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.)

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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!

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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!

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:

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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….”

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  • 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!

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  •   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!

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  • 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!

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  • 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!