Posted in Professional learning, random ramblings, surface, Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff

Making GIFs in Microsoft PowerPoint

A quick little post about something I did for the #teachingwithsurface competition NZ was running – a ridiculous simple was to use Microsoft PowerPoint to make customisable GIFS for revision or for using in presentations to get key ideas across quickly. For some key ideas, a GIF is a really efficient way to get the idea across in a simple ways, and they GIFs can be embedded into a variety of digital tools, including teams chats and feeds, Onenote, and PowerPoint. I originally used a few online GIF maker (Giphy has a good one, so is GIFPAL) after doing the images in PowerPoint or Onenote, but then I realised that PowerPoint had a built in export to GIF function right there!! Why was I making more work for myself!!

All you need to do is make a succession of slides

Then export, and then you have your GIF

Today my students made some, and while they don’t all have devices with inking capacity, they were able to draw out some molecules and show the process. A nice end of term with tired brains activity for sure.

Have fun

Posted in surface, Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff

Using Microsoft Office Mix

It is nearing NCEA exam time in my world. And so I have been busy making exam question walk through using Microsoft Office Mix and the snip tool on my surface pro 4. Office Mix is a super handy add in for powerpoint that lets you make video tutorials with ease. The surface stylus just makes writing these answers and equations easy as. It has been a while since I blogged about how I use Office Mix in class (you can see one of my first goes HERE, or some more about the features HERE and if you want to earn more about it I suggest you check out the Office Mix web page) so I thought I should give an update on my favourite go to tool. You can also add PhET animations with ease, or include webpages for students to browse. And after the recent #hacktheclassroom hack from fellow kiwi Subash my mixes might just get a little neater – I’ve put a link to his video at the end of this post 🙂

Making the exam walk throughs

My go to for Mix is exam walk throughs. To start with, I head over to the NZQA web page and find the exams and schedules I want. Then I take a picture of them using snip, and make the picture the back ground on the ppt slide so I don’t accidentally grab it and move it during my recording.

Then it is as easy as hitting the record button and away you go

Once you have finished the recording, you can either save as a video file to upload to youtube etc, or upload them to the office mix site. I tend to just upload to the mix site, and then share the links.

I also try to remember to tell my students to pause the video and attempt the questions first…. not sure how many do though!!

Here are some examples – feel free to share them with your class if you think they would find them useful.

Student Mixes.

I have also played around with getting my students to make a mix to explain their thinking behind the exam answers. These have also been shared with the class so they can use them for their revision too. Some students are definitely more theatrical than others 🙂

Mixes for feedback

Again, a quick video to provide feedback for students works really well. I have found this particularly useful for the (sadly, this year too many) times I am away. Students will email me a photo of their work, and I will complete a mix for feedback for them

Mix for relief

It has also bee really good for relief – the students seem to really like a video of me talking and will listen better than if I was talking to them live. Sigh

So while none of these are especially bright and shiny, they are really useful ways I use this tool in my teaching and learning, and can make the arduous task of exam preparation a little bit less stressful. Students appreciate being able to rewind ideas.

And with the awesome #hacktheclassroom hack from NZs own Subash, my mixes have gotten a little neater – although I still ignore the gridlines at times. You can see his hack and how to make the mix presentations neater below.

Posted in Professional learning, surface, Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff

Getting started with Microsoft Classroom

When I first heard that Microsoft was bringing a ‘classroom’ option to the Office 365 suite of educational software, I was a mixture of excited to see what it looked like and worried it would be just another add on. I had also had a play with the teacher dashboard which was nice but a litle underwhelming. Google classroom has had plenty of praise and I have been impressed with what was possible on that platform. Then I started seeing what people could do with Microsoft classroom and I got very green eyed as one by one schools in New Zealand and around the world were getting picked for the preview option.


I love the leaf as the icon for Microsoft Classroom – learning and growing together


And then I got a glorious e-mail saying we had also been selected to preview Microsoft classroom and school data sync. I was so excited when I replied, I forgot to attach the questionaire and signed documents back.


The preparation for the data sync was sadly a bigger job than I had expected. We were wonderfully supported by Guy, Keith and Mike from Microsoft via 3 skype seminars where they walked us through some of the finer points. But as we are using Kamar as our LMS, we needed to prepare csv files, which had to be done manually, which meant a big job for Lyndon (our DP in charge of Kamar). So we opted for 4 volunteer teachers with about 8 classes between us to test – around 190 students mostly in our junior school (we have around 1050 students in our school). I also had to enter a promo code to get classroom installed on the tenant and turn on the licence for the staff concerned. Once that was set up, I downloaded the powershell set up tool and we got the sync underway.

(If you are planning a sync like this, make sure your csv files are saved some-where sensible. They can’t be in zip form either…. We are now investigating a more robust place to store these files than my surface’s hard drive – perhaps where the server for Kamar is run, or a specific computer for admin……And after some conversation with the connected learning advisory and other NZ teachers, it seems that there are sometimes similar issues with KAMAR and Hapara…. not sure about google)

Again, the team were great as the talked me through the set up process…. you can see my mistakes where I entered the wrong thing in the wrong place, or tried to use the zip file…..


The errors in red and black are due to me having installed the anniversary edition windows 10 update. So I had to alter the text files (helped by the crew…..) and then it ran fine


The sync errors were because we had students who were doubled up in multiple classes – so we had to go back to the student csv file and remove the double ups. The error reports where very specific about where the errors were and it took Lyndon no time to fix them (definitely not my area of expertise)

And then we hit go with classroom, and it was quite magical watching the classes populate. Calanders, onedrives, group e-mails, newsfeeds all just appeared. To get it visable on the students app launcher, we also had to turn on their licences in the admin portal. It took about 30 minutes for all of the classes to load – which is pretty quick really. If we need to update, the files with just scan for changes, so it is only the initial setup that will take a while.

So then I skipped off to my year 10 Science class, and there is was for my students 🙂


As I added a test they have on Monday, it automatically (and almost instantly) popped into their calendar (and mine too). It was great to see both classes this student was loaded into appear straight from the sync.


From my end, it looks like this – 10Be is the class that went through the data sync – L1Sci and L2 Chem are classes I have added manually. So I still need to activiate the licences on these students accounts to see if they have a different experience from the data sync students.

classroom view.png


Early days yet, so all the posts are mine. Hopefully this changes as the class uses this platform more




The conversations tab sends you to outlook, and the files tab sends you to a group Onedrive (so a sharepoint document library). The set up for the classnote book is al ready to go, just choose your sections and away you go.

So, once we had the preparation sorted, this really was a dream. And I can see a real benefit to students if they have all their classes loaded as they can use the calendar to organise their course work and assessments, and use the collaborative spaces to share resources and ask and answer questions.

Next steps

This sync happened about 48 hours ago. So still very early days. My next steps are to

  1. support the other teachers using classroom preview to use it with their classes
  2. Investigate how we can improve the transfer of data from the SMS (Kamar) to either the CSV files or directly to classroom.
  3. Investigate a more long term storage place for the csv files…..
  4. Compare the experience of classroom users to the teacher in our school using groups and classroom notebook – I suspect for individual teachers they will have a similar experience, but the students will have a better experience via classroom due to the summaries on the home page.
  5. Compare synced student experience to manually added students – might save us a lot of time with the CSV files for next year if we can skip this step…. but then it might not encourage teachers to use it……
  6. Get some feedback from the students to see what they think
  7. Plan for implementation for the whole school next year if it goes according to plan

My first impressions are that it is a very user friendly overlay system that takes all the best bits of sharepoint and makes them much easier to use for teachers or students. More confident/competent or adventurous teachers might find they like the freedom of the sharepoint sites they already have set up, where as other teachers who have been reluctant will definitely enjoy the automatic population of their classes.

An enormous thanks has to go to the Microsoft crew who helped us out over skype (the time difference meant I think we kept them at work a bit late) for their patience and expertise, and to Lyndon for bearing with my when the job was bigger than I expected. But it looks like it was well worth the effort – watch this space





Posted in surface, Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff

Inking with Office 2016 is a little bit AWESOME

I was ‘FINALLY’ able to get Office 2016 onto my surface last week as it has become available on our school tenant. Microsoft has gone all out to improve the inking and collaborative features in all off the software packages. I am currently obsessed with the inking function – in Outlook especially. I have always loved inking in OneNote and it has been awesome to have a play with the other features



Inking in Outlook

If my favourite thing EVER. Being able to ink a quick reply is super – and means I can reply easily if I don’t have my surface connected to a keyboard (I’m terrible at typing with the touch screen). Or I can easily draw instructions or diagrams. For more ‘formal’ e-mails I would still type them out, but for quick messages on the go the inking function is perfect

Screenshot (6).png

And I love that you have all the options -different colours, highlighting options. AWESOME

Screenshot (7).png


Word is still a real workhorse for me, despite my LOVE of OneNote I still have a lot of documents such as unit plans and assessment tasks in Word.The inking functions in 2013 were useful, for writing a signature, but it was a bit ‘stiff’ and limited. NOT so anymore, the inking functions are awesome

Screenshot (3)

there is a handy ink to equation function (hiding behind the colour options in the pic above


But even better than that is an AMAZING equations bar that pops up when you are inking formula – I already had the formula/maths add in, but this one is AWESOME (I’m using that word a lot I know….)


This is going to make life WAY easier when I am going Aqueous Chem. Amazeballs

And feedback – why yes, it is there too 🙂



Now, I basically just use powerpoint now to make Office Mixes. Office mix has a pretty good inking feature already, I loved being able to change pens as I wrote and that it inked in live time as I talked.

Now, you can ink much more easily straight into the slides, and convert your ink to shapes too




And you can highlight too – in all of the software.


Even number crunchy Excel got some inking love

Screenshot (4)

There aren’t quite as many options, and I was kind of surprised their is no ink to maths function here… maybe it will be along later. That said, there are all the formulas in excel anyways….


I didn’t think it was possible for my love of OneNote to get any bigger. But it has. The ability to draw the images, flip them round, ink to text and maths, and basically store all my stuff somewhere so I don’t lose it is AMAZING. I honestly don’t know what I did before it

Screenshot (5)

I haven’t even started on all the other awesome features – having the full functionality of word while still being able to collaborate and have multiple users in superb.

The one glitch I had with the install was it did stop my sharepoint sync client working. But that is resolved now – I installed the 64 bit version and everything seems fine. So I am going to keep exploring and playing to see just what else this software can do. But for now, I’m off to reply to e-mails with inking, just cause I can


Posted in surface, Techie stuff

Changing embed sizes for #OfficeMix and learning about the #Sharepoint store

At the end of last year, I blogged about the progress we are making with SharePoint as our LMS but also how I was having some sizing issues with the office mix clips I was trying to embed into the Chemistry SharePoint site. Some other NZ MIEE’s (love your work Nikkie and Ruby) got in touch via twitter and last week we had an impromptu skype date to talk about where we are up to with SharePoint and plans for this year. And, of course cause these guys are AWESOME, I got some super helpful tips. It really has been the best thing about the Microsoft innovative educator expert program, meeting some awesome people, making some great connections and learning from each other.

I am a tad embarrassed I didn’t know about them before – always learning I guess, and by blogging them I won’t forget and hopefully help some-one else who didn’t know either 🙂

  1. resizing embed codes is SO EASY

All you need to do is change the code. I started with the small sized embed code from OfficeMix…

change size

As an aside, how nice is the inking function right there in the snip tool

every embed code has a size – either as a percentage or pixels or inches or whatever. You just need to change it


And you can see, the resulting Mix is small enough that I could fit them side by side, but still plays straight from the SharePoint site, and you can make it bigger. So I am going to play around and get the sizes right so it looks pretty 🙂

Thanks heaps to Nikkie for this tip

2) There is a SharePoint store

Ruby was showing us her AWESOME site, and it had a really cool banner on it. I was all jealous, and asked her how to get it, and found out about the SharePoint store. I’m not quite sure how I missed this… but now that I have found it I’m having some great fun looking through the apps available


So my next goal is to get a banner like Ruby’s up and running…..
So two simple things that might make setting up some SharePoint sites a little easier.
Thanks heaps for your help Nikkie and Ruby – till next time.
Posted in surface, Techie stuff

Putting Office Mix into practice

I blogged about some of the awesome features I learned about with Office Mix here. I have made some mixes before, but they have mostly just utilised the inking feature and screen recordings to demonstrate how to complete exams questions – or one was a slap dash job for #educampdunners that I really wanted to get to and couldn’t.

So I have decided to put some of these ideas into action and make a Mix for my Yr 10 class tomorrow – I am away on a sports exchange and I am not sure which reliever they will get. It was a good chance to have a play and I am hopefully they will like it.

We have been working on forces, so the PhET simulation on forces was a given. But in Mix, there is also an option to add in a Kahn Academy video – and there is a nice, simple 8 minute long video on balanced and unbalanced forces so I have also included that. It was the same process as adding the other apps – just go to the Mix tab, select apps, select Kahn academy and away you go.


I am pretty pleased with the final product – it is not perfect but then what is? And it is perfectly ok for my students to see – in fact I think if it was perfect they wouldn’t trust it was me. I realised after play back I forgot to turn my mic on for the first few slides – so need to remember to do that as the sound quality is much better using the head set than the mic on the pro.

Most importantly for time poor teachers, in all this took me 35 minutes to make – a little longer than just setting some workbook pages perhaps but hopefully much more meaningful relief. I will make sure I ask my class how they found it, and tweak as necessary 🙂 Hopefully they will keep getting better.

Posted in Professional learning, surface

Take home messages from E2

I’ve already done a post which was the basic run through of my week, so this post is more about the thoughts and ideas I have bought back – and how I hope they will impact on my teaching and learning programs, as well as how I can share them with other educators.

The biggest take home message for me that I want to share is that this conference/meeting was not about the tech. While it was an integral part of the week, the tech was so seemlessly integrated that at time it was barely noticeable. I often get funny looks when people walk into my classroom and I’m up the front scrawling on the board talking 10 to the dozen. But sometimes this is the best and fastest way to explore an idea. I saw a wall at Microsoft covered with post it notes (didn’t take a photo as I wasn’t sure if it was free to be shared) I asked about it – it was the planning wall for that group. Post it notes worked well for them, they could be easily re-arranged, sub’ed in and out, and different colours could easily ID different tasks

post it

This isn’t the wall – this is a free to use pic I searched – but it shows the point

but this meeting was so much more than about the tech. It was about empowering ourselves and our learners to BE MORE.

This was especially highlighted in our group task. I found this task incredibly challenging. Collaborating with strangers from different places around the world with different ideologies and background – it was tough. Yet, we got there – via an infusion of different methods (including shouting!!), and our finished product was more polished than I ever could have dreamed of in the short time frame as we did. And what better way to demonstrate the challenges our students face, than by throwing us in the deep end.

2015-04-30 10.23.18

Group 35 – we didn’t win a prize, but we rocked it just the same

Another big message for me was about being courageous. The themes of the conference were bravery, leadership and courage. For me, this focussed in on being courageous. Sometimes, just standing up in front of a class full of students is courageous. Travelling to another country and putting yourself out there is certainly courageous. Being able to say ‘oops, I stuffed up, how can I put it right’ takes courage. I liked the idea of courage over bravery – again linking back to the group task. When we were talking about bravery, it meant something slightly different to everyone in their different language – the most being common was ‘to stand’. I guess, rightly or wrongly, bravery for me is linked to the idea of fighting, and being immovable, where as courageous is more flexible, while still promoting positive action and change.

The best session in terms of applicable learning for me was from Josh and Steve on building capacity for success. You can see some of my hand written scrawls below.


This session really hit home for me – and gave me the most ideas to come home with. It wasn’t just about student success either. A large concern for me at the moment is the different in competencies within the staff of my school. Some are racing ahead with technology, others are making amazing learning programs with great thought to pedagogy and planning, while other still seems to be trapped in a paper work haze. How can I (and the SLT and department leaders etc) ensure that all the other teachers in my school feel that they can be successful in their jobs. How can I encourage and empower them to embrace a more collaborative and open approach to teaching and learning? As teacher we need to have trust and belief in ourselves and in our colleagues if we are going to embrace positive change for our classrooms and students.

My final impression was the challenge, but also the celebration. I think (and maybe this is a New Zealand thing in particular) we are terrible at celebrating success and our genius. I was embarrassed to wear my OneNote cap when I got back to school, cautious about showing off my yellow ‘inspirational’ ribbons and I didn’t even get a mention from our senior leaders when I got back. We celebrate sporting success to the hilt, but we don’t always celebrate teachers and learners the way we should. Some-where there must be a happy medium of celebration and modesty, but as teachers we were celebrated in Redmond. And not just those of us lucky enough to attend, but all teachers everywhere through us all sharing stories of challenges and successes we are working through. Education is a global solution to many problems the world is facing, and too often we take our excellent education system for granted. Hearing of the challenges other educators faced with such passion, courage and I’ll be damned determination was amazingly inspiring. This was also the message I took from Ziauddin, who has fought so hard for education for Girls and Boys in his home country.

So rock on teacher out there, you are changing my world, and I am challenging myself to do the same

2015-05-02 14.51.50

Posted in surface, Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff

Exploring Office Mix – some awesome features

During my trip to Seattle for the Microsoft Global Educators Exchange, I got the opportunity to explore some of the features of Office Mix. Part of this was filming a Quick Tip video on how to embed PHeT animations into an Office Mix presentation, and then I attended a flipped classroom session where more Microsoft software that can help, including how Office Mix can help. Steve Martin from Howick College showed an exceptional Mix that one of his staff had made – featuring him with a gopro at the gym to talk about heart rates. So I am going to have to up my game. Hopefully some of these features will help me get my Mix ON.

Embedding PhET Animations

Embedding a PhET in an office Mix is really straight forward, and takes about 4 clicks (although one is a slightly annoying ‘trust it’ click). To do this, you simply go to the mix tab, select insert quizzes, videos and app, chose PhET animations, trust it, then chose the animation/simulation you want. Simple as that


 Embedding a screen recording

It is really simple to put a screen recording into your Office mix – just click the link, and it will take you straight to where you want to record – with audio options. It is really easy screen capture. Then it automatically embeds straight into the Office Mix


Live Web Page

All you need to do is go to the quizzes videos apps, select live web viewer, and you a ready to roll. The web page you are using does need to be able to use https/ must be a secure site to work – so some sites might not work in this format – but it is still a handy way to direct students to particular sites – maybe to start a research project – or get them to complete a particular activity online without leaving the rest of the lesson.


So a tool I am already enjoying using just got a whole lot more useful, and I am really looking forward to exploring these other options.

Posted in surface, Teaching and Learning

What story am I trying to tell?

Presenting is something that most teacher do often. Whether we realise it or not – and sometimes even if we are directly trying to do less of it – we are often standing in front of people trying to tell a story.


2015-03-16 15.13.29


This is me doing what I do way too often 🙂

I have been thinking about lately about how I use presentations in my class. Mostly due to some lovely, diligent Yr 13’s who panic every time I move a slide if they haven’t written down every word I have written. I have thought about all that I have learned around using text in lessons. Our student learning support often reminds staff not to talk while students are copying down notes as many students will struggle to copy and listen. I have heard time and time again, most recently from Travis Smith, that if students (or anyone for that matter) are worried about just copying down verbatum they can’t process the information at the same time and so struggling to make connections.

And making connections is a big part of what I am trying to do.

Yet I still make power points, and talk around them while students frantically try to copy it down. And then run into the frustrating problem of some writing faster than others.



Even with the surface to write on as I present – it still just looks like a slide with lots of text.

So it was very timely that on Tuesday I had a session (via Lync and courtesy of the Microsoft Innovative Educator program I am involved with) on making fantabulous presentations from the amazing Pip Cleaves. It was full of some amazing tips and tricks for making engaging presentations – some of the things that stuck out especially for me were

1) this quote

“Humans are completely incapable of reading and comprehending text on a screen and listening to a speaker at the same time. Therefore, lots of text (almost any text!), and long, complete sentences are bad, Bad, BAD.”

Garr Reynolds

Case in point – lots of my presentations are bad, Bad, BAD

2) Be explicit. Have a theme and stick to it. Tell your ‘audience’ where you are going – (but does this then limit the ability for them to figure out the answers for themselves….???? I guess it depends). Think about your presentation in terms of headlines and graphics – not bullet points.

On this point, Pip did talk about the purpose of your presentation. If it is YOUR presentation – then it is perfectly acceptable for it to make no sense if you are not there to present it. But if it is to make information available at a later date – then maybe make a presentation or notes or site with the info on it as a separate thing to your presentation, or record your talk as you do it using Office mix or another tool.

3) If you are focussing on visuals – find some nice images and fonts and make sure they are free to use. There was a huge number of sties Pip introduced us too – here are some of my favourites after a very quick look.

Photo Pin


And for fonts, check FontSquirrel

But back to thinking about what I am doing in class. Using power point the way I am sometimes, I have essentially done nothing to change practice from 100 years ago – here are some notes, take them down in silence. Even if I share the PowerPoint (sometimes even ahead of time) there is still the expectation they need every word from the slides rather than every word I am saying.

And there is the flipside – there is sadly a lot of content to cover, especially in NCEA/senior high school subjects. Students do just need to know a whole heap of stuff. What is the best way to get all this stuff into them. Give them the notes – how do you know the read them? Make a PowerPoint with 100’s of words each slide – they might write them down but did they understand them? Make videos or use Office Mix – but then do I go with visuals or notes? Writing frames? Picture dictation? 3 level reading guides? Any other number of class room activities?
Most importantly, how to I accommodate all the different learners, but in particular my incredibly diligent students that have been trained that if they quietly write notes and practice writing out model answers they are doing all they need to. How can I slowly remove them from their comfort zone to realise there is something out there way more important that getting a good grade.

7839599598_e5c0b51109_mI want my students to see things differently

image source: photo credit: <a href=”″>The Importance of Vision</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>(license)</a&gt;



So for next term I’m going to have a think about the purpose of my presentations. If it is for crowd control style content delivery – I’m going to find another tactic. Whether it be putting the notes online or making an Office Mix recording or simply photocopying masses off paper – I am not going to use ‘presentations’ in class to deliver mass content. I want them to tell the story of why that content is important – whether than be because the step from Organic Chemicals being able to be synthesised in the lab gave way to all the plastic in the world or how DNA and proteins are far more interesting polymers than mere mortal men could ever dream up or how Alexis St Martin was a living experiment that paved the way for early digestive Science after a near fatal gun shot wound.

Because those are the stories I think are worth telling.

Posted in surface, Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff

Moving on up with OneNote

Last year I meet with some members of my department and the social sciences department about using OneNote for their classes. I had been playing around with Microsoft OneNote for my junior classes and had found it user friendly, versatile and really useful for getting different types of information across. You can easily embed word documents, PowerPoint or Office Mix presentations, and even just record a voice over or video into the pages. Microsoft Onenote makes a lot of sense to me and how we organise our Science topics at our school.

It became a department goal for the Science Department in 2015 that each ‘subject’ developed one OneNote for either a class or a topic throughout the year. So far, I have been really impressed with what we have come up with.

For Chemistry, we have started at Level 2. Neither B.H or I were overly happy with the text book for the internals last year, so we have had a crack at making our own for the 3 internal assessments, while still using a purchased workbook for the externally assessed standards.

chem   chem 2  chem3

The Chem book is still a little text book like – mostly text with some areas for students to work on, a few diagrams and some links to youtube clips. But it has been easy to put together and my colleague (with all due respect to his effort) is less confident using technology but has been going great guns.

Our biggest issues was getting the sharing permissions sorted – we are still having issues between work e-mail and the microsoft e-mail that we had to set up to log onto the devices. But we have plugged away and have got most of the syncing issues sorted now.

Biology has really taken OneNote and run with it, and I am super impressed with what they have achieved. The Biology Onenote is full of interactive activities and also has a page for each student to submit work and gain feedback.

ryan student feedback  eg digital text book

So for us, Microsoft OneNote has slotted in really well, has been easy to use and is making a difference for our students. Users are gaining confidence and are trying new things which is putting a more personal spin on how they are using it. We are not a BYOD school but more and more senior students are bringing their own devices to class and being able to store the OneNotes in the cloud is making student access very easy via their own devices or the school laptop pods.

Out next step is to get class book creator set up – There is some PD happening on the 18th of March, which will also help us get Sites up and running for each of our subjects so we can share documents between ourselves and out students more easily.

All in all, some awesome progress on the OneNote front 🙂