Changing behaviour with Office 365 and Tablet Devices

Over the last week I have produced 4 posts around ideas of using Office 365 in education:

  1. Using Office 365 to create collaborative learning activities.
  2. Using PowerPoint and Office 365 to create a collaborative learning activity.
  3. Using Excel and Office 365 to create learning activities.
  4. Using Word and Office 365 to streamline assessment feedback.

The idea that I am trying to get across, is that Office 365 isn’t just a slightly newer version of the Office Suite, instead it works in a fundamentally different way, but to get the benefit from these improvements, requires people to behave differently, and with the arrival and (I predict) rapidly increasing number of Microsoft tablets within the education system – and the mobility that these devices offer – getting Office 365 to work properly is going to be key.

The main behaviour change, is reducing the number of different versions of the same file that exist in different.

For example: If I create a Word Document, and save it to ‘My Documents’ on my computer. There is one version of the file. I then email this to a colleague. There is now the version in My Documents, a copy in my sent items, and one in my colleagues inbox – so thats 3 versions. My colleague downloads the file (4 versions) and then makes some edits, saving the file to their network drive (5 versions) they email this back to me (Their sent items and my inbox gives 7 in total) – I Download this (8 versions), and save a copy (with a new name) back to my Documents (9 versions).

So – the very simple example above with me asking 1 colleague to proof read and edit a document has created 9 files without me thinking about it. If I had collaborated with more people this number could quickly run into the hundreds – which makes no sense, there is a risk of ‘old’ versions re-appearing a later date, and the total memory used up on the system (especially if a large file) costs money and slows everything else down.

If I use Office 365 and OneDrive (the new name for SkyDrive) the behaviour would be as follows:

I create a file, and save it to my OneDrive. There is now a version on my computer and a synchronised version ‘in the cloud’, I email a link to this file to my colleague, they edit this via the web interface in the cloud, and let me know when complete. I can check their edits, and if unhappy with them I can use the history option to roll back to an earlier version or discard the changes. Ultimately though – we still have the same file on my Computer and a synchronised version ‘in the cloud’. There are no extra versions loitering in mail systems or download folders.

One of the reasons why this becomes so important with tablet devices, is they rely on files being transferred via wireless – so we need to make the whole process of file management more streamlined. If I am working with a class and I want them all to access an image rich  PowerPoint file for example – for me to ‘push’ that file over the slightly ropey wifi in that classroom to 30 different devices could take 10 minutes or more, which isn’t realistic. For me to use the file sharing mechanism within OneDrive and  the students to access this via the web interface will effectively stream the content, as the students view it, rather than pushing the whole file out up front.

In the previous posts I talked about the collaborative teaching and learning opportunities this brings, and with the extra mobility and battery potential of tablets over laptops or desktops, means we can use these devices in any environment including the sports hall, kitchen, on field trips etc.

As with many of my blog posts – the key to changing these behaviours is an investment in staff development. Because Office has been around for so long, Office training is far less common – there is an assumption (which is an incorrect one) that people don’t need to be taught basic office skills. With Office 365 – there is a huge need to reinvest in training in this area, otherwise its potential will not be unlocked.

At the moment I am working with a company called The Tablet Academy who provide training and consultancy around the use of tablet devices (Apple, Android and Microsoft) in education. If any Schools or Colleges in the UK (including Scotland) purchase 20 or more Microsoft tablets (including ones made by other companies) they are entitled to free training, provided by someone from the Tablet Academy (only downside is the current offer is only for training that is delivered before the 31st March 2014). If you work for a school or college in the UK and have purchased such device recently and your reseller hasn’t mentioned the free training offer then contact the Tablet Academy who will chase this up for you.

Free medical image repository – Wellcome Images

I have recently been working on a project for a University developing some midwifery resources related to breast feeding, which was very interesting but we did find problems locating appropriate Creative Commons images to use in the resources, even using my usual locations such as Xpert, Wikimedia, and CC Search.

Ironically it was whilst working on a completely different project that I stumbled across a service called Wellcome Images which is a source of free Creative Commons images which their website describes as:

“Wellcome Images is one of the world’s richest and most unique collections, with themes ranging from medical and social history to contemporary healthcare and biomedical science.”

There are a few conditions of use regarding the images, but basically it is free for educational use as per point 5 of the “How do I” section of their site.

“…reproduction in teaching materials created in any medium by a teacher or lecturer at an educational establishment for the purposes of teaching. This includes making printed copies of such materials for students and promoting and making such teaching materials available in electronic form , for example, via a virtual learning environment….”

There are some excellent images within here, and many are non-medicine related (there are lots of sport images for example), and what I really like are the old classical images, which I find really useful when creating learning resources, or PowerPoint presentations.

Using Compfight to locate creative commons images

Compfight is an excellent little website, for locating images on flickr that have been released under a creative commons licence which means that we can use the images in resources etc, without having to gain explicit permission from the image owner.

I have posted about Compfight before at https://davefoord.wordpress.com/2010/05/18/finding-and-using-creative-commons-images/ and https://davefoord.wordpress.com/2011/01/11/finding-images-without-breaking-copyright/  but the interface has changed slightly, so I thought it was time to create a new screencast for this service.

Having located and used an image this way, I then use another service called ImageStamper which then records which images I have used and when, and most importantly what the licence agreement was at the time (in case someone on Flickr changes their licence agreement at a later date).

Using Xpert to find images and insert them into a PowerPoint

I use images a lot in my work – most of my PowerPoint presentations, are very image based, and the place that I use most to locate these images is a site called Xpert. This site has been created by the University of Nottingham, to compliment the Xerte tool that they have developed for creating content, but I use it mainly for finding images for my PowerPoint and Word based resources. The thing that I really like is the way that under each image that I locate on Xpert, it adds a black bar containing the licence information and the reference, showing that I have the right to use this image and it references it correctly, and the black bar will always follow the image around.

I have posted about this service before at https://davefoord.wordpress.com/2011/01/11/finding-images-without-breaking-copyright/ but I thought it was time to update the video showing how to do this.

Using a phone to capture audio and make learning more fun

This is the 4th entry in a series on making learning more fun.

Students carry mobile phones around with them, and something that mobiles phones can do very well is record audio, either into the phone itself, or into a web based system such as Ipadio. (Which I have blogged about before)

We can use these ideas as a way of bringing variety (and therefore more interest / fun) into the learning process.

To listen about how this may work, here is an ipadio recording on this topic, that I have linked back into this blog.

Visit http://ipad.io/Txv to hear my latest ipadio phonecast

If you use things like Moodle or Blackboard then the embedding mechanism works even better, providing more information and a more attractive player.

Ideas of how you could use this technique:-

  • Ask learners to interview each other, whilst they role play characters within a scenario
  • Ask learners to explain the topic just taught using audio only (and therefore no visual information)
  • Ask learners to create memory rhymes for key information
  • Ask learners to reflect at the end of the session on what they have learnt
  • For the teaching of languages, the possible uses of this is enormous – the tutor could send an audio file to the learners each day in the language they are learning, or the learners could practice their speaking and then the tutor / peers can provide feedback.

This is an area where teaching can be radically transformed with just a bit of imagination.

Using screencasting to explain a concept / revise

This is the 3rd entry in a series on ‘putting the fun back into fundamental learning’.

I have become a huge fan of screencasting, especially since I discovered screenr – a free web based tool, that is really easy to use for this purpose. I often use screencasts as a way of producing ‘how to videos’ as part of my work. In a previous post on this blog, I highlighted how this idea could easily be used to create revision aids. Which either the tutor could create for the learners, or the learners could create themselves (and then share with their peers?)

Another slight twist on this would be to challenge the learners to create a concise screencast (which if you use screenr limits you to 5 minutes) that explains a concept succinctly and accurately to other people. Maybe setting a series of criteria against which the screencasts will be judged, and offering a prize for the best one (out comes my trusty air guitar that I keep giving away). Criteria could be things like accuracy of information, artistic merit, communication skills used, etc.

If you had students working in small groups where they had to plan what they were going to do, how they were going to do it, who was going to talk etc. then you have a really good activity, covering lots of Personal Learning and Thinking Skills, as well as some Functional Skills. You may need to think about where the learners actually do their recording, as doesn’t work having lots of people in the same room, but if you have access to another small room nearby which once prepared the learner(s) can sneak into to do their recording then brilliant.

If you don’t want to use screenr, which is web based and therefore needs accounts etc, then the free camstudio, would be an option – this can either be installed onto the computer or run from a USB memory stick (and is part of the eduapps suite). This will allow you to create more than 5 minutes of recording, and keeps the output off the internet (unless you share it later) so some may prefer the extra ‘safety’ of this method, but it is more fickle to set up and get the audio settings right etc. Or you can use screenr, but in a way that you keep the end products private, as shown in this screencast.

Finding and using creative commons images

A few years ago, if someone wanted to use an image in a presentation, then the norm would be to do a Google search for the image, then copy and paste that image into the presentation. This had 2 problems:

  • The images were often uploaded to the web as a low resolution to increase the download speed, so often ended up pixelating when enlarged.
  • The images almost always broke copyright, and were thus being used illegally.

Thankfully, due to the rise of image sharing sites such as Flickr, Picasa, Photobucket there is an abundance of high quality images out there, that are easily searchable, easy to use, and often uploaded with a creative commons licence. Creative commons is where the person that owns the image, has released it with a licence giving you permission to use it (with certain conditions) without having to ask their express permission.

So if I want to use an image for a teaching resource, and I don’t have an appropriate one that I have taken with my own camera, then I use these services to find what I want. Personally I use Flickr (just because it is what I know), and rather than searching within Flickr, I use a website called http://www.compfight.com this searches Flickr for me, only selecting images that are released with a creative commons licence. Once I have found an image to use, I then use a site called http://imagestamper.com/, what this does is record the images that I use, and records the licence agreement associated with the image at the time that I used it. This is just an extra level of protection just in case the owner changes the licence agreement in the future. I have created a video to demonstrate how the 2 sites work.

(if you cannot view because YouTube is blocked then it can also be accessed at http://screenr.com/EAp

It should be possible to find a high quality legal to use image on just about anything, which should make a huge improvement to the quality of teaching materials, and the learning experience as a result.