10 Tips for Using Technology in the Classroom

Happy 1st birthday cloudoflearning.com! I wanted to take an opportunity and reflect on my ongoing journey to encourage ingenuity in the mobile classroom. I can highlight this journey by summarizing ten successful tips for using technology in the classroom.

10 Tips for Using Technology in the Classroom


The recommended tips have been discovered after teaching for more than four years at Tecumseh Vista Academy. I have adopted the key points through hard work, passion, and collaborating with others.

  1. Technology is only a classroom tool – Don’t get caught up using the tool, as interesting as it may be. The tool should only be used in service of the lesson. As instructional time is precious, learn to develop lessons that fit the tool instead.
  2. Technology cannot replace great teaching – No matter how interesting the technology, effective teaching instruction is always required to manage the classroom and deliver content to a range of learners and learning styles.
  3. Set your learning goals – When trying to learn more about technology, set goals that are realistic. Don’t put yourself in a position where you are getting overwhelmed and frustrated because of a lack of experience using technology.
  4. Technology diversity is a digital moment – Welcome to the BYOD classroom! With so many hardware manufacturers and operating systems, encourage learners to discover answers to problems.
  5. Have fun and learn from others – It is always amazing how much we can learn from our students! As digital natives, students have experiences and ways of using technology that adults may not have thought of.
  6. Supplement existing resources using BYOD. Not having enough technology to go around is a real problem in our cash strapped educational system. Try using personal smart phone devices to supplement a lack of available technology. Many apps are available to supplement desktop software.
  7. Cheap is good, free is best – The price of technology keeps falling. Avoid making expensive purchases when free apps and cloud based software are available. Smart phones have considerably gone down in price, so with free WIFI, anything is possible.
  8. Extend learning outside the classroom – Try adopting social media tools (e.g. Twitter) that our students are familiar using. Allow students to continue conversations outside the classroom using cloud based tools. This helps to increase the quality of ideas because student are taking ownership of their learning.
  9. If technology fails, be patient – Take a deep breath and don’t give up! There is a multitude of resources on the internet and helpful colleagues who can steer you in the right direction.
  10. Share your passion and knowledge – Don’t be shy, and advocate great ideas with others. This can be accomplished by informal talk sessions, staff meetings, and professional learning communities.
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Broadcasting Smartphone Apps as a Teaching Tool

Personal electronic devices bring a multitude of opportunities to a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) classroom. A recent challenge is trying to model desktop applications with a graphical user interface that looks very different from smartphone apps. The example below shows a visual screen capture of OneNote (desktop) compared to OneNote (smart phone app).

Combined screenshot

My Goal

The majority of students in my school favour the lighter, more affordable smartphones versus laptops. My goal is to discover how Miracast can be used to bridge the visual gap between smartphone apps and traditional desktop software.

Desktop version of OneNote

Projected image of OneNote Desktop

assignment shown in OneNote app

Image of OneNote via Smartphone App

assignment shown via Miracast

OneNote Smartphone app projected via Miracast

What is Miracast?

Miracast is a standard that allows a mobile device to discover and connect to other common devices like data projectors and televisions. The technology acts like a wireless HDMI cable and is not limited to one brand’s proprietary technology. The advantage is that it creates its own WIFI direct network and does not rely on an existing data network.

Examples Used in My Classroom

One tool currently being used is the Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter.  A trusted companion in my daily teaching practice, this adapter can wirelessly connect to my Surface Pro 3 tablet.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Projecting the desktop  via Miracast

Physical setup of the adapter using a data projector was straightforward using instructions provided by Microsoft. The less cluttered workspace is an added bonus of wireless technology.

Physical setup of Miracast

Configuring Miracast on a Windows system requires users to download the available free app from the Windows App store.

Windows Miracast setup

Miracast technology is widely supported by the majority of smartphone manufacturers on the market today. I took an opportunity to explore this option by configuring Miracast using my Blackberry Passport.

Miracast setup using Blackberry Passport

Overall Conclusions

I believe that Miracast can impact a significant number of BYOD users who can wirelessly share and compare active content. This is certainly an improvement over using proprietary mirroring technology that only supports a specific operating system and hardware platform.

I will be writing a future blog post on the possibility of using a high-speed LAN module that will convert a standard data projector into a “smart” data projector!

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Setting up a Classroom Website Using Office 365 Sites

One of the goals listed in my Annual Learning Plan is to establish a classroom website using Office 365 Sites.

Annual Learning Plan

My vision focuses on providing a blended learning solution using a variety of digital tools instead of focusing on a primary tool as in the past. This shift in strategy will help support my Bring Your Own Device strategy in the classroom.

So how can I make my vision a reality?

The strategy moving forward is to utilize a variety of cloud based learning tools (e.g. OneNote, OneDrive) that is centrally located for easy access. This will save valuable instructional time and will limit students from searching for emails that contained shared links from the teacher.

The following are steps I took in order to make this strategy a reality:

  1. Communication with Students – Create a classroom email list

Instruct students to email a message in order to add individual names into a contact (people) list. Organizing students using an email list is the most efficient way to send bulk messages along with managing other Office 365 applications like OneDrive and OneNote.

Office 365 Email List

Email List Adding Names in OneDrive

  1. File Organization – Establish a shared OneDrive

Sharing digital content is best achieved by creating a series of folders that will better organize individual files. In the example provided, you can see a series of folders that are shared with students. I generally set folder permissions to “read” so that students can access the files but cannot delete or modify the content in any way.

One Drive File Listing

I also created an “assignment uploads” folder. In this example, permissions are changed to “edit” in order for students to upload work for grading. The idea is to use OneDrive the same way as I previously used learning management systems (LMS) like Schoology. The solution worked very well as individual students can only access their own folders for submission.

Assignment Upload Folder

Changing Permissions in OneDrive

  1. Centralizing Digital Resources – Create a Site

A key component is the establishment of a website. The example shown allows students to access shared folders via OneDrive and the class OneNote Book in one centralized location by hyperlinking the resources.

Office 365 Sites

I also added three integrated Office Web apps – Calendar, Announcements, and Discussions as the primary focus to view important information.

The Announcements app is used to share the weekly agenda. Information includes the daily lesson along with key learning goals. The app allows users to create a simple table to populate content. This content can be modified using the integrated toolbar along with adding hyperlinks, pictures, etc.

Weekly Agenda

The Calendar app is a replica of the personal Calendar used in Office and allows parents to view content without having an Office 365 account.

Office 365 Calendar app

The Discussion app is a straight forward and easy to use method of setting up a discussion forum for students to express their views.


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Office 365 Essential Skills and Quick Tips

I had an opportunity to provide workshops with colleagues at Westview Freedom Academy and Harrow District High School during the final days of the previous school year. The goal of my presentation was to build on essential Office 365 skills taught earlier by the dedicated GECDSB @14DLT Digital Learning team.

Below will provide an overview of the skills and quick tips taught during my interactive presentation;

Tip #1 – Access “Home Base.”

Home Base

Click on the tile window on the upper left hand corner of your screen– This is “home base” to access all the office 365 applications in one location.

Tip #2 – Change your theme and personalize!

Change theme

Add an avatar (picture) to your Office 365 account or change the theme to add a personal touch when working. This can be done by clicking on the bold symbol located on the upper right hand corner of your screen.

Tip #3 – Create an email contact list in People

Adding a contact list

Take a moment to create email contact list. This will enable you to save time when sending messages to multiple recipients without having to retype names every time an email is composed.Using contact list in TO boxLet’s give it a try! Click the “home base” button to access Mail. Input the contact list name you just created in the TO: box instead of inputting individual recipients. When you send your email, the message will be sent to anyone added to your contact list.
School Email ListEach school also has a contact list that is automatically generated by the GECDSB HR department. Simply type the name of a your current work location for the keywords to appear. A time saver in the life of a busy teacher!

Tip #4 – Create folders in Mail

Click add folder
Adding folders in Mail

Added folders listing

Creating folders allows you to better organize email and help de-clutter your inbox!

Creating inbox rules

Once folders are created, you can establish inbox rules to automatically transfer messages by person, keyword, subject, or folder to specific folders in your mail account.

Tip #5 – Creating events in Calendar


Create a customized calendar event by clicking on the date desired.

Customizing Calendar Events

Customizing events that are inputted into the calendar will allow you to set start and end times, room locations, and timed reminders.

Sharing a Calendar

You can share your calendar with other colleagues and add calendars shared by others. This allows the ability to layer multiple calendars in a single view.

Tip #6 – Working and collaborating in the “cloud” using OneDrive

Adding files and folders via OneDrive

Create a Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote document in the cloud and work anywhere!

Word Online

Collaborate via OneDrive

This includes sharing your documents with colleagues to facilitate team work in multiple work locations! An example document is shown for illustrative purposes.

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My First Office Mix – Experiences at E2

Here is a link to my Office Mix presentation regarding experiences at Microsoft E2 (part 2).

As a side note… I decided to give Office Mix an official first try! An add-on for Microsoft PowerPoint, Mix is a simple download from the beta site. After a quick installation, the Mix toolbar is directly added into PowerPoint’s menu bar.

Office Mix Toolbar

Functionality includes embedding video and audio clips for each slide in the deck.

Office Mix - Adding video/sound clips

An interactive quiz feature is also included and requires a third party app download from the Office App store.

Office App Store

Embedding a short quiz directly into the slide is straight forward along with indicating the number of responses you wish to set.  Selecting the default correct response is a click of a button.

Mix Survey

A neat feature is that the survey app provides analytics that will track user responses to the survey question.

Survey Data

I find this feature particularly interesting as it allows for interactivity directly within a PowerPoint presentation. I can’t wait to further test this feature in the future!

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My Reflection – Microsoft E2 Global Educator Exchange

I wanted to take some time and reflect on my experiences at the Microsoft E2 conference now that the school year is concluded.

E2 Poster

A Personal Journey

Unexpected tragedy struck my family with the sudden passing of my mother at the start of the year. With the help of my wife and best friend, Deanna, I was able to find strength and move on each day at a time. An article was written about my story on the Microsoft Daily Edventures Blog. I dedicate this journey to my late mother.

Preparing for E-2

Preparing for E2 was an amazing journey from the moment I was selected as a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert. I felt a sense of accomplishment how I using technology to expand my “bring your own device” (BYOD) strategy in the classroom.

Connection calls with industry experts, educators, and guest speakers allowed networking opportunities to learn more about products such as OneNote, Mix, and Sway.

I was able to take the knowledge learned from the connection calls and apply best practices directly into my teaching practice. This included utilizing the use of the stylus pen included with our Microsoft Surface Pro tablet. These experiences helped demonstrate the power of the stylus using OneNote and across the Office 365 eco-system.

Monday, April 27

The flight to Seattle was on-time and arrived shortly at noon to picture perfect weather. My shuttle took me to the Bellevue Hilton where a cozy room and plenty of amenities awaited. After settling in and getting some rest, I took an opportunities to explore beautiful Bellevue and eat some supper!

Hilton Bellevue

Tuesday, April 28

After extensively studying for my scheduled MCE exam, I took a shuttle to the examination centre located on the Microsoft Campus. I was amazed at the size of the facilities, lush gardens, and friendly people.


Microsoft  Campus

Test results were provided soon after completing the exam. I was relieved to have passed with a high score! On reflection, my education, industry, and I.T. experiences proved invaluable. Many of the questions were based on educational case studies that required a strong combination of teaching methodology and technology implementation.

I returned to my hotel room and got some sleep before the scheduled opening ceremony was to take place later that evening. Before leaving the hotel, I was able to meet fellow members of team Canada.

The opening ceremony was an fun evening with many opportunities to network with many other MIEE’s throughout the world. I counted having conversations with peers from over 20 nations! A fantastic evening with great food and laughs 🙂

Opening Gala

Wednesday, April 29

I woke up this morning filled with excitement and boarded the shuttle bus with Team Canada, spirit gear in all!

Andre Spirit Gear

After breakfast, the entire group walked to another building and listened to a student welcome band as we entered!


Today’s keynote speaker was Anthony Salcito, Microsoft Vice President of World Wide Education. Anthony discussed interesting technology trends and ways that Microsoft products are providing teachers innovative tools to support student learning. Team Canada sat together united!

Team Canada

I presented my learning activity after the keynote to fellow educators during the TechTeach session. Several Microsoft representatives were interested and nominated my activity in the “most inspirational” category. I also saw some very innovative projects to which I provided my own feedback.

Teach Tech Meet

Andre's name tag

The Educator Challenge followed during the afternoon. The topic chosen by event organizers was “bravery, courage, and leadership.”  The challenge required participants to be grouped with other educators from different countries. Each group was required to come up with a learning activity that used technology in an innovative way. My group was represented by educators from Europe, South America, North America, and Asia.

I had an opportunity to participate in the technology showcase before leaving for the shuttle. The room was setup with various Microsoft technology including the new Surface 3 for education. First impressions were positive. Smaller form factor, cheaper price, stylus pen, with full capability of a laptop and portability of a tablet.

The evening concluded with team Canada sitting down for tasty supper at a local restaurant in Bellevue. The meal was great with laughs and fond memories for all.

Group Supper

Thursday, April 30

Today’s keynote speaker was Ziauddin Yousafzai, father of Malala Yousafzai. A truly inspirational speech that discussed equal opportunity for all children using technology to connect with others in our global community.

The majority of the day focused on individual breakout sessions that focused on OneNote, Office Mix, and Office 365.

Breakout Sessions

My personal observations of the workshops included working demonstrations of;

  1. OneNote – Overview of OCR (document scan) technology, document clipper, integrated mathematical formula and embedded calculator features. Easy integration between PowerPoint, Mix, and Sway. Example of Staff OneNoteBooks provides a paperless, shareable collaboration centre.
  2. Mix – Interactive multimedia and document handling within PowerPoint. Addition of recordable quizzes via mix.office.com. Expands the traditional use of PowerPoint and provides new dynamic features that provides useful offline feature when WIFI is not continuously available.
  3. Delve (office 365 app) – Information and trending document search feature. Documents are defaulted to private in OneDrive and indexed when made public for Delve to search.

The day concluded with a tour of the Kent School District Technology Expo. The expo featured student centred demonstrations of technology used in their daily learning. Was a unique experience to see what other school districts are doing!

kent_expo Group Culture

Friday, May 1

Keynote speaker Angela Maiers began by discussing how “you matters” trying to make a big impact in the classroom by trying new things and not being afraid by doing them.

Meeting Angela M
A fireside chat also took place with a surprise visit from Microsoft President Satya Nadella. It was a wonderful opportunity just to listen as Satya discussed the importance of the education industry to Microsoft and of his respect for what teachers do in the classroom. An amazing chat and highlight of my morning!

Satya Nadella

The remainder of the day was to prepare for our group presentation as part of the educator challenge. I found our group to be relaxed, prepared, and professional as we made our presentation to the judges. It was an honour to have worked with them!

Challenge Presentation

Overall, the educator challenge opened my eyes to the world around me. Multiple languages, culture, and unique pedagogy made for interesting conversations and perspectives as worked together to come up with our idea.

My Challenge Group

E2 ended with a grand final gala at Music City Project museum located next to the Space Needle in downtown Seattle. It was an opportunity to recognize excellence and say farewell to colleagues who came from far and wide. It was an experience I will never forget and a truly amazing way to end our incredible journey

team_canadaAndre chatting with Anthony

Final Thoughts

The Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert program has been a huge benefit to my career. It allowed me to demonstrate skills, knowledge, and passion using technology in the classroom. The connection calls and professional development opportunities allowed me to share my knowledge and challenge my teaching practice by learning new things. I would certainly recommend the program to any of my innovative colleagues who are interested in using technology to support student learning.

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Microsoft EDU Summit 2015

I had a blast at the Microsoft EDU Summit in Windsor! The conference was a great opportunity to network with colleagues of the GECDSB and technology enthusiasts alike.


It was a fun day with many great speakers including D.J. Cunningham and Nicole Bell from Learn Style Interesting conversations around differentiated instruction and how we use multiple learning styles (visual, sequential, oral, kinesthetic) to engage and inspire our students. Office 365 and OneNote were used as solid examples of cloud based tools in an ever increasing BYOD learning environment.

Attached are presentation slides from my Breakout Session “Microsoft Educator Network.” Please contact me with any further questions regarding my presentation.

Presentation Slides

Microsoft Summit Agenda

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