Tag Archives: microsoft

Classroom Tech, Part V: PowerPoint

I’m in the middle of a series of posts outlining how I plan on using technology during the coming school year. I’ll share some tools, resources, and ideas that I intend to use with students in the classroom, and hopefully you, the reader, will share some advice or thoughts of your own, either in the comments section, or on your own blog (just let me know if you do!).

This next tech tool is nothing new to any of us, and at this point, it barely counts as “technology.” The use of PowerPoint in schools has a long and sordid history, dating back at least to when I was in high school. So it’s not necessarily the tool that I’m focusing on here, but the way in which the tool is used. Over the last year, I’ve been frequently exposed to blog posts, seminars, books, and other resources on making learning visual. PowerPoint, originally, was supposed to help with this. Unfortunately, it has become a tool for presenters/teachers rather than for learners. Rather than spend a lot of time sharing ideas, I want to sum up the concepts that I’ve learned and share some valuable resources for using PowerPoint to make learning more visual.


  • Much of the learning I’ve done centers around using lots of images and minimizing text when using presentation software. To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, check out the following two examples. First, the “old” way of doing PowerPoint (or, “what not to do):

    And now, the “new” way of doing PowerPoint (pay attention to the visual:text ratios):
  • The core concept for successfully using PowerPoint is to connect what you are saying to some simple, concrete imagery. Allow the images and visuals to add to what you are saying; let your audience make connections of their own between your words and the visuals in your PowerPoint.
  • Photos are infinitely more meaningful to audiences than clip art. Take the images below, for example. Both might connect to my main idea of “baseball,” but I think we can all agree that the photo is far more visually appealing and meaningful than the clip art.








  • Many of the concepts I’ve learned about are nicely captured in Garr Reynolds’ book, Presentation Zen. This is the key piece of literature for those looking to become better presenters. It focuses a little more on the theoretical aspects of presenting, but is an all-around good read.
  • Some other books and resources for the theory behind better presentations: A Whole New Mind by Daniel H. Pink, which focuses on brain research and visual thinking, and Slide:ology by Nancy Duarte, which focuses a little more on the practical side of presentation creation.
  • In addition to those books, here are a few online resources to help get you started in creating “zen” presentations:

And that’s all for this edition of Classroom Tech. Next time, in Part VI, we’ll discuss one of the most contentious pieces of classroom technology: cell phones.


Ideas for Next Year…Already?

The end of the school year brings a lot of things for teachers: frantic efforts to help students pass, piles of grading, the ritualistic cleansing of the classroom, and of course, a couple of days off before we start preparing for next year.

Of course, for the obsessive among us, we have already begun planning, plotting, and prepping brilliant activities and assessments for next year. I’m no different – I’ve already begun hatching maniacal schemes that I can inflict on students from Day 1 next year.

I thought I’d share a couple of those ideas and, hopefully, get some feedback from more experienced, battle-hardened educators.

1. iGoogle. On day 1, I am planning to introduce students to the world of Google by having them create a Google account and an iGoogle page. I have a lot of reasons for this, not the least of which is that students can use Reader to subscribe to their teachers’ websites. Other connected ideas including using Google Docs (and Forms), shared calendars, to-do lists, bookmarks, and a host of other potentially useful and productive tools. My thinking is that, once it’s been created, this is something students should use every day outside of school (and can customize to include some “fun” stuff, as well.

2. Documenting Standards. We have a host of standards we expect students to meet over the course of the year – reading targets, writing targets, district outcomes and indicators, even the NETS. We try to document students meeting those standards by creating good assessments, but the students still feel like they don’t learn anything.

My plan is to give them standards worksheets at the start of the year, and over the course of the school year, they will accumulate “evidence” (read: assignments) that document how they have met each standard over the course of the year. For each standard, they will also write a short reflection, explaining how this proves that they met that standard.

I’m still not sure what standards I’ll be including, but I’ll definitely include reading and writing targets and our outcomes and indicators. In addition, I could include the Habits of Mind, thinking skills, NETS, and who knows what else, but all of that might be too much work. What I really want to do with this is minimize the environmental impact by doing it all digitally. Unfortunately, I’m not sure we have the access for that quite yet.

3. Digital Turn-In / Paperless Grading. I’m thinking about having students submit essays either via email, through Google Docs, or through a wiki. I’m still not sure if this is a good idea. I know Word has some great features for editing and commenting, so that might be the best option. Anyone with experience doing this? I’d love to hear how you set it up. I already use “Track Changes,” and I’ve read some stuff on using macros for common mistakes/comments, as well as some Word add-ons that look pretty cool. I’d love to take it a step further and do this all the time.

These are just a couple of the ideas I’m already getting jazzed about for next school year. How about you? What are you already planning to do differently?

Efficiency and Collaboration with Microsoft OneNote

Microsoft OneNote

Microsoft OneNote

Last year, when our district rolled out teacher laptops, one of the first things I did was open every program and play around with it for a few minutes. There were several programs that were not even the least bit interesting to me. One of the programs I had never used before was Microsoft’s OneNote – a part of the Office suite.

Plenty has been said elsewhere about the capabilities and successes of OneNote, so I won’t go into that here. Rather, I wanted to share a couple of ways we have been using OneNote to enhance teaching, professional development, and curriculum development.

The Digital Plan Book

The first thing I started doing with OneNote is creating a digital plan book. Being a new teacher, I had never really used an old, spiral plan book, so it was not much of a challenge for me. I used OneNote’s features to help organize my planning in a variety of ways. Having created a planning notebook, I broke up the curriculum using one tab per unit. For each unit (figure 1), I created an “Overview” page, an “Objectives/Assessments” page, and an “Activities” page. I used the Overview page to brainstorm, then organized my thoughts on the other pages.

Shared Tech Notebook

Our crew of dedicated teacher technology leaders created a OneNote notebook that employs perhaps the best feature of OneNote: sharing. The notebook is stored on our district server, so we all have access to it and by sharing it, we are able to easily share a wealth of information. We’ve used the notebook to share meeting notes, create resource caches, and even compile lists of frequently asked questions. This has helped us accomplish a lot of different things: we now have a library of answers to the emails we get from staff, we can pool our knowledge on all the resources we have available to us, and we’ve become more organized and effective without requiring countless meetings. We’ve even used the “Live Sharing” feature to take real-time notes on trainings and other meetings.

Curriculum Notebook

Perhaps the most ambitious ways we have used OneNote is to create a notebook that will be used to document the English curriculum in our building. After doing a department training on how to use OneNote, I created a department notebook to use for some basic function. But when we began the curriculum documentation process, we thought this provided the perfect platform for collaborating on curriculum development. As a result, are beginning to use the OneNote notebook to create unit plans, brainstorm assessments and activities, and, eventually, create lesson plans for each unit. We used tab sections to break up the grade levels and to separate Honors curriculum from the standard units. Tabs divide up the units and the pages contain all the pertinent information for each unit.

Needless to say, I’m a big fan of OneNote. I think it takes all of the benefits of a notebook (sections and pages, privacy), a wiki (collaboration), and a chat room (quick communication) and rolls them into one neat, easy-to-use package.