Wednesday, June 13, 2018

An Easy Speech-to-Text Option for Word, OneNote, and PowerPoint

Word, OneNote, and PowerPoint users have a new speech-to-text option. A new dictation option has been added to Office 365. The dictation tool will transcribe your spoken words into text on your screen.

This afternoon I tried the dictation option in both Word and PowerPoint on my desktop. It is easy to use and accurate as long as you speak clearly. Your text will appear wherever your cursor is placed so make sure to move your cursor if you want to place text in different boxes on a slide. Text appears in your default font style unless you change it before dictating. It's important to note that the new dictation tool doesn't yet work in the online versions of Word and OneNote. Microsoft says that dictation will be available in the online versions later this year.

Adverbs, Themes, and Labels - New Immersive Reader Features

Immersive Reader is a free add-in for Word, OneNote, Outlook, and Edge enables students to have articles read aloud to them at pace that meets their needs. Additionally, Immersive Reader will identify individual syllables, highlight each word as it is read, and identify parts of speech for students. It has become my go-to recommendation whenever I'm asked to recommend an accessibility tool that has either text-to-speech capabilities or readability enhancement capabilities.

This week Microsoft added three more options to Immersive Reader. First, Immersive Reader will now highlight adverbs. You can activate this option in the "parts of speech" menu in Immersive Reader. Second, there are new color palette choices in Immersive Reader. This gives users more control over contrast and text visibility. The third new option is the ability to have parts of speech labels displayed in Immersive Reader. These labels are in addition to the color-coding that is already in place for parts of speech highlighting.

These new Immersive Reader options are available in Word Online, OneNote Online, OneNote for Windows 10, OneNote for iPad, OneNote for Mac, and Outlook in the Web. Immersive Reader is a part of Microsoft's Learning Tools.


Crayon - Super Simple Collaborative Whiteboard

Update: May 2020. This tool is no longer available.

Crayon is a new service in the collaborative whiteboard market. You can use Crayon without creating an account. To make a collaborative whiteboard just go to the Crayon site, enter your name, and enter a name for your whiteboard space. With your whiteboard open copy its URL and send it to the people you want to collaborate with you.

Crayon doesn't offer anything other than a whiteboard on which you can draw. There isn't any kind of chat option so there is the potential for you to write over your collaborators if you're not already talking via Skype, phone, or Google Hangouts at the same time.

I'm not ready to recommend Crayon in place of other online whiteboard options, but I do like its simplicity and its potential. Crayon is still in an "alpha" phase so there should be more features coming in the future.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Three Ways to Use Screencasting In Your Classroom

Creating videos doesn't have to be a complicated process. Screencasting is one relatively easy way to get started making videos in your classroom. Screencasting is the process of recording the actions that are happening on your laptop, tablet, or phone screen. Here are three ways that you can use screencasting in your classroom.

Simple Slideshow Video Lessons
Have slides? Record yourself talking over the slides. Try to keep this kind of video short, under five minutes, or you risk losing your students' attention. Using a tool like Screencast-o-matic that lets you record your webcam at the same time as your screen to include your face in the video. That can give it slightly personal touch. If you're a dedicated PowerPoint user you can even create an screencast video within PowerPoint.

Whiteboard Videos
There are plenty of iPad apps and Android apps for making whiteboard videos. ShowMe is a good representative of those apps. On a Chromebook, MacBook, or Windows computer use a screencasting tool like Screencastify in the Chrome web browser to record while drawing in Google Drawings.

Tech Help Videos
If you're the person that everyone in your school emails for help with their tech problems, you need to have a good screencasting tool at the ready. Loom is a fantastic tool for making quick screencast videos to answer requests for tech help. You can launch Loom from the Chrome browser or directly from your email inbox. Click here to learn how to create a screencast right from your email inbox.

Updated - 5 Online, Collaborative Whiteboard Services

Online, collaborative, whiteboards can be great tools for hosting quick review sessions for your students. Your students can also use these tools to conduct online study sessions with each other. Here are five free online whiteboard tools to try.

Draw Chat is a free service that allows anyone to create a video chat over a whiteboard, PDF, image, or map. To use Draw Chat you just have to visit the site and click "Start New Whiteboard." Once your whiteboard launches you will have the option to enable access to your webcam and microphone. You can have people join your whiteboard video conference by sending them the link assigned to your whiteboard. Draw Chat allows you to draw or type on a shared whiteboard. Additionally, you can upload a PDF or an image to annotate on the whiteboard. A fourth option for drawing on Draw Chat is to import the URL for a Google Map and draw on that map.

Skype Interviews is a free Microsoft service that was developed for employers to use to interview potential employees. It was specifically designed with coders and programmers in mind as there is a code editor component that lets candidates display their skills in realtime. Yesterday, Microsoft added a whiteboard to Skype Interviews. The whiteboard in Skype Interviews allows you to draw on and share a virtual whiteboard while in your call. You can also type on the whiteboard. A few pre-made shapes are also available to add to your whiteboard to create a flowchart.

Realtime Board is an online whiteboard tool that I have been recommending for the last half-dozen years. At its basic level Realtime Board provides a blank canvas on which you can type, draw, and post pictures. You can connect elements on your boards through a simple linking tool. Realtime Board includes an activity tracking feature. This feature lets you see the changes that have been made to a shared Realtime Board whiteboard.

WebRoom is a free service for hosting online meetings. WebRoom doesn't require you to download any software and you don't need to register in order to use it. WebRoom lets you use your webcam if you want people to see your face during the meeting. A whiteboard space is provided. You can draw on the whiteboard or upload a file to share and discuss on the whiteboard. A text chat space is provided in each WebRoom meeting. It is possible to share your screen with other meeting participants. However, to share your screen you will need to install the WebRoom Chrome extension.



Stoodle is a free online collaborative whiteboard tool hosted by CK12. On Stoodle you can create a whiteboard space and invite others to use it with you. Registration is not required in order to use Stoodle. Stoodle has voice and text chat options, but it does not have a video chat option. In the video embedded below I demonstrate the features of Stoodle. Update 2/9/2019: This tool is no longer online.