Teaching in the future with Microsoft Interactive Classroom

Sometimes you discover a great learning tool, hidden somewhere on the web. The Microsoft Interactive Classroom is such a tool, and it gives us a taste of what classroom training might be in the (near) future. If you have ever wondered if they was way you could avoid printing tons of paper manuals, if you are tired of distributing PowerPoint handouts that nobody ever uses, this is for you.

Basically, it is an add-on to PowerPoint and OneNote (2007 or 2010). As a teacher, you use PowerPoint to prepare your slides as usual, and you can use the Microsoft Interactive Classroom add-on to add question slides in your presentation. You get an extra tab in the ribbon for that:

Once you start giving your session, you click the Start Session button. This starts a broadcast of your presentation on the network. Your screen will look like this:

With the ribbon, you can annotate your slides (works great if you have a tablet!) but also start polls, display the results of the poll to your students…

But the best feature is yet to come. Your students connect to your broadcasted session with… OneNote! They automatically get a copy of the slides as a separate note page, they can take their own notes on the slides, they see the annotations of the instructor in their OneNote… and after the session they go home with their own annotated lesson material. Of course, they need to be connected to the same network (wired or wireless).

We tried it during an interactive session of one hour with 20 workstations and it was quite impressive. And what is even better: it’s free!

Download: http://www.educationlabs.com/projects/IC/Pages/default.aspx

Update: this tool is now officially part of Microsoft OneNote and called OneNote Class Notebookhttps://www.onenote.com/classnotebook



Why did Yanina not fill in her whereabouts?

tennisbalI was watching the interview of tennis player Yanina Wickmayer where she explains why she did not fill in her whereabouts in the ADAMS computer system. As a result, she got suspended for one year.

I do not want to take any position about this decision (there are enough Facebook groups that do that), but this story reveals some typical problems that need to be addressed when introducing a new software tool:

  • Communicate clearly: the “business rules” need to be communicated clearly, so that the user knows the policy and guidelines. For that, you use the proper way of communication with your users (oral, e-mail, …) Sending letters to the home address of a globetrotter does not fall under “proper way of communication”.
  • Motivate: if your users know the philosophy of your application, why it makes things easier and what the benefits are, chances are much higher that the tool will be accepted.
  • Make it look nice:while applications are judged by IT people on their functionalities, the end users have a lot of interest for the “look & feel” of the application. If it looks good, your application will “sell better”.
  • Leverage technology: a web application is a good choice for a global, world wide application, but “a pc connection to the internet” does not seem to be always available to the sporters. But I’m sure they all have a Blackberry. Why not make a mobile app?
  • Train and document: the ADAMS application is a great example where the use of e-learning would be very appropriate: lot’s of users, spread over the entire world. Short demos, faqs, procedures…

WADA, Vlaamse Overheid, if you need any help, let me know. I see it as my contribution to Belgian top tennis.


Tips and best practices for screencasts

The people from TechSmith (Camtasia, Jing, Snagit…) recently polled their community for best practices and tips for creating effective screencasts, software animations, screen demo’s, whatever you want to call them.
They bundled the result in a 3-page booklet, in a kind of “tag cloud” format. Quick to read, and very valuable!

You can download it from their blog.


User adoption has not changed since the Middle Ages

A lot of IT projects fail because users struggle with the change that the new tools bring them. As an IT implementer or trainer, it is good to “unlearn” everything you know about the software, and view it from a user perspective.

The video below shows that what is simple, is not always obvious!


Balsamiq Mockups review

balsamiqWhen you are talking to a customer about the setup of their new SharePoint site or portal, very often they have trouble visualising the structure and look and feel of the interface they will get. Of course, it is rather easy cranking up a virtual machine and prototyping in SharePoint directly, but then you risk that they will focus on the colours and fonts instead of the functionality they will get (you know, the marketing guy saying: “that’s not the blue of our house style!”).

During the SharePoint Best Practices Conference last february, I attended a workshop by Ruven Gotz, and he talked about Balsamiq Mockups as a tool to help you run requirements workshops. I tried it out today, and it really is a great application that any Information Worker consultant should have in his/her toolset.

What I like about it:

  • it is an Adobe Air application, so cross platform (I am testing on my Mac, but will use it on a pc)
  • very simple and intuitive
  • it produces “style independent” mockups, so nobody will complain about colours or fonts, but focus on the functionalities

If you want to know more:

Reasons enough to give it a try. And if this would not be enough, read some more about the company behind this product. In an era of profit, shareholders value, unlimited growth, they got their priorities right.