Keeping Your Sanity During the Holidays

Updated November 2019: The holidays are approaching and it can be a hectic time for some. Here are a few free apps/websites/programs that help us keep our sanity.

DECEMBER 2019 UPDATE: Check out this Wakelet collection of Google activities from @EricCurts, adapted by me (@Filibuster3) for Microsoft along with other holiday ed tech ideas.

Purple OneNote logoFirst off, in case you haven’t noticed a trend in our blogs, we LOVE ONENOTE! It is a free program from Microsoft that is app-based, software, and web-based so it is with you wherever you go! If you don’t already have a Microsoft account, here’s a referral link which gives you some extra storage space. Best Twitter account to follow for updates? Definitely @mtholfsen!

schoolhouse at night with star trails in the skyWe posted a YouTube video to our channel that shows how K uses OneNote, Office Lens, and CopyMeThat for organizing recipes, but OneNote can organize so much more! Add a checklist for things to do, gifts to purchase, cards to send, what to pack for that holiday trip, etc. Create a receipt section and use the Insert/Camera feature (or Office Lens, another free app from Microsoft) to keep track of receipts and costs. (Tax season is coming!)

Copy Me That logo with grey and red kitchen utensilsIf you aren’t familiar with CopyMeThat, check out the video. It starts around the 3:55 mark. One click and those online recipes are put into your collection without all the distractions and extra information. It is like Reading View (Edge and Safari browsers) or Read Mode (Wakelet) for recipes!

Microsoft Sway logoWant to collect family pictures? Create a shared OneNote notebook and let everyone add their memories, pictures, audio messages, and more! Another option to keep the kids busy is have them create a Sway including videos, pictures, audio files, etc. You can insert the Sways directly into OneNote. Aren’t familiar with Sway? It’s a free app from Microsoft. Again, here’s a referral code if you don’t already have a FREE Microsoft account. (Using the code gets you and us a little extra OneDrive storage. Everyone wins!)

black pen making white swish on a blue backgroundOnce you have that FREE Microsoft account, you also will have access to Microsoft Whiteboard which is now web-based if you have an Office 365 account, but is also an Apple app and Windows 10 app/feature which work with personal Microsoft accounts and Office 365 accounts (work/school). Collaborate on boards to write messages, reminders, leave notes for yourself, etc. We use OneNote for holiday shopping lists, but you could also use Microsoft Whiteboard. Follow @ianmikutel on Twitter for helpful tips and updates.

green and white Flipgrid logoIf family and friends are not able to be with you, consider using Flipgrid to create video messages. (Also good for entertaining children! Give them a prompt. Suggestions: favorite family memory, what makes you thankful, why is someone thankful for you, funniest memory from this year, etc. Recently, K tweeted an idea to have kids describe how someone in their family makes their favorite dish during the holidays. When she taught preschool, her school did a similar project for Mother’s Day. A favorite? “My mom makes pizza!” “How does she make it?” “She picks up the phone and calls Pizza Hut!”) It can also be used within Wakelet (Learn about Wakelet later in this post or read our full blogpost on Wakelet.)

Seeing AI - Turning the visual world into an audible experience.Have trouble reading the small print on ingredients? Use Seeing AI (iOS) to have it read to you or scan the barcode to identify the object. Do you have a family member who is having difficulty remembering people? Tap the 3 line icon in the top left to open Face Recognition. Take pictures of family members and label them with their relationship: Carl, your youngest son, or Violet, your granddaughter. When they use the Person feature with faces you’ve entered, it will tell them who is there. Here’s a quick overview of Seeing AI.



A few months after originally writing this post in 2018, we learned about Wakelet and haven’t looked back since. Similar to OneNote, you can use it for a variety of resources. One feature that makes it unique is the collaboration feature. Share a contributor link to allow others (even if they don’t have Wakelet accounts!) to add to a collection. Use it for YouTube videos, family pictures, important files organized by topic, or read our Wakelet blogpost for more incredible ways to use Wakelet, which is web-based, app-based, and FREE!

Need more activities? Create a family secret code using Microsoft Font Maker. Open Excel and create pixel art family portraits or holiday images.


You don't always have to agree with someone, but it should take much effort to be nice.

One thing to remember during the holidays, you don’t always have to agree with someone, but it shouldn’t take much effort to be nice.


PAUSE P-Is it positive? A-Is it accurate? U-Is it understandable? S-Is it spam? E-Is it enlightening? Before you post or send, pause and consider if it is Postive, Accurate, Understandable (check for clarity and accessiblity), Spam (fake news), and is it Enlightening (or Educational)? Consider if it will make a Difference (PAUSED) Will it make things better or worse?If someone upsets you, before responding, think about if whatever you say will make a difference or remember that they may be going through things you don’t know about. PAUSE before responding, whether in person or digitally.



banner with 3 dogs: Filibuster (basset hound) in a Santa hat and green coat "The Original Filibuster" and then Dug, a boxer in reindeer antlers and TeddyRoo, a golden dog with a Santa hat, all in front of presents and a Christmas tree - banner along the bottom "Happy Holidays to All!"

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

For the past 10+ years, I have been a technology trainer, a teacher out of the classroom. This means, when I was still in the classroom, the “social media” of the day was MySpace.

If parents (or even students) weren’t happy with something in our classroom, they could have posted publicly, but it wasn’t as common as today with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. To my knowledge, no one did. If they had a concern, they could talk to me or occasionally go to the principal. This meant any missteps (and teachers DO make mistakes!) were localized. My families taught me so much over the years. I am grateful for all I learned and try to share some of that learning with new teachers.

Recently, I saw a post from an “edu-celebrity” complaining about a classroom practice. I agreed completely with the error of the practice, but what I didn’t agree with was that the message mentioned that the practice was being used by edu-celebrity’s kid’s teacher. It does not mention the teacher, but this the second time I have seen a message from this person calling out their child’s teacher on social media (especially since I muted this person from my feed for months).

Globally, most won’t know the specific person being called out since there is no name in the message, but, locally, my guess is most at the school follow this teacher/parent and know which teacher is being mentioned.

Spiderman quote "With great power comes great responsibility." by Stan Lee in blue lettering on a spider web background

“With great power comes great responsibility.” (Yes, I’m quoting Spiderman, though, full disclosure, it may have come from an 18th century French quote before being written in a comic book by Stan Lee.)

No matter the origin of the quote, the premise is true. When you are an edu-celebrity on social media, or even if you have ANY followers, others may listen to your thoughts and share them.

If a parent was frustrated with me, it may be shared with other parents at the school, but probably wouldn’t go beyond that. When shared on social media, it has a reach that could number in the millions. Be responsible and share information that is accurate, use your platform for good, to create a positive influence and to demonstrate that the internet can be a supportive, encouraging place.

If we speak to our students about cyberbullying, we need to attempt to demonstrate that ourselves. I recognize that this post could be viewed as bullying the author of the post, but I am not going to reveal the person who started the thread nor the topic, in part because there are probably numerous examples by many edu-celebrities who, in a moment of frustration, have sent out a message that maybe, in retrospect, wasn’t a good choice.

As educators, we have enough struggles with poor funding, a lack of support at times, challenges in the classroom, behavior issues, curriculum, materials, etc. without adding to the struggle by tearing each other down.

Call out a concept, call out a company, but please try to avoid calling out an individual on social media.

“A” Way or “The” Way to Teach Reading?

UPDATE: January 22, 2020, EdWeek published: Preservice Teachers Are Getting Mixed Messages on How to Teach Reading

I’m going to put my teacher hat on for a moment and ask you to read an article before continuing to help put this blogpost in context. It’s not exactly short, but is worth the time. I’ve included a few quotes that struck me.

I saw a tweet from Rachelle Dene Poth @Rdene915 that caught my attention:

On October 3, 2019, How Do Kids Learn to Read appeared in my inbox stating a similar view in support of phonics.

A huge smile of validation came across my face. As I start my 26th year teaching in public school and taught in private school before that, I have seen many methods and styles come and go.

Years ago, I sat in a required “teaching reading” course for my clear credential in California and the professor was promoting “whole language” as THE way to teach reading. Being a new teacher, I listened carefully, ready to learn to be a better teacher for my students, but it didn’t seem right. This method was opposite from the phonics I was using successfully and had used successfully in my private school days, too. When asking the professor about phonics, I was quickly shutdown that I was “wrong”, that phonics was “wrong” and that I shouldn’t do that to children. Her way was THE way.

But some children will skip the sounding out if they’re taught they have other options. Phonics is challenging for many kids. The cueing strategies seem quicker and easier at first. And by using context and memorizing a bunch of words, many children can look like good readers — until they get to about third grade, when their books begin to have more words, longer words, and fewer pictures.

That night, I walked away from class feeling defeated and confused. I did not understand how teaching students to guess the words or how simply exposing them to literature would help them learn to read. Don’t get me wrong, there are times a reader may need to look at the context for comprehension (see the lesson in Richard Lavoie’s F.A.T. City that proves readers don’t need to know the words to comprehend and knowing the vocabulary doesn’t equal comprehension.)

The skilled readers could instantly recognize words without relying on context. Other researchers have confirmed these findings with similar experiments. It turns out that the ability to read words in isolation quickly and accurately is the hallmark of being a skilled reader. This is now one of the most consistent and well-replicated findings in all of reading research.

So here is my point… If you are a new teacher and something doesn’t seem right, IT MIGHT NOT BE RIGHT! or might not be right for YOUR STUDENTS. It took a tweet 25 years after the fact to make me feel scientifically validated that I wasn’t wrong in asking my professor about phonics. Does teaching phonics mean you can’t expose your students to literature? Absolutely not! Use your observations to know what works, the data, the results, not the edu-celebrity or the college professor telling you how to teach.

New and inexperienced doesn’t equal wrong any more than older and experienced equals right!

In the article I suggested you read at the opening of this post, the author went to speak with Ken Goodman, an education professor, who proposed the three cueing system in 1967:

  • graphic cues (what do the letters tell you about what the word might be?)
  • syntactic cues (what kind of word could it be, for example, a noun or a verb?)
  • semantic cues (what word would make sense here, based on the context?)

Goodman rejected the idea that you can make a distinction between skilled readers and unskilled readers; he doesn’t like the value judgment that implies. He said dyslexia does not exist — despite lots of evidence that it does.52 And he said the three-cueing theory is based on years of observational research. In his view, three cueing is perfectly valid, drawn from a different kind of evidence than what scientists collect in their labs.

As a former special education teacher, to read that someone doesn’t believe that dyslexia exists? That’s a whole other blogpost. 😁

Rant over, but if you are a newer teacher, listen to those around you, take it all in, but don’t forget that you know your students better than some random person. Know that you may make mistakes, but if you put the students and their learning first, you’ll be okay. Have I made mistakes? Absolutely! But I learned from them and moved forward.

For more on the topic, check out Ending the Reading Wars: Reading Acquisition From Novice to Expert.

I’ll close with 2 of my favorite quotes for education:

“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” -Maya Angelou

“People before curriculum.” -Luis Oliveira during Microsoft’s Hack the Classroom 2019  Twitter: @loliveira55



GKTechies’ Tech Vacation

DISCLAIMER: This is more of a travel and photography blogpost than our usual educational tech post, though that is included, too! See the end for travel apps we recommend.

Based on the title, you might think we took a vacation from tech. It was quite the opposite. For our vacation, we decided to take a road trip from California to Washington, visiting friends along the way, because K received an invitation to tour the Inclusive Tech Lab at Microsoft.

K is the planner and relied on her new favorite web tool Wakelet as a vacation idea repository for the first time. Any time she saw a website with a hotel or a place to visit, she clicked the extension to save it to the collection. Groupon links? Saved. Places to stop? Saved. Hotel confirmations? SAVED! (If you aren’t familiar with Wakelet, it’s similar to Pinterest, but BETTER! Check out our blogpost about Wakelet.)

First stop? Silicon Valley! We stayed at the Zen Hotel. Quiet, good breakfast, free snacks in the room, great location, though we got a queen room and should have spent the extra for a king. The queen bed seemed small (felt like a double) and we’re both tall. The staff was friendly and K loved the veggie/fruit smoothies at breakfast.

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So if you are in Silicon Valley, what do you do? VISIT TECH COMPANIES! In the evening, we parked at Google and walked around for a bit, finding one of the Android statues to pose with and the Tyrannosaurus Rex. Sadly, they don’t offer a tour. TripSavvy’s blogpost about the campus grounds was helpful.

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Day 2 of our Tech Road Trip took us to the Computer History Museum. WOW! Being a bit budget savvy, we found a Groupon for a 2 for 1 deal.  It took us a few hours to see everything. No surprise since it said it covers “The First 2000 Years of Computing”. K loved that the opening movie included captioning. We both felt a little old when recognizing devices on displays that we used. Our stuff could be in a museum?! The napkins were great and we found them for sale online! Finished off with a game of Pong.

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Off to Cupertino! K has used Apple products for years and wanted to visit, maybe pick up some items that aren’t available in most stores. There were cool t-shirts, but $40 felt a little expensive for a shirt so we left with pictures and memories. The Apple Infinite Loop is MASSIVE!

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Time to hit the road and de-tech for a bit. Walked in the beautiful California Redwoods, stopped for a quick bite at Fat Irish Kitchen & Pub in Brookings, Oregon, (G loved their clam chowder!) then drove on to Port Orford, Oregon, to stay at Castaway by the Sea. Not too expensive and it’s on a cliff overlooking the water. The first time we stayed, they were dredging the harbor, which was fascinating! (Did we mention we are kind of geeky?) No dredge this time, but while outside our room enjoying the view, a deer walked by just a few feet away. Before driving too far, G needed coffee so we stopped at Bandon Coffee. We highly recommend it and left with a bag of road trip snacks (AKA cookies!). K said their hot chocolate was the best she had ever tasted. High praise since she orders hot chocolate a lot. The downtown area had some incredible sculptures from items washed ashore.

In Portland, we stayed with friends for a few days so time to dial back the geek, except K did show them Wakelet because she knew they’d love it. For fun, we went to see the movie Yesterday and had Beatles’ songs stuck in our heads for days. One of the restaurants we’d recommend in the area is La Provence. Their Beaverton location was next to a park so you could walk off all the calories (or at least, some of them).

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Leaving Portland, we headed north towards Seattle to visit a friend K met during Microsoft’s E2 conference in Paris. After a great lunch with Tara and her husband at Northwest Sausage and Deli, we went to the Lemay Collections at Marymount, not to be confused with the Lemay Museum-America’s Car Museum which is also in Tacoma.  We HIGHLY recommend this museum, even if you are only mildly interested in cars. The cars are GORGEOUS! Between the guided tour and our own walking around, we spent about 2 hours there, but some of the specialty tours sounded interesting for a future visit. Again, we found a deal on Groupon.

On towards Seattle! The first night, we stayed along Lake Washington at Hyatt in Renton, Washington. Normally, this would be a little pricey for us, but we have a policy of staying in cheap hotels (as long as they are clean!) when just stopping to rest and then spoiling ourselves a bit when exploring. The location was beautiful and we walked along the lake which also included a view of the Boeing factory for plane aficionados. Side note: Our room had a GIGANTIC television, handy since we were watching the nail-biting men’s Wimbledon final while packing.  We aren’t huge sports fans, but this final between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer grabbed our attention.

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Our next stop was one of our favorites – meeting Bryce Johnson for a tour of Microsoft’s Inclusive Tech Lab.  As a former special education teacher, K knows the importance of assistive tech and accessibility is a passion project so seeing the lab was like a Cubs’ fan getting to walk onto Wrigley Field. Bryce was so kind to answer many questions since K is helping a local university design an assistive tech/instructional tech lab. K also told G she “needs” the jellyfish fiber optic setup that Bryce built.

With Navy, Air Force, and Marine veterans in the family, we appreciated the work spent to help injured veterans enjoy gaming again and followed up our visit with a donation to Warfighter Engaged. We also have AbleGamers set as our Amazon Smile charity. If you use Amazon, choose a charity and use when ordering,

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When in the Pacific Northwest, we have enjoyed visiting McMenamins, but have never stayed at one. FINALLY we got to change that! Years ago, friends took us to Kennedy School. What? People are ordering drinks in a CLASSROOM?! McMenamins often are vintage locations that have been re-purposed. This trip, we spent a few days at Anderson School in Bothell, Washington. The school was built in 1931 and was used as a school until 2007. Anderson School has numerous places to eat and we were happy to host old friends and new. K got to meet up with Veronica, currently an intern at Excel, a Twitter buddy and fellow blogger.

The adventures at Microsoft continued when K met up with Will Lewis and some of the Microsoft Translator team. She appreciated they wanted to know her thoughts on a recent announcement and expressly asked for her honest opinion. #MicrosoftListens Microsoft announced that PowerPoint now has the ability to display live captions in English or one of 12 other languages. This is great, but K has been using the Microsoft Garage PowerPoint add-in that also allows attendees to pick their individual language and can translate the slide deck so while she was happy for others who may not have the PowerPoint software, she’s hoping that tool will eventually transfer over to the online version. 🧡 What also impressed K was that Will remembered the thank you letters she shared over a year ago written by students after she taught them Office 365 using Microsoft Translator. The students spoke at least 5 different languages.

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After, K met up with G in the Microsoft Visitor Center. We both tried out the Hololens with augmented reality and then K found a shirt in the store.  She loved that the T-Rex is using assistive tech and our nephew loves dinosaurs!

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Our last day at Microsoft was a Microsoft Innovative Expert Educator’s dream! #MIEExpert K mentioned to Mike Tholfsen (product manager on the Microsoft Education team and #OneNoteAvenger) that she’d be around since they’ve met a few times. He invited her to sit in on not one, but THREE online events so G enjoyed the hotel pool and amenities while K enjoyed a Microsoft Tech Community AMA session (Ask Me Anything) followed by the monthly #MSFTEduChat on Twitter which was hosted by a friend of hers, and then a live Q&A on some of the incredible updates coming to Microsoft Education. After, Mike introduced her to some of the engineering team working on OneNoteEdu and Immersive Reader where she got to thank them personally for all that they do.

Time to start on the long drive home, but we still had a few stops along with way. In Cottage Grove, Oregon, we stayed at a Quality Inn that we would recommend. The town was quaint and we had a filling dinner nearby at the Vintage Inn Restaurant where one of the locals stopped by our table to say hello. This was a town we’d like to visit again.


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Years ago, K took her brother to Wildlife Safaria 600 acre drive through animal park in Winston, Oregon, and was ready to go again. They have a free area so it was a good spot to stretch our legs. Those of you in California may find this similar to the old attraction Lion Country Safari, remembered by Yesterland

a small golden puppy and an adult brindle boxer with their mouths on a chew toy on a green grass backgroundAfter that, we focused on driving home to greet our dogs and face unpacking and laundry, though, no road trip is complete without a stop at Yak’s on the 5 in Dunsmuir, CA, for a sticky bun! It may not be the prettiest, but, trust us, it is worth the stop. Though we didn’t stay there this time, in the past, we’ve had fun sleeping in a train car at Railroad Park Resort.

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Glad to be home, but looking forward to future adventures!

Roadside America iOS app logo of a black car and a yellow road signWhile traveling, we use a number of apps. One of our favorites (iOS) is RoadsideAmerica. It is a paid app and a free website. Just ask G about K yelling, “It’s the shoe tree!” in the middle of nowhere in Utah around 10pm. You can spot places coming up on your drive and it is our go-to for stretch breaks.

red Yelp logoYelp is wonderful! K has found amazing hotel deals and though we also use TripAdvisor, we found the Yelp reviews to be a little more critical and often more accurate. It has definitely come in handy in rural areas and led us to some gems! TripAdvisor is useful for things to do.

Waze logo "Outsmarting traffic, together"Waze is a must, we feel, and K’s favorite, though G prefers Google Maps. K is the navigator most of the time so Waze it is! If we see traffic ahead, we’ll look at RoadsideAmerica to see if there is a fun attraction nearby or check Yelp for a good restaurant.  For fun, K changed the voice to Cookie Monster, but you can also record your own voice! Leslie Fisher tweeted about it and don’t tell G, but K recorded some of the Waze commands on his phone. 💕

GasBuddy logo with a circle and a road swirl inside itGasBuddy is our buddy! It tells you gas prices along your route so you can decide when it is best to stop. One piece of advice if you have never gotten gas in Oregon – you are NOT allowed to pump it yourself. There are people at the pumps to do it for you, which sometimes is nice, but when you are in a hurry to get back on the road, it can be frustrating.

Groupon in greenOur last travel app suggestion is Groupon. As teachers, budgeting is important, but it also helps with decision making. For example, there were 2 auto museums in the Tacoma area, both had Lemay in their title, which was confusing. What helped make the decision? Besides the beautiful building, the Lemay Marymount location had a 2 for 1 deal.

Feel free to comment with your own suggestions for attractions, apps, hotels, anything to assist others with their own west coast road trip!

Can You Fix a Tesla with 1911 Ford Tools?

This blogpost started with a tweet from @hollyclarkedu:

At first, this tweet set me (K) off, too:

You mean the devices that allow some to participate because they can’t see the board? Or need review later like videos and online materials? Hubby says if she’s saying it loudly, she wants feedback. Smile and GIVE IT TO HER! @Filibuster3

In 1984, I started working at a summer day camp. I start teaching preschool in 1988. 1994, I officially became a public school teacher so I’ve been teaching for a few years. I’ve taught with chalkboards, blackboards, whiteboards, film strips, VHS, overheads, document cameras, interactive whiteboards, interactive panels, no computer classrooms, one computer classrooms… I think you get the point.

As a former special education teacher and as someone with family members and friends who use assistive technology, I have seen the benefit of educational technology so the comment bothered me, but then I took a step back. Twitter is global. That teacher on the plane could have been from an area where all they have are boards and a lot can be done with them. Just look at Richard Appiah Akoto, from Kumasi, Ghana, who taught Microsoft Word using chalk, but it was because he had no other option.


Many teachers today DO have the option of using technology. Did we teach students Before Technology (BT)? Yes. Did students learn BT? Yes. Do we need technology in the classroom. In our opinion? UNEQUIVOCALLY YES!

bag of tools that came with a 1911 Ford Model T

G made a comment about fixing a modern car with antique tools which sent me on an internet scavenger hunt. That resulted in this blog about the tool kit that came with the 1911 Ford Model T.  Could these tools be used to fix some things on a modern car like a Tesla? Probably. Are these the only tools you need? Definitely not.


selective focus photography of black rotary phone
Photo by Pixabay on

We need to realize that we are preparing students for a world we haven’t seen yet! The first video game I remember? Pong! A stick and a dot. Phones used to be attached to walls and you would literally dial them, not tap a screen. My mother tells the story of saving to buy my father a calculator for $100. I paid over $2,000 for my first laptop. Some things have gotten more expensive and others? Cheaper and more portable.

Our students need skills for jobs that haven’t been created yet that are technology based. We owe it to them to try to expose them to the most modern technology since it will be outdated by the time they leave school AND to teach them HOW to learn.

G was teaching a computer class and an administrator wanted paper handouts with step by step directions. Apps update regularly. Those steps might not be the same THE NEXT DAY! I taught a group of teachers to use an app on a Wednesday afternoon and on Thursday morning, the whole menu system changed. G prefers to teach them how to navigate, let them explore, learn, not just memorize steps.

mokup smartphone technology phone
Photo by on

Yes, your school may not be able to afford the latest and greatest, but you can still inform your students about what is possible or, better yet, let them find what’s out there and tell you about it! When I first heard the term “flipped classroom”, I thought it meant the students teaching the teacher. (Another reason I despise buzzwords.) Why not? They are often used to searching YouTube. G thinks he can repair anything because of YouTube (and he’s been right so far!)

Dukane Filmstrip ProjectorThat being said, years after filmstrip projectors were phased out, I found one and used it in my classroom. It was a novelty and definitely caught their attention.

Could we teach in a classroom with just a board and an overhead projector? Yes. Should we? NO!

UPDATED October 2019 – Office 365 or G Suite? Windows 10 or Chrome? AND or OR?

Now that I have been in a hybrid district #HybridEdu (Microsoft AND Google) for over a year, I thought it might be a good time to update this post along with updated links and announcements coming out of ISTE 2019 along with a Wakelet collection of comparison charts for various apps to help you decide when to use which app (current charts for Forms, PowerPoint/Slides, and Docs/Word).

Full disclosure: We use Microsoft, Google, AND Apple products, both professionally and personally. Between us, we have multiple certifications in Microsoft and K is a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert, Google Certified Educator (level 2), and Apple Teacher.

For work and home, we use Windows 10 PCs, Surfaces, Macs, iPads, Chromebooks, and have Android phones from Google Fi. (We also use a Google Home, Amazon Echo, Invoke with Cortana, and Siri, but home assistants is a different blogpost.) 

All platforms have their advantages and we respect those who may be devoted to a specific platform or product. We are not paid by any of the companies and/or products we discuss in our blogposts. You will ALWAYS read our honest thoughts and opinions from our personal experiences. 

I (K) read some interesting Tweets with articles that triggered my brain comparing platforms and digital inking. Honestly, I’d love to find a study that compares note taking on a laptop (AKA typing) vs. digital inking (this article compares paper inking and this research compares a laptop to a Surface with digital inking.)

While we understand why districts have purchased Chromebooks ($), G read an article from 2014 which reported that 85% of Chromebooks are in education. His response was that that means only 15% are in the global market. Another article around that time talked about over 60% of the global market using Microsoft. My favorite quote: “In 2016, devices running Android and Chrome made up 23 percent of the mobile market outside the United States, compared with 65 percent for Microsoft’s Windows, according to Futuresource.” (From what I can tell, they define “mobile” as non-desktops, such as laptops, Chromebooks, and tablets.)

This is starting to shift, however, according to Futuresource Consultings’ 2019 report, a recommended read.

purple OneNote logoKids are digital natives and seem to do fine, in my observation, using both, but, to us, Microsoft has OneNote, digital inking in multiple apps, and accessibility features like the Learning Tools with Immersive Reader. (As a former special education teacher, the accessibility alone is a deciding factor.)

It is important to remember that “digital native”, however, does not mean students are automatically fluent in technology, but that is another blogpost. Just because I am originally from the Chicago area does not mean I can make Chicago pizza (but I DEFINITELY can eat it! @LouMalnatis)

Google Keep logo - yellow rounded square with a lightbulb in the middleOn the flip side, Google has Google Keep which can be compared to index cards or sticky notes. I used it with a 4th grade class for research report note-taking because they could rearrange the cards to organize their report. I’ve used Google Earth in combination with OneNote Class notebook.

How do we best prepare our students for a world market? How often do you see “Microsoft Office” in an employment listing? How often do you see familiarity with “Google Suite” listed as a job requirement?

Some articles regarding technology and students that might also interest you:

Schools Must Get the Basics Right Before Splashing Out on Technology and one mentioned earlier: A Learning Secret: Don’t Take Notes with a Laptop

Both articles discuss how students learn. I loved the lean forward/lean back portion of the first article and found the typing vs. paper note taking interesting in the second. Students can write notes, draw images to help jog memory, and even organize them around (if digital, not paper). In OneNote, that area is unlimited versus paper where you may need to shuffle through a few sheets on a single topic. Plus, you can insert images, videos, PowerPoints, etc., and the search feature is AMAZING! It can even search text IN images that I inserted.

These confirm why we need Office 365 with OneNote AND should try to get touchscreen devices and styluses into ALL students’ hands!

Final thought – In fall 2018, my district added Google and we went hybrid. Here’s what I noticed. Students mostly view them as apps and programs they can choose from, bouncing between them, rather than seeing only one platform or the other. Many adults, however, appear to see it as one or the other, Google vs. Microsoft.

Tweet from Mike Tholfsen @mtholfsen: NEW! Teachers & Students will be able to login & use free @Office365 apps with their Google EDU account 😱 Use G-Suite & Google Classroom along with apps like #OneNote 💜, Immersive Reader, and @MicrosoftTeams #edtech #edchat #ISTE19 #MicrosoftEDU 👉 …BOTH have great things to offer. I am grateful to be in a #HybridEdu district. Mike Tholfsen from Microsoft tweeted incredible news in June, 2019, for those who would like access to both. Microsoft Education announced the ability to log into Office 365 from Google Edu accounts.

(Many other Microsoft EDU announcements came out in June around the ISTE conference. You can view my Wakelet collection which features many, if not all, of them, from Microsoft or my Wakelet collection of the Google announcements.)

Google AutoDraw logo with a pencil outline on a yellow circle and colorful stars around itHave you played with Google Autodraw or had Microsoft OneNote create math practice problems for you? Did you know you can have live captions in Google Slides and Microsoft PowerPoint?

While we both still lean towards Microsoft because of the accessibility tools like the new mouse pointer options in 1903, Immersive Reader (which they just opened up in June, 2019, to 3rd party apps), and its use in the global market, we see the benefits of choice, allowing students to determine which works best for them as individuals.

Green speech bubble on blackboard background "Ed Tech is an AND, not an OR." - Joe Merrill at Flipgrid Live 6/2019

Feel free to share your thoughts below. We would love to hear the perspective of those outside the education arena (and those within it, too!)

GK’s First PSA – AVOID Frontier Communications

As avid tech users, we are happy to promote programs, features, and devices that make lives easier, more productive, and help keep us organized. On social media, we rave about what we find useful. We get no money from these companies and are honest in our reviews.

Every once in a while, something comes along so bad that we feel we need to warn others. Consider this our public service announcement. PSA from GK.

G’s parents had Frontier Communications for phone, internet, and tv since Verizon was purchased by Frontier in their area. K has had repeated issues with Verizon, both internet and cell service, and does not recommend them, but her issues were NOTHING compared with Frontier.

1Several years ago, we noticed the bill was quite high so we called. His parents had Frontier add us to the list of authorized callers so we could assist. They were being charged for a DVR that they didn’t know how to use and after quite some time on the phone, a plan was found that was more reasonable.

2Earlier this year, the bill was enormous ($200+!) and a charge was still there for a non-existent DVR so we called. The representative said we were not on the list and he would have to call G’s dad for authorization. While he put us on hold, he did call G’s dad, but instead of asking for authorization, proceeded to convince him to renew his contract which would get him a “cheaper deal” (and get him stuck in a contract.)

3Due to a bill of nearly $180 a month for phone, tv, and internet, he decided to switch to another company, saving about $60 a month for similar services. Today, he contacted Frontier to cancel the account. While in online chat, the person said you have to call. He has trouble hearing and requested an alternative (partly because we knew they would send him to sales to try to keep him as a customer). No response so we helped him end the chat and start another one. During that chat, we learned it had already been cancelled (due to the phone number porting over), and that he would have to pay for the full month of service because the new month started on the 7th and the phone was moved on the 10th.

IN ADDITION, he would have to pay a $9.99 “broadband disconnect fee” so over $180 for 3 days of service. (G calls it the “bitter loser fee”.)

If you are considering Frontier Communications, our suggestion is to do an internet search for “Frontier Communications” and “customer reviews”. Run a search on for your area. Below are some we found from around the country:

To summarize what we found on Yelp: 1 star, poor customer service, rude, money-grabbing and yes, that was what we experienced, as well.

Goodbye, Frontier Communications!