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): .

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 πŸ™‚

Start by making sure you have the app installed on Windows10 — it’s available from the Microsoft Store here: (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 πŸ™‚ 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 βš™ 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 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 … 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 — 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 and then I’ll have to go in later and move that page into my Recipe OneNote. But thermodynamics insist I do this anyway πŸ™‚

Screen Recording made easy

Screen recording is something I do A LOT … when you’re a math teacher and students want solutions, it’s easy to open up OneNote and write out the solution or work through a Desmos graphing or a Graspable Math solution, giving a spoken step-by-step as I go. Now, what I’d like to see is a Screen-Recording built in to OneNote but, for now, it’s built in to PowerPoint. So if you have PowerPoint, you have screen recording!
Here we go… Open up PowerPoint, click on INSERT and choose SCREEN RECORDING

You’ll then get a pop-up with a few options (not a lot, which is nice. Some folks find all the options off-putting). It uses the default audio recording device set by Windows, so if it’s not the right one, go into Windows settings to change it.

Click on and draw a box around the area of the screen you want to record. Once you click on the RECORD BUTTON you’ll get a 3-second countdown letting you know that recording is about to start, and press WINDOWS-SHIFT-Q to stop.

Now, do your thing! Go through what you want to do and what you want to say. That is a PAUSE option while you’re recording in case you need to cough.

Once you press Windows-Shift-Q, you’ll find yourself back in PowerPoint with the video sitting there ready to go!

You’ll likely want to right-click the video and work on some of the options:

  1. Save Media As... This will let you save your video as an MP4. From there, you can embed it into OneNote, upload it to Stream/YouTube, etc.
  2. Trim … basically you can crop your video, removing some of the start of the video (or the end) from when you were screen recording.

3. Start… Whether you want the video to start when you first change over to the slide or when you deliberately click the video.

One thing you may notice is that since you’ve inserted something into PowerPoint, the AI-driven option of DESIGN IDEAS show up. If you haven’t used PowerPoint lately, you’re missing out! Design Ideas will make your PowerPoints much slicker– it looks at which images and text parts are being used on your slides and makes some choices based on some design principles that remain foreign to me, but make me look good πŸ™‚

Yes! Oui! Si! ζ˜―ηš„!

I use Microsoft Forms a fair bit but mostly it’s with my own students. But when I’m working with larger groups outside the school, it’s a nice option to offer a multi-lingual entry form (especially in Canada where the two official languages are English & French). Microsoft Forms adds a quick&easy way to add as many language versions as you want. (From personal experience, you do not want to rely on automated translation if you have the option to provide them with the real translation!)

Create your form in whatever language you usually start with. Then, in the upper right corner, click on the 3-dot menu and choose MULTILINGUAL.

There is a LONG list of languages you can choose from; when you choose the language, Microsoft changes all of their system prompts (the header information, the buttons, etc) to that language automatically but then lets you add individual translations for each question/response. The list is in an unexpected order, so you can begin typing in the box and it will filter the list for you. (How do they put foreign languages in alphabetical order when they don’t use the same alphabet? That’s a question for Doug Peterson, I guess). There are at least 75 languages available (although I’d like to have a <blank> language so you can add your own — pig latin, anyone?)

When you’ve chosen your language, you now can click on the pen-icon next to the language.

That opens up the form for that language — in the box below each question/response you can write the translation for that entry. Notice that Microsoft has automatically replaced the “Enter your response” in the text box to “Entrez votre rΓ©ponse” – you only have to change the text that you wrote in the original form; all the prompts for the Form itself have already been done (which is why you can only choose from the 75+ languages that Microsoft has already done).

Now, when your user takes your form, there will be a drop down in the upper right corner (you’ll want to mention that to folks!) that they can choose their language from.

You can go back to the 3-dot menu and choose MULTILINGUAL to add more languages or edit the translation you’ve already done (even after you’ve started to accept responses). When you download the Excel spreadsheet with all the responses, you may have an interesting time reading the answers… but don’t forget that Excel can automatically translate anything so you can set up a column next to each responses to give you the English response. I guess that’s for another post πŸ™‚

Fence me in!

A couple of weeks ago while flipping through tabs, I noticed a wee little fence on the top bar of my Firefox browser:

My first thought was “hey that’s kinda a cute little emoji” … and then I wondered why it existed… and then I noticed it was in the upper right corner of my browser tab, too, right next to my AdBlockPlus icon … so I clicked it:

Well, that was interesting! I can “trap” my Facebook identity into a tab and not be available across my whole browsing experience. No longer would Facebook notice that I was in another tab on Amazon looking for motorcycle helmets and getting swamped by helmet ads on my Facebook. This is a nice step forward!

AND THEN IT HIT ME! If it can fence in Facebook, it can fence in other identities! I have 5 different Microsoft identities (School, Police, Personal, Programming, other Programming) and in the past, I just used different browsers (Firefox, Chrome, Edge, Opera,) and Incognito windows to try to work and test things out in all of these different identities. It was a mess because I’d try to access a file or a setting but be the wrong person in that browser. But with Firefox’s containers, I can have one browser and each tab can be a different identity!

How? CLICK & HOLD on the + New Tab button at the top of Firefox and choose MANAGE CONTAINERS

The default has “Shopping” & “Banking” … I got rid of those and added my Microsoft Identities:

Now, when I want to be at School, I click & hold the + New Tab at the top and choose Appleby, and everything in that tab works under my School Microsoft Office365 Identity. When I want to use my Programming Office365 (that I pay for), I choose OneNoteSchool — the OneDrive, Sharepoint, Outlook identity work perfectly! The identity that I’m using appears in the location bar so that I remember who I am. (I used to have to try to figure out who I was by looking at the profile pic in the upper right corner… but it was always me, so that wasn’t helpful).

You could likely do the same thing if you had multiple Gmail, Facebook, Reddit identities, too!

Addendum: The Facebook Container also warns you if you’re in a “Facebook Free” tab that if you click on a link/button, you’ll be moving into a Facebook-tracking area — see the little red fence on the Facebook button? Now, nothing is foolproof when it comes to privacy on the internet… but a little step helps!

Desmos Test Mode in Windows

Desmos, the popular online graphing calculator, has a Test Mode that locks the device into just the graphing calculator (Link: . The challenge is that it’s only for Chromebooks & iPads. And I use a Windows10 device. So here’s a parallel solution : Windows TakeATest mode. TakeATest locks windows to one webpage — at my school it’s most commonly used for Microsoft Forms quizzes that means you can do automatically marked tests in a secure environment. I wrote about it a couple of years ago here: So I’m using TakeATest to lock the students’ devices so when they’re working on an assessment, on paper or on whiteboard, they can still use Desmos, since it’s what they use in class every day. But — they don’t have access to the Internet in general or their notes in OneNote specifically.

To start, create the Desmos graph you want the students to start with. That is, just open up Desmos — if you want to start with some functions depending on your assessment you can put them in, but I just want a blank calculator. Click on the SHARE button in the upper right corner and copy the URL.

Now we’re going to wrap TakeATest around the URL we just copied before we give it to the students. Paste the link into your OneNote or email or LMS or whatever (except Teams… it doesn’t work in a Teams Chat/Channel conversation yet!) and then edit the link (right click and choose EDIT LINK).

We’re going to add ms-edu-secureassessment: before the URL and then #enforceLockdown after the URL. So what you should now see is

The students, when they click on the link will get a few pop-ups, which, of course, they’ll need to accept. And, I will say, students usually have to do the pop-ups twice before TakeATest kicks in… for some reason, the first time you use it it seems to prepare itself, and then after that, it works well.

When they’re done, they press CTRL-ALT-DELETE and they return to normal!

You can find more information, and a few more options on setting up TakeATest at Microsoft’s documentation site here:

Voting in Outlook

While you can certainly use Microsoft Forms to collect information and put it into a spreadsheet easily, sometimes you just need a simple yes/no or single selection. And Outlook lets you do that with VOTING BUTTONS.

The process is very (very) easy. Start by creating a new email.

 On the OPTIONS ribbon, click on Use Voting Buttons.

Use an existing Yes/No option or choose Custom. If you choose Custom, all you need to do is separate your options with semi-colons. No spaces before or after the semi-colon (although your option can include spaces).

When your recipients get the email, there is a small note that “This message includes voting buttons. Click here to vote.” I find that many people will ignore it so I include a note in my email that they need to click and vote.

When replies come back to you, you can get a summary by clicking on any blue response line in the email reply and choosing View Voting Responses.

You can also get a summary by going to your Sent folder and click on the message you sent, open it and choose TRACKING.

The restrictions are that (a) it can only be one simple question with a set number of discrete options and (b) your recipients need to be using Desktop Outlook. It’s a real shame that the mobile Outlook app doesn’t allow voting since most of my colleagues use it regularly.