Whiteboard idea #1- Blackout Poetry

A friend and colleague of mine was posting a blackout poetry fun project that she did with her daughters. They had done the traditional way of using a big ole marker and a page from a text.


That is when it hit me. We can use Whiteboard.fi or .chat and do this remote and in real time with our students. Oh what a great project and use of time. To see how students process and think. The teacher would grab a page of text, I found this on a booksite and took a screenshot of a random page.

Even if you do not find it as fascinating as I do to watch how students approach an activity like this, you can always send them a page of text or have them get their own and in their own time make the prose into poetry.

No Camera, No Problem

              Many teachers engaging in synchronous and concurrent online classes are going to the mattresses when it comes to students not having their cameras on. Being able to see the students can be a great indicator whether or not the students are engaged and participating. There are other ways that we can measure engagement without the daily requests and frustrations accompanied with those requests to “turn on your cameras please.” Please join me and don’t be shy about leaving the cameras off.​ Check with your district for use permissions. 


his is a great way to gauge student attention levels and it elicits very little complaining because they are simply flashing the camera on and off and they can even cover the camera during this if they wish. It is particularly useful to share with you today because most of the district admin have sat through a zoom training where they were taught this, so that can’t hurt if you use it while being observed. Everyone wins!

Simply ask a yes or no question and look for the replies. How you handle the students who do not participate? Well that is a decision for you to make. 


OneDrive for small group activities

 If we can wrap our heads around the idea that a face 2 face meeting does not need to be face to face the entire time, these next few slides might give you some inspiration. The first is after you meet and give them an SEL check, start an activity. A word document, PowerPoint or whathaveyou. 

This activity takes some prep time as you will want to create some OneDrive folders beforehand so you can review the work. THIS TYPE OF ACTIVITY DOES NOT GET PLACED IN A TEAMS ASSIGNMENT. These are shared documents for small group work and have the students type in different colors so you can easily differentiate the work. 

You will be able to open each doc to see in real time who is working and who is not. 

Collaboration Space in your OneNote notebook

Using the OneNote collaboration space is similar to the OneDrive shared document in the last slide. You do not assign the collaboration page in teams because it will give each student their own and that is not the point. You can however share the link for the collaboration page in an assignment and then view the page and see the additions and edits in real time. 

A VENN DIAGRAM comes to mind for an activity suited for this.

TEAMS -assignment Status Button

If those seem way too advanced, you can assign something in teams for students to do while in your meeting and if you are in the assignment page, click the status to individually see the students assignments in real time. Obviously this is more time consuming but it may be a nice way to acclimate yourself to this type of meeting. 


Padlet is a great way to work together in real time on an activity. I have been using padlet for a decade and I still love it, especially with its new tools that it recently added. There is a mapping feature, a timeline maker as well as the classic themes they have always offered. 

If you have previously had an account, you have upwards of 20 padlets you can create at one time, if you are new to padlet it is a little tricky, they offer 3 padlets at a time and after that you will need to delete one before using it again. Padlet does allow you to save as an image or as a PDF so saving is a breeze. 

Tip- When the class is over, change the padlet to not accept any more edits. 

Whiteboard.fi and Whiteboard.chat

Whiteboard.fi and whiteboard.chat are both great tools for teachers and students. Students get their own board and the teacher can see what they are doing in real time. Teachers can also push from their board out to the students boards. This is great for a question as an entry/exit ticket or to check for understanding.

This list was created for a Professional Development session, scan the QR code to copy the PowerPoint slide deck. Oh, and grab the cannolis but feel free to leave the cameras off.

Choice Boards- Let’s get innovative!

Let’s get innovative!Options when setting up choice boards:

The tic tac toe: Set up a 3 x 3 board and have students complete any 3 squares that would give them tic tac toe, this way you can mix the easier with the more time consuming, so the kids for a strategy to create their own best way to complete the assignments.



The Grand Total: Set up any shaped board with any number of boxes/choices. Then make each box worth a point value based on time it will take and/or difficulty. Then give the students a grand total number of points they need to reach or exceed by completing the tasks in the corresponding boxes. Total = 8


The Plain ole board: I have not made much of an effort to hide my feelings about this one. It is an oldie and has some appeal in its simplicity. Simply, choose one. This usually means you will have fewer items for the students to choose from and those items are very close in time they will take and/or difficulty of task.

What is next?

Next time we will dive into what we will fill these boxes with. Depending on your state’s privacy policies will determine your range of choices. I am in NY and have to be compliant with Ed Law 2D.






New Teams Features

Meeting Tool
Spotlight is being rolled out now, but unlike breakout rooms, spotlight will be in your
team today or if not, then very soon. Spotlight is a lot like Pin in a meeting, but here is the difference. Pinning lets
the person doing the pinning see the other person “front and center” and bigger than the other members in the meeting.
Spotlight on the other allows the meeting organizer to create that “pin” so that everyone sees the same person
“front and center” and bigger than anyone else. Teachers may want to make a point of emphasis and spotlight themselves.
Students may be asked to do something which the rest of the meeting should see, the teacher would choose spotlight.

The ellipsis is the key. The one next to the presenter, and one next to each of the participants can be used to select “Spotlight”.


SEL Tools
Microsoft teams has some new and interesting socio-emotional tools that are new this month and one you may not have realized was actually an SEL tool.
Praise stickers are available in the chat of the Teams general channel. The stickers are shown below.
Together mode.
Together mode is often seen as a fun and silly tool and that is part of its magic. Together mode
 is useful as well as being SEL relevant. As a teacher you can have students actually raise the hands on their arms and you can see them, or a thumbs up just as easily.  For a student, it can give the feeling of being in a group, being social and not so isolated.

Edge “easability” and accessibility

Thank you Microsoft!

Two colleagues of mine recently told me that the new Microsoft Edge and the latest Chrome were so similar we could say they were the same, at least when it comes to their code. So when I found these two differences I was so happy to make Microsoft Edge my personal default.

In some areas we can say that Microsoft is growing too much too fast  Teams for example.
Not so with Microsoft edge.
Like Teams, Microsoft edge’s tools work best in a non-tablet (iPad) world, They are still super cool and useful for parents and students alike.

Immersive Reader. Edge now comes with immersive reader as part of its functionality. This is huge for schools who need to find a tech tool to read certain resources to students because of services they require. On any webpage look up to the (…) ellipsis on the top right

Select Read aloud and then choose the voice, and language you wish to hear. You can adjust the speed of the reading as well.

PDF Inline Annotator. This is not the real name for this feature, I am not even sure there is a real name all I know is there should be. this is as much of a game changer as the immersive reader.

This feature works best on a non-tablet environment, but it is pretty cool what you can do with it. You can open a PDF online, in the website. NO DOWNLOADS! You will see a new toolbar that will allow you to draw in 9 colors and highlight in 6 colors. Typing still is not a part of this package, but I can see it coming soon. 

After you draw you can then save it to your computer as a PDF file. This is great for those students whose teachers use many resources from the web and currently use the “free” websites. They always are full of ads and malware. The other alternative is OneNote, which for many, is just too robust and lately has been super glitchy. Happy Annotating!


Apple Podcast via the Web

That’s right, now you can access any apple podcast via a web browser. This is particularly handy in a school setting where we cannot add an app on a whim. At times it takes months and a decertation of use and benefit.

Here is how to do it. It is all the in the ellipsis. (…) When you find your favorite podcast or at least one you would like to share through email, text or LMS go to the episode and look for the … (ellipsis). When you click this it gives you the option of copying the link. When you paste the link in an apple devise it might take a few times to get it to go through the web and not the app. It can be stubborn. However if you are pasting this link in somewhere other than an iOS device it will take you directly to the player and easy peasy listening enjoyment.


Do you love the Bitmoji craze but you are a Microsoft diehard true and true? Do you worry about all things google and the fact that your Facebook and Instagram accounts seem to read your thoughts?


This is the ket to leveling the playing field and then stomping down on google hard. By using this at the end of a powerpoint online file shared from your onedrive not only can you have the Bitmoji classroom you have always wanted, but you can have more than one slide at a time.

From onedrive, locate the file, click the share button. (be sure to uncheck editing rights) and add &amd=&action=embedview to the end of the url and share. Viewers will see the file in presentation mode and they will be able to interact with your online virtual classroom.

Students not engaged during online meetings, try Podcasting

Schools, teachers and administrators all jumped into the fire this past spring. It seemed to bring out the best in all of us, including our students. Students were paying close attention, they were going above and beyond the call of duty to get connected, stay connected and get the job done.

Fast forward to late summer and the same does not hold true. There are a lot of us who have become numb to the whole distance learning effort. Students are tired of problem solving everything from connection problems to not being able to find their work for the day. Teachers are getting bitter when working in the cloud only offers a new level of disconnect between them and their students. Lastly, administrators are trying their best to keep everyone moving in the right direction while ensuring instructional best practices are not falling to the waste side while fires of all sizes appear across the educational horizon.

While I do not pretend to have any answers, nor do I think that I can do the jobs any better than the teachers, I do offer up an alternative that might help raise student engagement. The idea of podcasting has been around forever and has really seen a surge lately. Personally, I prefer audiobooks but the idea is the same. While students are driving or commuting in some way, provide them with a 5-15 minute lesson that they can listen to. This “podcast” doesn’t have to even be a podcast, just an audio file that students can easily access.

Podcast StudioVoice Recorder Pro

The process, use a podcasting or voice recording app like voice record pro, or

podcast studio and record a lesson. This is your chance to be personable, maybe show a little humor and even dangle a carrot for the students to listen to your entire ten minutes because they are going to get a bonus question for the next assessment or receive bonus points for coming to the next live meeting prepared.  These tools both record audio in a mp3 file which can be attached to an assignment, to a post or as a file, you can email or message these files in any LMS that you happen to be using.

Give the podcasts a try and you may find that the next time you ask a student to remove their earbuds, they might be listening to you. That would be a great problem to face.

If you want to get crazy up in here, you can go next level and create and distribute your own podcast using a service like Buzzsprout.com. I will be writing about my journey into podcasting very soon, in the meantime checkout “The Commute Institute” wherever you listen to podcasts.

Narakeet? It was video puppet.

This tool takes a PowerPoint or Google Slides

and narrates them in video form.

For Free!!!

Narakeet is not a new tool(it is a new name, it was formerly Video Puppet). Nor is it an innovation on an old tool, although it has a few new features. During this educational environment however it is almost a necessity. Narakeet will take a PowerPoint or Google Slide (with minimal modification), keynote or Open Office; just make sure your slideshow is of 20 slides or less and use the narrator notes that the creator has made. Narakeet will produce a video that is narrated in your choice of voices and languages in just a few minutes.


Whiteboard chat – the new Padlet?

Whiteboard chat is a great tool for social distance or remote collaboration. Sure, OneNote and Google docs give you the ability to collaborate, but with whiteboard chat you can have a group of students draw a mind map or a Venn diagram and collaborate on the same item if they are in the same class, down the hall from one another or across town.

So what is wrong with Padlet? Nothing is inherently wrong with Padlet. Over the years however, they have trimmed the number of free Padlet’s you can create from 20 down to a very small 3. The problem with 3 is that a secondary teacher who has 5, 6, or 10 classes will need a padlet for each class to give themselves time to grade and assess the students work. This makes Padlet a tool that teachers hesitate on. Whiteboard chat is not a hesitation tool, it is a collaboration tool.

Whiteboard chat allows you to share via a QR code and for contributors to add pictures, text, drawings and more. They can even animate what they have added. You can use whiteboard chat another way too, you can distribute individual boards to students as well.

I am in NY and there is a new privacy law, ED Law 2D. This law has a lot of components to it and if websites or programs do not handle student pii (personal identifiable information) correctly, NY schools should not be using them with students. Whiteboard chat uses QR code to share and collects NO information from the users so it checks all the Ed Law 2D boxes.

I have shared this tool with all the teachers in my district and hopefully they see the same benefits as I do. It is a great tool.