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.

Equation Editor comes to OneNote (Win10)

Folks have been waiting a while to get Equation Editor into OneNote (Win10 version… it’s been in 2016/Desktop for forever). Now, the funny thing is this won’t make a huge deal for me. I tend to just write my equations out, and if it’s for more serious distribution I tend to write it in Word.  But for others, this may improve the way they work in OneNote.  And I also think I’m not allowed to call it Equation Editor, but I’m going to ignore that.
Make sure you’ve updated your OneNote (go to the Store and check for any Downloads & Updates).

I recommend folks visit the Store regularly to get any updates. I’m never sure how often it looks for updates on its own and Microsoft has moved to a continual, if gradual update process for all of its apps.
To start entering equations, click on the INSERT ribbon and then on EQUATION.  You may think, “why not just click on the Math button?” but that is to translate digital ink or text writing into a mathematical equation.

When you click on EQUATION a sidebar panel opens up and you get a nice 3-tab compact Equation Editor layout; one tab for Recent, one for Symbols and one for Structures.

I think every math teacher appreciates Recent, given how often in a unit we re-use the same notation, whether it be quadratics or Calculus.
Something that may be overlooked is how to re-size the notation.  Select the box that the equation is in (or select the equation itself) and go to the HOME ribbon and change the size there (just like you would change any font text).

Otherwise, Equation Editor works in the same way, just the panels are on the right instead of the top as in Word/2016 OneNote.  And another nice thing is that the equations are cut-and-paste-able back and forth between OneNote, Word and PowerPoint.

When you’re entering the equations via Equation Editor, if you select the equation and click on the MATH button (on the DRAW or INSERT ribbon) you will have access to the “smart” part of OneNote that will do the step-by-step solutions or graph the equations.

And don’t forget that you can always just digital ink your equation and then go to the DRAW or INSERT ribbons and select the equation and click the MATH button … it will let you choose INK TO MATH and change your inked equation into Equation Editor:

Clean those boards

A little low-tech …
I use whiteboards a lot in class – fortunately all of my walls save the windows are covered in whiteboards.  Typically all of my students (~20) are up at the boards for at least part of each class and occasionally for the entire class. For example, today in my MCR3U class I put trig identities to prove on slips of paper and had partners pull one and solve it on the whiteboard, pasting images of the whiteboard solutions in our class OneNote (and then they pulled another question from the pile).
What we need, though, is a way to clean the boards off quickly between questions. Now, we don’t have a whole bunch of whiteboard erasers (they are costly, for sure, and plastic — we don’t have our own classrooms so every teacher would have to bring 10-20 erasers around with them) so I have always been looking for alternatives.
Things I’ve tried:

  1. Old towels.  I would rip them into squares.  They work really well but they went missing all the time. In part, it was other classes taking them but the cleaners would also remove them from the class.  Our school cleaners are excellent and the school prides itself on how things look, so a bunch of ripped rags are not sightly.
  2. Socks. I bought a 40-sock pack of kids athletic (short) socks and they were great! But, same problem! The cleaners would find a “dirty” sock and throw it out (which, I guess, you’d want them to do).
  3. Plastic bags.  This was a surprise — I had no erasers of any kind left so when we were working I just grabbed a Walgreens bag I had used to bring in some cookies and sure enough, it cleaned off the board! These are nicely compressible and it was nice to be able to re-used them for something.

In any case, I’m still on the hunt for something that will work better.  Even the erasers break down – but they break down into plastic particles and I’m not sure that’s the best.  

I’ve seen this before — Previous Versions in Word (& Excel & PowerPoint)

One of the handy things about having infinite storage in Office365 is that there are versions of every bit of your work stored continually.  So, when I worked on the Word document in my previous blog post on Restricting Editing (here) the Word Document had several Previous Versions, snapshots of my work in progress, stored in my OneDrive alongside the most current version.  And I can bring them back, or compare them with the current version pretty easily.

Open up your document in the Word applications as usual, then click on FILE and choose INFO.
You’ll see a button called VERSION HISTORY… go ahead and click on that!

You will flip back into the Word Application and see the list of the different timed versions along the left.  You can click the Open Version that is below each version and that version will open in a new application window so you can then edit, save under a new name, grab content you had deleted by mistake, etc.
Now, what if your current version isn’t working and you can’t open it in Word?  Well, all of this is available online inside of OneDrive.  So head on over to and click on OneDrive.

Click on the 3-dot menu next to the name of your document (or Excel or PowerPoint) and choose VERSION HISTORY.  It will open up a panel to the right and you’ll be able to click and open it to continue editing.  Notice you can also RESTORE it as the current version. 

This Previous Version has saved my bacon (and other people’s bacons) a couple of times when we’ve removed paragraphs and then realized we’ve wanted to actually use that portion.  So flip over to the Previous Version, pull out what you want and drop it into the current version.

You’re not allowed to do that (in Word)

One of the things I haven’t seen mentioned in Word (in Office365) is “Restrict Editing”.  As you likely know, when you share a document with someone, you can either give them Read Only (they can’t make ANY changes or they get Edit (they can make any changes they want).  But what if you want a little more control?
Open up your Word document in Word desktop (this is too sophisticated for Word Online).  Head on over to the REVIEW tab and in the Protect section, what we’re looking for here is Restrict Editing.
When I click on Restrict Editing, a side menu pops out and you have a few options.  The first option is to limit them to formatting (I’ve never had the need to do that — I’m sure in a production environment, it may be useful).  In the 2nd section you can set it so that nobody can make any changes (which is really “Read Only” that we’re used to) or you can define individuals or groups that can have rights to edit. Caveat : if you set it to Read Only for Everyone – that includes YOU (which is different from sharing a document Read Only).
Where it gets interesting is that you can select parts of the document that folks CAN edit.  In the example above, I selected both the 2nd paragraph and the 2nd cell in the table. When I click on “Start Enforcing Protection” a small window pops up asking for a password — enter something you’ll remember, because there’s NO WAY to get it back! — and then boom… everybody can edit those two parts of the document and no other.  The edit-able content is highlighted in a light yellow and [bracketed].  You can also use the buttons to move between the editable-fields in the case it’s a long document.
Under the Editing Restrictions option you do have the ability to let them do Comments but not let them edit any of the text (this can come in real handy because people will comment & change things and then the comments don’t make any more sense to the next person.  You can also restrict them to just filling in forms, but I don’t know many people who use Word Forms successfully (for some reason, people use PDFs and they’re equally as annoying).
The other thing you can specify access by the individual (once you’ve shared it with them) which gives you a lot more granular control than just Edit/Read Only privileges.
If you’d rather see this as a video, you can watch the video of me doing these steps here:
Or, embedded below:

Improve your presentations with a little AI

One of the neatest things to come along in a long while has been Presenter Coach, an AI app inside of PowerPoint.  It tries to give you helpful feedback on your presenting skills based on your own PowerPoint and the words, phrasing and elocution you use.

First… make your PowerPoint.  You can make it in Desktop PowerPoint, iPad PowerPoint, Mac PowerPoint or Online PowerPoint (or whatever version of PowerPoint you have!) but to access Presenter Coach, you need to use PowerPoint Online (which is free and tied in to your Office365 or Hotmail/Outlook accounts).

Store your PowerPoint in your OneDrive — this is the important part — and then visit and click on PowerPoint.

You’re now in PowerPoint Online! It gives you the opportunity to make a new PowerPoint and shows you all the PowerPoints you have been working on recently (including those shared with you).  Click on the one you want to practice and it will open in a new browser window.

You can continue to make edits in PowerPoint Online (if you haven’t tried PowerPoint Online, it’s remarkably good! I think for most people it will do much of what they need — and it’s collaborative!)

 When you’re ready to practice, click on SLIDE SHOW and then REHEARSE WITH COACH. It will show your PowerPoint full-screen… and then will fall back into the browser!  Because, it has to ask you if you allow the web-browser to use your microphone. 

It’s going to listen to you as you go through your presentation and give you feedback on the ORAL/AURAL part of what you’re doing! It’s going to listen to the speed, clarity and word usage of your presentation as well as the verbal inconsistencies that we tend to not be aware until after we’ve listened to ourselves.  So click ALLOW and then go back and click on REHEARSE WITH COACH again.  It should only ask for permission the first time, but it can be a bit annoying and disconcerting when it looks like it’s about to work. But, that’s security for you!
Now a small window in the lower right corner should appear and asks you if you’re ready to rehearse… go ahead and give it a try!  As you click through your slides, it offers pop-up encouragments as you go (and I think a subtle reminder that you’re being recorded).  Just keep talking and clicking through any slides or animations and use the same script or conversation (or close to that you plan to do when you actually present).

When you reach the last slide and hit the black screen at the end of your presentation, click one more time and you’ll drop back to PowerPoint with a screen giving you your feedback.

Notice how it’s noticed that I’m not reading what’s on the screen — I’m building on what’s there, expanding and conceptualizing rather than reciting.  My speed is just about right; I’m not rushing or speaking too slowly.  And my word usage and lack of filler-words (umms, ahhs, hmms, hunhs, etc) are both good.  So this was great!

Now I’m going to go back in and do a bad job, reading right off the slides and umm’ing and hmm’ing a lot …  As I do my bad job, in the lowr right corner, it does pop up suggestions as I’m going…

 I’ll explain the profanity in a minute…
At the end of the rehearsal, I get my summary as before:

It lets me know which slides I read directly off of — maybe I should go back and try to think about the big ideas rather than read a lot of text to people?  It picked up on my “hmms” and noticed that I was swearing.  Yes, I should explain the swearing.
What Microsoft is looking for is biased language, and in the instant, I could only think of swear words — which it did catch! But it also looks for things like “fireman” or “handicapped”, things that may be taken the wrong way.  The full list is below (but like all AI support, it will get smarter) :

When I went back and did it a third time, it picked up my gendered phrasing:

Give it a try!  My suggestion would be that for any presentation you ask your students to do, they should supply at least one screenshot of a Presenter Coach summary, so that you know that they’ve practised their work and received external feedback. It may also save a few relationships, having punished those around me with practising my presentations in front of them!

Aside: Now, there are lots of way to get to PowerPoint Online but I like to suggest people get used to going through — it shows them all their most common apps and most recently used files as well as anything new or interesting. As you use it gets to know you and begins to highlight things you might have missed under the “Recommended” area (Office tries to track who you’re working with and what they’re working on and tries to make sense of your interactions with them to highlight what may be important.)