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 Office.com 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: https://youtu.be/b2GvUpEP-g0 
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 http://office.com 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 Office.com — it shows them all their most common apps and most recently used files as well as anything new or interesting. As you use Office.com 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.)

Sync your Teams Folder to your Hard Drive

My poor colleague. She’s an organizing freak and spent way too many hours clicking away inside the Teams app rearranging all the files into folders.  Then I showed her that she can Sync the Teams folder onto her Hard Drive (giving her offline-access anytime!) and use the drag&drop of regular Windows Explorer to keep things organized.
Head  over to Teams and go into the Channel that holds your Files, then click on the Files tab.  Highlighting does not show on the app; that’s me using Windows10 Snip.

You’ll notice that there’s a SYNC option … when you click on that you will get a pop-up letting you know that the syncing will start.  You can choose to sync everything within that Teams Channel or only select particular folders.  This can be handy if you want to avoid download all those old video files, say, but always have the textbook and last year’s files available even if you’re at the cottage without internet.

 This creates a whole new SECTION within your Windows Explorer — like it’s a complete different source —  and its given the name of the domain your School (or Company) uses.  Then, it lists all the Teams Channels that you are syncing:

As you can see, I have a number of different Teams Channels synced — notice how different Channels within the same Team show up as separate folders (this is a good thing!)
Now, you can treat this folder like any other folder on your hard drive… you can rename, copy/paste, drag, drop, new sub-folder, etc using your mouse and avoid the click-and-click of Teams.
Fair warning… at some point you will accidentally drop a whole new folder by mistake, or, drag out a whole folder that someone else wants.  It’ll happen. Be careful. 

File Upload in Microsoft Forms

A nice feature now in Microsoft Forms : File Upload!
(Remember that all of Office365 — including Forms and OneNote– are free to teachers & students)
This is a great option for both Forms and Quizzes… you can now ask people to do work in OneNote and then screenclip it (using the built-in Windows10 Snip like here) and then upload it alongside their multiple choice selection … just for example. 
It’s also useful for asking folks for Word documents (recommendations?), PowerPoints, etc. 

When you create a Form or a Quiz you can have your respondent give you a file (or files).  It’s hidden under the “more” of the question type:

When you choose File Upload, you get a pop-up that a folder will be created in your OneDrive; it’s under the APPS folder (that may also get created the first time!).  The name of the folder is the name of the Form/Quiz. 

You can specify the number and maximum size of the files — and if you choose the 3-dot More you can also specify the type of file (when the user gets the file-upload window, it automatically provides the filter so they only see Word documents in their folder).

When you look at the responses that the users have provided, you can either open each individually from the Responses screen or you can go to the folder in your OneDrive (hint: don’t move the files if you want to use them — copy the folder elsewhere and modify them there). You may not notice it but Forms added on my Name to the filename automatically (I was going to say concatenate but that would have been pretentious).

Just a hint… you might want to go into Settings on the Form and (a) modify the “Thank You” to indicate that you have the file and (b) send them a email receipt so they can always go back and see which file they uploaded (as well as the rest of their responses).  They can’t change the file, but it can help … like when you submit a conference proposal and then can’t remember what you wrote!  Ask me how I know that example!

The structure of the Interstitial App, or, Observations & Conversations – Part 2

This builds on my earlier post (link here).

After my session at the OAME Conference (link to Presentation), a few folks asked me how I had put this together, so I’m going to give a brief run-down here. You’re always welcome to ask me for more information, of course, if I’ve been too brief.

I used Microsoft PowerApps — it’s a quick-and-dirty way to make an app that uses your existing data and then you can muck around with the data, add more and then store it somewhere else.
What’s nice is that the Apps are universal — they work on the laptop, iPad, iPhone & Android phones. There’s a web app version so they will work on a Chromebook too!

PowerApps are meant for quick development and refinement and for most users and applications in schools it’s free. If you’re not an Office365 school, or if your school blocks you from using PowerApps, you can sign up for your own Office365 just as a faculty member! (link here) It gives you access to the web-versions of Office as well as all the online spaces of Office365 so much more powerful than GoogleDocs/Drive on its own — and you can do your own PowerApps, Classnotebooks, Sites, you name it! (I could go into a long story about how I started this project almost two years ago but lost all my work when IT shut down my access to PowerApps but I’m not going to.) You also have access to the power of Azure and Cortana intelligence — but be careful, there’s a cost there (ask me how I know thi$).
I needed one set of data to start — who was in each course and who taught that course. That is easy to put together — a quick Excel spreadsheet of student names, codes, course code & teachers. I also needed the Course Expectations — I only wanted the General Ones but, since it’s in an Excel spreadsheet, I can edit/add expectations all I want! I also created a smaller Excel for the Learning Skills so that I could track those at the same time (I used to use a Microsoft Form but this ties it together – link to blog post.)
Then I needed someplace to put the data once I collected it. There are a lot of options here … you could leave it as an Excel spreadsheet. I’m just using an Office365 Site List — which I can download as an Excel spreadsheet to work with. This means I never touch the real data; I always work with a copy. I also create a Picture Library to store the pictures in, and put a link to each picture in my Site List. I don’t imagine I’ll use the pictures a lot — they’re just there for backup to reinforce my comments/assessment. 
One caveat to the teachers who use the app — since I don’t do any image compression, they want to be on wifi as it pushes those pictures up to Office365! So all the data is stored in 4 lists, 3 of which are pretty much static (I haven’t dealt with students adding/dropping courses or teachers changing… this is meant to be quick & dirty so that may be a manual edit of your class list in Excel.)

Now off I go to PowerApps … it’s an option when you visit http://www.office.com and log in with your Office365 account … or you can go there direct at the http://powerapps.microsoft.com site. I started from scratch because this started as an experiment in learning PowerApps and got accelerated when a teacher said he wanted the app done yesterday. Remember, there’s always an easier way than what I do 🙂

The PowerApps programs are based on “screens” so I have two screens:
1) a “choose a teacher/course” screen which asks which teacher is using the app and then, from the Excel spreadsheet, the app pulls up the courses for the teacher and they select the one they’re in at that moment.

2) a “create an observation/conversation entry” screen which collects a picture, choose the students, sets the expectation/learning skill, gives a 0-5 rubric number and adds a comment.

The main sequence is RED — Choose the student (1) and the General Expecation (2), assign a value to the observation/conversation (3) since the Ministry Inspector wants us to be able to say if/how it affects their reported grade (0 indicates you’re not giving them a value obviously and then we use a 1-5 rubric at my school) then write a comment (4) in the Rich Text field since we sometime like to add emphasis and click SAVE (5).  This pushes all this data into the List on Office365.  If you want to do a Learning Skill instead of an Expectation, tap the SWAP button (1) and you’ll see the Learning Skills list.

You can add a picture by tapping the picture (1) and then the capture button (2).  That puts the image you captured in the middle of the screen (3) so that if you don’t like what you have you can capture a new one.  No, you can’t do more than one picture right now but it’s not an impossible change.  I thought about adding audio (an easy add) but video is another issue entirely.
That’s it!  The CLEAR button and the X button are used to either re-use the picture/comment for another student (if they’re working on the same problem or involved in the same conversation, say) or reset the entire screen.
Now, the coding goes on each of the objects on each screen.  To give you an idea, here’s the first screen: 
The initial text box, nothing happens!  But when they type in their teacher id and tap OK, then it stores whatever is in the box to the variable for TeacherID, and, at the same time, the Course List gets updated from the Excel spreadsheet of Student/Courses/Teachers to only show those courses from this particular teacher.  When the teacher selects a course from the now-filled dropdown list and taps OK, then the app stores the courseID into the variable for CourseID and also sends them off to the next screen where they fill in the Comment.
Now, yes, this is the easiest screen so I’ll pull apart the next screen in my next blog post.

Observations & Conversations : Part 1 of many?

I kinda run on some basic principles when using IT — it’s gotta be free, increase teacher efficacy (modulo some smal learning curve), reduce time spent, it’s got to digitize content and I have to be able to to work with the data to find meaning.
So every other year we get inspected by the Ministry of Education and her most recent feedback has been that we need a way to record evidence of observations and conversations in our classes — and provide a structure for how they are included in the grades of our students.  Now we have read Growing Success (link to PDF), the guide to assessment & evaluation in our province and we thought we were doing really well with discussions, debates, Harkness, one-on-one conversations, videorecordings, student screencasts, Flipgrids, well, you name it.

But NO.  She wanted evidence of incidental noticings, conversations-in-passing — those ephemeral interactions with students that build up our gut-instincts of what a student knows and doesn’t yet know, and what causes us to pause when we look at a test or report mark that isn’t in line with what we feel about our student.  Well — this is hard to capture because it happens in the moment.  We’re trying to record it after-the-fact, after class, after school but by its definition, it’s in-the-moment.  And there are a lot of them; they happen continuously with every interaction with students.
Here’s what I’ve put together as a result:

It’s an app — a very simple app that

  1. Allows you to take a picture (not required)
  2. Choose a student from the current class
  3. Choose between either the course’s general expectations (standards) or the Learning Skills we also have to report on
  4. Assign a score of 0 (not scored) to 5 (far exceeds expectations) in case you want to use it for evaluation
  5. Write an open entry 
The SAVE saves the content from the screen to an Excel file (the picture goes to a Picture library). 
CLEAR resets the student name and score but not the Picture, Expectation/Learning Skill or comment in case you were working with two or more students on a problem and want to add similar content to another student.
X resets everything.
Now this does nothing more than do what other apps already do, except it gives me direct access to the data in an Excel spreadsheet. Once it’s in Excel I can now work with the data; I can pull it into PowerBI, connect it to my markbook, etc.  
What I can also do is connect it to my student list and ask the spreadsheet my most important question:
Who have I missed?  Who did I not record an observation on?  
It’s very easy to get data, and a lot of data, but it’s really hard to recognize that you’re missing data!  One of my biggest fears is missing something or someone and not valuing their contribution.  It’s one reason why I use Random Seating & Grouping and use a checklist when asking questions in class so everyone talks at least once in each class.
So this is what we’re trying to capture those passing observations & conversations we have with students.  Being on the phone makes it mobile & quick; students are already used to me using the phone for capturing content (see my earlier work with Learning Skills here).  Being in Excel means I can work with data in any way I want and ask questions.  Down the road, I can use things like sentiment analysis — what kind of language do I use to describe students? Is there a bias present? How do I phrase things? Once data is in Excel, you can start to ask the questions — if it’s just in your gut, well, it’s tougher to do.

Visibly Random Grouping in Excel

So I was in the Lounge the other day and one of the teachers mentioned that she heard I used Excel for Visibly Random Grouping and asked me to explain it (previous blog post).  Well, I use Excel just to assign my students to one of five tables – at the tables, they can sit in whatever arrangement they prefer.

Well, she wasn’t happy with that so asked if she could have a tool that she could design her seating arrangment (sometimes a U, sometimes groups, sometimes rows/columns) and have the students randomly assigned in that.

Well I did a few searches online and there were a few apps but many of them cost money (no way, buddy) so during a class coverage where the students had free work time (i.e. I didn’t have to actual teach or ensure they were doing something) I whipped up an Excel macro (well, VBA, but you know what I mean) that would let her design the seating map and then drop the students in randomly.
You are welcome to download the Zip file and use/edit it as you like : link to download
 The process aims to be straightforward (the teacher did say later in the day that it was the best email she had ever received).
0) Open the spreadsheet in Excel and click ENABLE MACROS (otherwise the NEW button won’t work.)
1) Put in your student list

2) Design your map. The only requirement is that you need have a “seat” (cell) numbered 1 through to the number of students in your class, no repeats.  These will get replaced with the randomized students.  The teacher has already created a map of the U shape, the four-table groups and a row/column for testing.  Just copy the Seating sheet and design your classroom!

3) Click the NEW button. It will create a new sheet dated with today’s date with the randomized students shown.  You can project, print or email this sheet.

That’s it.  Let me know if you find this useful.

(from the Excel file, the Instructions sheet)
Random Seating Plan Generator                   
Any questions?  @sig225 on Twitter or calarmstrong AT onenoteschool.com
Class Lists                   
Fill up the student list with your class list, one per cell in the B column of the ClassList Sheet, up to 50 students.                   
The sheet counts your class list so you don’t need to change the number at the top of the sheet.                   
Seating Maps                   
Use the sheet to design your seat arrangements — it doesn’t matter how it’s designed or how much space you use.                    
You can color code, fill, use fonts, italics, add images, whatever. I use the BORDER to indicate the “seat” for each student but feel free to get creative.                   
The ONLY requirement is that you have each cell that represents a seat be numbered 1 through your # of students (no repeats).                   
If you want a student to always be in a particular seat, do not put them in the class list but instead put their name in the seat you want them in.                   
You can have as many different seating arrangements as you want — but it will only let you have one seating arrangement per day (it overwrites the day).                    
You can delete the daily sheet if you don’t want to save it but don’t delete your Seating maps – they can be re-used (and cut-and-pasted between Classes).                   
When cutting & pasting between classes be sure not to copy the NEW button — just the seats!             
If you want an additional seating map, right-click the SEATING tab and chooose MOVE                   
Then, in the PopUp click on CREATE A COPY and click OK.                   
You can rename the “Seating” sheet to match your needs.