Last week I attended my first out-of-state Ed Tech conference, NCCE in Seattle, where I presented a session on using Power Bi. This was my first time in Seattle, and even though it was a short two-day trip, I really enjoyed the city and the conference. I was able to meet up with some MIE colleagues that I hadn't seen in a few years and meet some new faces too.
This is the second time I've presented on Power Bi at a conference, and it still isn't any easier. Trying to explain what I do, how I do it, and why I do it in just 50 minutes to an audience that may not have any experience using a spreadsheet is a big challenge. I think what I'm doing is the coolest thing ever right now, but I get a sense that it can be a little overwhelming. Since this was my second go-around, I tweaked the session a little bit by eliminating the Excel demo. I've been using Power Bi for two years now, learning on my own, and there really is just too much info that can't be packed into a one-hour session. I try to keep all the info as relevant as possible; I provide examples of the data I'm tracking, how my data models are designed, basic workflows I use, and the ins and outs of sharing Bi reports with colleagues and students. The most important aspect is the "So What, Now What?", which I'm still in the process of learning myself. Learning everything I know about Power Bi, data management, and design has taken quite a while, but it's pointless if I'm not using it for its purpose; steering my curriculum and instruction into the right direction for my students.
I get a sense this is potentially important in the future for teachers. Now that I have access to all this information and insight I never had before about my students' learning, how do I properly use this information to my advantage with my instruction and classroom activities? I see this happening already, but it’s not the teachers making the adjustments, it's software doing the job instead. I see the value in using software to guide students with their work and learning, but I still think I can do a better job of explaining content, concepts, skills, and ideas to my students based on their individual needs. So how do I do this? I teach over 230 students a day. I have multiple sets of data now about their understanding of concepts, their abilities, their strengths, and their weaknesses. I now have an opportunity to specifically target my students' learning needs. So, how do I?
This is what I'm experiencing now. As Toni Townes-Whitley, the opening NCCE keynote speaker said in her keynote, "How do I digest this data?", and as I'm learning right now, how do I correctly act upon it? From my experience this year, it requires time. Time to think. Time to analyze the data charts, filter through the various subsets, and find the important insights hidden inside. I must make time to do this, and for me it needs to be as distraction free as possible. Not only do I need to do my analysis, but I need to capture those spontaneous ideas of how I can act upon what I now know about my students' learning and abilities. This is the second half of the challenge, the "Now What?". With the information I now know through my Power Bi data, I'm generating all sorts of ideas on how I'm going to target my students' needs. It's a lot though. In my head I'm rearranging seating charts, even considering mixing up my instrument sections so I have particular sets of students sitting next to each other. This isn't normal. In the music room, the instruments all sit together in their sections, but now I'm thinking of throwing that idea out the window. Other ideas include collaborative discussion activities, new instructional activities, just new…stuff. Ideas I've never considered. My pedagogy just went through a huge transition over the last five years, and now I feel like I'm about to go through another one. I don't mind this, I feel this is part of what makes my job enjoyable. I like to problem solve, and now I have more information on what problems I need to solve.
These specific pedagogical solutions to tackling my students' needs can't be designed and implemented via software. These actions currently require a teacher, but what about the data? How will that be handled in the future? Will teachers just rely on software to give them a generic analysis of their students' learning, or will they want to dig deeper? Will they want to know more? If they do, some new skill sets are going to be required. Teachers will need to know how to access various forms of student data. They'll need knowledge on creating data models that target specific insights of their students' learning. They're going to need some analysis skills and time to be creative afterwards.
It'll be interesting see if these thoughts ever become a real issue. The current focus has been on equity, understanding the cloud, why is the Wi-Fi slow, how to use cloud services like Office 365 and Gsuite, what's the latest new formative assessment tool this month, how do I sign in, why is the Wi-Fi still slow, etc. With all these new cloud services and formative, iterative, and summative assessment tools at our disposal to use (and being used), a lot of data is being gathered on our students' learning. What's all that data doing right now? Is it being used? Will it be used? Who's going to map it all out? Do they know how? Do they know what to look for?
Once Office Forms became available to use last year, one of the features that really got my attention was its Data Sync functionality. Forms would create an Excel spreadsheet I could download locally to my Surface, and every time I opened the Excel file, the little Data Sync add-in would connect to my Form and refresh my spreadsheet with any new entries. I loved this because it allowed me to design and create Forms I could use continuously throughout the year. I could work with the data I was receiving in my Excel file (queries, tables, functions), and then sit back and let it do it's thing over time. I open the Excel file, Data Sync pulls in new entries, my other spreadsheet tables and functions update themselves with the new data, I hit save, and done. This was really handy when I would create and give a Forms quiz to my students and there were students absent that day (and the day after!). I could work on the spreadsheet that night, connect it to Power Bi, and start doing my analysis of the results knowing that when my absent students take the quiz days later all my files will automatically update and refresh the data after I open them.
Well, it's back….kind of.
I'm always messing around with Office 365, and I discovered how to get back the data sync back into my excel files. I'll have to change a little bit of my workflow, but whatever, I got my data sync back. Currently (because hey, this could change) there are two ways to create a Form, and only one of them gives you the data sync-like functionality.
Method 1: Create a new Form straight from the "Forms" app in Office 365
This will create a Form, and give you a spreadsheet, but the Data Sync ability that refreshes your data table is not there. If you want a static spreadsheet in the end, this is how you do it.
Method 2: Create a new Form in Excel Online
Create a new spreadsheet in Excel Online and then click on the little Forms button showing in the Home tab. Create a Form. Note! You can't create a quiz so you miss out on the quiz features like math and feedback. This new Form will also show up with your other Forms so you know where to find it, share it, and look at the results. The difference is now the Excel button looks a little different, and instead of giving you an Excel file to download, it directs you to Excel Online file where you can see your Form results in a table. And (best part here), this new Excel Online file is stored in your OneDrive for Business folder, and therefore can sync locally to your computer. Now you have a Excel file that updates itself automatically as new entries are submitted via the Form.
There is a caveat though I've learned through some trial and error. If I mess around with the synced Form/Excel File (locally and online) like creating new columns and functions in the data table, this breaks the sync connection. The Excel file will no longer import any new responses from the Form.
So, what do I do then? I still want to mess around with my data. It's actually pretty easy, I just create another "Master" Excel spreadsheet and start querying the data. The data coming in from the Form is sent to the Excel Online file, which is synced to my computer. I just query the data table from that data-syncing Form/Excel file stored on my computer and voilà, I have the same data showing up, and it can be played around with. As new entries are submitted, the data is synced to the data-syncing Excel-File-That-Must-Not-Be-Touched, and when I refresh my query from my "Master" spreadsheet, all the new rows of data appear. Yay!
So yeah, my methods will change for next year, but now I've got my data syncing back :-)
This past school year was my district's first full year of using Office 365. With access to Forms, Power Bi, and my class set of iPads, I was able to mess around with getting different sets of data from my students and seeing what I could do with it to help their learning and my teaching. I wrote a guest blog post for Microsoft's education blog on my experience, which you can read here.
I recently had a surgical procedure done, and so now I have to take it easy during my recovery time. Not easy with two boys by the way, my natural stubbornness has been fighting the idea of picking them up as well as other regular activities. Anyways, it does give me time to lie down and get work done on my Surface. When I'm in this "mode" I'm usually keyboard-less, using just the Surface Pen and my fingers. This morning I decided to work on a task for my multimedia class; creating a method for my students to peer assess their recent graphic design work.
This is my iPad class, so I strive to keep everything digital with the least amount of steps possible for my students. Their work (a redesign of a local HS flyer) was created in the MS Word app, lives in their school OneDrive folder, and is shared with me. I decided to use the top 5 submissions for this activity. This allows the student's work to be recognized, but also keeps the activity from becoming burdensome. Still though, I had to figure out how to make this happen with the tools I have, so where do I start? OneNote :-)
OneNote is where my thoughts go, especially for designing and creating new stuff. I quickly grabbed a example pic of student work using the Ink Workspace tools; I opened up a student's file from the web (shared with me through OneDrive), double clicked my Surface Pen to bring up the Screen Sketch, did a quick crop, and copy/pasted into OneNote. After that came the brainstorming. I knew I wanted my students to be able to:
I've done stuff like this before, so I had a general idea of how to do this, but some parts were different. My students' work was a Word doc file, so I had to figure out how to display them to the students. Rather than use an online Excel Form I would use Office Forms in its place for the peer assessment. The peer assessment form would have to be reusable too, since students were assessing multiple pieces of student work.
There is of course multiple ways to achieve this using all sorts of apps and services readily available. My point for writing this blog post is because it was so simple and fast for me to put it all together using my Surface and Office 365. Usually there is some frustration involved when I'm putting an #edtech idea together. This app doesn't work, or this format isn't recognized, etc. I didn't experience any roadblocks today. Everything just worked, and rather quickly too. Here is what I did.
That's it! A couple grammar tweaks here and there, but that was it. Again, I could have accomplished this using other tools for sure, but this method was way faster and had fewer steps. Fewer points and clicks if you know what I mean. SPOILER: I didn't use a mouse or keyboard for any of this. I used touch and pen input, and the Surface's built in handwriting recognition for all text input.
I was hesitant at first putting this assessment activity together. I figured it would take a few hours, would require a mouse and keyboard, would involve multiple steps, and I wouldn't be able to accomplish it laying down in my bed. I was wrong. My Surface + Office 365 + Ink Workspace allowed me to put this together quickly with zero issues. And I did it comfortably ?
Check it out. This is a public version of the activity. Everything is located in one space. The Sway will be distributed to the students via their OneNote Class Notebook. My students can view it in OneNote, or view the Sway in the iPad's browser.
Power BI is becoming more and more a part of my workflow. When I plan activities for my students and develop new routines, collecting relevant data is always considered. Especially since I can easily turn that data into great looking visuals for interpretation and getting insights.
Power BI is included in your Office 365 school license, but it doesn't automatically show up in the waffle of apps. After you login, it will :-)
Play around with it, and you'll start to see just how valuable a tool it is. I've used it to analyze my student's performance scores, reading comprehension scores, and recently their instrument checkout frequency.
Can't wait to show my students this one, and see my 8th grader's reaction >:-)
I use an Office Form to track my students' instrument checkouts (I'll write about how I was able to capture it in the future), and it's now a daily routine in my classroom. This is one of the best parts though. Sharing my reports with my students for their own personal reflection on their learning.
People have been requesting an Office Mix on how I use Power BI, so I made one. It covers the basics for now, and more Mixes will be created in the future to go over other tips and tricks.
Also, gotta say that creating this Mix on my Surface was a piece of cake. #OnceYouGoPen...
This post was created in Sway. You can view it full screen here
I enjoy opportunities to be creative. I have my whole life. I grew up with Legos, I did art (thanks Mom!), still do music, worked backstage at my high school theatre department designing and building sets, and just being creative all around. Of course the tolls of growing up diminished those opportunities due to the new time-consuming responsibilities of being a working adult and family man. However now they're back, except they've adapted to my daily life with the help of a personal interest (technology) and passion (teaching, aka my job).
I've been able to get my creative juices up and running again while being a part of Microsoft's Innovative Educator Expert program. The MIE expert program has been praised for many reasons, such as it's incredible PLN community, the monthly skype meetings, and the events we attend. However, for me, what I love about the MIE program is the challenge and opportunity for creativity it presents to me: "Here are a bunch of tools and resources, now what can I do with them?" For me, being an educator and techy person already, this is more "fun" for me than being "work". Here’s why.
The daily grind of my job isn't boring, it's fun! Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying my students are boring, or that teaching them is boring. I enjoy teaching, and every day is a new day with my students. What the MIE program does for me is it taps into the creative aspect of TPACK (the intersection of technology, pedagogy, and content). It has created opportunities for me to imagine and find out "what if I did this?" and "how could I do that?" in my classroom. It has given me a new mindset and a new perspective to how I approach many aspects of my professional life. So how can this happen?
For the past four years, Microsoft has introduced new tools, resources, and mediums that can be integrated into the classroom. The cool part is how there is a cohesive harmony created when they're all working together.
With all of this available, now the question is "how do I make it work for me in the music classroom?" That's the fun part. Being in the MIE program has motivated me to get access to all of these tools and resources, and let my imagination take over. With all this available for me (thank you #SurfaceExpert program!), I get to figure out what the possibilities are for integrating all of it into my classroom instruction so my students receive a better music education. This is the fun creative part of being an MIE expert. I get to figure out "With all of this, what can I do with it?"
Over the course of my MIE experience I've been able to improve my pedagogy by incorporating ELA writing and math into my instruction, create a better instructional environment for my students, create all sorts of resources, create new classroom routines that work better for my students and me, improve and create new classroom content and activities, and the list goes on. At the same time, all of this has never felt like "work" to me because I'm doing something I already enjoy; using my imagination to innovate and create.
Finding out the affordances of technology isn't just limited to the classroom part of my job. I've been able to use the same Microsoft Devices + Win10 + Software combo to improve the "business" aspect of being a teacher. The paperwork, the meetings, the observations, the collaboration, the trainings, and the trainings of others.
So this is what I enjoy the most about being an MIE, and the imaginative part is reinforced by all the interactions with the other members of the group. Getting to hear and see what everyone else is doing only fuels my fire for innovating and creating.
For all you creatives out there in the classroom that are looking for ways to turn the "daily grind" into a fresh new experience for you and your students, head over to aka.ms/mie and fill out the application. You'll be amazed at how being a part of the MIE program can transform and foster your perspective on the benefits of educational technology.
Recently I hosted an online PD webinar over at SimpleK12.com. My webinar was about how I've been collecting assessment data from my students, and by using Excel I can do some cool analysis tricks to get some meaningful feedback not only for myself, but also for my students. I've used the data to set up a reflection essay writing assignment, which blends my music pedagogy with some Common Core ELA anchor standards, and some Math standards too. There is also a bit in the webinar where I talk about using Excel to dig a little deeper into a spreadsheet downloaded from a recent Kahoot formative assessment activity I did with my students. There are all sorts of formative assessment tools available these days, and they give you a spreadsheet after the assessment is done and over with. So what do you do with that data? Can you do something? In my webinar I talk about how I've recoded the data so it makes more sense to me and my students. You can watch the webinar here.
The slide deck from my webinar is below