Teacher Tools Day 4 – SharePoint

sharepointTeachers are constantly faced with the necessity of posting something, be it pictures, lessons, pdf files, or especially videos to the web and then allowing students access to those resources. SharePoint, from Microsoft, is the best tool for that job, bar none. While a Google drive or other cloud service may allow you to share a file and grant permissions to your students, SharePoint simplifies the process and takes sharing documents to a new level.

What is SharePoint and do I have it?

Microsoft SharePoint is a business server application that allows users to post and share almost any type of file or media and then grant access to that material to anyone they choose.  The application integrates with Microsoft Office in a way that Google drive or other cloud storage applications can not hope to match.  It allows the user to post documents, set permissions, and then edit directly with Word, Excel, or other applications simply by dragging and dropping onto a webpage or folder.  SharePoint can be mapped as a shared drive to bypass the browser or it can be accessed as a web page.  SharePoint takes care of hosting and sharing video so that putting content on YouTube, which is often blocked in schools, or filled with inappropriate images, is not necessary.  SharePoint allows for the creation of sites for groups, teams, classes, and other units, and allows the creator to set permissions for those units down to the document level.  When combined with OneNote Classroom Creator, SharePoint becomes a Learning Management System in it’s own right.  It is fully customizable and allows users to create and publish apps that others can access if they are given the necessary permissions.  In short, SharePoint is a great solution for document control for any type of data.  SharePoint also contains a social media piece that allows students to collaborate and communicate while still being fully monitored and controlled by the network administrator.  SharePoint is fully accessible from outside the school network as long as login credentials are available making it an excellent way for parents to monitor the work their students are doing.  SharePoint is fully integrated into Outlook and can be used to create calendar entries for students to post assignments and reminders.  Finally, SharePoint is easily integrated with any school web site to allow secure access for anyone with school login credentials.

The online version of SharePoint is usually included with an educational subscription to Office 365.  If your school has Office for all of its students and teachers (and it should) then you very likely have SharePoint available.  The easiest way to find out is to ask your network administrator.  If not, then he is also the person to lobby for it.

I am often asked why I prefer Microsoft Office to the free online Google applications that offer similar services.  I am preparing my students for college, and/or the business world.  They will very likely not see Google docs again after High School.  By far the majority of the  market share of business document creation software belongs to Microsoft Office.  Why not start now teaching them something they will use throughout their careers?  Most corporate workers in America will be familiar with SharePoint, Office, and the other common Microsoft business applications.  It seems a waste to teach them something that they will use only temporarily, or at least, that is my opinion.

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Favorite Computer Science Teacher Tools – Day 2

dell745On day 2 of our investigation into useful tools for teaching Computer Science I would like to point out a web site that makes teaching several different aspects of Computer Science a breeze…CodeAcademy.com

codeacademyCodeAcademy.com is one of the most useful and user friendly coding sites on the Internet. It also contains a huge amount of free content. I realize that the purpose of most sites is to generate income and I applaud that. Generating income is the motive force that keeps quality content in production. However, it is nice to share the wealth and give away quality material to draw people to your site. CodeAcademy has this down pat. One can learn Java, HTML, CSS, JavaScript in various flavors, and SQL just to name a few. I use CodeAcademy.com in most of my classes, even some that might not otherwise involve code. It is possible to set up classes and monitor the progress your students are making as well as to view the material they are learning. As a supplemental source of material it just can’t be beat. Thank you to CodeAcademy.com for providing such a useful amount of free material for my students.

imagineThe next item on my all-time list of favorite tools is a program (not software) created by Microsoft and labeled Imagine. This program, recently known as Dreamspark, provides professional grade coding tools and software to students for, basically, no charge. Where else can a high school student, learning to code, find a copy of Visual Studio Professional with a legal license, at no charge. The school or academy that uses the program pays a token fee of $99 per year and can make items like Visual Studio, SQL Server, and many other professional Microsoft tools available to their students at no cost to the student.

Well, that is day 2 of our top 10 list.  Only 3 more days to go until completion.  If you have questions about any of the programs or tools listed, OR if you would like to add your favorite application to the mix, please use the comment section below, and don’t forget to “like” and subscribe if this sort of topic seems worthwhile to you.

Live From TCEA…Sorta

tcea17

I am currently at the premier technology education event certainly in Texas, and possibly in the world.  This is my 5th such event in as many years and so I am not exactly a newbie to this environment.  I have seen a great many changes, some good and some bad, but the one constant ingredient I find is the caring demonstrated by the educators here.  While we may not all agree on what is best for our students, we can all agree that we want the very best for our students.  I am proud to be surrounded by such professional and caring individuals

Having said that, the other draw to this incredible meeting is the amazing amount of technological innovation being displayed here.  The leading technology players in the world gather here because they know that teachers are an excellent source of sales and we seem to be drawn to toys.  Perhaps we like toys because we like kids.  Who knows?  All I know is that I am exhausted and off to bed.  Hope to see you tomorrow in Austin.

Lync Up With Those Who’re No Longer With Us

We’ll keep the Microsoft train rolling a while longer by introducing a business cross-over to the academic world.  The lynccommunication package called Lync that Microsoft has graciously bundled with MS Office 365 and SharePoint.  Until this week I knew very little about Lync.  I had heard that it was an effective product for holding muti-location business meetings but I had not paused to consider the possibilities for its use in a school setting.  It struck me today as I took role in my Computer Maintenance class.  One of my best and brightest was absent and missed an exam.  I knew she was ill and at home and I knew that if she had the opportunity she would have still taken the exam and done the class work.  If only there were a way to communicate effectively with someone who was not in our classroom.  I had used Skype before but it does not lend itself to academic interaction.  Then it hit me…I had only two days ago, installed the OneNote Class Notebook Creator on our SharePoint server so the interactive part would be available to her anywhere with Internet.  What else did Microsoft offer?  Well, since we have Office 365 as our email solution and a license for SharePoint, then we already possessed Lync.  It cost nothing to set up and the app is browser based so any device with a browser will do.  Given the combination of Lync and OneNote Class Notebook, there is no reason for any reasonably motivated student to miss a lesson.  They can hear and see the classroom via the web cam.  They can interact with the class in the collaboration area, and they can complete the assignments in their own secure sections.

Lync contains a audio/video chat feature, an interactive whiteboard (though not as nice a OneNote) a text chat, the ability to use conference calls over phone lines, the ability to project PowerPoint presentations over the Internet, and it’s all browser based.  It works with anything that I have been able to throw at it; Chrome Books, Android phones, iPads, PCs.  The only thing I didn’t have to test with was a Mac laptop or desktop.  There is no reason for any student who wishes to be present in a class, to miss the lesson.  Chances are your district already has the licenses and software in place (unless you are strictly Google or Apple)  It is well worth your time to look into.

‘night All.

OneNote: The Best Kept Secret in Microsoft Office

Microsoft Office has long been a staple in business.  It is the standard for text documents, spreadsheets, and presentations.  Recently it hasonenoteicon been making inroads into the educational community as well with the advent of Office 365 and OneDrive.  Nearly everyone is familiar with Word, Access, Excel, PowerPoint, and the like but there is a little known application that most people decline to install that can provide as much if not more educational benefits than all the others combined.  Microsoft OneNote for Education is an amazing tool for teachers and students alike.

I had not considered this a truly useful education program even though I have been using it personally for years.  It makes an excellent journal and a great way to document class events but it just didn’t seem interactive enough.  I had never considered, for example, putting PowerPoint slides or Excel Spreadsheets into a notebook, but both of those things are easily done with OneNote.

Rather than try to go through all the special features designed for education, I have included a link directly to the OneNote for Teachers Toolkit.  The file opens in OneNote and it goes through every possible use that you can think of for education.  You can share, create interactive lessons, in short, its a great tool.  I encourage you to download the toolkit and check it out.  The price is certainly right.  OneNote is available for free.  It is especially effective when paired with the Microsoft One Drive.  That will be my next application.

I am currently at the Texas Computer Educator’s Association Conference in Austin, TX.  If you have the opportunity to attend a TCEA conference, I highly recommend it.  You can learn more about educational technology here in an hour than you can anywhere else.  #TCEA2015 #learnanywhere