Office Lens – Windows universal app is here!

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It has finally happened – the Office Lens team have released the universal Windows 10 app version of Office Lens.

And it’s great!

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I was fortunate enough to get access to the early release preview and have been using it at a conference for the last few days.  It has all the features of the IOS version, but for your windows device.  For me, this meant my Surface became oh so much more usable as an aggregator of information when note taking – no more using the phone to send the photo to the cloud and then pull that image down to my main device.  Instead, it all happens in one place, almost seamlessly.

For those who aren’t in the know, Office Lens is a photo/scanner/whiteboard/document capture and transform app.  When you open the app on your windows device it is immediately ready to take the first image.  At the right of the app, the scanner icon allows access to the options for the document types:

  • Photo – takes an unedited or manipulated photo
  • Document – captures a corrected image of a document
  • Whiteboard – captures a corrected image of a whiteboard, also cleaning the background to pure white
  • Business card – which captures the corrected image as well as the contact information ready to add to your address book

Very cleverly, the app detects the edges of the document, whiteboard or app in the view of the camera, and after taking the photo, the edges are cropped out, and the document transformed to rectangular.

By default, touching the screen will take the photo – which may well not be what you want, especially if you have used the IOS version.  If you are used to focusing the image first, then taking the photo, you will need to adjust the settings – like most Windows apps, the … icon in the bottom right accessing the settings.  Under the General tab, there is the option to turn off “Tap to take photo”, along with the ability to change the camera or the resolution of images taken.  If you choose to turn off the “Tap to take photo”, only pressing the “camera” icon will take the photo – just like the IOS version of the app.

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Also in the settings area is the ability to import previously taken images from your camera roll – very good for fixing any images you took before getting the app!

If for some reason the Office Lens app doesn’t detect the document correctly, pressing the resize button allows the user to drag the document selector to the “correct area” which will then be cropped and transformed after hitting done.

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You can also change the processing type on this edit screen by hitting the “scanner” icon. To round out the options, you can trash the image (if it’s terrible!) and name the individual image of a series of images you have taken before you save.  Unlike the IOS version, there is no way to rotate an image currently, but I expect this will be an update to the app very soon – in the meantime you need to do this in the software you end up using the image in.

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When you save the image (or images!) the current options are OneNote, OneDrive, Word, PowerPoint, PDF (all of which require internet access) or to the local image Gallery.  A nice feature is you can use the checkboxes to send an image to more than one file type at once – very cool!

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In this very connected world, I understand that most options require internet.  However, for my testing I was at a conference with very dubious internet connectivity, and so being able to save to the local image Gallery meant I could still use it seamlessly on my device.  After I took the image, and saved it to my Gallery, tapping the image in my recent uploads opened it in photo viewer, where I could right click, copy and then paste into my notes to mash up with annotations and drawing.  I do wish I could copy the image directly from within Office Lens, and hopefully this might be enabled in future updates.

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I really like the usability of the new Office Lens for windows on a larger device, compared to my IOS experience on a phone.  As my Surface is my primary device, there is something just right about being able to do everything I need in one place, and changing the occasional snap points with big fingers on a big screen works much more accurately than on a phone.

When connected to a wireless network (which face it is most of the time!), a little bit of cloud workflow planning and management can pay huge dividends.  I’m a big OneNote user, because I like being able to annotate over digital artefacts.  But finding the right OneNote and then the right section to store the page can be difficult.  So I have created a OneNote Notebook especially for Office Lens (both for my IOS and Windows devices now!), very imaginatively called “Office Lens Synch”.  The first time I ever saved to OneNote from Office Lens, I navigated to the “New Section 1” folder within this Notebook and now whenever I save to OneNote, I know this is where it will go – no thinking needed – So when I open OneNote on my computer, I just go to the Office Lens Synch Notebook, and after a few seconds my document is there and waiting as a new page.

I also like the ability to turn an image into a PowerPoint slide (it gives three slides for each image – the photo, a slightly rendered photo, and one turned entirely into drawing objects), a PDF (perfect for sending a scan of anything to anyone), or even a Word document.  In business card mode, the fact it gives the image of the card plus all the extracted contact information is massive (especially at a conference) and a really great time saver.  But for me, it’s the OneNote and basic image tools that are the reasons I keep coming back to Office Lens time and time again.

Now if the Office Lens team could just turn it into a nifty little self hiding floating toolbar like the Snip tool that came out of the Microsoft garage project, I would just be in digitising heaven!  For the time being though, pinning it to my task bar (right click, pin to task bar) has it in reach for whenever I need to take a screen, document, whiteboard, business card or anything else and turn it in to a usable digital artifact.

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You can download the new Office Lens app for Windows from the store: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/p/office-lens/9wzdncrfj3t8

 

Office Lens for IOS – app update

Multiple image (page) files, handwriting OCR, image rotation – Office Lens for IOS just got a whole lot better!

I have been a big fan of Office Lens, ever since I was introduced to it at the E2 event in Seattle in 2014.  For the uninitiated, it is an App available for Windows, Android and Apple phones, available in their respective app stores.  Its main purpose is to digitise documents, screens, whiteboards and business cards, with some very clever smarts that detect document edges, crop the surrounding image, correct/straighten/transform the document to a regular rectangle or square, and then export the image to a range of file types.

The Apple (IOS) version of the app has just received a major update, with some amazing features that have come about because of user requests.  Having had time to play with a pre-release build, I thought it would be worthwhile to document all of the features of the updated app.  I will also make some suggestions on how to maximise the use of the app in the context of education and with a stylus based device that the user can annotate with.  It’s the mash up of high quality digital artefacts with low fidelity but fluid digital annotations that really excites me, and this update has opened my eyes to some new possibilities.

When you open the app on your iPad or iPhone, it is immediately ready to take the first image.  Along the bottom are the options for the document types:

  • Business card – which captures the corrected image as well as the contact information ready to add to your address book (includes simplified Chinese recognition in this release)
  • Photo – takes an unedited or manipulated photo
  • Document – captures a corrected image of a document
  • Whiteboard – captures a corrected image of a whiteboard, also cleaning the background to pure white

Very cleverly, the app detects the edges of the document in the view of the camera, and after taking the photo, the edges are cropped out, and the document transformed to a rectangle.

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If for some reason the image doesn’t detect the document correctly, pressing the rotate/resize button towards teh top right allows the user to drag the document selector to the “correct area” which will then be cropped and transformed after hitting done.  If the image needs rotation, at the bottom right is the new rotate button to do just this.

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Once the image is transformed and cropped, the final step is to export it, in a number of available file types – OneNote, OneDrive (as an image), Word, PowerPoint, Outlook (as an image attachment), PDF (saved to OneDrive), Mail (as an image attachment) or the Photo Library (as an image).

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This is where a little bit of workflow planning and management can pay huge dividends.  I’m a big OneNote user; as I mentioned at the start I like  being able to annotate over digital artefacts.  But finding the right OneNote notebook and then the right section to store the page can be difficult – especially if the internet connection to the phone isn’t great.  So I have created a OneNote Notebook especially for Office Lens, very imaginatively called “Office Lens Synch”.  The first time I ever saved to OneNote from Office Lens, I navigated to the “New Section 1” folder within this Notebook stored on my OneDrive and now whenever I save to OneNote, I know this is where it will go – no thinking needed.

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And this means when I open OneNote on my computer, I just go to the Office Lens Synch Notebook, and after a few seconds my document is there and waiting as a new page.

Excitingly, the new version of the app also alows the handwritten text to be converted to typed text, by right clicking on the image and copying the text from the picture.  The recognition is only as good as the handwriting is, but there are some interesting possibilities.

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When docx, pptx or pdf files are saved to OneDrive from the Office Lens app, they automatically go to the My Photos>Documents>Office Lens folder.  So again, with workflow in mind, I have mapped this folder to my computer so that it is automatically synchronised.  This means that as soon as I hit save, these are nearly instantly available on my computer where I want them.

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The real game changer with the new update to the Office Lens App, is the ability to take photos of a multi-page document, and have it saved as a single file.  After taking the first image and it is cropped and transformed, simply press the +1 button at the bottom left, and take the next photo(s).  When you are finished, hit the “done” button and you can then save them all – in any of the previously mentioned file types.  This is great for digitising handouts or student draft work, ready for distribution as a pdf/pptx or straight into OneNote for annotating feedback on.  The PowerPoint file type gives you some addition functionality, saving each image in three forms – the original photo, an image with the background cleaned up, and finally an image with objects mapped as editable vector objects.  This makes turning the digital document(s) into a presentation a snap.

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The update for Office Lens for IOS is really quite amazing, and with some careful thinking of workflow utilising OneDrive and OneNote, it can really be a game changer.  It is quite honestly the most used app on my phone after straight internet browsing and email.  I just hope sometime soon we see a Windows 10 app with the same functionality and more – this would really make my Surface a one stop device for education.

Cloudy or clear skies – education must go on

Over the last twelve months I have seen a lot of effort by technology companies and a lot of reference by educators about the move to the “cloud” and “cloud computing” being a game changer for the education space.  I totally agree.

But.

Becoming totally reliant the “cloud” is a really bad thing.  It is important that the devices, apps and software all are able to work in their own right, whether connected or not.  Technology companies and education decision makers are forgetting that education MUST go on, regardless.  And whilst we get guarantees like 99.99% up time, and next business day SLAs – what about the 0.01% and the four days between Friday morning and Monday afternoon if a critical network device “goes down”.  What about if the trans-pacific fibre connection gets cut again, or a backhoe goes through the main school (or home connection) and our internet speed approaches zero.  Does education stop?  Should we stop using technology just because the cloud has gone away and the skies are clear?

Looking at the most recent offerings of one of the great technology companies, it seems like there are two pathway the internal developers are taking for Microsoft.  In my opinion, one is the right path – the other is not in educations best interest.

Any long time reader knows that I am a fan of the Surface family of devices and paired with OneDrive and O365, this is the right path.  When connected to the cloud everything just works.  When not connected (and even if the power goes out) it all still works (especially with the awesome extended battery life of Win10).  Plan B is just to keep going and when the cloud comes back, everything just sorts itself out.  The local apps, software, storage and processing is key to this working – sure you may lose some bells and whistles and “add ins” – but core functionality is maintained.  OneNote, Word, Excel and PowerPoint all work perfectly, and even the internet leveraging Office Mix (and the related awesome new Snip tool), and OneNote Class Notebook just keep going.

In contrast, Sway (technically part of O365 now) and Photosynth (the new version replacing the phone app and the panorama part of the camera app in Win8.1) are only able to be used and leveraged when connected to the cloud.  I love both of these new tools, don’t get me wrong, I just hope that the continuing development sees at least a subset of the functionality able to be utilised when not connected.

Technology companies and educational decision makers need to always remember that technology is part of our education, and when used, education still must be able to continue, regardless of the technological weather.

Surface 3 – Hands on first look

Back in October, I reviewed my brand new Surface Pro 3. I’ve used it every day ever since – and love it! It’s a great piece of hardware that is perfect for teacher/student/learning, in an awesome stylus enabled form factor. You can read my thoughts here: https://educationstylus.com/2014/10/30/microsoft-surface-pro-3-two-weeks-on/ 20150513_223538284_iOSEarlier in the week the Surface Pro 3’s (left) little brother, the new Surface 3 (right), arrived, so it seems only fitting that I review this in a similar way.   The model I received is the 64G SSD storage with 2G of RAM (there is also a 128G/4G version available).  The Surface 3 is obviously from the same Surface family, but in reality has a couple of big differences.

20150513_224223723_iOS 20150513_223637873_iOSFirstly, the form factor is much smaller – 10” instead of 12”. This makes it a lot lighter and more portable, but also means the keyboard is a little compressed, which is less comfortable for my big hands. That said, I’m typing this review on the Surface 3 and can comfortably touch type on the keyboard – it’s just not as nice (read “big”) as its big brother. But this is a small price to pay for the iPad like form factor – walking around the class projecting wirelessly whilst using all its features is easy and seamless. The screen is obviously that little bit smaller, but still is muti-touch enabled, as well as being active stylus enabled using the same accurate N-trig system and same stylus as on the SP3. The performance is identical, and amazing – as I said in the SP3 review:

And the stylus is just wonderful. Out of the box calibration is perfect, both for touch and stylus, and the purple button on the top of the stylus is not the gimmick I first thought it was – one click opens OneNote (even from sleep without unlocking) which allows a note to be taken – as fast as it would be to pull out a pad. Two clicks takes a screen capture and puts this in OneNote, which allows for annotation over anything!”

The second big difference is the processor, being from the atom family – obviously this a less powerful and capable processor (1.6GHz with 2.0GHz burst speed). This has big dividends in the battery life, as it is not power hungry – but the downside is it won’t cope with huge processing tasks, or a number of resource using applications all running at once. I’m yet to do some serious testing on this (I’ll do this is a follow up article) but in initial tests it is coping with some complex Excel spreadsheets and can render 3D graphics from the Human Body app. I have tested the battery life that results from the less power hungry processor and it is amazing – I’m easily getting 8-9 hours!

Like its big brother, the Surface 3 has a rear facing and front facing camera. Unlike its big brother, the rear facing camera on the Surface 3 is really great, being an autofocus lens, taking photos, scanning documents and recording detailed video is now an easy possibility – I’m really impressed by this, and this certainly is a massive plus for a device aimed at students, as digitising content to then annotate/mark up is really easy and efficient. It even does well close up (macro); the possibilities of which excite this science teacher.  Below are two photos taking with the Surface 3 – my iPhone, and the keyboard of my SP3 – no cropping or editing on either!

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I was also amazed at the ease of the setup process. Once I unboxed it and started it up, the first job was to connect to the wireless and then sign in with my Microsoft account. Once signed in, it recognised I had my other Surface Pro 3, and asked if I wanted the setting transferred – I said yes, and about 15 minutes later it was ready go – with all my bookmarks, network drives, wireless networks (home and work), OneDrive accounts and even apps transferred and ready to use. Talk about easy! I’ve also noticed that because the two devices are linked, if I do a web search on one, the search terms transfer to the other in the recent searched terms, and new bookmarks also transfer across – it is a seamless working experience. This also excites me from a student perspective, as I now know that if their device needs to be replaced, they will be up and running, “as they were” within 30 mins of getting a the new device – of course assuming that they are using a Microsoft account and OneDrive.

On the downside (there always is one!) I have three minor issues. Issue one is the charge connector has changed again, to something I haven’t seen before, but it clips in. I really like the magnetic attached connector, especially for students as it means the device can’t be dragged off a table if someone walks through the lead. I would have also thought that some constancy would make sense – but I am sure there is a reason somewhere for the change.

Edit (16/5): The charger port on the Surface 3 is actually a micro USB; this is incredibly useful as it’s available almost anywhere – there was a very logical reason for the change!  It would still be great if it was magnetic somehow…

On the plus side, the lead is USB on the “power plug” end, which means very universal charging opportunities in this day and age. Speaking again of consistency, the location of the volume button control and headphone connector are different between the Surface Pro 3 and the new Surface 3 – no big issue in reality, but again I would expect consistency. Finally the kick stand – I get the reason for the three positions, especially with students, but I can’t believe it doesn’t fully rotate to make the awesome angled tablet experience of the SP3 on a desk.

That all said, this device has a big tick from me – especially for the target education market. The form factor is amazing for mobility, the stylus and touch response is flawless, the screen is gorgeous, its battery life amazing and it has a camera that can really do the job. Whilst my SP3 will still be my main machine, I think the Surface 3 will be my classroom teaching machine from now on, given its wonderful roam around the class form factor. It certainly is a machine I will be recommended for students, and I believe I have also found the perfect machine for my Dad, who is a builder wanting to go digital with all his diary, email, project management and plan annotation.

Now I have a big personal decision to make – I need to decide whether to install Windows 10 Beta and Office 2016 Preview on my Surface Pro 3….. I think it might just be time.

Office Lens – a scanner and image corrector for your phone

I think I may have been living under a rock, but last week at the E2 conference in Seattle I saw the Office Lens app demonstrated by one of the presenters. Simply, this is an app for iOS, Windows 8, or Android phones that turns your phone into a nifty document, screen and whiteboard scanner – with the smarts to both crop the extra “rubbish” out of the background, as well as correct the image for any angle the image is taken at, producing a rectangular, cropped image ready to insert into the document of your choice.

OfficeLens1Once the app is started, the preview shows the screen or document that is detected with a white boarder, as well as greying out the rest of the screen. In the image above, I am using my work iOS phone to photograph my windows 8 machine screen. Notice I have “whiteboard” selected – that doesn’t matter, as I just corrected this after the photo was taken changing it to “document”.

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Once taken, the image is automatically cropped and transformed. If somehow the detection is wrong, pressing the “crop” icon at the top right, allows you to choose the four corners of the document or screen in the original photo, and then the image will be reprocessed using these as the crop and transform points.

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When you select “Done” the file is then exported to wherever you need – I typically save it straight to OneDrive, then it is available to insert wherever I need it.  This is the resulting cropped and transformed image. Quite slick!

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It also has “whiteboard” mode – here is an original photo of a whiteboard:

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And the cropped and transformed image – notice the whiteboard is “white” and the colours more vibrant. You can also see just how dirty the whiteboard is!

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Finally a true document. The original photo:

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And the resulting cropped and transformed image:

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There is more good news – you don’t even have to take the photo in the app – you can import photos you have on your camera roll, and apply the process – this is great for any photos you take of PowerPoint slides at conferences.

So, if you too have been living under a rock, I encourage you to check out the Office Lens app for your smart phone – it really does help in digitising documents in your world, and lets face it, once they are digitised they are usable, searchable and digitally annotatable!

Windows phone – http://www.windowsphone.com/en-au/store/app/office-lens/5681f21c-f257-4d62-83f5-5341788a5077

iOS – https://itunes.apple.com/app/office-lens/id975925059

Android – http://aka.ms/officelensandroid

Storing and making sense of grades – Excel to the rescue

In this article, I want to show a few tricks to help you with the storing and calculating of marks and grades. Then, I want to show you the exciting stuff – how with a few simple processes you can visualise the marks book in a way that helps you see meaning and an individual story for each and every student.

MarkbookGuttman As I write this we are starting term 2, having just finished the intense assessment period that schools seem to go through just before the start of any “holiday”. As usual, this means marks books are getting filled, comments crafted and reports written. A lot of teachers use Microsoft Excel to store the marks and grades for their students – as such, I am going to assume that you:

  1. Understand the letter based co-ordinate system for excel (Letters for columns, numbers for rows, so you end up with a letter:number co-ordinate such as G12)
  2. Know how enter data into Excel
  3. Know how to format a cell with a background and/or border, font size, column height, column width, text alignment/wrap and so on

If you don’t, I suggest you have a look at the inbuilt Excel help or an Excel training materials at Microsoft Office support: https://support.office.com/en-au/article/Excel-2013-training-courses-videos-and-tutorials-aaae974d-3f47-41d9-895e-97a71c2e8a4a?ui=en-US&rs=en-AU&ad=AU

Formula

Once we have our raw data into a spreadsheet, there are some really simple formula we can use to help us know a bit more about our data set. In Excel, to enter a formula you start with the equals sign “=” and then write the syntax of the formula that you need. The important formula that help us create summary information about a class are:

Name Description Formula Example
Count “Counts” how many values there are in a range of cells =COUNT(cell_range) =COUNT(E6:E27)
Average Returns the mean value from a range of cells =AVERAGE(cell_range) =AVERAGE(E6:E27)
Standard Deviation (St Dev) Returns the standard deviation from a range of cells =STDEV(cell_range) =STDEV(E6:E27)
Median Returns the median value from a range of cells =MEDIAN(cell_range) =MEDIAN(E6:E27)
Rank Returns the position in the rank order of a cell value from within a range =RANK(cell,cell_range) =RANK(E30,$E$30:$L$30)

Note: the “$” symbol in a cell range forces the cell range reference to stay the same when copied to other cells – it means that a dynamic formula can be dragged through a cell range, but the cell range reference stay the same.

If each of these are used for an assessment item or criteria, important information about a class can be understood. Here is an example worksheet that is produced using a combination of these formula. You can also download the full Excel workbook at the end of this article – this is the “Markbook” tab.

MarkbookYou can see here that there have been two assessments – an assignment with three criteria, and an exam with five criteria. Each criteria is graded on a 1-15 scale (A+ to E-). By converting these letters to numbers, the mathematics that the formulas use in Excel work! The students are ordered in student number order, and at the bottom, you can see the summary information. The Standard Deviation gives a sense of the spread of values within the class, whilst the average gives an indication of how hard each criteria is – the higher the value, the easier the criteria was for the class – and this was used to determine the difficulty rank in the third row. There is also overall and criteria summary grades to the right, and these are calculated by multiplying each criteria result by the weighting to get a total weighted score, and then converting this back to a 1-15 scale.

Many of us have mark or grade books that look like this – but with a little extra work using some neat tools in Excel, we can make them really show the story hiding in the numbers.

Guttman Pattern (or progression)

Before we expose the story within the spreadsheet, I need to explain an idea put forward by Louis Guttman, who did a lot of work on testing and test results. He found that if you determined the difficulty of each question in a test, and then ordered the students responses from highest performing to lowest performing, and the questions from easiest to hardest, a typical triangle pattern emerged. It is along the edge of the triangle that we see the zone of proximal development for each student – the point at which the questions become too hard and intervention (learning and teaching!) is needed.

Guttman

Whilst the focus that Guttman made is on a test, it is my belief that the same approach can be used on a mark or grade book of aggregated data. The approach I am suggesting is very simplistic, and doesn’t use any of the psychometric principles or mathematics (which are really neat BTW) that are used when doing this for a test, but the story that emerges is quite interesting.

Guttman pattern in Microsoft Excel

Making a Guttman pattern from our marks book is really quite simple. The first step is to reorder the criteria columns so they go from easiest to hardest – this is done by selecting the whole column ad moving it, using the “Difficulty” rank based on the class average.

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Once this is done. The students need to be ordered from highest to lowest overall mark, simply by selecting all the data and using the sort command.

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Finally, some colour coding the cells using conditional formatting allows the patterns to really come out.  I have used a gradient of dark red to light red for low scores, white for the middle values, and light green to dark green for higher scores.  This really brings the data to life in a visual way.

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Now whilst this approach is technically not following the true psychometric principles for creating a Guttman chart, nor is it using the Guttman chart as designed (for a single test) – in my opinion, it paints (quite literally) an really interesting picture and allows the data to “speak” to us, prompting questions, further investigations and discussion.

MarkbookGuttman

In the example above the zone of proximal development for the class across the criteria becomes very obvious.  This can be used by the teacher in planning and delivering the teaching and learning program.  Additionally, there is an individual story for each of the students; consider the top three students (11, 19 and 20), who obviously have a scientific communication weakness or gap that needs filling. Or the fourth student (student 2) who really excelled at the hardest criteria for the class, but needs to work on their approach to science mathematics. Or student 14 who has a distinct weakness in the easiest item for the class, around displaying data. Each student has their own individual story, strengths and weaknesses that visually become evident.

I really encourage you to have a look at what Excel can do for you, and how you can unlock the story sitting within your mark books. When we do this, for each individual student, specific patterns and priorities emerge – and this allows for focused discussion and intervention with each of them. And after all, isn’t developing and educating students what we are all about as teachers, and shouldn’t technology make this easier?

Here is the Excel file that has the marks book and Guttman patterned marksbook in it for you to download:  ExcelMarkbookExample 

Microsoft Mix – hands on

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know I am a big fan of TechSmith Camtasia, and this is my normal go to when recording video content. However, I’m in the process of writing a training course for teachers on creating video content, and wanted an easier entry point. Enter Microsoft Mix.

mixMicrosoft mix is a free add-in for Microsoft PowerPoint, which works with 0365 and 2013 versions. You just need to go to the Microsoft mix website http://mix.office.com and download it. Once installed, you get a nifty new toolbar in PowerPoint called, you guessed it, MIX.

To test it out, I thought I would make a video showing how to make template pages in OneNote – a follow on from my last blog entry.

Recording

Before you start, you need to get your head around the “recording” being a PowerPoint presentation. If you are just recording a video, you’ll need a single slide. If you plant to present a presentation, you’ll need the presentation prepared. If you want multiple “clips” or “shots” you’ll need a slide for each. For my demonstration, I needed three slides – the introduction video, the screen capture, and the closing video.

To record, you use the MIX toolbar to record either:

  1. Over the existing slide with annotation and with or without video, that can also take up the whole screen
  2. A screen capture

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When you record over a slide, you can:

  1. Annotate in a range of colours
  2. Record audio and video from whatever source you want, and adjust the recording volume easily.
  3. You can also record the video full screen and
  4. in hi-definition if you want, selecting the option from the tools menu

MixRecord

I found recording very easy, as was deleting my inevitable false starts! Recording the screen was just as easy, and once started all I had to really think about was my interaction with the screen.

Editing

Again I had to get my head around it being a PowerPoint presentation. Fortunately, I’ve edited video in PowerPoint before so once I realised I just needed to edit each of my videos I was home free. From the Video Tools>>Playback menu:

  1. The video volume can be adjusted
  2. Fades added to the start and/or end
  3. The video trimmed

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Trimming the video is a good idea, especially if you have paused at the start or end.

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You can also add clipart over the slides – I did a lower third title bar on the first slide with a text box and a graphic. Finally, slide transitions can be used to finesse your final product – I used a fade between slides. Once finished, exporting to video or uploading as a “mix” to the Microsoft Mix site is also very easy. I haven’t touched on advanced features such as quizzing or analytics, but that’s also possible with Mix, a great benefit for teachers, and the topic of another article at another time!

The Positives

Creating/Making/Recording a “mix” is very easy. There are very few options to choose from, the recording process is simple, and editing within PowerPoint is quite straight forward. As a starting point for teachers, I couldn’t recommend it highly enough – and if the teachers have PowerPoint presentations already, creating a flipped classroom lesson should be very straight forward. The purpose of my evaluation was to work out if this was going to be part of the training course I’m writing and the answer to that is a resounding “yes!”

The negatives

The simplicity of Microsoft Mix is also its downfall for me. I wanted better video editing that just trimming the start and end (I know I could copy the video over multiple slides, and trim each section, but that just gets clunky). Part of me likes the rawness that results from a “warts and all” video, but the perfectionist in me cringes a little. I also wanted better audio editing – there is no fine volume levelling control, nor is there the ability to do noise removal – I know a lot of this has been sorted out by the software during recording, but again the perfectionist in me wanted a bit more control. When screen recording, I didn’t like that the “mix recording bar” was also recorded, and I couldn’t do anything to zoom or highlight key items in from my screen. Finally, the single “track” that you get to edit, using slides as a kind of keyframe marker, is another deficiency – I’m used to far more control over video elements.

The final word

Microsoft Mix is a superb way for students and educators to enter into video recording, leveraging existing content and using a very simple interface for slide, annotation, video and screen recording. The fact it is based on PowerPoint, software that most staff and students already use, is a major plus. Get this in your toolkit!

The video

Here is the video I made – using templates in OneNote.  Recorded on a Surface Pro 3, using a Logitech C920 for video and a Blue Yeti microphone.  You can play it below or find it on YouTube: http://youtu.be/gqKnzeQZLjc