Your Team’s Files, where you want them

Even though everything is in the cloud, we really like to have a copy on our computers (we work on public transit, in places with no or poor wifi, and we never really trust the cloud). So when we’re working in a cloud space, here’s how you can sync the files to your device.
We have a Math Department Team on Microsoft Teams (it is free if you’d like to do the same thing at your school) and a Channel within the Team for each course to discuss, build and share resources.
I teach MPM2D, our Grade 10 course, and so all I really care about is Grade 10 math.  Sorry, Calc & Stats!

So, within each Team Channel there’s a dedicated file space – and we work on files together there. Course descriptions, tests, projects, you name it.  But I don’t want to have to go to Teams to get the files! I’d like them on my hard drive and be able to get to them through File Explorer (like I have since 1995!)

Click on the FILES button when you’re in the Channel that you want to sync.  You’ll see all the files that are associated with your Channel.  Notice that you can organize things in folders – it’s not just one big space.  We’ve been using this Team for the previous academic year so we’ve pushed that into its own folder and keep the current year in the list.

To start the sync connection to your device, click on OPEN IN SHAREPOINT.  A browser window will open and you’ll likely be asked to log in. You’re now on the “site” that Microsoft Teams is actually hiding from you. 

Click on SYNC. A number of pop-ups may show up… accept all as necessary.  I think I had “Are you sure you want to switch apps” and “Getting ready to sync”.
The last one to show up will be the one below, where you get to choose which of the folders in your Team Channel (notice I don’t see all the other channels! No Calc, No Stats, Just Grade 10 Math!).
Go ahead and click on START SYNC and the syncing process will begin down to your device.  (Quick hint: always do this at school so that your home broadband isn’t counting all this transferring of data!)

If you now go to your Windows Explorer (or your file directory show-er on your device), you’ll see a new option in the left column with your school’s name (blurred here) and the MPM2D folder synced to your computer. You now have off-line copies of all of your files in your Teams Channel folder on your computer.

You can now open up any files from this folder on your computer and contents will all sync back up to the Teams channel, and any new files will appear on your device.

You need a Team to do that

So yesterday I mentioned about using Teams to do Screencasts – you can see that blog post by clicking here.  Here’s a brief run-down of the process.
When you’re in the Teams application, either as a reply to a message, or a brand new conversation, click on the MEET NOW button.  It looks like a little video camera.

You’ll get Teams Meeting popping up… you’ll be doing a call, but of course, there’s no one on the other end.  Type in a Subject — I’d choose the Course, Textbook, page and question number if it’s applicable, otherwise some combination of curriculum standard.

Click on MEET NOW to being the meeting. 
We want to start recording in order to get the video part of the screencast.  Click on the 3-dot menu button and choose START RECORDING.  (It says “Preview” because recording is still in pretty active development — see below).  The recording has now started and you’ll see the red icon in the upper right of the screen.

Now, you’re going to share your OneNote application.  Of course, before you started this process you opened your OneNote to the page you want to work on, with the question ready to go! Cuz you’re prepared like that.  Click on the box with the arrow on it and then click on DESKTOP.  You can just choose one application but I find I always want to end up showing something besides OneNote.

It’s your time to shine! Go through the problem solution, using #digitalink to make all the math you want.  You can also do anything else at the same time… use Desmos, WolframAlpha, GeoGebra, … everything on your screen is getting recorded into the screencast video.  While you’re recording, there’s a control panel in the lower right of the screen. 

When you’re done with your screencast (try to keep it to 3 to 5 minutes… click here for some great research on how long people will put up with your videos) click on the little control panel and you’ll be brought back into the Teams call and you can then turn off the Recording by clicking on the 3-dot menu and turning that off.

Then you can hang up the call, which also turns off screen sharing at the same time.  Or you can click on the box with the x in it to shop sharing and set up to do another screen recording.

Hanging up brings you back into Teams proper… and your video is put online into the Microsoft streaming service “Stream” (they went all out with names, eh?  Teams for a team app and Stream for a streaming app).  It usually takes a couple of minutes before it is ready to be displayed.  You can see why you want to give your “meeting” a title … it names the message and the video with that name.

Now, it’s available to everyone in the Channel!  Click to play.

It’s also available on the Microsoft Stream service.  If you click on the 3-dot menu you can either open it up in the full Stream website or you can get a link to share elsewhere, so you’re doing double duty.  The only restriction is that Stream is only available to Office365 users on your network.

Now, the “preview” part…what’s coming shortly down the pipe for these screencasts is not only automatic captioning in these videos, but also automatic translation of the audio, background blur if you’re recording yourself in your home office or classroom and a whole bunch of other little improvements. So stayed tuned!

Help, (Teams), I need somebody…

I was thrilled that this year the Math Department has decided to move fully on to Microsoft Teams to provide Math Extra Help.  While we’ll continue to provide face-to-face drop-in help during lunch, students in any course can post a question on the Math & CS Team, in whichever channel corresponds to their course.
Microsoft Teams is freely available to everyone so any school (or individual teacher!) can give this a try.  If you already have Office365 it should be an option (although your IT department may have turned it off!  If you don’t see it, ask!).  Anyone can sign up for their own Teams space just by clicking on the link above.

Microsoft Teams, in case you haven’t encountered it yet, is a conversation space that brings in all manner of collaboration options.  Picture an organized Facebook.  Within each conversation space, you get a file space too (picture a “google drive” attached to every Whatsapp group, say) along with being able to plug in whiteboards, Skypes, Flipgrids, OneNotes, you name it.  And, heaven help you, both students and teachers can use emojis, stickers, memes and gifs (although less social IT departments can turn this off).
We created a Team, Math & CS Team, and made all the math & CS teachers as Owners of the Team and then added all the students so it’s just there for them, without them doing anything.  You could also just create a join code to give to them to have them self-subscribe.  Students can Favourite their course so that it is always near the top and they can get notified if there is new content there.  Of course, the name always goes bold if there is new content anyways.

We like the Teams interface since it is so easy to do a screen clip in OneNote and paste it right into a message — you can show all your mathematical workings, including graphs and sketches so that folks helping can pinpoint where you may have gone astray.

As I mentioned, although the main (driving) part of Teams is the Conversations, you can add anything to the space. Notice across the top the tabs for “Conversations”, “Files” (any attachment to a message gets stored here) and “Scratchpad”.  So, one thing I added to my channel (Grade 10 Math – MPM2D) was its own OneNote Scratchpad so I would always have access to a #digitalink scratchpad in case I wanted to actually write math (typing can be slow, error-prone and, well, infuriating to do math).  I can quickly copy & paste my scribblers back into Teams, or link to the page so the student can get at it.  It’s open to everyone so it’s effectively a collaborative whiteboard space.

I think the most long-term power in using Teams is the little video-camera button when you go to Reply to an item.  This immediately jumps you into a Teams (Skype) call allowing you to share whiteboards in a synchronous space, making a solid, easy bridge between the asynchronous and synchronous spaces.  AND once you’re done with the F2F (well, online) conversation, it attaches a video/screencapture and chat log of the online discussion for later review!  You could always just do a Video Reply with yourself, making it an instant screen capture posted right to Teams!

Our long term goal is to coach all students to provide support to their colleagues; while teachers will always be active in the Team, making sure the answers are constructive and correct (and coaching when they are not, rather than just correcting), it is always more powerful to have students help other students. They both learn from the encounter.

Instructions in OneNote for Middle School Students

There’s also a very convenient phone app for both Android and iPhone/iPad … I remember doing Christmas shopping while answering students’ questions via the app!
One of the biggest concerns was that Teams is not anonymous — so we provide a back door for students not willing to post their challenges publicly, though.  They can email the question to their teacher, who then posts it to the channel.  While we always want to encourage folks to be public about their errors (we’re a school, after all) that is still an uphill battle.
We started this discussion group process with Yammer, another option in Office365, many years ago … it was effective for the teachers that used it and the results there really helped motivate the rest of department to agree to give Teams a try.  It’s just another reminder to let trials run their course; it takes time for teachers to feel comfortable that a new approach is going to make a difference.

Collaborating, without having to work

It often takes folks a bit to get used to OneNote because there are no “files” — there are only pages, like a Binder, and everything is placed on a page.  So, when students do their work and present it for feedback, it’s on a page.  What’s great is you don’t have to find, open and manage all those files — all the student work is already stored & organized inside of OneNote for you.
When it comes to group work, we have the same luxury.
In the Collaboration Space, I create a Section for the activity — usually I title it with the date and the name of the activity.

Then, I create the first page (or two) with the instructions for the activity (Opening Day Activity in the example above — we start in the Collab on Day One so they can get used to “playing” inside the OneNote) and any templates or rubric as subpages (How to give feedback and CopyThisPage in the example above).

Each group (or each student — this work for individual activities too) then copies & pastes & renames the activity sheet to work on with their solution (I also put a copy in the Content Library for posterity — we often mark up the one in the Collab with ideas).  In some cases, they just create a blank page if they’re each working on their own problem or are using a vertical surface and merely collecting all the artefacts for their problem. As you can see in the example above, students put their names in the top page … and they can use emojis to personalize things.  Since they can have as many subpages as they want, and they’re all organized under their own main page, it all stays together. (Incidentally, panoramic photos are great for capturing large scale student work.)

You may notice the first of those pages — I think it’s important to start the year off with ideas on how to give feedback — students aren’t always clear and, to be blunt, we teachers haven’t always been great at modeling that (though we’re getting better!).  Given the variety of ways one can give feedback in OneNote, we try to move beyond Great work! and guide students (and teachers) to something more substantive.  I’ll share that in another blog.

So I have one Section with all of the Group work from that day.  I can then have students give peer feedback to other groups and/or, with a projector, we can as a class flip between groups of students’ work easily.  It’s nice to be able to sequence, compare, contrast & connect solution methods without having to look for anything — or if it takes more than one period, I still have everything in context for discussion.  For more about this, check out “5 Practices” from the NCTM.
People often ask if students mess up other students work in a group space like this. There’s no question it can happen. I teach Grade 10 and invariably, once a year some student does deliberately mess up another group’s work. It’s dealt with seriously, and we talk as a class about why its serious and invariably, there’s an underlying struggle that has made itself evident. So if it didn’t happen in this space, there would have been another problem elsewhere, so deal with it and move on. What’s nice about OneNote is that previous work is easy to recapture (page versions are automatically created) and everything done is tagged by the user’s name so things are pretty easy to track down.
Now, if it is a summatively assessed project, then I turn to the ClassNotebook Tools and create private (locked) groups within the Collab so groups can’t see each others work, but for daily work, like sharing solutions, this has been a great way for students to work together and to give each other feedback.  For example, in my online math course, I create a page each day for their homework sharing — each student is assigned a problem from the HW to take up & discuss with the class, and they do this in the Collab.

Differentiation of Product

Now, as a math teacher, “differentiation of product” means something completely different… but for this purpose it means — don’t expect every student to respond to your request for evidence of understanding with the same learning artefact.
This is well stolen from Vanderbilt University ( )

Now, even as a first year teacher way back in the 90s before I really knew about differentiation of product, I encouraged students to present their mathematics projects as diversely as possible.  But OneNote has truly given them complete freedom and ease of submission.

  • Inking  — first & foremost, student mathematical work tends to be handwriting.  Most of my students don’t know LaTeX (although I have had a few of my students, from Grade 9 and up, learn it once they were told it existed and was what ‘real’ mathematics authors use.  Interestingly, OneNote (and Word & PowerPoint) supports LaTeX.  OneNote has made it far simpler and more efficient for students to present their mathematical work — OneNote lets them move writing around, highlight, annotate all within the same space.
  • Ink to Math — some teachers (and some students) prefer type-set mathematics.  Without having to turn to LaTeX or a plug-in equation editor, OneNote will automatically typeset your hand-written mathematical notation into editable math text.
  • Images — students sometimes like to work on paper, whiteboard or window (glass works great!) or they want to show all of their brainstorming or rough work in their archive.  Using the OfficeLens App on their phones (iPhone, Android, Microsoft), they can push all of this physical content without any work at all — and OfficeLens cleans & straightens their images automatically.  This speeds up the process, as there is no need for image work by the student to make things look great.

    In fact, OfficeLens is such an important part of our student evidence collection that it drove which device we chose for our 1:1 program — having a rear-facing camera was critical (We use a Fujitsu T938 but the Microsoft Surface has a rear camera as well).

  • Audio — I have had students write little songs for some of their work. OneNote lets students capture audio and embed it directly into the OneNote page (no add-ins, no linked files to lose). The students have also used this option to augment their written work, to provide additional commentary.
  • Video — Like Audio, students can embed either recorded video, or capture themselves talking about their mathematics and have everything embedded into the OneNote page (again, no files to lose or links to get wrong).  You can see the VLC icon (the striped safety pylon) showing the video embedded in the page below. 
    Here a student inked their solution, checked it in Desmos AND added a video of suggestions on how else to solve this problem.
  • ANY file — OneNote accepts any file onto its page, so there is no need for worrying about emailing or sharing files, or uploading them.  The student can do whatever they want, and just drop the file onto the page.  The teacher automatically gets them to view & assess.  You just don’t think about “files” anymore.  Everything is there on the student page so it’s completely wide open what they may want to do.  It’s very liberating for both student and teacher.

 The important thing is to give student choice … by giving them choice, you give them voice. Not everyone wants to just write their mathematics and be done with it.  OneNote gives them the easiest way to do anything they want.  And, with teachers using the ClassNotebook, it’s all there ready to be assessed and given feedback in a smooth and easy way for the teacher.  More on that later.

Getting info easily – Microsoft Forms

So, as I’m getting ready for our training for new Faculty I thought I’d put together the steps for making a survey or collecting data. You can see some of my other posts on Microsoft Forms by clicking the link.

1. VISIT and sign in with your Office365 ID/password.  Or click on the FORMS button in the Waffle.  Or click the FORMS button if you’re in OneNote. Remember that you or your School can sign up for Office365 for free.

Button in OneNote

Button on the Office365 Waffle

2. To keep this short, I’ll only be covering Forms part of Microsoft Forms, where you just collect data without “grading” or “providing feedback”.  There’s a whole Quiz part of Forms that I’ll cover later.  Too much all at once.  So, CLICK on “New Form” or, if you already have a Form, click on its card. (You may also have Forms that have been Shared With You or Forms that you have access to as part of an existing Group, say Math Dept or your PLC.)

3. Click on the Title to ADD the Title and a short description. You also have the option to add an image to the Title bar — you get a quick Bing search or you can upload your own image based on any keyword.  Notice that as you edit, Forms saves as you go.

4. Now, click on the ADD QUESTION button.  You can add text, images or video to your question.  And then as to the type of question, there’s a good variety of options:

  1. Multiple Choice
  2. Multiple Select
  3. Text — Short or Paragraph (you can restrict as to numeric content,too!)
  4. Rating – either by Stars or by numbers
  5. Date
  6. Ranking (given a list, put them in the order you prefer)
  7. Likert scales (you know, like Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree, Strongly Disagree  — but you can set whichever descriptors you want).

You can branch based on your participants’ responses.
And another feature I like is theme-ing your forms.  It certainly helps to visually categorize your Forms by course/activity.  Or, add a related background for the Form — as you can see by the example at the bottom of the screen, I used pictures of Park City, Utah as the background for the Forms I used during the Park City Mathematics Institute.

Multiple Choice/Selection Question example

5. Now you’re ready to get it out to folks. You can make it anonymous, set a start/end date, email notifications.  Once your Settings are done, you can click on SHARE and get it out to your folks with various methods.

6.  Click on RESPONSES to see a graphical and table representation, or send it out to an updating Excel spreadsheet for better analysis, and from there send it off to PowerBI for an even richer analytical space. 
One aspect I like is the quick notes on how long it is taking folks to complete your survey.

Auto-generated graphs & summary — or click on the Excel button for your own spreadsheet. Also, notice the Park City background.

Our Faculty OneNote

Sooo… we do everything in OneNote. I mean, everything (see here: Link). So the problem was, we were having OneNotes for everything and it just got to be too much.  Instead, we set up a School OneNote ClassNotebook for administrative use.  Every teacher is a “student” in the ClassNotebook (except for me as the tech guy, and the Principal, who doesn’t teach). Yes, we could have use Staff Notebooks but (a) I like keeping things together and (b) the only difference is nomenclature. Microsoft should have just changed the ClassNotebook content to reflect leaders/learners rather than have two mechanisms.  But hey, they don’t always listen to me 🙂

Once I have the Notebook set up, I make some Sections and Section Groups in the Content Library. The first is the Faculty Handbook, followed by some School specific content.  My Section Group for all tech things, is titled with an Underscore character( _ ) so that it is always listed first in the Section Group listing.  We also have all the academic program information, the extracurricular, the professional learning and the vice-principals for each of the levels of the school (7-8, 9-10 and 11-12).  And lastly, we have our Social-Emotional Learning content, with an appropriate emoji in the name of the Section Group.
With every teacher being a “student”in the ClassNotebook, I now go in and re-permission things in the Content Library so that only the person in charge of that area can edit that content.  I do that in the following way:
1) I head on over to my Edge browser (*cough* product placement!) and go to the link to the ClassNotebook I created.  I’ve spaced it out here so that you can likely re-construct it for your own use: 
https://<name of school sharepoint>/
onedrive.aspx?id=%2Fpersonal%2Fcarmstrong%5Fappleby%5Fon%5Fca%2FDocuments%2FClass%20Notebooks%2FFaculty 18-19
Now I go in and click on each Section (or Section Group) and change the permission so that the person in charge can edit them. To do so, I visit the link above and select the Section and click on SHARE and then the 3-dot menu to choose MANAGE ACCESS. From there, the list of folks with permissions slides out from the right and I can change permissions for that individual from VIEW to EDIT.

So I do this for each of the Sections & Section Groups for each of the responsible areas and now only these folks can edit their respective sections.
I also set up a space in the CollabZone for each of these areas as well. Why? Because often they will want to collect content from the faculty — the faculty drop it in the CollabZone space and the director drags it over into the Content Library.
The top page of the Faculty OneNote is the launchpad for all the content within the OneNote, as well as the usual content outside of the OneNote that can’t fit into it.

Now that all that is done, I go back into the OneNote listing above and make two more changes. First, I select the CollabZone and add ALL EMPLOYEES as editors. Not just teachers are involved around the School so employees need to be able to add & edit content as well. I do the same with the Content Library (all of it) — it is set to Read Only for employees.
As the year goes on, this starts to fill up. We’ve encouraged folks to include links in their communications to the exact page they want people to look at… but, of course, OneNote also has an excellent Search process that we’ve been training folks to use as well.  This helps a lot to find that book list or template that they’re looking for.

When she was bad, she was horrid…

Growing up we had a huge book of poetry in the house, and I remember reading it regularly.  One that I remember is from Longfellow … and it applies to this situation.
I have the pleasure of working with the folks at the Park City Mathematics Institute this summer. What happens is that for 2 hours in the afternoon we work together on a project. In the past, I’ve introduced folks to OneNote and, although it takes them about 6-8 hours to get use to the interface and environment, it usually turns out pretty well.
So this year, the obvious thing was to bring Microsoft Teams into the space and leverage its capabilities.  I had used it at school with my classes and it worked out really well.  It has a slick interface, brought in some AI, connected to every bit of content you’d ever wanted… in short, at school it added a lot to the classroom.
So I thought it would work really well as we worked on our project.
I was wrong.
So. Incredibly. Wrong.
It was a disaster. A complete & utter disaster that affected our productivity and my credibility. With enduring ramifications.
I set the Team up and invited the participants as guests (since they’re not part of our domain).  I created a OneNote inside the Team for us to work in and was all excited.
It started just getting to Teams.  They needed Microsoft Accounts.  That went off relatively well since Microsoft lets you tie a Microsoft Account to any existing email account.  So we got that done.
We don’t have the strongest wifi and so that kept Teams failing to load well.  The participants were reluctant to download the Teams app, so they kept trying to do it by wifi and it kept failing.  The Mac users also used Safari, which is not the most modern of browsers, so Teams kept failing on that  — they were eventually coaxed to install the app, which improved things.  The user with the iPad installed the app, so that went okay, as well as the user with the iPhone.
Then they wanted to use the OneNote… again, they didn’t want to install the app, so they tried uinsg the web version inside of Teams — but remember, wifi was crap, so pages wouldn’t load and it made OneNote look like it was to blame.  Having installed the Teams app, they were even more reluctant to install yet one more app, so they just got annoyed with OneNote.  And on both the Mac and the iPhone it continually asked them to type in their username/password.
Then we started to work. We added a Word document to the Files section of our Team.  The iPad user could not edit it on his device – the Teams app would not authenticate him at all. When he managed to get it into the Word app on his iPad, the Word app insisted he needed an Office365 license to edit it. So the iPad user gave up and just used GoogleDocs & then copied & pasted his work into OneNote. 
The other challenge is that Word Online opens up in View first, so the participants always kept thinking that they couldn’t edit the document and would get frustrated with being unable to type (yes, there’s a big Edit button on the screen, but nobody sees anything).
We had a lot of lost work – it seems that on the iPad the authentication either times out or requires stronger wifi than we had, and they would be working in Word on the iPad and it would lose all their work when they tried to save it (they wouldn’t get authenticated properly).
Another participant was working in a Word document, closed it and then within Teams, tried to move it to another folder. It gave a half-visible message in the lower corner and wouldn’t let her.  (As it turns out, we had to wait for Teams to unlock the document from the editing before we could move it — but it was an unreasonable amount of time to wait, and the half-visible error message didn’t tell us anything useful.)
Now I have a group of six people who have had a horrible experience with Teams but in their conversations, they of course mix up Teams & OneNote since they’re linked together in the Teams application and in their brains. And so the next time they encountered OneNote they’ll be ever more resistant than ever.
And I was surprised to see the announcement of a free version of Teams given how poor of an experience guests to a paid-for account were treated.
I would also point out the different experience I had with the OneNote versus the Teams online support.  OneNote always seems to be on top of problems… I’ve yet to hear anything from Teams in response to my issues.
Lesson Learned: Forget about Teams outside of my school – it’s not ready for a mixed device environment and non-Microsoft users.  Just use OneNote for everything. It was so disappointing to have this experience when usually, OneNote is seen as the life-saver in a poor-wifi environment because of the local sync’ed copy.

NCTM 2018 Annual Conference — and OneNote

Since organization is important when visiting an incredibly packed conference like the annual National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), I thought I would share my approach to that using OneNote.  You can visit it here:
How did I do it?  First, I visited and signed in with my Microsoft Account.  If you don’t have a Microsoft Account (1) they’re free and (2) you can make any email into a Microsoft Account login, so you’re not creating a new email.  It’s just another identity provider, like Google, Facebook or Twitter.

There’s a (very small) button to add a new OneNote Notebook on the OneNote website — this is also where you can get at all of your notebooks, both those you created and those that have been shared with you.I named the OneNote “NCTM 2018” .. it comes created with a Section called “Quick Notes” and a first page.

Now, every one of my browsers have the OneNote Web Clipper installed. – you can install it by visiting in whichever browser you’re presently in.  This means that anything I see on a webpage I can push into OneNote.  So I went to the NCTM website and opened up the PDF version of the Planner — I clicked on the OneNote Web Clipper and it pushed the pages into the NCTM OneNote.  I then googled “washington convention center floor plan” and then I Web Clipped the floor plans into the OneNote too.

Everything in OneNote is automatically indexed, even if it’s an image, audio or video, so I can search for a name, a presentation or a room and be pretty quick to find things.

I used the NCTM Online Conference Planner (which is about 5 years behind most online planners… who programs these things?) to create my schedule for Thursday and then used the OneNote Printer (it’s a “printer” that prints the page into OneNote… and is automatically installed if you have OneNote (also free) installed, or available at the Microsoft Store.

I also went to If-This-Then-That and set up a push from Twitter — any time anyone tweets from the NCTM conference about Desmos, it will create a page with that tweet text/picture on it.  The tweet goes on its own page into a section just for Desmos tweets.

That’s it’s for now… if you’d like to see it, you can view it here:  I will be adding my notes for each session I attend inside the same OneNote so if here’s something you’re interested in, let me know!  I’ll be using the OfficeLens app on my phone to take pictures of presentations, worksheets and other physical objects — these pictures also automatically get pushed into the NCTM OneNote.  You can get Office Lens for Android or Apple.
When you use the OfficeLens App to take a picture, it automatically straightens it, cleans it and allows you to push it to OneNote (or many other apps you may have access to).  It’s a great additional to a #vnps, whiteboard or paper classroom!

And yes! I’m presenting on Saturday.  Since they put me on Saturday, I re-wrote my presentation to be a BreakOut/Escape Room. And, since I had to write the description over a year ago, I changed it to include Artificial Intelligence chatbots!

Course Evaluations via AI… “I’m sorry Dave. I’m afraid that’s what I think”

So the shape of things to come, I suppose. We just finished up with March Break and we send a Report Card (marks & comments) home with the students as they go on holiday.  As they were coming back for the last term, I thought I would do a temperature check with them when they got back (if I get to write an evaluation of them, it only seems fair!)

This time, rather than using Microsoft Forms (like here), I used a chat bot (an automated conversation) where the student would talk with the chat bot and then sentiment analysis would be performed on the data.  Not only would the student’s written content be considered but also how they wrote it and what word or phrasings they used.
I had all three sections interact with the chat bot (the link was posted in their OneNote) and I stepped out of the room to give them a chance for some privacy. I did mention to them that this was experimental, that they didn’t have to do it and that it was anonymous (modulo the usual “nothing is really anonymous on the internet”). They had no issue getting onto the chatbot and no one had any issues with how it interacted with them, or what to do once they clicked on the link.

I used which is presently in beta — but given the rate at which Microsoft is improving their chatbot framework, I can see school districts developing their own tools in the future.  PowerBI, after all, does do sentiment and text analysis.
Once the students were done, I logged into the results to see how I did. I only blur out the overall because our school could use it as part of my own evaluation and I don’t think I’m yet comfortable with that.

You can download a CSV filled with the actual conversations the students had, so it’s like doing a Microsoft Form (or, umm, paper) course evaluation, or do your own PowerBI analysis of the text (I haven’t had time to do that yet.)
One caveat to be aware of was the jokes that popped up! Now, I had tested the chatbot myself and didn’t discover this, but trust a student to push the envelope.  And they are terrible Dad jokes — and also aimed at a post-secondary crowd rather than early high school (alcohol was mentioned in one joke).

And out of the 47 students, I did have two students loudly vocalize how they found it “creepy” to be doing this.
What I do look forward to is having the AI dig deeper once it notices a pattern, or if it reads avoidance or suggestive messages.  And I’d love to see us be able to have it focus on particular topics (I use #VNPS and would like to ask questions specifically on that, for example).
Do I think they were any more honest than using Microsoft Forms or paper? Scanning through the Excel sheet of actual conversations, I don’t think so.  But, I likely got MORE content than I would off of a Form or paper– and the added layer of sentiment & textual analysis helped avoid focusing so much on an individual written comment (that we always obsess over). And it definitely SAVED TIME — the students took maybe ten minutes to do the chat and then click–> I had the results.

I will point out that there are two sessions on AI during the LearnTeams conference in a few days! (yes, I’m doing one related to Education).