Create Recipe Lists and Auto-Populated Emails with Office Quick Parts

I don’t know if I hate it or love it more when I find the product I’ve been using for years has hidden secrets I knew nothing about. I think I love it. I owe this tip to the illustrious Susan Dreschel, who was my unintentional mentor for my first three years as an Instructional Technology Specialist. She has now retired and left me alone, but that’s a subject for another day 🙂

Anyway, just such a hidden treasure exists in both Outlook and Microsoft Word, and it’s called Quick Parts. Did you know that you could have both of those programs save text that you frequently use and spit it back out at your command? Did you know that you could send fully-formed emails with just a click of a button? Or that you could generate your recipes and related shopping list with just a couple clicks as well?

Not only will the tip I’m about to show you save you time, but I also love when the process of giving you the tip is quick. Check out this post on creating your own embed codes if you like quick-to-receive tips.

But now on with the show…if you’re intrigued about Quick Parts, watch the video to learn how to use them.

Tech Tuesday #8: 10 Straighten-Up Strategies for Your Computer Files

If you tuned in to last week’s episode, you might be a little cleaner this week…or at least maybe your email inbox is. However, if you are a desktop, documents, and flashdrive saver, maybe you’re in need of a file cleanup intervention as well. Look no further!

Ten Straighten-Up Strategies for Your Computer Files

  1. Use one location for your working files, and make it cloud-based. It’s hard for any of us to multi-task, and trying to figure out where we’ve saved our files when they’re in multiple locations is an unnecessary stressor. I use OneDrive, but you could use Google Drive, iCloud, Dropbox, or whatever service works for you. I call OneDrive a giant flashdrive you can’t break, lose, or fill up, and your files are accessible anywhere.
  2. Recognize the difference between a backup and a working copy. When I went to India, I took the advice of other travelers to make a paper copy of my passport. However, when I went through the airport, I didn’t hand the attendants a piece of paper; I handed them my real passport. The paper was kept safe in my suitcase, in case of anything akin to the movie Taken.
  3. When copying or moving files from multiple locations, right-click on a file location and use the “open in a new window” feature. It’s just like opening a new tab in a browser; you can look at one file location without closing another, and the tip works perfectly when used with tip number four.
  4. In conjunction with the new window, use the WINDOWS + ARROW keys to split the screen. I always knew you could split a screen manually by dragging, but with Windows 10, this two-button combination makes moving files to a centralized location even easier.
  5. Renaming files is essential if you want to stay organized. If you’re using a cloud service, you’ll find the auto-saving to be an amazing feature, but the default name of such documents is not helpful at all. When those documents sync down to your computer, you’re left with twenty Word documents all named “Document 1.” Thus, it’s important that wherever you create and save your documents, you save them in such a way as to make them searchable later.
  6. When you need to organize multiple files, remember these two crucial buttons for moving contiguous or non-contiguous files: SHIFT and CTRL. If you want to move ten documents in a row, click the first file, hold down SHIFT and click the last one to grab them all. Need to pull non-contiguous groups of documents at once? Use CTRL; keep holding it while you click multiple documents that you can copy and paste where they need to go.
  7. Need to paste a document into your cloud sync folder? Remember the white space. Sometimes when you’re pasting a file to a location that already has a lot of files in it, you start to lose room for adding new files. Make sure to look for a white space on the edge of the destination folder to paste safely to the root of the drive without accidentally putting your file into a sub-folder where you’ll never find it again.
  8. Want to sort a frequently-accessed folder to the top of your list? Add an underscore. Simply add an underscore to the beginning of your assignment title when renaming, and you’ll never struggle to find that favorite folder again.
  9. Be consistent when renaming files, so that they will sort correctly. Especially if you’re going to use numbers in your titles, make sure they are formatted the same. For instance, sometimes your folder that starts with a 10 wants to file before the folder that starts with a 1; try different renaming strategies to see what works for you.
  10. The ultimate straighten-up strategy? Delete unwanted and unneeded files. Whether you’re working on the computer itself or the cloud, there’s always a recycle bin. In case you have cleaner’s remorse, you can always go back and restore the file, at least for thirty days. Most files I’ve deleted I never need again; take the plunge and delete, knowing that you can retrieve the deleted file if need be.

Want to see all these straighten-up strategies in action? After all, a video picture is worth a thousand words. Check out the video below, filmed on Facebook Live every Tuesday night at 8:30 PM EST.

Do you have other strategies I missed? Please share them in the comments below.

With Tech and Twang,

Suzy Signature Pink

Tech Tuesday #7: Straighten-Up Strategies for Outlook

If you’re like me, your email box is one of your biggest sources of frustration and perceived busyness. Gone are the days when I started teaching fifteen years ago that we received memos in our school mailboxes; the color of the paper denoted the urgency of the message or lack thereof. One would think that managing messages digitally would be easier; nothing can get lost. I think that’s the problem. We never lose anything! It keeps piling up in our cloud-based limitless email boxes, to the point that the important does sometimes get buried beneath the minutia.

In this first part of the series I’m calling “Straighten-Up Strategies,” let’s tackle that inbox and the overwhelmed feeling it causes.

From today on, I want you to have two goals when it comes to your inbox. There is nothing new under the sun, so I want to give credit to two podcasters I mentioned in a previous Tech Tuesday, Amy Porterfield and Angela Watson, for inspiring these two goals. From Amy I take my first goal, one that I strive for but haven’t reached in forever: Start every day with inbox zero. Yes, you read that right. Make it a goal to completely clean out your inbox regularly, even if it’s not once a day. I know, I know…it’s just going to fill up again, especially if you’re a teacher. The same repeat happens with laundry and dishes as well, but we still have to try to make an effort, right?

The second goal, courtesy of Angela Watson, is this one: touch each email once. You know the drill with deleting, replying, and forwarding an email. However, if you will check out the video below, recorded as a Facebook Live I host every Tuesday, you will find more great strategies that will help you accomplish both goals.

Watch and learn:

  • how to create a calendar appointment from an email just by dragging and dropping
  • how to send emails and their attachments to OneNote
  • how keeping emails in both the “Sent” box and “Inbox” is redundant
  • how to use the Clean Up function in Outlook 2016
  • how to manage folders that are no longer relevant
  • how to use the Sweep function in Office365
  • how to undo an accidental click of the Archive button
  • how to create rules that automatically manage your email for you

It’s an action-packed video, so make sure to tune in!

Tech Tuesday #6: TCEA Reflections–Doing Blended Learning Right

What happens when a Georgia girl gets flown to Austin to present at conference where the goal is to keep it weird? Let’s just I fit right in, except for the fact that sweet tea was a hidden treasure I had a hard time finding. But I didn’t mind having to navigate the loss of my favorite drink, as long as I got to share my love of OneNote and gamification. My passion for gaming the classroom first hit me when I was reviewing resources from a Georgia technology conference. Having just left the classroom about four years ago to work for technology in the district office, I’m still very much aware of teachers’ struggles to get their students to be motivated and turn in work. The concepts of badging, leveling up, and missions seemed to be what I was looking for, and what I would love to share with teachers. At this conference in Texas, I decided to give my gaming brain a break and follow a couple different tracks: blended learning and using an LMS with little ones. Thus, my overview below will not cover every session I attended but those where I got valuable information related to those two topics.

On the blended learning track, my first session was “Blended Learning for Elementary” on Tuesday morning. Because I’m from a Microsoft-using district, and many of these sessions focus on Google tools, I always go in with the mindset that I will need to adapt. In this session, I certain received several insights on what I could adapt. As teachers are sharing Office Mixes with students, they can use their LMSs to deliver either a Word online or PowerPoint cloze-style online recording sheet for students to take notes and make sure they got everything out of the video. I also thought of ways to use the new Microsoft Whiteboard app for students to do collaborative brainstorming; now all it needs is an embed feature, so students can access the web version without having to download an app. Later that morning, I went to a session on “Hacking Canvas,” hoping to learn even more ways to make our district’s chosen LMS do more. In this session, I was reminded how much I like Thinglink for its linkable hotspot capabilities. The session leader gave us the idea of using a Thinglink image to give a classroom tour with a reminder of procedures that happen in each area of the room. Because these enhanced images embed beautifully in Canvas, I want to show them to teachers for a way to bring even more capability to blended learning.  A Wednesday workshop continued my thought process about the pedagogy behind the tools with blended learning. Using different types of hammers, the workshop facilitators showed us that a good tool is not always the right tool. Different types of blended learning should be used when they work, not all the time. They emphasized the tendency of many teachers to fall back on old habits, even with new technology, and reminded us that an LMS should not be just a filing cabinet, but a place where the resources truly are interactive. They reminded me of the true definition of blended learning; students have at least partial control over time, place, path, and pace in which their learning takes place. My final blended learning workshop, which was later on Wednesday afternoon, added these tips to my well-rounded exposure to this topic. These presenters emphasized the need for student engagement; their workshop itself relied on a “BLT” theme to get our attention, which stood for Blended Learning Toolkit, and even involved the presenters wearing themed shirts. They showed us how hyperdocs could be engaging but still meet academic content. They also suggested having students create memes to summarize reading pieces. Finally, they showed through their examples that a teacher should always plan two different activities or articles for each standard students are to learn. This tour blended learning certainly broadened my horizons, and I look forward to being able to share with teachers as I model strong blended learning in my own trainings.

My second path for the conference was bent on trying to find ideas for engaging young learners, and thus their teachers, in using our Canvas LMS more effectively. Though I did get some ideas, which I will share momentarily, other interaction came with fellow attendees in person and on social media. One such interaction came when a group I met in a session shared that they were having the same trouble as me getting their K-2 teachers from Seesaw into the Canvas LMS. I was able to share information with them to help students do work in Seesaw but then submit it and share with parents in one place, Canvas. Also during the conference, a podcast episode I recorded with a first-grade teacher got a tremendous number of retweets and listens. That fact prompted another trainer to reach out to me on Twitter for some inspiration on getting more use for the LMS with his K-2 teachers as well; nothing but positive can come out of organic interactions and brainstorming sessions like those. As far as more formal sessions, I went to one on Tuesday morning called “Canvas for Littles.” In that session, I was reminded that by organizing our materials well in the LMS, we are “buying time back” to work with students. The facilitators told us that anything that takes students more than three clicks to access is too much. I was inspired to think about how I can simplify the workflows I’m asking teachers to try with their students to limit students’ and thus, their own, frustrations with putting work in the LMS for little ones. As far as practical ideas, I saw that Padlet embeds right into Canvas for students to use without going out of the LMS. Also, although the example was with Google Docs, I saw a drag-and-drop flower label worksheet that would be cool to share with students. The two presenters were both instructional technology specialists like myself; they reminded me that my making a resource to share accomplishes two things: it inspires my teachers to create the next one, and it helps me build up a repository of resources I can with teachers in the future. Everything I learned along this “littles” track may not have been new, but I was fired up afresh to get my teachers and young students using Canvas even more.

Technology conferences aren’t just conferences. Perhaps the best part of any conference is the congeniality that develops among new friends who find common areas of interest, all looking for solutions to help their kids do more. TCEA was that for me. Though I mostly teach adults nowadays, the excitement of my new friend and roommate attending the conference was tremendous. The travel program for MIE Experts should continue to be a valuable resource that educators like me can access to find renewal, ideas, and an outlet to show the great things about Microsoft tools to a larger teaching community.

Want to see my top ten tips for doing blended learning right? Watch this video from my weekly Facebook Live session, happening every Tuesday at 8:00 PM EST right here.

Interactive Student Review with Better Flashcards: Pear Deck Flashcard Factory

Every year, I go to a technology conference here in Georgia that has about 4,000 attendees. It’s no ISTE, but it’s nothing to sneeze at either. There always a ton of new ideas, and I never can get to everything I want to see. Especially when I’m nervous about presenting.
However, there are some years when I feel like I don’t learn much that is totally revolutionary. This year was that way. My one standout was learning about Flashcard Factory. It wasn’t even its own session but really just an ear-catching moment in another session. But it’s stuck with me because I thought the concept was so cool.

Discover this Cool Tool!

If you’ve heard of Pear Deck, which integrates with Google products, you may not know that they just came out with Flashcard Factory as well. The teacher generates a list of vocabulary words and correct definitions for students. Just that fact makes all the difference. If you’ve ever had your students look up words in the dictionary, you know that, without fail, they find a definition that has nothing to do with what you wanted them to learn. Not so with Flashcard Factory. Using your provided information, they are assigned to a day shift or night shift team in the factory. They sit together in small groups and come up with illustrations and examples for the words and definitions. You then are the quality control to accept or reject definitions that later go into a master set. Intrigued? I was. Watch the video below to see how some real teachers helped me practice this process that you will love using with your students.

Want more cool tools? This video was part of the Twelve Days of Tech-mas, originally hosted at my Facebook Fan Page. Go follow and like it now so you can be in the live audience every Tuesday when my newest tip goes live. But don’t worry if you missed a few. They’re all linked right here:

Day 1: Digital Writing and Drawing

Day 2: Creating Custom Breakout Edu Games

Day 3: New Ideas for Using QR Codes in the Classroom

Day 4: Pretty Up Your Online Life with Colors and Emojis

Day 5: Favorite Chrome Extensions for Teacher Productivity

Day 6: The Best Six Podcasts for Teachers and Teacherpreneurs

Day 7: Creating Your Own Free Embed Code

Day 8: Interactive Student Review with Better Flashcards: Pear Deck Flashcard Factory YOU ARE HERE! 🗺️ 🌍

Day 9: Recognize Incremental Learning and Increase Motivation with Badging

Day 10: Create Recipe Lists and Auto-Populated Emails with Office Quick Parts

Day 11: Automate Your Life by Connecting Favorite Online Tools with IFTTT

Day 12: Organize URLs and Enhance Productivity using Excel Spreadsheets and OneDrive


Creating Your Own Free Embed Code

Raise your virtual hand if you’re one of my fellow YouTube fans out there. If you’re not, I assure you you’re in the minority. I can learn everything from hobbies to teaching ideas to organization tips from quick videos hosted there. One of the coolest things about YouTube is that it offers embed codes. That means that their content can live on your site in a more native view.

I don’t know about your students, but mine would probably have gotten lost traveling from tab to tab. If you’re a district that uses some kind of learning management system, you want your students to realize that everything they need lives in that LMS. You don’t want to send them out everywhere, at least in a way that they recognize it.

The embed code… YouTube is great for that, as I said. But what about sites that don’t provide an embed code? Or ones that charge for it? I can’t promise that the process I’m about to show you on this video works for every site, but I was pretty proud of myself for finding that it did work on several sites where I tested it with teachers and students. When I came up with this idea, I felt like a real hacker, albeit a safe one. So if you have a site where you would like to generate an embed code, watch the five-minute video below and learn:

Tech Tuesday #5: Ten Tips for Blended Learning Done Right

Blended learning is a relatively new concept to me. I certainly was implementing some online or technology-driven learning in my classroom a few years ago. However, the concept of blended learning was just really a phrase in the back of my mind. Thus, with my district implementing a Learning Management System (LMS) which allows for blended learning for the first time on a widespread basis, I thought it would be important for me to learn more about it.

I just got back from the TCEA Conference in Austin, Texas. At that conference, I decided to change my normal pursuit of gamification strategies to a two prong attack on a different subject line. I followed the track of blended learning, and then also within that subgenre, using an LMS with little children. I hope to share some of those second ideas more in a further post. Today’s post, though, is all about the logistics of blended learning, specifically my top ten tips for those who want to start it off right.

Ten Tips for Blended Learning Done Right

Number one. Use your learning management system as a one-stop-shop. Again, I want to go further into LMS for Littles in a further post, but suffice it to say here that you need your students to believe that everything they need to be successful in your class is found in one place, and that’s the LMS. Now, blended learning means that students have face-to-face and online learning. Thus the blend. However, the learning management system is certainly an integral part of the operation. If you don’t send your students there frequently, they don’t have a habit, and they don’t know how to login. They need to know that you are putting all of your best resources there for them to use. Forming a habit with students and parents will strengthen your ability to blend in one of the four situations I’m about to discuss.

Blended learning involves student control, at least part of the time, in each of the four areas which I will specify as blended learning tips 2 through 5.

Time, Place, Path, and Pace

Number 2. Students need control over their path. Maybe some students need to navigate through video content while other students need an article or a worksheet. The bottom line is that students have different needs and thus, they need different opportunities to learn. We call that paths in blended learning. Some teachers get as detailed as making personalized playlists for students. Maybe you’re not ready there yet,  but it’s important that students are at least beginning to exercise choice over the path of their learning.

Tip three. Students also should have some control over their pace. Give me a literature passage, and I can dissect it in no time. I can give you brilliant insights on the metaphors and the symbols and the characterization. But give me a calculus problem, and you will definitely see my pace become different. It should be all right for students to master content when they’re ready, whether that be faster than everybody else or slower. Pace is a huge component of a successful blended learning.

Number 4: students should also have control over time. Now I’m going to go ahead and discuss the big elephant in the room. I don’t mean that your students should be doing all their work at home and then coming to your class and acting like maniacs in their free time. What I do mean, though, is that if they work better in the morning or in the evening, we should account for that preference at least part of the time. I definitely work best in the early morning hours. As a matter of fact, I’ve often thought I would be just as productive if I only worked half the day 🙂 Training students to prioritize their most important tasks at their most productive times is also valuable life skill and one that is perfect for blended learning. If they have a playlist or a hyperdoc or a module in a learning management system that they can attack in their preferred order, that prioritization really will go a long way in their success.

Tip number five. The last area in which students should have control in blended learning is over place. This concept can range from flexible seating in the classroom to being able to do some work in the media center or at home or in a blended learning period. Blended learning makes possible this flexibility and place that is crucial to success.

Three Benefits of Blended Learning

My 6th tip is that blended learning done well should allow you to buy back time. Imagine all the processes that you explain over and over or the concepts that are something that students need to study in review. If you’re able to turn those into your online modules and then work with students who still don’t get them after repeated exposures, you are buying back both students’ time and your own time. The video content is doing the work that you might have had to do in twice as much time.

In the same vein, tip number 7 is it blended learning allows you to clone yourself. You may have students on multiple learning paths, but there may only be one teacher in the room. I know when I taught high school that was usually the case. Even students who were on special ed consultation didn’t necessarily have a caseworker or co-teacher in the room. Blended learning allows you to create content for most of the students most of the time so that you can pull small groups of students that you need to either enrich or remediate to your desk while the others are getting high-quality instruction.

I hope that those of you who are teachers and parents will appreciate tip number 8. It is to make blended learning, in both its explanation and its execution, simple enough that parents can help. We can pretend that parents won’t access the learning management system from home on behalf of their students, but instead, let’s find meaningful ways for them to participate. Let’s create videos that show how to navigate our system. Let’s eliminate options that are unclear in our menus or on our settings. Let’s make sure that parents who want to help their students to be successful can find what they need, and thus that students will truly be more empowered in their quest for time, place, path, and pace.

Number nine is crucial for every type of learning, not just blended. In addition to strong content, engagement has to be a priority. Just slapping some resources up in a module is creating a $1,000 pencil or another boring digital textbook. It’s not going to further the learning like blended learning is meant to do. It’s important to put interactive resources and formative assessments throughout the content.

Finally, tip ten is that blended learning is a perfect opportunity to build in differentiation with high-quality resources. One workshop I went to in Texas suggested that for every standard, the teacher has at least two learning options available. You could create those by learning style or by readability or whatever method you choose, but building in two options is auto-differentiating and also increasing the quality of the content we’re putting out there.


The Best Six Podcasts for Teachers and Teacherpreneurs

I took a podcasting class maybe eight or nine years ago. I don’t remember exactly when, but I know it’s been a while. I hadn’t thought about podcasts in years, and unitl my husband and I started listening to one of a faraway church we like, they were just a distant memory. Who knew they were still alive and well?
Since I’ve rediscovered them, I haven’t been the same. I really enjoy my commute because I always can listen to something in the car. Why would you want to listen to podcasts if you haven’t already? I think can think of three reasons.
Number one: you can learn while you drive. If you’re a teacher, it’s because you like to learn first. Obviously you can’t read books and take notes in the car, so podcasts provide a great way to learn and listen, and good podcasters also provide show notes that you can refer back to after your drive is done.
Number two: Twitter is also a great Professional Learning Network (PLN) for me. But I can’t tweet while I’m in the car. Podcasting allows me to participate in that great PLN in the car. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been listening, and I’ve been referred to another great educator with whom I can connect. Or have heard someone I already knew being interviewed on the podcast. There was even the one time I got to be on Vicki Davis’ show. Very cool 🙂
Number three: Finally, podcasts are great because if you make one in your classroom featuring your students, you’re giving your students an authentic audience. We all know that, beyond elementary school, students don’t really want to write for their teacher. Or they don’t write authentically for their teacher. But if they know someone else is listening to their work, they will be more likely to write and produce good content.
I hope the reasons are convincing enough, but if you want to hear what gets me excited about the particular podcasts I follow, watch the video below, where I feature these six favorites:

If you’re looking to get into the podcast game for the first time or the first time in a while, push play on the video below now:

Favorite Chrome Extensions for Teacher Productivity

People have all different kinds of favorites. Some have favorite shoe brands or favorite jeans or favorite stores. You know I’m a technology nerd, because I have favorite… browsers 🙂 if you’ve been a teacher for a long time, you might have been totally addicted to Internet Explorer for years. The problem is that it hasn’t been updated in at least four years. Even Microsoft, who created the browser, has changed over to Edge. I’m getting my feet wet with Edge and there’s a lot to like about it that I can show on another day, but Chrome is still my favorite.

One reason I love the Google Chrome browser is that it’s customizable. Not only do you  have a great modern browser, but you can also tweak it to make it enhance functions that you do on a daily basis. I thought it might be worth our while for me to show you some of my favorite Chrome extensions, how to find them, and how to make sure that your extensions travel with you from machine to machine.

The extensions I love and share in the video are:

  • Colorzilla
  • Crafty Text
  • OneTab
  • The QR Code Extension
  • Bitmoji
  • Emoji for Google Chrome

Ready to get started? Watch the video below. P.S. The quality of this video is terrible–I was trying something new and it was a fail:( However, the info is good…my apologies.


Pretty Up Your Online Life with Colors and Emojis

Can I get a shout out if you’re one of my fellow Pinterest addicts? If so, see the article I wrote before about that. But seriously, what draws us to Pinterest is the beauty of it. If we’re girls especially, we like pretty things…even if we can’t necessarily replicate them ourselves. Anybody else out there a member of the Crappy Craft Society?

Anyhow, prettying up our online life fulfills the same drive as looking at Pinterest. As a matter of fact, it also makes things better for a student’s life. How? I’ll give you four reasons.

Number one. There’s the fun factor. Teachers and students could all use a little bit more fun, right? Taking the time to make our OneDrive, our Google Drive, or our LMS look attractive holds the students’ attention just a little bit longer.

Number two. Color coding helps everyone find what they’re looking for faster. In the video below, I’m going to show you some tips on using color-coding to ensure that your organizational structure is obvious to you and your students. And that makes for more classroom efficiency.

Reason number three is that colors and emojis, which we’re definitely going to hit in this video, are great for young readers, struggling readers, and English Language Learners. If they can’t exactly read what they’re looking for, seeing it will help them access the material just like everyone else.

Number four: Lastly, symbols and colors also give a preview of what’s in the folder for everybody. That includes you, the teacher. I don’t know about you, but at the end of any given workday, my brain is fried. If I’m looking for something, and I can quickly recognize it by its color or its symbol, I will be more likely to find it so that I can go home :-).

See what I mean about the benefits of prettying up your online life?

So without further ado, let’s dive into how you can make your OneDrive, your Google Drive, and your learning management system more beautiful and more actionable for you and your students. Click on the video below.