Get Your Lists Together with Microsoft Planner

I’m part of a great team. Our team has a lot of projects. We are enthusiastic, full of energy, ideas, and different working styles. We work together to develop content, plan events, deliver workshops, build partnerships, inspire learners and do our best not to be overwhelmed by task lists and deadlines and still like each other at the end of the day. Not an easy task – but we do it pretty well. I’ve been looking for a tool to help keep us organized and is SUPER easy to use.

My current task management experimental tool is Microsoft Planner. So far, not bad. We are midway through one major project and I have to say it has helped keep us on track.

Planner Overview

Microsoft Planner is available as part of the Office 365 suite. It is one of those undiscovered apps hidden in the Explore All App section of your dashboard. Basically, Planner is a task list tool. You can create task lists by project, assign tasks to team members, track team communication, and manage deadlines. It is easy to use and easy to see if your project is on track or way behind schedule.

Check out this overview video from Microsoft to learn more.

Pros and Cons

What I like about this tool…

  • Integrates easily with all my Microsoft applications.
  • Easy to set up a new project and new tasks can be added at any time.
  • Assign tasks to one or more team members.
  • Attach related documents to tasks and add comments to tasks. Ideas and conversations do not get lost in email!! Yay!
  • View tasks by due date. There are three ways to view your task lists: in buckets, by progress, and on the calendar. Makes it easy to see project progress.
  • Pushes communication through email. You do not have to open the app to see the current discussion around tasks.
  • Create and manage multiple projects.

Things I’m not crazy about…

  • You cannot add team members who are not part of your organization. At least I have not figured out how to add them yet.
  • No Gantt chart.  I love me a good Gantt chart. For me, it is the easiest way to view a project. There are some nice charting tools in Planner. You can see an overall view of tasks, coded by progress color. You can also view task progress organized by buckets and by team members. This is helpful. The calendar view is also neat and kind of Gantt chart-like – but, it is not a Ganntt chart.
  • The tool is only as good as your team is at using it. Don’t expect miracles here. This tool will not magically keep your team on task and just because you have a planning tool, does not mean that they will use a planning tool. The trick is to find a tool that is not just one more thing to do but instead is actually helpful. Out of all the digital tricks I have tried, Microsoft Planner has been the most successful. I’m hoping that the more we use it, the better we will be at using it.

If you manage projects and are looking for an easy to use tool to keep your team organized, give Microsoft Planner a try. It might just be exactly what your team needs to take them from merely functioning to super-awesome productive!


30 Tools in 30 Days: Day 23 Microsoft Sway

Day 23: Microsoft Sway

On this lovely Thanksgiving Day, we spend time with family and friends and give thanks for all that is good in our lives. In honor of Thanksgiving, I wanted to create a something that captured what I’m thankful for and would showcase the huge number of pictures I take throughout the year. I used Sway from Microsoft to create a visual portfolio of pictures I took as part of my 2016 Photo A Day Challenge. (Learn more about the Photo A Day Challenge from blogger FatMumSlim here. Love, love, love it!!)  Check out my 2016 portfolio below.

Sway is part of the Microsoft Suite of tools. It is a free app that requires a Microsoft account. With Sway you can create interactive portfolios, presentations, reports, blog posts and more. It took me about an hour to create my 2016 Photo A Day portfolio.

Here are a few of my favorite features.

  • Use the templates for a quick design or customize settings including layout, font, and color pallet.
  • Format your end product using a horizontal or vertical scroll.
  • Group media and customize how they display and how your viewers can interact with the content.
  • Add co-authors for collaborative work.
  • Embed media such as images, video, audio, and text.
  • Set up your final page to auto play or be completely interactive.
  • Control access and editing rights.
  • Share your creation through social media channels.
  • Embed on your website or blog.
  • Export your final product as a Word doc or PDF.
  • Integrates with OneDrive.

The controls were fairly easy to use and intuitive. However, I did struggle a little bit with some of the formatting tools but I think that was more user error than tool issues.

There are many different ways you could use Sway in the classroom for yourself or with your students.

  • Create a class website showcasing student work.
  • Student Portfolios.
  • Digital stories or interactive fiction.
  • About Me projects and Resumes
  • Visual research reports
  • Visual lab reports

Sway allows you and your students to create unique interactive media. It is very similar to Adobe Spark Page. I have to play with each of them more to see which one I like better. I am an Adobe girl at heart but I am open to new tools. In short, Sway is fun and easy to use. I am very happy with my final portfolio and will use this tool again.

Have you used Sway? Share your ideas or creations in the comments!

30 Tools in 30 Days: Day 12 Office Mix PowerPoint Add-in

Day 12: Office Mix PowerPoint Add-in

One of my favorite things about going to a conference is the time spent between sessions chatting with colleagues you only get to see once or twice a year. As much as I enjoy going to sessions, I seem to get more out of these impromptu conversations. This year’s Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) Conference was no exception. There were some great sessions but there were even better side conversations in the hallways, elevators, and in the foyer. My absolute favorite conversations start off with, “Hey, have you ever used…”

It was a conversation such as this where I learned about a new, PowerPoint add-in, Office Mix. How did I not know about this one? Office Mix is a free add-in that lets you create and share interactive videos. With Mix you can record your slideshows, insert polls and quizzes, and keep track of your mix analytics.

Mix Welcome Slide. Watch the What is Office Mix video to get started.

To get started, download Mix from the Office Mix website. The next time you open PowerPoint, you will have a new Mix tab at the top of your screen. This is where the magic happens.

If you are an experienced PowerPoint user then you should be able to jump right into this app. I recommend watching the 2-minute overview video just to help you get started. Like most Microsoft tools, there are good support resources to help you create your presentation.

From the Mix tab you can insert various apps including multiple choice quizzes, polls, open response questions and even…wait for it… Open Content from sites such as Kahn Academy and cK-12. That was the part that blew my mind. They had me at OER. You can also add screen recordings, screenshots, as well as video and audio files.

Editing an embedded quiz.

Use the Slide Recording feature to record your presentation. Add narration, ink, and even use your camera so people can see your smiling face while you present. It seems that Mix gives you the power to create interactive videos that could rival Captivate. (Maybe – more exploration is needed. They might be just different enough to serve different purposes.)

Completed videos can be downloaded as an MP4 file and are SCORM compatible. Since I work at a university that is a Microsoft campus, I am excited to try this tool out and turn some of my slide decks into full interactive presentations with embedded quizzes.

At first glance, Office Mix appears to be a powerful addition to the PowerPoint tools set. There are so many classroom uses. From creating interactive videos for the flipped classroom to giving students the power to turn their presentations into something more to producing self-directed learning modules for online learning. There are many possibilities and since it is an add-on to an old friend, there is not the huge learning curve that comes with a brand new tool.  Another one for my “Explore Deeper” list.