughts.  I need YOUR help to grow my list with great ideas to share with teachers!  What simple adaptive technology tools to you use and love?  What are some of your favorite general computer use tricks (my teachers even loved just learning to zoom in on the screen and how to increase/decrease brightness…those little things matter)?  What do you wish you knew about Adaptive Technology?  How do you get/find PD that works for you?  And my favorite question of all is…what’s your coolest AT tip or trick?

Reach out to me at @kerszi on Twitter, drop a note right here in my blog comments, or follow my Facebook page “Integration Innovation” and share your thoughts & ideas there!  I’m also kerszi on Voxer if you’d rather strike up a more private or conversational chat.  Thanks so much!