Monday, July 24, 2017

Embracing Office 365 in a Google World

“Let me Bing that for you,” says no one. Ever. It’s always, “Let me Google that for you.” So much so that Merriam-Webster added the verb, to Google, to its dictionary. Google then became so much more than a search engine: email, pictures, blogs, websites, full online document capabilities, and then...Classroom. It changed the way teachers interacted with their students. The simplicity of using all Google features was, and still is, one of its biggest attractions. Then came Microsoft, trying to catch up, with Office365. That’s where our story will take us today.
My district is an Office365 district, for better or for worse, that’s what we have. Many of you are familiar with Outlook, Microsoft’s email component. There’s OneDrive (similar to Google Drive) and all of the components you expect with Microsoft (Word, Excel, Powerpoint) and even some others (Forms, Sway, and OneNote), now available online. The compatibility with the online version and the desktop version is pretty good - fewer font selections and some limited features, but overall, the products work. Since the district has adopted this platform, all students and teachers have access to Microsoft Classroom and all of the Office365 features.
This past year, I taught fourth grade and my class had the computer cart once a week, sometimes twice. This did not leave much room for technology, but with the little time I had, I made sure to use Office365 as much as I could. Coming from Google, the transition was bumpy. It still is. Microsoft is still playing catch up, BUT, it works. They’re getting there.
My main purpose with using Office365 was for the collaboration feature for the students. I wanted them to be able to collaborate on documents and projects in real time on multiple devices. So, I tried OneNote. Then, I quickly stopped. OneNote, for me, was too sporadic and wasn’t able to update in real time, thus creating a problem for student collaboration. I do know teachers who have used OneNote successfully in their classrooms. I am not one of them. However, in the spirit of embracing Office365, I will be trying it again this year.

Text boxes appeared all over the place and students were typing over each other
Text boxes appeared all over the place and students were typing over each other
I was also brave and ventured into the world of Microsoft Classroom. It works. It does the basic job of communicating with students (provided they open/login to 365, click on Classroom, and read announcements) and is a good place for assigning and collecting work. There’s just so many steps and clicks before being able to actually use it. We used it often, but only having the computers once a week meant that it took a while to actually finish an assignment. The students had an easy enough time accessing it and working on it and seemed to enjoy it. I was even able to create a template for students in Powerpoint and have them use it to create mission brochures (side note: you do not have the ability to create slide master, so if a student deleted a text box, they had to go in and add one themselves).

Mission brochures created from an uploaded template
Mission brochures created from an uploaded template

The final product I had my students try out was Sway. My students LOVED using this! Sway is like Powerpoint and Prezi combined. They can add content such as videos, music, pictures, text, and links and put it all together as a presentation. Click here to view a sample of what one group of students created. Given that that this was the students’ first time using Sway and they had little instruction on how to use it, I was pretty happy with the result.

In June, after using computers for the entire year, I would give my students a 3 out of 4 on Office365 proficiency. They were able to open and send emails, click on outside links, navigate through OneDrive, Classroom, and create and collaborate on assignments and projects. This year, I’m at a new site that is 1:1, so I imagine my students will use Office365 more - and I want them too! There’s so much left for me to learn about it and there’s so much for my students to teach me about what they discover how to do.

Have I embraced Office365? Yes. Does it have all the features that Google has for education? No. Is there potential for that? Definitely. Am I innovative with how I use Office365? Not yet. But I’m determined to become more innovative this year.

Are you using Microsoft Office365 at your site? How are you using it? Share in the comments!

Giulia Longo

Giulia is a fourth grade teacher in Chula Vista (San Diego), California. She is in her fifth year of teaching and fourth year teaching fourth grade. She has had a variety of educational experiences from Montessori to public to private schools and has taken the positives from each to weave into her own practice. She is the co-founder of EdCamp Chula Vista. You can find her on Twitter @mslongo123 or @EdCampCVESD.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Google Slides: Edit The Master Layouts

You search high and low and finally find the perfect Google Slides theme for your presentation. You work meticulously to create the perfect visuals. While working on a key slide, you find a problem. One of the shapes on the background is in the way. You just need to adjust the size a little bit, but you can’t because it is part of the background image. The whole slide is thrown off and you let out a frustrated sigh. You wish you could just make one little change to the layout!

You’ve created a template in Google Slides for your students. They are working away in groups. You are proud of the task they are completing and can’t wait for the discussions it will bring. Then one student deletes your instructions from the slide and can’t remember them. Another student deleted two of the boxes from the graphic organizer slide and undo won’t bring them back. Soon you have 4 or 5 students all lined up because they deleted parts that you so carefully placed on the slides for them to interact with.

If you’ve ever been in a situation similar to one of these - you are in luck! YOU have the power to edit the master slide layouts! Maybe you want students to have a specific layout in their presentation, or perhaps there are certain shapes, images, graphic organizers, etc. that you'd like to have in the background of an assignment template (Venn Diagram, specific questions you want answered in a certain area of the slide, etc.). Perhaps you want to make a change to the fabulous Slides template you just found at You can do all of this and more by editing the "Master" slide layouts. Anything you place in the "Master" slides will become part of the background of the slide and students can't accidentally delete it. You can even choose the default font style, size, and color for a theme. Watch this short video to see how.

When you click View → Master, here is what it looks like.

 The top “Master” slide allows you to control the font style, size, and color for all the text boxes in the presentation. The Layout slides allow you to edit, delete, or add any layouts you want to have available for use in the presentation.
 The top “Master” slide allows you to control the font style, size, and color for all the text boxes in the presentation. The Layout slides allow you to edit, delete, or add any layouts you want to have available for use in the presentation.
Now that you know you can edit the master slide layouts, the power is in your hands. Take a few moments to ponder the possibilities and let your imagination run wild.

Cynthia Nixon
Cynthia was an elementary school teacher for 9 years, teaching both 5th and 3rd grades. She worked her way through college as a computer technician and brought her love of technology into the classroom. She is now serving her school as an Ed Tech Coach and enjoys empowering other teachers to integrate technology. She is a Level 2 Google Certified Educator, a Google for Education Certified Trainer, and two time CUE Rock Star Faculty. You can find her on the TeachingTechNix blog or on Twitter - @TeachingTechNix.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

ISTE Reflection

I had the pleasure of attending ISTE this year in San Antonio, Texas. What a great learning experience as well as an opportunity to connect and collaborate with educators from all over the world! Here are some of my favorite takeaways.

While I love hearing speakers outside of education, it is always inspiring to hear from one of our own. Jennie Magiera, former Teacher and now Chief Technology Director from Chicago told us a story of … well, story.  This heartfelt talk took us chapter by chapter as we were reminded of who we are as educators, why we do what we do, how we tell our story, and the importance of sharing our story with the world. She reminded us how we as educators connect with our profession as if it is part of our being. She says, “because being an educator is now what I do, it is who I am.”
"Teachers can help you be your whole self" - Jennie Magiera
She challenged us to “go out and think about the story that you have to tell.” “Inspire students to grow and be better versions of us and themselves. Go find those stories and set them free!”

I was truly motivated by the talk and think you will be too! Read more from ISTE - Teachers are Wizards and you can watch the Keynote here.

Interactive displays
Apple Education set up the most amazing interactive display!
A blank board became a crowd sourced piece of art! Throughout the conference, attendees documented their learning with images by tweeting their image with the hashtag  #ForTheLoveofLearning. After 3,200 tweets, a mosaic piece of art was formed, built from the love of learning of ISTE attendees.
In front of the Apple #ForTheLoveOfLearning wall
Permission to use image granted by Jen Roble

For the Love of Learning
Permission to use photo granted by Apple Education
Screen Shot 2017-07-02 at 9.16.42 AM.pngHard to believe this display is made up of 3,200 images of passionate educators!

For more information visit Apple Education at @AppleEDU. You can watch the time-lapse video here!

Conference rooms
In addition to the interactive displays, many of the conference rooms modeled flexible learning spaces, a new push for our classrooms of today. Michael Hernandez, Media Arts teacher shared his thoughts as well as these images from a session he attended.

Michael says “A space like this allows for multiple collaborative spaces, as well direct instruction and the variety of furniture options lets participants choose a place that best suits their task or mood. The idea behind a learning space like this is that the environment is adaptable to the needs of the learner at that moment. This is an extension of the idea that we need to create a personalized, student centered curriculum.” He asks “Where do you best learn, research, or have conversations about new ideas and problem solving? It is probably not in rows of desks but rather in a coffee house or similar informal space that is physically and psychologically comfortable.”  Michael Hernandez @cinehead

Teachers learning from Michael Hernandez
Permission to use photo granted by Michael Hernandez

Teachers working at a variety of table types and spaces
Permission to use photo granted by Michael Hernandez

Last but not least, the sessions. Because of my leadership role in San Diego Unified School District, I focused my efforts on coaching sessions and learning how best to integrate instructional technology teachers into student centered coaching cycles. One of my favorite sessions was “The Joy of Professional Learning.”  This session was modeled on a cookbook of recipes used to facilitate professional learning. In an effort to move away from the sit and get PD, these activities get participants talking, moving and making their own understanding of material. Funny… isn’t that what we want for our students? Too often we don’t see that with today’s professional learning. This group of fabulous educators created multiple free books on the iBooks Store to help guide you when implementing engaging activities with your department, PLC, school, or district.

The Joy of Professional Learning

Teachers working together at a table

Last but not least, I had the pleasure of co-presenting with John Berray from Grossmont Union High School District. Our ‘Bring Your Own Device’ session was full of fun loving math teachers and technology coaches. We explored Desmos Teacher activities and taught teachers how to make their own! Desmos activities at are excellent tools for supporting math teachers in implementing student centered learning.

John Berray and Julie Garcia

You can view our presentation below. Make sure you go to the end, where it says Path 1 and Path 2. There are several resources for you to use with your math teams!

Path 1 and Path 2 with Desmos

Overall my ISTE experience was a complete success. Even more important than the Keynotes, interactive displays, cool rooms, and sessions, were the connections I was able to make with educators from all over the world. Talking, learning, and collaborating with like minded educators is what continues to drive me to be an educator, because as Jennie said, teaching is not what I do, it is who I am. ISTE helped me be a better me!

See you all at the SDCUE Tech Fair!

Julie Garcia

Julie Garcia spent 20 years as math teacher and technology advocate. In a 1:1 iPad take home program, she implemented the flipped classroom and project based learning while adhering to State Standards. She recently served as a technology resource teacher for San Diego Unified School district where she supported teachers and schools as they move toward a 1:1 environment. Her current role is Program Manager of Instructional Technology for San Diego Unified School District where she works with district leadership on thoughtful integration of technology. She is an Apple Distinguished Educator and has three publications in iTunes U. She has presented at SDCUE, CUE in Palm Springs, SXSW, and ISTE.