Office Mix for Teachers

I’m not fully convinced of Mix, it does have its flaws, but I acknowledge it is in Beta and Microsoft are listening to user voices and opinions  – Customer Feedback for Office Mix

A great resource regarding Microsoft Mix for PowerPoint… where this PDF guide can be found and a wealth of resources to highlight its abilities and to promote among colleagues. Such as how staff development might utilise it with “PC/VDU users” or “E&D training” or college wide development for the student body (and staff) such as can be demonstrated here!



Printer Woes

I love Canon printers, they have always delivered amazing print-outs at superfast speeds and their tanks have always been great value (the “start” time has never been great, but I can live with that!). My first Canon printer cost me over £300 and just because it was a “photo quality” printer with separate cartridges (that I could drill into and re-ink with a syringe and a blob of hot-melt to seal).

I have since then owned in total four Canon printers, each one offering advantages over the previous. Currently I am the proud owner of a Canon IP7250 and all the functionality it has – CD printing, two tray feeds (one for standard A4 paper one for photo paper) and now Wifi and smartphone support. It has lasted less than 3 months! Now don’t get me wrong this is not the issue, it’s that I ordered from Amazon and it’s surprisingly difficult to sort out items that have failed within their guarantee. Difficult in the sense as to find how to go about replacing or fixing, as the item is out of 30 days ownership time-frame it is immediately not eligible. Oh how the time I have spent trying to find online help – don’t – there is nothing. Just find the contact page (or as I did the online text support) and let them do the work (just wish they had a document outlining that!)

A refund later, a re-order and a final packing up of damaged printer and its all good again. But what did get me thinking is the price tag of the printer…. £50, with ink! at that price the concerns of third part ink vanish. Why? well at £50 for a new set of ink I might as well but 3rd party inks for next to nothing, in fact 2 sets for about a £1 a cartridge, just over £10. The printer can break anytime it likes (as long as I get to use my two sets of 3rd part ink and I am quids in!).

I would still buy Canon everytime!



Subverting Technology


There is little that really gets under my skin (fact!) but one thing that does is those that moan about the fact that young learners will always subvert technology. Why does this get me so wound up? because it is not just the young and it is not even learners… “we” will subvert technology. Adults, and professionals, will not resist the opportunity to post obscure, cheeky or downright naughty messages on digital walls, messaging systems and collaborative technologies – it’s fun (I have done it myself).

But in the main I feel this is an excuse to not deploy tech. I don’t think I can think of any tech that has not been subverted…

  • digital walls
  • collaborative spaces
  • interactive smart boards
  • PC’s
  • paper
  • Chalk and….what? hang on,  paper?

Yes even those crisp sheets of A4 that we take for granted were chewed up, forced in a Biro and shot across the room on onto the ceiling, we persevere, we moved on. We did the same with smart boards. Yet we still use it as an emotional crutch to support our opinions that tech is disruptive. It is only if we let it be and it still comes down to fundamental classroom management – make clear your expectations, define your rules, enforce when they are breached (but appropriately) and today’s tech will be tomorrow sheet of A4!



Microsoft Showcase Classroom

(c) @GlennWoolaghan [Twitter]

Yesterday I spent the day with Microsoft looking at their Showcase Classroom. I really did not have a clear perception of what to expect other than looking at different mobile devices. So what did the day entail (and was it worth it!)?

Firstly it was free other than the cost of getting to London, Victoria and back for 10:00am – 3:30pm. A cup of coffee and a pain-au-chocolate later and we was shown a brief “Sway” presentation before the big reveal, doors slid open in our relatively small room, showing a much larger room with bright colours, comfy stool and giant bean bags. We grab a mobile device… this is going to be interactive! I pick a rugged grey “Stone” tablet with keyboard and a carry handle, colleagues pick HP tablets or Surface Pro’s – they all do the job they need to do.

We are asked to rate out the following out of four possible options: Don’t know what it it, aware, used a bit, used a lot using coloured post-it’s.

  • Windows 8.1 – its search capabilities and seamlessness
  • Yammer – social networking in a safe environment
  • Office 365 – buckloads, I even learnt about “Delve” (did you know a 365 account gives you 5 downloadable office’s?)
  • OneNote – the collaborative side utilising OneNote Classroom
  • OneDrive – limitless
  • Lync (Skype for Business) – connect to others and record sessions!

Now I was able to answer “used a lot” for all but that’s more a comment upon the organisation I work for and the projects I am involved in. I found the delivery that followed upon these technologies well thought-out and verging on seamless. a worthy day for the less tech proficient for sure. We had an outline of Mix and Sway (yes I felt an over whelming smugness) and then a hard-sell pitch for taking back-end services and pushing to our learners – progress, options, etc. (way off but lord-able goals). Finally we had highlighted windows 10 and  HoloLens.

I certainly found the day worthwhile but I took a number of key things with me…

  1. The organisation I work for are certainly embracing the tech discussed
  2. Although the room looked funky the backless “stools” were not nearly as comfortable as the “sit-in” bean bags
  3. Despite discussing how being untethered from the front of the classroom is ideal, it wasn’t applied (beyond a demonstration)
  4. A number of technologies will not work fully until we are in a 1-2-1 device position (such as OneNote)
  5. I cannot see myself bringing everything together under one platform, I am all for diversity in technology (Our D.A.V.E. intranet covers the likes of Delve and Yammer)
  6. Finally, there was a lot of discussion around learners subverting the technologies. More of this on a future post.


Microsoft Mix for Students


The recent post regarding Microsoft Mix (and subsequent posting of it on my work intranet D.A.V.E) ended up with me discussing with a colleague the great advantages of rapid development (or should that be rapid redevelopment) using MS Mix and inevitably the flipped classroom scenario of “present away” & “apply with us” and the conversation found itself flipping not only our established methods of delivery and the industries need to gear up in response to the FELTAG report but then so do our own learners. Inevitably we cannot expect our learners to remain in a perpetual state with all the technical revolution around them.

So how about that next presentation captured as a MS Mix recorded in studios, bedrooms and classrooms. Okay so studios might be a bit of a stretch (a quite space), bedrooms might need to be cleaned up (a plus as far as Mum and Dads are concerned) and the classrooms might be difficult to record within in their current setup so might our classroom spaces see an overhaul in the near future (funds permitted), well tomorrow I am off to the Microsoft Showcase Classrooms in London with which I will have this post in mind!


Update [26/04/2015]: found a YouTube video here – 



Pixabay Revisited

A number of posts ago I posted about Using Images – avoiding copyright. Whilst writing the post I came across Pixabay and that attribution was not require in most cases, in fact it is not required at all. In fact it goes someone to solving a recent project question of how can we access a bank of media resources but without costing the earth and using them external to developing organisations? Well the solution certainly seems to be the whole point of Pixabay which in their own words is ….

“Finding free images of high quality is a tedious task – due to copyright issues, attribution requirements, or simply the lack of quality.
This inspired us to create Pixabay – a repository for stunning public domain pictures.
Your source for free vectors, free drawings and free photos.
You can use any Pixabay image without attribution in digital and printed form, even for commercial applications.”

What it also allows you to do is to share your own images (after an initial maximum of 10 that require approval that can take up to a few days) all they ask is that you allow them to be available for free and that they follow the  Photography Training and Image Quality Standards set by Pixabay. Your own images can be reviewed by order of upload, downloads, popularity, views, likes, favourites, comments.

User Portfolios can be searched as well by entering in the user name after “user:“, search my portfolio here user:techlec. Think of the use to students that require images or have images to share!


Microsoft Mix (for PowerPoint)


At last “Microsoft Producer” is reborn! A long loved add-on that was dropped some year ago (last developed for PowerPoint 2010) that was dropped all-so-quietly about 3 years ago, not that it was marketed all that loud! What Producer allowed you to do was to either record alongside a PowerPoint presentation, or upload a pre-recorded video, and it would synchronise the timings of the video with the presentation. Meaning that it would play the necessary video portion relation to, say, slide 2. It would then pause, and continue only as you progressed to the next slide. It also allowed a small range of “templates”. I missed this and thought that it was great free plugin that wo0uld benefit so many resources, especially in light of FELTAG and online learning, certainly it would have reduced the complaints of re-inventing the wheel!

But oh so quietly (have you heard of it?) they have re-imagined it. Gone are the templates (not such a bad thing given how dated they did look) but the functionality that it offers in return are great:

  • Recording of video (and closed captioning!!!!! [ see here ])
  • Video controls for play and pause
  • In-built volume control
  • HD video
  • Audio (you don’t have to have video!)
  • Annotation
    • line thickness
    • line colour
    • entire annotation delete [restart?]
  • Screen capture – selectable area
    • desktop video
    • desktop screen capture
  • Interactivity through apps
    • open question
    • multiple choice
    • poll
    • true/false
  • Insert pre-existing video/audio
  • Export
    • Video (no interactivity)
    • SCORM package for
    • Upload to MS MIX Server

Now although this seems great there are a few wrinkles…

  1. You cannot wipe out individual annotations (although you can manually wipe them out if you have a plain background to your slide in one of the annotation colours!)
  2. You cannot have a video on the same slide as an interactive quiz or a screen captured video
  3. SCORM is not fully functioning, certainly it is not working with Moodle, although MS are now working with Moodle on a Plugin! [ see here ]
  4. It does not seem to like it when you try to annotate using just audio & inking or just inking – seems unstable. Fine when using video throughout
  5. The inking lends itself more to touchscreen than mouse

Now when I say fully functioning as a SCORM if your not using the interactive quiz functions its fine as you can just upload as a presentation anyway. But if you are then you are going to want to upload to the MS MIX server… as you get analytics! oh and a discussion board, oh you can also open to the public and class a distributable and editable under creative commons!

So want to see my first effort? be kind! [ find it here ]

So you want it for yourself? [ go here ] or if you work for the same organisation as I do (if your reading this on DAVE then you do) then you can find it from the….. (it is easier than it looks)

  • Select “find additional applications from the applications catalog”, located top right under the search bar
  • Select “learning technologies” from the webpage on the right-hand-side
  • Select “office mix” from the list
  • select Install at the bottom on the right

Are you brave enough to let me see you first attempt?

An upcoming post is likely on “things I have learnt when videoing myself” including “holiday stubble!” 🙂



Fill-able PDF


Recently I wanted to convert a simple questionnaire into an fill-able PDF. The benfeit of this is that the questionaire or form will remain intact and not suffer from element shift and will also restrict what goes into the document (as well as the ability to protect it some-what). Well adobe pro is costly and most solutions online will either cost you a small amount or will watermark the final document in someway. Well did you know that you can use open office to create an editable PDF? so its free, it works and no watermarks 🙂 Find Open Office Here.

I found the following YouTube videos to be really useful:

  1. Create a Fillable PDF Document – #1 Tutorial – Description, getting started and text boxes
  2. Create a Fillable PDF Document – #2 Tutorial – Check Boxes and Option Buttons
  3. Create a Fillable PDF Document – #3 Tutorial – Line up check boxes and other items


Macrium Reflect Imaging Software

Many moons ago I used to clean my desktop every other year over the summer, get rid of those junk files. Ensure that everything was running smoothly, and also because I am a nerd! I had the process down to about two hours pretty much and used Norton Ghost. Now I haven’t needed to do anything to my current machine which is some 6 years old, a quad core windows 7 3Ghz, since I bought it. But I have recently run into trouble – it wont play ball with anything beyond “DOT NET V3.5” now up till now this has not been a problem until the last few months where my new printer (a shiny Canon Pixma IP7250) software required it, not a problem – I just could not use the additional “My Image Garden” software (I am always wary of rubbish sounding software anyway)  it came with. But I really wanted to try out some new presentation/productivity software that could really make my life easier, if it was anything as I expected, and yes it required greater than v3.5.

As I was going to end up with a nice clean version of windows 7, and if the rumors are to be believed, and a forthcoming free version of windows 10 then now was the opportunity to ghost/backup my main drive. My copy of Norton Ghost was way outdated and certainly it does not offer a recent alternative so I hunted for the possibility of a free alternative. I found one! Macrium Reflect – find it here …

I don’t have much more to say other than it was free, easy to install and certainly was not a complicated process – identify partitions, locate a save locations and bingo! hopefully there will not be a follow up post anytime soon, but I am pleased to report I am not using Dot Net v4.5



Joby GripTight Mount XL Smartphone Holder

Joby Tight Grip XL

With recent recordings on my smartphone being propped up with less than ideal methods (blu-tack included) I have been looking for  a more stable and long-term solution, especially with some upcoming recordings that I really do want to record with the minimum of fuss and most of the decent mounts I had found were for using without cases (I always use a case and did not want to be peeling it off everytime I wanted the use of any stand!)

I love this gadget, I have been looking for a mount solution for the iPhone and in particular the iPhone 6 +, and its not an expensive purchase and so well build. Fitting to any standard camera mount (it does look elegant with its own companion “Micro 250” stand – which I did not purchase)  the GripTight folds flat for storage, has a small cord eyelet (cord not supplied) and is tensioned so that you open it out, position over phone and release to grip. In two sizes  that open up between 2.1-2.8 in | 54-72 mm wide for GripTight Regular and 2.7-3.9 in | 69-99 mm for GripTight XL.

Watch a Vimeo video here