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.

OneNote Classroom Notebook Creator

onenoteiconAs you may know, I am a huge proponent of the OneNote®Classroom Notebook system created by Microsoft®.  I realize that it was not originally intended for education and that it is primarily a business application, however, it works really well for information presentation as well as storage and evaluation.  Serendipitously it is ALSO a great business application that students will be familiar with when they enter the workforce in a corporate environment.

To teachers who have SharePoint® available it could not be easier to install and use the product.  Classroom creator is available as a free download in the SharePoint App store.  Someone with admin. permission can install it and then it is available for all to use.  It took me, with no previous experience, about 10 minutes to get it up and running on our domain.  Once the app is installed it is incredibly easy to follow the instructions to create notebooks, add students and teachers, and publish your class notebooks to the system.

Students find the application to be intuitive and easy to work with.  They really enjoy the collaboration area that allows their contributions to appear in real time.  I generally open that section of the Notebook on the class smart board during topic discussions.  All entries are labeled with the student’s name so inappropriate comments are never a problem.  Once discussion is complete, I direct the students to the Content Library to begin the day’s assignment.  I can either create a worksheet or lab page individually for each student or I can simply create a page in the Content Library and have the students copy and paste the questions into their personal homework sections.  The sections are completely private and available only to myself and the each student.  They do the work, I grade the work and enter a grade on the homework page that they create.  Once the grade is entered, any further entries onto that page are labeled and time-stamped to prevent students from changing grades or answers.

It is very easy to create content for lessons in OneNote.  Images can be copied and pasted easily into pages.  Video can be embedded or even recorded directly into the page.  Audio can be synchronized to follow along with text and images and other embedded objects can be made searchable with OCR.  There is a very friendly community of users accessible online to provide help, and, as a member of the Office Suite from Microsoft, the control ribbons will be very familiar to most people.  Objects like Flash or other presentation content can be linked and will open in their native players at a click.

There are some features that I wish were available, perhaps in a special educational version of OneNote.  I would like to see OneNote support OLE (Object Linking and Embedding) to allow ActiveX controls or other native support for different formats.  I would like to see VBA support so that Macro creation could be made simple.  I would really like to see a way to lock pages within the student’s notebooks to prevent unauthorized or accidental editing.  These are the only real complaints that I have with an otherwise excellent application.  Microsoft really found a winner here.

Movin’ On Up (Education-wise that is)

Sorry to have been so slow in posting but I have run into a new project to occupy all my spare time it seems.  Today I was accepted into the College of Business and Education Masters Program at WTAMU (West Texas A and M University) or simply West Texas State in Canyon for you Texans out there.  I will be pursuing a Masters of Education in Instructional Design and Technology.  It is a very practical program with a great deal of real world skills in web design, video design, curriculum design, and not so much of an emphasis on theory.  I passed my preliminary selection interview today and was accepted into the program by the director, Dr. Rose.  Because I have a fairly extensive background in things technical, especially web design and video editing, I will be allowed to substitute some advanced research projects on lieu of the basic classes normally required for the program.  And best of all, the Hazelwood exemption deals with the cost.  Yaaa Army!!

Anyhow, I am going to use this blog as a conduit to organize and pass on my research to my professors.  If the posts begin to seem a bit out of sync, please by aware that I have NOT lost my mind, I am posting on specific subjects for grades.  Meanwhile, Thursday I go back to Frisco for day three of my 30 hour digital fluency seminar.  Thus far it has been enlightening and I will share more when I have a moment to organize my notes.

Speaking of Notes; don’t forget to recommend Microsoft OneNote Classroom Notebook Creator to any educators you meet.  It is a great way to provide interactive lessons for your students and give them an avenue to collaborate among themselves.  I am learning that true digital fluency and a truly blended classroom is not so much about using technology in the class, but allowing technology to provide means for collaboration and dissemination of the products created by the class.

The Latest App Smash – OneNote and ShareX: A Great Combination

Introducing a great way to build easily followed lessons and interactive material; the OneNote Classroom Notebook and ShareX, the ultimate screen capture workshop.  ShareX allows you to sahrexOneNOtecapture still and video images from any screen and you can upload it to any possible destination on the web, all from inside the program.  OneNote allows you to build shared lessons and provides a way to present the information (the content library) as well as a way for students to securely complete and turn in assignments (the student area).  These two make a great combination.  ShareX is the best capture software I have ever used.  Find a video that you would like to use but can’t find an app or web site to download it?  ShareX to the rescue (Remember that just because you CAN download or capture a video does not mean you should.  Respect the copyright and the owners)  You can catch whole screens, whole windows, or selected areas just as fast as you can click the “Print Screen” button.  OneNote holds all this material and makes creating interactive lessons and flipped work as easy as pie.  Trust me when I tell you that I can build dozens of lessons per week that are professional looking with plenty of visual material to make learning a breeze.  You DEFINITELY need to try this.

Microsoft is NOT just for Business Anymore

certinsTonight I am offering a program geared specifically for the instructor who wishes to learn, not only more about integrating ICT (Information, Communication Technology) into their classroom, but who is also interested in becoming a better teacher in general.  Education should be geared to the learner.  We need to teach those things which are relevant to the learner’s world and beneficial to the learner’s future.  One way of getting the training that we need as teachers is through the Microsoft Certified Educator program.

Microsoft has created a curriculum that is geared toward providing more than just programs and technology for the teacher.  They provide insight into the “why” as well as the “how”.  Why do we need to integrate technology into the classroom?  Do we use technology for it’s own sake?  The curriculum takes us as teachers and helps us to become learners.  It is important for us, especially in this time of almost forced technology integration, to remember what we are trying to accomplish and why.

It is easy to get caught up in the techno-wave.  My class is building web sites, blogging, producing videos, and writing code.  GREAT!  Why?  Putting technology into a classroom because it is expected of us or because we have to spend a budget to justify it for next year is NOT the goal we are trying to accomplish.  The curriculum presented in the Certified Educator curriculum helps the teacher to understand the most important aspect of technology; when NOT to use it.

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