Category Archives: Microsoft

3 Ways for Students to Create with Devices in the Classroom

Devices have become omnipresent in our classrooms. Often, these tools are used as expensive, electronic content delivery systems. However, the real power in technology in schools is that it empowers students to become content creators. Smartphones and tablets, even more so, have allowed them to become mobile and agile ones. Most educators know that individuals learn far more about a topic when they must explain it to someone else. Additionally, by employing multiple learning modalities through the creative process (tactile, kinesthetic, visible, etc), students process material more thoroughly. As you think about your lesson plans in the future, consider empowering students to create rather than just consume. Here are a few ways to do just that.

Create a Video

I am a fan of giving students guiding questions and parameters, then having them make an educational video. In my documentaries project, students must answer address a specific topic (e.g. “Where did George Washington get his reputation for honesty?” or “Was Benedict Arnold solely a villain of the Revolutionary War?”). We talk about creating

content in an engaging way, incorporating images and videos effectively (and ethically), pacing content, and selecting what to include or leave out. Videos are not exclusive to the humanities. I have seen math teachers effectively use them by having students demonstrate how to solve complex problems and science teachers as a recording and reflection for labs. I also encourage students to post their videos publicly (when age appropriate) or to the class via a closed portal (for younger students). By posting their videos publicly and sharing with the class, they are presenting to an authentic audience. Making a video is easy and can by done with a smartphone, tablet, and/or computer. Free software options include iMovie (MacOS & iOS), Movie Maker (Windows), and FilmoraGo (iOS & Android).

Create a Podcast

Podcasts are become ever more popular. There are podcasts to cover news, popular entertainment, hobbies, sports, cultural phenomena, and more. Task your class with

creating a podcast on a topic relevant to your course. If you are a Social Studies teacher, perhaps a weekly podcast on current events. If you teach science, a weekly science report relevant to the topic. Math? Try incorporating an update on a complex topic students are tackling that week. Podcasting can help students work on their public speaking skills as well as how to effectively present to an audience. Again, by sharing the podcast with the public at large or just the class and/or school, students learn what it is to engage with a broader audience. Podcasting can be done easily with a smartphone, tablet, and/or computer paired with a simple microphone to drown out ambient sound (the microphone on headphones can work in a pinch or you can invest in something a little more substantive). My favorite free apps for podcasting include: Garageband (MacOS & iOS) and Audacity (MacOS & Windows).

Websites

My students complete a year long research project that they post on a comprehensive website. Through creating an online portal, they learn how to write effectively for a broad audience, how to cite material so that it is accessible online, how to create and incorporate various types of media, and how to effectively organize and lay-out content. What I especially like about website creation is that it allows students to combine skills that they have learned throughout the year (e.g. video and podcasting). We have all seen “good” and “bad” websites. When it’s published online, students want theirs to look good. As such, it also serves as a basic primer in basic graphic design. There are numerous free website tools out there. If your school is a G-Suite for Education school, then I highly recommend using the new Google Sites. Not only is it easy to use, but it readily allows for collaboration. You can also check out weebly or wix.

If you’re in a school where students have access to devices, I strongly encourage having them turn those devices into content creators. You will find that it empowers them as learners and makes their learning more applicable and deep.

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Three Lessons for Schools from the Wannacry Ransomware Attack

All weekend, computer systems around the world have been hit by a ransomware attack termed “WannaCry.” Ransomware is a nefarious cyber-security attack that essentially holds your computer and its files hostage until you pay the requested amount of money

to unlock it. Ransomware attacks have been on the rise over the years, but this weekend’s attack has been especially widespread and nefarious, attacking the NHS in the United Kingdom, public and private businesses (such as FedEx), and likely more governmental entities than any of us would like to consider. The cyber-attack, however, also highlighted a number of easily fixable security holes in home and business computers. If your students are interested in talking about this event, here are some best practice tips you can give to them to keep their systems safe and secure:

Keep Your Systems Up to Date

The majority of the compromised systems were out of date. For example, a large number of them were running Windows XP. Microsoft stopped releasing security updates to its Windows XP system more than two years ago. Even so, an alarming number of systems still run on this out-dated OS. Others were running more recent Windows operating systems, but they had not installed critical security updates. As comfortable as we get with our operating systems, it is imperative to keep them up to date for this very reason. I’ve heard people comment that they don’t update because they “don’t want their computer/phone to stop working.” The reality is, the opposite is true! By not running critical security updates, your system becomes susceptible to malware and hacking, which will at best slow it down, and at worst, will lock down your system.

Don’t Use Pirated Software

Aside from the ethical implications, pirated software is a significant security risk. First, you never really know what you get when you download and install that package. Additionally, if you run unregistered software on your machine, then you also cannot run critical security updates. This easily compromises your system. Wide-spread software piracy is prominent in some countries, most notably China and Russia. However, I’ve also seen it in a number of offices and homes right here in the United States. For example, rather than pay for an office/home-wide Microsoft license, users will purchase one or two licenses and install on multiple devices. Cutting these corners also might safe you some money in the short run, but the security loopholes leave you at greater risk.

Educate Yourself about Phishing

phishing

Courtesy of Edward Richard Contrera https://www.flickr.com/photos/35484468@N07/4894714911

Phishing is a nefarious means of getting a user to click on a link or a file to install malware onto their device. Some phishing attacks are sloppy and obvious; they are replete with typos and non-sequiturs. However, phishing attacks have gotten more sophisticated, including spoofing accounts to make an email look like it came from a friend or a colleague. Always exercise caution and skepticism when opening an email that doesn’t quite “feel right.”

As more data is moved to the cloud and we are reliant on digital systems, the more commonplace cyber-attacks will be. Educating your community and students about the current attacks can help to prevent the next one!

3 Ways Schools can Help Users to Protect their Accounts from Malware, Phishing, & Cyber-scams.

Recently, G-Suite users were hit by a large phishing scam. Users were sent an email that appeared to be from Google and asked to click on a document for collaboration. The

nefarious document then gave the sender access to your whole account, including your directory, enabling it to spread. While phishing is nothing new, it has become more problematic and sophisticated. As such, it’s especially important to include some cyber-security basics as soon as students start to have access to digital tools.

Identify Scams

Most scams are pretty easy to identify. You are sent a typo laden email from someone you don’t know asking you to “check this out.” However, as email spoofing becomes more prominent, it’s important to not just open an attachment even if you know the user. There are a few red flags: the email is full of typos and errors, it doesn’t fit the tone of the sender (e.g. would your teacher be sending an email that says “check this out!”), or it just doesn’t feel right.

Keep your Operating System & Security Software Up to Date

Yes, updates can be annoying – they take a long time and may require a hardware restart in the middle of the day. However, keep your operating system and security software up to date is essential to cyber-security. While you may not want to update to the latest Windows or iOS software on day 1 (a brand new OS may have a bug or two, as early iOS 10 adopters learned when it bricked several phones), you should do so shortly after the release. Critical security updates should be installed regularly as they plug security holes and fix exploitable bugs.

Enable Two Factor Authentication

Two factor authentication is a security measure that grants you access to your account or device only after you have presented two methods of authentication (e.g. your account password and a code texted to your phone or sent to an email). It has been around for a while, but many users never enable it. Two Factor Authentication may feel like a pain, but it is the best possible defense against potential hackers or nefarious users. If you have ever been locked out of your account because another user has gained access, you know how difficult it can be to regain access and the damage that can be done to your reputation or your pocket book. Enable two factor authentication on all of your sensitive accounts (bank accounts, email, social media, etc). The extra 30 seconds it takes to log in will be worth it!

These are just a few ways that students can protect their devices and accounts from malware, phishing, and cyber-scams. However, as cyber attacks become more sophisticated, network administrators and users must become more savvy. It’s important to keep up your skills and consistently train your community. I encourage administrators to attend cyber-security webinars and workshops, such as ATLIS’s Cyber-Security Workshop in Chicago this summer.

4 Take Aways from ATLIS 2017

ATLIS logo.pngI returned from ATLIS 2017 last Wednesday invigorated and, to be honest, a little exhausted. It wasn’t just the time change (although that was a challenge in and of itself). Rather, it was from participating in so many robust and deep conversations with my peers, taking part in various presentations and workshops, and the depth and breadth of the conference in its entirety. I’ve taken a few days to reflect on the conference experience (one of the key tenants of the ATLIS mission). Here are some of the key take-aways I had as both a Tech Director and an Educator.

Coding & Computer Science are More Vital Than Ever

Coding and Computer Science have been primary topics in education for the past few decades. However, the significance of coding has become even more vital. Jaime Casap, Chief Education Evangelist at Google, kicked off the conference with a humorous but compelling keynote where he highlighted the need for young people to learn both Computer Science and Coding. Computer Science jobs are still both high in demand and well paying. He was also sure to point out that children can often learn coding on their own (with the self-directed software today). However, we as educators must prioritize the role of Computer Science (and not just of the AP kind) in becoming central to our educational priorities. This concept was further driven home in various sessions.

Doug Kiang of the Punahou School and Mary Radlhammer Kiang of St Andrew’s Priory led a deep dive session on Teaching Coding for the Non-Coding teacher.

Using some key techniques and incorporating games, they demonstrated how even non-coders (like myself) can incorporate coding into their curriculum.

Justin Curtis of the Bryn Mawr School discussed the challenges and rewards of building a robust K-12 Computer Science curriculum (still a rarity in the country that built the first home computers and developed the internet).

All of these hammered home to me that we need more computer science and coding in schools in the whole curriculum, not just a one off course in the Middle or High School.

Cyber-Security is More Important than Ever

With the rise of hacking and ransom-ware, institutions need to be more savvy about how they protect their systems and educate their community. Hospitals remain the number 1 target for attacks. However, schools (especially independent schools) are quickly catching up. As they are repositories of information (social security numbers, credit cards, names and address, etc), schools need to be especially vigilant about the security of their systems.

Denise Musselwhite of Trinity Preparatory School and Jamie Britto of Collegiate School led a deep dive into Cyber-security and Independent Schools. This was a robust look into security policies (like two factory authentication), training sessions, and phishing tests. It’s a precursor to their two day cyber-security workshop in Chicago this summer.

In addition to Denise and Jaime, other presenters led sessions on security, highlighting that cyber security and systems are a key element for Technology Directors around the country. Building systems and keeping them secure is an ongoing struggle as every upgrade brings new vulnerabilities and every day brings new potential attacks.

Equity in Education & Tech

Equity was a prominent topic this year. While equity is often on the forefront of public education, it is a concern for independent schools as well. What made this conversation unique, however, is that it was not just about equity for students, but for administrators as well.

As a woman in technology and education, I was especially struck by Renee Hawkins of Garrison Forrest and Jeff Dayton of Madeira School in their session on “What do Girls see in IT?”

Information Technology is a community within a school that can staffed entirely by men, even when many EdTech faculty are women. Disturbingly, the percentage of computing occupations held by women has been declining since 1991, while women who do enter the profession quit at a rate double that for men. What can schools do to counter the message that IT jobs such as network and systems administration are nearly exclusively masculine?

When I popped into this overflowing session room, I walked into a robust discussion about the role of women in technology and leadership. As someone who has solely operated in co-educational institutions, it was especially striking how male-dominated technology departments are – even in all-girls schools. How does that impact the next generation of young women and men?

In addition to gender, there were several sessions about equity and access. For example, Margie Llines and Rurik Nackerud tackled Equity in BYOD. Many schools with even the most robust scholarship and needs programs still do not include technology and access as a part of those packages! This is especially concerning when a school has a mandated BYOD program. I touched on this issue in my own blog post “Growing Number of Poor Americans are Phone Only Internet Users – What does that Mean for Education?

It is (or should be) About the Kids

The kind of Tech Directors you find at ATLIS are a little unique. We are the Tech Directors that don’t demand “lock it down” systems… in fact, we often rebel against them. ATLIS Tech Directors focus on what is ultimately best for the kids and education. It is always great and refreshing to see that be the focus once again. Whether it’s talking about coding and computer science, how to set up devices, equity and access, or how to support faculty, the center of the conversation was always “what is best for the kids and education?”

As an ATLIS Board Member, I am always excited to watch it grow and evolve. This year, the conference blew me away. I’m excited for the coming year as we develop more robust professional development opportunities, publish our first academic journal, and take technology at independent schools to the next level.

Reflections on ISTE 2016

I have just returned from the 2016 ISTE Conference in Denver Colorado. Like every ISTE conference, I return both exhausted and exhilarated. I had a personal milestone at ISTE, becoming the Chair for the Independent School Educator’s Network; I am both excited and a little overwhelmed about the prospects of the new year. Looking back at ISTE, here are a few of the highlights.

Amazon Inspire

gallery-1467038201-amazon-inspire-landscapeAmazon announced the beta launch of its teacher platform, Amazon Inspire. It will be a free marketplace for teachers to access lesson plans, worksheets, and a variety of instructional materials. This is Amazon’s first serious step into the education market and I’m curious to see how it evolves. I signed up for early access, and you can to using this link.

Google Rolls out even more Tools

Google highlighted some very cool tools. One that especially caught my eye is Google Cast; this is a Chrome extensions that will allow users to project their screen wirelessly from one Chrome browser to another. It’s still in beta form, but holds a lot of promise. Google has also double downed on their programming tool Pencil. They have provided a lot of free tools to make programming with Pencil much easier and some tools to help you get started coding music, games, and art. It’s a great tool to bring coding into your classroom.

Microsoft Doubles Down on OneNote & MineCraft

Microsoft_OneNote_2013_logo.svgMicrosoft is putting a lot of weight behind OneNote (its powerful note-taking tool); paired with a Surface or other touch-based computer, it’s a great resource in the classroom. While I’m a great fan, I still see it reserved solely for older students (think High School and College) power users. It’s interface will intimidate beginners and it’s far too complex for elementary and all but the most advanced middle-schoolers. MineCraft was literally everywhere. One of my goals for the next year is to become more proficient in this tool so that I can bring it into my classroom.

Makerspaces are having a Moment

My good friend Vinnie Vrotny has been a makerspace advocate far before they were “a thing.” He put together and hosted our Makerspace Playground, highlighting cool activities and learning spaces that encourage exploration and creativity. Various themes on makerspaces and tinkering were omnipresent on the exhibitor floor as well as in various sessions.

ISTE is always an exciting time for educators, we get to see what’s coming and what has been going on at other schools around the world. I’m excited to watch these new tools unfold over the next year and then reflect on them again next year after ISTE 2017 in San Antonio.

You can now use Microsoft Office 365 on Chromebooks. Here’s how.

This is reblogged from my post on Daily Genius.

Chromebooks have quickly become an incredibly popular tool in schools. However, this has previously limited users to only Google’s productivity tools. One of the most common complaints that I hear about Google Apps for Education tools (Gmail, Docs, Slides, etc), is that they are not as robust as those you find in the Microsoft Office Suite. Now, with the recent upgrades to Office Online andOffice 365, it is possible navigate to the full Office suite using a Chromebook – or any other device! Office Online and Office 365 offer new, web-based version of Microsoft tools and allows users to create and edit documents, presentations, spreadsheets, and more using only your browser. Another great feature of these tools is that it allow you to collaborate with others (even if they don’t have a subscription). All of your Office 365 creations will be saved in your OneDriveaccount in the cloud, so no need to worry about saving it on your machine!

http://videoplayercdn.osi.office.net/hub/?csid=ux-cms-en-us-msoffice&uuid=e5b8ab5f-6543-4715-942a-589428a53653&AutoPlayVideo=false&height=415&width=740

In order to use these new office tools, you will need to have either an Office 365 subscription ($99/year for a home and family edition) or sign up for a free Microsoft account at Office.com (note that if you have a hotmail account, those credentials will also work).

An Office 365 subscription allows you to download the latest version of the software to your device as well as to use Mobile Apps for free. Recently, Microsoft extended its traditional educational license to include a subscription to Office 365 for Education. So if you have Office on your school computer, then you have the ability to create an Office 365 account and access more robust features in the Office 365 suite; speak to your IT manager to see what options may be available.

To access the Office Suite online, go to: login.microsoftonline.com and login with your personal or school credentials (again, check with your IT manager). Once you are logged in, you will see the option to access all of your available Office tools and then select the tool that you want to use. If you are using an Office 365 Education account, your administrator can determine which tools will be made available and which may not be turned on.

As an example, in my domain, I cannot access Mail or Calendar because we use a different system and Sites and Tasks have been turned off completely. However, here are a few highlights of what is possible with Office 365 on anyChromebook or Computer.

Office 365 Start

Mail

Not only can you now easily access your email via the web, there’s even aChrome app. Like Gmail, Outlook now threads conversations, keeping all messages and replies together. From the web, it is possible to read and reply to messages as well as to organize emails into folders. A particularly handy feature is the green “replied to” indicator to show when exactly you responded to a specific message.

Calendars

Much like with Google Calendars, through Office 365 and Office Online you can now also access any personal or shared calendars. Students can subscribe to class calendars and even create shared calendars for specific courses or groups. A really nice feature is the ability to view different calendars as tabs. This way, you can view everything or only the events on specific calendars. If your school uses a lot of shared calendars, then this could be extremely helpful for scheduling purposes.

Collaborating with Office Online and Office 365

A great, new feature of the Office Online tools is the ability to add collaborators to any Word, PowerPoint, or Excel file! Simply click the Share icon in the top right corner. A new window will pop up giving you the option to share with view orediting privileges. You can share by email or via a link (no need for a subscription)!

Once the document is shared, you can collaborate in real time, from any device (including your Chromebook)! All of the Office tools have robust online features and sharing capabilities. You can even collaborate on a PowerPoint Presentation, include the fancy transitions, and even present directly from the cloud!

Expanding Office beyond a hard drive and into the cloud gives Chromebook users greater options, more collaborative abilities, and access to a more robust suite of tools to expand their learning environment. Look for more information about these tools in coming posts.

PowerPoint Myths: Busted!

I learn something new from Jonathan every day! Numbers 4, 5, and 6 were news to me!!

Jonathan Wylie

powerpoint myths

PowerPoint gets a bad name, but in my opinion it is often just misrepresented. Are their a wealth of PowerPoint alternatives available for little or no cost? Indeed there are, but do you really know all that PowerPoint is capable of? Here’s a rundown of some common PowerPoint myths and the reasons that PowerPoint is still a worthy tool…in the right hands.

Myth #1: PowerPoints are boring

Let’s get this one out the way from the beginning. We have all sat through some terrible presentations at one point or another. We were bored, tired, and spent more time watching the clock than watching the slides. Death by PowerPoint, right? The real truth, as you probably know, is that it was not PowerPoint that made you bored, it was the presenter. Their performance, and maybe their slide design, were not good enough to keep you interested. Thankfully, performance skills can be…

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