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 🙂

Yes! Oui! Si! 是的!

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 réponse” – 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 🙂

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.

Simple subtitles

Every tv and streaming app in my house is set to show subtitles — I’m not hard of hearing, but I like keeping the text showing on the screen. It is an extraordinary boon, of course, when I’m watching something in another language — I know French, but it’s nice to be able to see it written in case I miss something, and there are differences with French & Québécois. So, if you’re presenting something to a group that includes members with a second language preference — or just are not that strong with spoken language — here’s a cheap, free & easy way to do it: PowerPoint! And it’s in both the desktop & online versions (again for free). Accessibility doesn’t mean only accomodating for known challenges — it’s using a ramp instead of stairs to make everyone’s lives easier.

In PowerPoint’s SLIDESHOW menu (or the VIEW menu in the online version … but only if you turn Simplified Ribbon off) you can set your subtitles to always show. If you just want subtitles, leave it English spoken / English seen but you can choose your words to be automatically translated to a different target language. Be sure to click ALWAYS USE SUBTITLES otherwise they won’t appear! (In online PowerPoint, it only says “Use Subtitles” … consistency would be helpful here).

When you start the presentation, PowerPoint will ask for access to your microphone. As always, practice speaking slowly, and with enunciation. PowerPoint Coach (the AI speaking coach built into PowerPoint — see link) would be helpful here! And if you’re in Presenter View, the 3-dot menu will give you access to change the location and language of the subtitles (language is available under “More Settings…”).

Me saying “So this is how you get automatic translation subtitles in PowerPoint”
Me saying “So this is how you get automatic translation subtitles in PowerPoint”

I think just using English –> English subtitles can help your participants (if you practice speaking slowly, clearly and with anunciation — use a Snowball or get an over-the-ear wireless microphone — like an aerobics instructor! — if you’re a regular presenter (50-150$) because the clearer the sound going in to the subtitle/translation system, the better the quality coming out.

Now, PowerPoint has another option for subtitles/translations where the individual viewer can pick their language of choice on their device — but that starts to up the cost on both presenter & participant. I’ll cover that in another post — but I wanted to share a quick-easy-and-free way to get subtitles on your presentations.

Microsoft Teams –> Your Files jump-off point

I used to suggest using Microsoft Delve as a jumping off point for your files — it was a smart system that highlighted what files you had been recently using but also what others was working on. But, as Microsoft Teams became a more common application for users, I thought I would highlight how it serves as a great place to get back to where you were working.

When you open the Microsoft Teams app on your desktop, click on FILES on the left. It will open up to show all the RECENT files you have been using – as well as where they are! (People often forget where things are stored).

If you double-click on the name, you’ll open up the Office apps right inside the Teams application (which means the web-application) so you can quickly view and simply edit the contents. BUT, if you click on the 3-dot menu at the end of the row, you have much richer access (as shown below). You can open a OneNote directly in your default OneNote application, for example.

When you flip over to the MICROSOFT TEAMS option, you’ll see all the files that you have access to across all of your Teams. This can be a lot!

I’ve blurred out the names, but you’ll see a lot of images that students upload to our Math Extra Help site (Teams doesn’t allow inking yet and math requires digital ink, so the students screen-snip their OneNotes to show what questions … or answers… they have). Again, you have access to more options under the 3-dot menu.

So… give Microsoft Teams –> FILES a try as your jumping off point for your files or shared files! It’s another place to figure out “Where did I put that file?”

And this brings up a problematic point for me… I noticed that our ACMUN — Appleby College Model UN — OneNote back on the first image is stored on our student’s OneDrive. This needs to be moved to a “group” OneDrive (like in Teams or Sharepoint) rather than a personal OneDrive. This is an on-going issue as we work out where shared files should be stored.

#vnps’ing Trig Identities

So my class was working on Proving Trig Identities (not always the most popular — it’s the first time they really do a “proof” in our curriculum) and I didn’t want to have them work alone and I didn’t want them to work on all the same problems, so I collected a large number of problems from around the web and Snip&Sketch’ed them into a Word document table — with a column for the screen clipped question and a column to for the answer (eventually).

I then printed out a copy and cut it into strips – each pair grabbed a strip and solved it on their whiteboard space (#vnps – vertical non-permanent surface) and then when done, grabbed another one. They could struggle as much as they wanted and I would give them a suggestion (or not) to help them move along. As they finished each question, I took a picture of the complete, correct solution.

Then, as I outlined last blog post, I created a summary page. I went back to the Word document and filled in the right column with a screen clip of the solution, and then printed that Word document into the OneNote page for that day, and then distributed a copy to each of the students for their records. Took no time at all!

Now some folks may say – why not use Office Lens? Well, Office Lens is awesome and I use it a lot but I was doing quick & dirty. I don’t have a lot of time and the solutions were only for brief consumption. If the images were going to be used more broadly or for longer duration (say Exam Solutions) I would have used Office Lens!

#vnps summary in #OneNote

So one of the things about #vnps (vertical non-permanent surfaces) in classes is that there is a lot of mathematical work, and a lot of discussion, as we develop the mathematical understanding throughout the class. What is missing is the summary & run-down after the class is over — that is, “the notes”. Not only for the student who was absent, but also for those who want to go back over what was done. And the parents… and the admin… if there is no artefact, nothing was done in the class, after all.

In the past, I would often ask the students to develop this summary as an additional formative exercise (did they get the idea?), using their phones in a manner as I describe below. Unfortunately, our school has implemented a “no phones” policy, so it can be a constant juggle of phones (“I left mine in my room/locker”), permissions & perceptions (having an admin walk by and see a student standing with a phone). It’s just easier to do it myself.

So I go around the classroom and take pictures… a lot of pictures… with my phone. They sync up to my Google Photos collection automagically with my school’s wifi. Then, when I’m ready to create the summary, I open Google Photos and click through the pictures. I do not download the pictures I want! I open them full screen in Google Photos & do a Snip&Sketch (Windows-Shift-S) snipping out what I want — this sends it to the Clipboard — and pasting it into a OneNote page around which I build the notes. I sequence the pictures as we did the class, adding text commentary as I go, including links to other resources. This last page I added a tl; dr since we did a lot… A LOT … of development from factoring through to solving by completing the square, when really, they just wanted to be able to solve by CTS in the HW.

Then, after I’ve added all the text, pictures, links, YouTubes, etc into the summary page I distribute it into each student’s section. In a OneNote ClassNotebook, my page that I just made up isn’t edit-able by students (it’s the archive page) but their copy in their section is completely edit-able by them to add more content as needed.

And that’s it! I’ve got a summary page of the work done on the whiteboard (cough #vnps) all period and the students who were absent can ask “what did I miss” and I have an answer.

Read this email

My school has an unproductive relationship with email; it’s woefully abused and so no one really reads email since they’re overwhelmed with it. If you didn’t ruthlessly triage you’d never get through to the actual important ones. (A few good reminders are here: ) Back when I did a leadership role, in order to make sure mine had the best chance of being read, I used to always include a cartoon so they would at least look at the email (and often they would refer to the cartoon when they wanted additional assistance on the content of the email!)


I no longer do that (leadership or cartoons!) and so when I want to make sure that people read my emails (especially students) I use the FOLLOW-UP option.  When I send my email, I click on FOLLOW UP on the main MESSAGE ribbon.

While it gives you options for Today, Tomorrow, etc, I always click on CUSTOM so that I can set it for exactly when I want it.  For students, for example, I often set it for 7:30pm since our boarding students have to be at their desks from 7-9 each evening.  Or, if it’s for something during class, I set it during class time.
Now, when the email is sent, it arrives in their email box and it shows up shaded as well, setting it off from the wave of other emails.

So long as the email is in their inbox … even if they haven’t read it… they’ll get a reminder at the time you’ve set.

They can move the email into another folder and the reminder still pops up… unless they delete it and then you’re out of luck.  But… you can only do so much!  And it’s about the most effective thing I’ve found so far.