Delay Post to Microsoft Teams

So one of the things I see requested is a delayed-post to Microsoft Teams (like, you want an announcement to go out on a Birthday, say… like April 23rd for someone special?) That functionality doesn’t exist at the moment so I figured that PowerAutomate, Microsoft’s scripting engine, should likely be able to do it.

And it works! This surprised me… It took about an hour and it’s only a rough draft but I thought I should share the outline. The Flow comes in 5 parts as shown below, but I’ll dig into the pieces.

There’s a Microsoft Form that asks for the message you want, and when you want to post it:

When the user submits the Form it kicks off the whole routine — the Flow is activated and begins by concatenating the date and the time together (since that’s what the Flow needs) and puts it into the Standard form for Flow.

The Concat details are below… there is the Date field (which gets chosen from the Forms response list) then a SPACE (‘ ‘) and then the Time field (also chosen from the Forms response list) then a Z.

concat(body('Get_response_details')?[<Date field chosen from the list>],' ',body('Get_response_details')?[Time field chosen from the list],'Z')

Then, the Flow waits until the set date and time; you can plan a post up to 30 days in advance (although I haven’t tested more than a few hours because I’m impatient!). Once the time is up, the Flow continues with the actual posting of the message:

Now, the observant amongst you will notice that the Team & Channel are hard-coded. Unfortunately, right now the Team & Channel are based on the GUID (“big long number&letter name”) of the Team & Channel so the user would have to track that down. I’m looking to see how we can get that into a drop-down on the Form, but we’ll see.

Anyways, I’ll keep poking away on it. It wouldn’t take much for someone more talented to make this a universal Flow that anyone can use.

#remotelearning bona fides

So, I’m a classroom teacher — but I’ve also taught online each summer for the past six years, first in French (!) and then mathematics. Before that, I tutored students online through our government online chat/whiteboarding system. And I’ve been working in a 1:1 environment for 25 years. While not “paperless” as a goal, I try to make sure everything is digitized so I can find it, re-use it and distribute it. When people asked what I wanted teachers to learn, my response was always “to save time” — I don’t have a pedagogical drum to beat with other teachers, I only want to save them time so they can make the improvements that they want to make. So everything I mentioned will (a) save time (b) be simple & quick and (c) be free.

This will be Microsoft focused. But I’m a Gdocs user!? THAT’S OKAY. The teacher can use whatever they want to produce their content — we’re going to use Microsoft because, in a distance format, we need to provide the students with as much structure as possible, without cost, on any device. We have to make things obvious & clear with as many breadcrumbs as possible so that a student (and parent) left at home can follow along. We don’t want files, we don’t want folders — we want a book for them to work through, with outlines & links and formats. And that’s OneNote.

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-15,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y

I designed the first OneNote ClassNotebook — I built it for teachers to maximize their work with students. It was DESIGNED with a distributed system where you didn’t always have wifi, you wanted rich & diverse multimedia options and feedback was a driving focus. It was meant to be driven by the teacher (I’m a high school math teacher so my pedagogical focus has never been discovery — I’m much more for guided instruction, good questions, and discussion) and having access to the complete archive of teacher & student work was essential. The OneNote ClassNotebook is the BINDER — the Trapper Keeper — older folks grew up with — it contained everything the student did in class, all the handouts, the class schedule, the review. And, the sections & pages acted as a time-organized map of the course from beginning to end.

Feel free to ask any question, either here or on Twitter @sig225 . As I mentioned in my last post, my motto used to be Aut inveniam viam, aut faciam but over time, I began to use I learn, I help others learn. And since my own March Break travels have been curtailed, I have time to work on things.

#remotelearning Introduction

You can’t tell what’s going to happen but it looks like many schools may experience some closures over the next few weeks or months, and so folks are considering how you can have students continue to learn while at home. I’m actually on March Break — and I’m catching up on my blog posting — so I thought I’d lend my expertise to this. Here comes a whole series on #remotelearning.

The Bar: students will need internet; really there’s no way around that without turning to paper and that has its own issues. But, so long as they have a smartphone, they can access your content, learn from it, share their learn, engage in discussions, receive feedback from you and others. How do I know that? Because of observations made around the world with student learning with devices. Is it the best case? No… but this isn’t a time to whine about not having a limo when you want to get to A & B.

I’d start by being proactive in getting ANY smartphone to a student — it doesn’t need a sim card so long as they have access to wifi, and again, that’s something that folks should begin to be proactive about. Look to Facebook, Kijiji, Craiglist and find used, older smartphones where you can just use wifi. Talk around the school; talk to other schools. Talk to the local private schools. Check out your school’s lost&found. Talk to the police; where do they put their turned-in phones? Be creative. My credo has always been Aut inveniam viam, aut faciam — I shall either find a way, or make one. And remember that smartphones are only one option — iPads, Chromebooks, Android tablets, Win10 laptops, heck even Win7/8 laptops. Desktops — students around the world are still using Windows XP and so can yours. It means they have to tie into their router but again, hopefully you have time to set & check this up. Anything they can use a browser on. Get them set up BEFORE your school closes, if possible, so students can test and try and learn using the device.

Any device ABOVE a smartphone is (usually) better. We really do want to have access to a picture-creating device. But when I discuss something in forthcoming blogs, I’ll assume they have at least the capabilities of a smartphone — everything else is ICING.

If you get brave, call in someone do use older laptops and re-install them with Linux. At least, students have to be able to get to a browser, so refresh the laptops with Linux, autoboot with a browser and let them go from there. Andrew Dobbie from Ontario, Canada, is a model for this. (Link)

More than 95% have some form of wifi access at home (link) but how do teachers, parents and students fill in for the missing 5% — there will be a blog post about that later. Your ideas, of course, are welcome in the comments.

My apologies for following off the blogging wagon last month; I fell sick myself. And in an odd turn, I got better just as vacation was starting, instead of the other way around.

You don’t know what you don’t know. Part 2

So this is the end of a very busy four day week; next week I’ll get back to the fun IT stuff!

I had a meeting last night where one of the participants couldn’t physically attend so we used Microsoft Teams to bring him in digitally. Now, the host of the physical get-together hadn’t used Teams to “skype” someone in so I watched her learn about Teams before he arrived — she went through and clicked EVERY button, flicked every switch and slid every slider figuring out what happened and what it would mean for a meeting/presentation. On a couple of options she asked me a question and occasionally I would feed in an anecdote of how I would have used it but generally she satisfied her curiosity by playing. I mean, learning.

We should encourage such bold experimentation in all our students. I mean, teachers.

You don’t know what you don’t know

(another quick thought because it’s been another 14 hour day)

Twice in the past two days I’ve had users of Office365 respond with “What? I didn’t know Office365 had its own YouTube!”

If you are an Office365 user, visit http://www.office.com and sign in with your credentials. Hit ALL APPS — these are all the apps you have access to without your Office365 login.

One of them is Microsoft Stream with the red arrow looking icon– it’s a YouTube for your school (or work). It’s only downside is that it is internal only. When you upload a video, only those people on the same address as you can see the videos. No one outside. No how. (Yet.) This means that Microsoft doesn’t lose money with viral videos but we get all the benefit of auto-captioning, auto-transcripts, Forms-quizzing, face-recognition and the like without having to deal with YouTube.

Give it a try! It’s free, unlimited and has the same security as your OneDrive files. You can go directly there by visiting http://stream.microsoft.com and signing in with your regular Office365 login.

As I always tell people, if you’re sitting there and thinking “there has to be an easier way… ask! Because there likely is!

Three things

It’s been a long day and I didn’t have time on the weekend to write some posts in advance — so a quick reflection on today.

I got to do three things that are important to me:

  1. Teach mathematics authentically. Many of my classes this year have had to be taught in ways that match the other sections for consistency, so often the instruction has not been in line with my preferences. But today, I got to teach through problem-solving, discussion and reflection. That inspires me to keep trying to do the right thing.
  2. Guide people to use technology effectively. Someone once watched me do several days of professional learning and said “you never tell people what to do; you just show them the opportunities”. I think it’s important not to tell people to teach how you teach but to improve how they teach. We had guests at the school who are switching over to Office365 and so they had just had their first encounter OneNote. It was a lot of fun bringing a novice to something I’m very proud of — and to have them mention how feedback was so easy and thorough, unbidden, since that’s why I designed it in the first place. It inspires me to continue improving.
  3. Work with committed volunteers. This evening was consumed by meeting, planning and professional learning with the Auxiliary. One of the biggest benefits of volunteering with the Auxiliary is that they have collected a lot of people who are thoughtful, considerate, caring and willing to give a significant portion of their time, their lives, to help others. They inspire me to keep reaching for the best.

The World’s Most Dangerous Writing App

One of the things I enjoyed doing in my role as “Edtech guy” was putting up hints & tips in the faculty washrooms — “Learning in the Loo”. One of my most favorite discoveries for that was The World’s Most Dangerous Writing App (WMDWA): https://www.squibler.io/writing-prompt-generator .

When I made my New Year’s Resolution to write a post Monday to Thursday, I did so to practice “Hit Send” (see Carl Oliver); I needed to get over the “if it’s not perfect, keep working on it”. The WMDWA does that too, and here’s now.

When you go to the app, click on the Start Writing w/o a Prompt and you’ll get a blank word processor — very simple, no formatting, just type! (You can take your work and open it in Word later).

As you write, there’s a black bar that keeps track of your progress in the total time writing (defaults to five minutes). As well, you have to keep typing without stopping — if you stop typing, the text will begin to turn fuzzy and a red fringe begins to creep in from the sides of the screen to warn you. Start typing again and the warning resets; fail to begin typing will end your session and prompt you to save your work — your session is over.

There are a couple of options: you can change the total amount of writing time — and you can add Hardcore Mode. In regular mode, if you fail to keep writing, it prompts you to save what you wrote. In Hardcore Mode, it’s gone forever. Like, forever forever.

It helps! It helps to stay committed to writing for five minutes and to just get. things. down. There are also a whole collection of writing prompts to help you with creativy.

Give it a try — it’s a least a little bit of fun for a Friday afternoon class!

Tagging Pictures (& other files) in Windows

Putting a (hash)tag on something really helps to find it later, along with everything else with that tag on it. There appears to be no way to tag photos in Windows10 Photos App (which is otherwise a really slick photo app!) and a colleague asked how he could tag his drama production images so that he can find them easily. So here’s how:

Head on over to File Explorer

Click on the VIEW ribbon and make sure DETAILS PANE is clicked; this opens a panel on the right with the stored details of the image (this works for JPGs not PNGs… it works for many kinds of files besides just images, so you could tag Office files, PDFs, etc). I also set it to LARGE ICONS so I can see the image fairly well.

In the DETAILS PANE you have a space for TAGS — click where it says ADD A TAG and type your tag.

If you want more than one tag, separate them by a semi-colon ;

Then click the SAVE button at the bottom of the Details — if you don’t click SAVE you will lose your tags (we’re so used to auto-save in every other app that this is a little irritating).

You can use CTRL-Click or SHIFT-Click through the images and select multiple images and add a tag (or tags) to all of them at once. I used CTRL-Click here to select the two pictures with police in them.

Notice that after you’ve started tagging that tags will start to be suggested — this is handy for consistency. I should go in and change “policeman” and “policemen” to just “Police”.

When you do a Search (upper right corner) for one of your tags, your tagged images will now show up!

If you go back to the VIEW ribbon and choose DETAILS you can see all of your images with a column for TAGS. You can edit the tags in this view, but it’s more difficult to see the images simultaneously and multi-select&edit. (If it’s not there… and it should be… there’s an ADD COLUMNS button on the VIEW ribbon).

Now, the IT person inside me says “this should be automated and auto-tagged” but that isn’t cheaply or universally available yet. Plus, my colleague will need to do some personalization, as he’s taking pictures of drama productions he’s producing. But really, things like “dog”, “police” and “laptop” should be automated!

Finally, as I italicized above, this isn’t just for images — you can tag any Office file. In the Office app, click on the FILE ribbon and then click on INFO … you’ll see a TAG field just like in File Explorer and you can add the tags there! Those tags will get picked up by Search now, too.

Someone suggested “just put them all in a folder” — but a folder is only one “tag” — using tags lets you layer information on a picture/file so in my examples above, I have police pictures — but one is a motorcycle and I have other motorcycle pictures that are not police, so if I use tags police & motorcycle I can pull either group of pictures using Search. With a folder, I’d only have police pictures. Or motorcycle pictures. It’s better to have options!

Your Phone. On your computer.

Microsoft has this fun little app called Your Phone on Windows 10; it connects your computer (desktop/laptop/Surface) with your phone and adds some functionality that comes in handy. While I have it on both my school laptop and home desktop, it’s on the the home desktop that I use most of the options.

When you have the Your Phone app up & running, you can:

  1. Send & receive texts – including text, emojis, pictures & gifs
  2. See, copy & save all the photos you take on your phone
  3. See all the notifications from your phone (customizable in case you don’t want some to pop-up… I don’t allow any notifications on my school laptop).
  4. *NEW* make & receive phone calls from your computer (literally today on my device, though it’s rolling out slowly).
  5. And it shows your battery level 🙂

Start by making sure you have the app installed on Windows10 — it’s available from the Microsoft Store here: https://www.microsoft.com/store/productId/9NMPJ99VJBWV (it’s free). The first time you run it, you’ll need to log in to your Microsoft Account (if you don’t have one, you can “attach” a Microsoft Account identity to your regular email by clicking here — so your Gmail address can also carry with it Microsoft Account status!) and it will text your phone to do the install on that side.

Once the two devices start talking to one another, you can start seeing some of the conveniences — the first is image sync. When I’m working in the classroom, it usually has my images synced before I walk back to my laptop. I can then easily project the image or pop it into OneNote. I can right-click the picture and Copy/Share/Save or double-click it to open larger, and from there open it in Photos (or whatever your default image editor is).

The texting portion is most convenient at home. I live in a 3-story townhouse and my phone is seldom co-located with me 🙂 So when I’m working on the desktop, I will get a pop-up notification of a text, flip over to Your Phone and be able to read the entire message and, using the computer keyboard, type a reply — as well as adding emojis, gifs and images.

It is *really* handy to have the full keyboard available — my texting recipients have noticed how quickly I can type long responses having access to the keyboard.

When you go into Settings (under the Gear ⚙ icon) you have a fair bit of control over what shows up. As I mentioned, I turn most everything off on my school laptop — I don’t need to project to my students my Mom’s Facebook message to me! — but at home it’s all turned on.

I haven’t used the Call feature yet; to be honest, I don’t get or receive a lot of calls! The one caveat I’ve seen is that it’s just coming out of release so it will occasionally drop calls but is expected to improve rapidly.

Now, all my experience with Your Phone has been on Android — iPhone has similar functionality but the steps & permissioning may be different. Let me know what you experience!

Email to OneNote

This is one of those things that I always assume people know… but then they don’t! You can send (almost) anything to the email address me@onenote.com and it will create a new page with whatever was in the email, along with any attachments. This makes it easy to have meeting notes, travel plans, orders, receipts, etc shipped into OneNote from your email.

First, register your email address at https://www.onenote.com/emailtoonenote … you click on the purple SET UP EMAIL TO ONENOTE in the lower left corner. It will ask you to sign in with your OneNote/Office365 account (it may be your work or your school or your personal Microsoft account)/Office365 account.

After logging in you’ll confirm which address (or addresses!) you’ve set up and then choose a Notebook and a Section in which you want to store the incoming content. I just use a Quick Notes section but it can be anywhere!

It will list all of the OneNote Notebooks you have access to via the account you signed in with and then you can expand the list to include all the Sections and Section Groups within that Notebook.

Click on SAVE and you’re done!

Now, when you want to send a page to OneNote, open up an email for the address(es) you registered and make the recipient me@onenote.com — anything you type in the Subject becomes the Page Name and anything in the message goes on the Page itself in a text box.

When I attach a document, it adds it as an attachment on the OneNote page, as shown.

And from there, it’s nice to right-click and choost INSERT PRINTOUT and get a printout of the attachment.

By inserting the attachment as a printout, you don’t have to always be flipping back & forth between applications to see what is in there. Things like meeting notes, agenda, travel tickets, etc are better to see.

Now, this OneNote section that I send everything to is a clearinghouse and I do have to go in and sort the content into the appropriate notebook. For example, someone will send me a recipe that I will forward to me@onenote.com and then I’ll have to go in later and move that page into my Recipe OneNote. But thermodynamics insist I do this anyway 🙂