Microsoft Education’s Top 5 Free Tools for Teachers

I’ve been out of my building all this week to attend a Microsoft Innovative Educator Training Workshop to become a Trainer in Microsoft tools for education.  Having been an avid user of OneDrive for over a year now, at the beginning of the week, I thought, “how on earth is there enough content to fill up four days?”  My mind was completely blown by the depth and breadth of Microsoft’s offerings.

Below is a my own ranking of tools we learned about on Days 1 & 2, with a description in my own words as to what this tool is all about and how it might be useful to teachers in the classroom:

1. OneDrive--In our district, we have have been “on the cloud” for a couple of years now.  However, just because we all had a little training, doesn’t mean that you know everything.  Learning takes time you learn as you use it.  What I know about OneDrive today is much greater than two years ago because I have made it part of my daily routine and keep all my professional docs on it.  The advantage of putting all my docs up on OneDrive is that I can have access to them from any device.  As a teacher, you may always have a desktop or a laptop in your classroom, so you might think you don’t need to have your docs on the cloud, but if you have them on the cloud, you can share them with students without having to be always dependent on printing and photocopying.  The power of OneDrive for teachers happens when you use it as an organization or district so that all students, teacher and staff members have an account with free storage, email, and a whole “waffle” of tools that are available for free using online versions.  Here’s a screen clipping of “the waffle” (made with Snip):

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Be patient because when you are new to the cloud, seeing all these tools can be overwhelming. But don’t be afraid to try out new tools! Microsoft has a multitude of trading videos available and there’s a whole network of Microsoft Innovative Educators out on social media (#miechat) who are there to help.

2. OneNote–I have been using this tool as a three ring binder to keep track of all my notes for everything I do at work.  I wish this tool was around when I was a teacher, because now there are versions for teachers One Note Class Notebook and for administrators, One Note Staff Notebook, to have everything all in one place.  What I like about OneNote is that I can drag and drop content right into it, I can include voice and video clips, printouts of emails all cataloged and saved in a searchable way so that I can find that info easily.  Because it’s linked to the cloud, I can find those notes on any device at any time and I can share notebooks and set permissions for who sees what and who can add and edit info.

3. Office Mix (Add on for Powerpoint)--The name here is a bit confusing, but this tool is essentially an add-on to Powerpoint.  I’m excited about this add-on mainly because many teachers already use Powerpoint to deliver content.  Office Mix allows teachers to make their existing ppts interactive by adding video, voice-overs, ink-overs and employs analytics when shared inside an organization.  Office mix will allow teachers to flip the classroom, pushing content out that is rich and interactive to students at home, while also being able to make sure students are doing it, interacting and completely viewing through the analytics feature. You can download the free add-on by going to https://mix.office.com/ and clicking the download button. Here’s a demo video that will do a much better job of explaining Mix than I could ever do!

4. Sway–This is a free tool that appears on your Office 365 “waffle” that allows you to easily create rich content and push it out to students, parents, colleagues who can view it on any device.  This tool allows you to drag and drop photos, videos and clips from the web, add text, organize and arrange and then share easily.  This tool facilitates digital storytelling.  I made a sample Sway that is kind of like an About Me, which could also be thought of as a digital resume, even though I did not put any work experience on mine.  I set the sharing settings to “anyone with the link” and then pushed out the link.  It looks good on any device.  So teachers could use this to present short bursts of information, or to arrange a deck of photos for a lesson.  Students could use this easily to do class presentations. Here’s link to a tutorial on YouTube.

5. Delve–This is one of the tools inside your Office 365 homepage.  Delve is helpful when you share a lot of documents inside an organization.  If your organization share documents saved on OneDrive around, like meeting agendas, policy docs, etc, or if you are a teacher and share documents with your students who also have OneDrive accounts.  It becomes difficult to keep track of all the docs that are being shared.  Clicking on Delve allows you to see your Delve homepage and then along the left side all the people within your organization that you share with.  You can click on the person and see all the docs you collaborate on together.  The layout of Delve also allows you create boards, much like Pinterest, to keep stuff organized.  If you are using the O365 Cloud, Delve learns about all the ways you use the cloud and organizes your whole interface and your top collaborators right there in one place.

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And one for good luck… Excel Survey–I’m starting to use this more in more as an assistant principal to collect information for a variety of stakeholders.  I used it last June to put a link up on our school website to collect info from parents attending the graduation ceremony.  Teachers could use Excel Surveys to do formative assessments of students, who may access the survey using any web-connected device, collect information from parents on Back-to-School Night, or do worksheets, quizzes, or tests in a computer lab or with a laptop cart.  The survey allows teachers to create and manage a spreadsheet full of information collected from a variety of users.  Don’t look any further than the menu ribbon inside of Excel. Or while logged into OneDrive, click on “+” and select Excel Survey.”

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