On February 21-24, 2016, I attended the PETE & C Conference for the first time since 2010! As usual, I put my best self forward and presented four sessions on Microsoft in Education. Check out my presentations and resources hosted in a collection on Docs.com.
Along with the preparation of bulletin boards, seating charts, classroom procedures and syllabi, it is also important for teachers to consider the go-to digital tools and resources they will rely upon as they head into the school year. The five tools and resources outlined below can be utilized by teachers and students in many different classroom settings, grade levels and subject areas for creation, communication, collaboration, and so much more.
Tool #1 – OneNote & OneNote Class Notebook
To maximize efficiency and rise to the top of the class in organization, consider using OneNote (free to download for any device) and the OneNote Class Notebook as the backbone of your digital life. Teachers can deliver engaging and interactive content easily and efficiently to their students and students can complete work by typing, annotating text, inserting images, linking notes, drawing with digital ink, etc. With Class Notebook through Office 365, teachers have immediate access to all student work and can provide on-going, detailed and specific feedback to each student privately, through text, ink, audio or video recording. Class Notebooks also have a Collaboration Space through which all students and teachers with access to that notebook can collaborate, communicate and create together. OneNote really IS the ultimate classroom tool!
It is easy to flip, blend, individualize and differentiate instruction with Office Mix. Although Office Mix is an excellent tool for any classroom, many educators believe it is THE ANSWER for the flipped or blended learning environment. This free add-in to PowerPoint allows teachers and students to enhance and amplify their presentations by adding interactivity and engagement through voice and screen recording, digital ink annotation, embedding videos and polling. Content creation and delivery is not only easy and efficient, but highly motivating to the end users – the students! Also remember, it’s not just for teachers! Students too can get “in the mix” to demonstrate their learning or teach a new concept to their classmates – and ask questions of them to see if they were listening! To get Office Mix visit http://mix.office.com and to learn more about using it in your classroom visit http://mixforteachers.com.
Office Mix Toolbar
Check out this great video for an introduction and step-by-step guide on how to create your first Office Mix.
Tool #3 – Sway
Are you ready to Sway? In just minutes, teachers and students can create stunning visual presentations with a unique web URL that can be easily shared for viewing or collaboration. By adding interactive content such as photos, videos, audio files, Twitter feeds, charts, documents and maps, students can easily demonstrate their learning and present their thoughts and ideas without having to spend a lot of time on design. As each Sway has its own unique web address, it can be used for a variety of items in the teaching and learning environment including delivery of content, demonstration of learning, but also for communication such as blogging, parent newsletters, student publications, faculty updates, etc.
How have you connected your classroom with the world? With Skype and Skype in the Classroom, it is easier than ever to connect your students with other teachers, classrooms, experts and projects to help break down the walls of your classroom to bring the world in. Not sure where to start? Play Mystery Skype with another classroom from somewhere around the world. It is a fun and easy way to get started with Skype and providing global opportunities for your students.
Back-to-school is an exhilarating time full of hope and excitement for a new school year for teachers and students alike. But, those first few weeks are also exhausting! Check out the tips below to be sure to start the year off right to keep yourself sane and avoid burnout.
Tip #1 – Start Off Organized
Nothing is worse than not being able to find what you need. Knowing where things are stored so they can be easily found is essential. By using OneNote, teachers can easily have lesson plans, class documents and presentations, emails, parent contact information and more at their fingertips. Inserting text, images, files, audio & video is easy with just a few clicks and the OneNote Clipper allows you to seamlessly clip items directly from your Internet browser into OneNote. And with OneNote’s amazing search functions, information can be found quickly and easily.
Tip #2 – Get Rest & Hydrate
The beginning of the school year is always a hectic time for everyone and sometimes the best-laid plans get scrapped almost as soon as things get started. Being well-rested can help you better handle all the twists and turns that the start of the year bring. In addition to rest, it is important to always drink a lot of water to keep your body hydrated. Dehydration leads to even more exhaustion, so be sure to load up on the H2O and get plenty of shut-eye to keep your brain sharp and fresh.
Tip #3 – Communicate Early & Often
To avoid stress and confusion down the road, start the year off with open lines of communication. As a teacher, communication comes in many forms – with colleagues, administrators, students, parents – and it is important to communicate effectively with all of them.
Colleagues – Communicate and collaborate with colleagues by sharing ideas for lesson plans, tips and tricks, tools and resources, etc. Why should teachers who teach the same curricula and grade level plan in isolation? Use tools like OneNote and Skype to easily collaborate and communicate with colleagues.
Parents & Students – Opening the lines of communication with parents early-on is essential to not only provide them with pertinent information for your classroom, but also to introduce yourself and show them you are a real person! Consider creating a class newsletter using Sway to not only introduce yourself, but keep parents and students updated with your class throughout the year.
Administrators – In addition to email and face-to-face meetings, you can easily collaborate with colleagues and keep in touch with your administrators by using a OneNote Staff Notebook.
Tip #4 – Take Time for Family, Friends & Laughter
As they say, all work and no play is a bad combination. Although the first few weeks of school tend to be work-focused, make sure to set aside time each day to spend with the people who mean the most to you. And not only that, take time to laugh. Laugh with your loved ones and enjoy the time with them. And most importantly, allow yourself to laugh at the craziness that is back-to-school and enjoy what you do. Laugher really is the best medicine.
Tip #5 – Persevere
Remember that without the terrible days, we would not be able to recognize the great ones. No one is perfect. If something didn’t work today, reflect on why, learn from it, and try something different next time. Tomorrow is new day, a better day. Use resources such as the Microsoft Educator Network to expand your professional learning community beyond your school and district and to access a plethora of tools, tips, tutorials, discussions and more. Keep at it and continue to take risks in your classroom so that you can be your very best for those who matter the most – the students!
Special thanks to my friend and colleague Sue Ramondo for her ideas and insight.