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.

Wakelet

 

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.

 

🎁HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM OUR FAMILY TO YOURS!

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!"

Productivity? Meet Accessibility!

The purpose of this article is to share how some of those tools can make you more productive.

As a former classroom teacher and current technology trainer, part of my job is to find tools to assist staff and students. In July 2017, after being asked to present on accessibility tools at my local Microsoft store, I started collecting resources in a OneNote notebook. In it, I have included Microsoft, Apple, Google, Chromebook, and any other resources that are necessary for some, but beneficial to many.

Tired of ads and clutter distracting you while trying to read an article? Microsoft helped solve that problem with Reading View in the Edge Browser. (Before and after screenshots) Check out some of other features in Reading View such as Read Aloud and the Learning Tools. If you have an iPhone or an iPad, you can use Safari Reader to do the same thing. For Macs, see this site for instructions. Chrome user? Try the Mercury Reader extension.

Internet Search Tools handout in Word next to the same handout in Sway with "before" and "after" inked on them.Trying to do an internet search, but getting too many results? Check out this list of easy ways to fine tune your searches in Bing and Google. You can also learn how to quickly turn a boring document or PDF into a beautiful presentation. View an example here of going straight from Microsoft Word Online into Sway (video also includes the new translate tool in Immersive Reader).

Forgot your reading glasses? CTRL + will quickly zoom in (CTRL – to zoom out, CTRL 0 to return to default) or use the Seeing AI app on your iPhone or iPad or Office Lens, which is now available for iPhone, iPad, AND Android. Read more about both here. Office Lens also has Immersive Reader. Take a picture of an article and it will read it to you! Perfect for long commutes. (Also available in Word and OneNote.)

advanced features for Mouse Properties screen in the Pointer Options tab with Hide pointer while typing and Show location of pointer when I press the CTRL key checked.

Presenting on a PC and want to make sure your audience can see your cursor or pointer? Check out these settings to make both more visible  such as showing the location when you press the CTRL key and watch for future Windows 10 updates. @JenMSFT posted about color options on a future build. Cursor & pointer page in Windows 10 settings with option to change pointer size and color with hot pink highlighted

 

Watch for future articles on productivity (AKA accessibility) tools, visit my OneNote for more information, and visit the YouTube channel we started, Greg& Karyn: GKTechies. Simple, no nonsense tutorials with captioning.

You can follow me (Karyn) on Twitter @Filibuster3 and we are starting to use @GKTechies together.

BOO! It’s Boolean tools!

Halloween is coming up so we thought we would deliver an early “treat”.

HANDOUT UPDATED AS OF 2/22/19 TO INCLUDE CATEGORY SEARCH. See the tweet here. (For comparison, I searched philosophy “The Good Place” and got over 3,000,000 results. When I searched philosophy:”The Good Place”, less than 50,000 results!

So you visit Bing or Google, ready to do a search. How many hours do you have to scan millions of results for the information you need? Boolean Tools to the Rescue! Below is a handout K created for a presentation for teachers a few years ago that was followed by requests for a copy to share with the teachers’ own children.

Many of us know about the + and the -, but what about the * and the ~? (Yes, there is a use for that weird key in the top left corner besides emoticons!)

Feel free to comment below if you have found other shortcuts for filtering internet searches. Most appear to work in both Bing and Google.

Here is the link to the handout in Sway. Below is an example of the handout in Word and how it changed when I imported it into Sway.

Internet Search Tools handout in Word next to the same handout in Sway with

URL Shorteners – Why? Which? How?

Today’s post is all about URL shorteners. While there are many out there, my focus is on ones I have used personally. At the end, I’ve created a chart giving you a quick overview of all 4 and their pros and cons.

Why use URL shorteners? They make life easier when sharing a link verbally or when creating a QR code. Below is an example of 2 QR codes. On the left, the original link. On the right, the link using a URL shortener. Which one could be easier for attendees to capture on their phones, especially if far from the screen?

TINYURL.COM

In July 2017, I did a presentation on Microsoft’s accessibility tools for my local Microsoft Store. I created a OneNote resource to share with attendees using a Tinyurl link.  For example, this takes you to our YouTube channel: https://tinyurl.com/gktechiesyt

Tinyurl is VERY easy to use. Simple paste your link and click Make TinyURL! You can also personalize your link by entering a custom alias in the 2nd field before clicking the Make TinyURL! button. Links are NOT case sensitive. https://tinyurl.com/GKTechiesyt works the same as https://tinyurl.com/gktechiesyt.

screenshot of Tinyurl.com homepage "Welcome to TinyURL"

Easy, quick, and free! However, there was no data, nothing to tell me if anyone was using the resource I created. I kept updating the OneNote for me, but had no idea if others were viewing it.

BITLY.COM

Shortly after that presentation, a colleague told me about Bitly. You can personalize the link, change the link title, AND have data. Example: for internet search tips, see http://bit.ly/InternetSearchTips.  Plus, there is a free version! You can see specific clicks in the last 30 days and the top 3 locations.

Now for the cons: What I found frustrating is that I can see the link for my accessibility resource has been clicked 15,368 times in 55 countries (as of 8/26/18), but cannot see the full list of countries. (UPDATE 5/21/19 – more countries are now listed in the free version! UPDATE 7/1/19 – those countries are gone again) Also, Bitly links ARE CASE SENSITIVE. bit.ly/internetsearchtips will not work, but bit.ly/InternetSearchTips will go to the correct resource.

Bitly analytics with a list of countries and a blue circle graph with 15,582 total clicks in the center

 

DELIVR.COM

Then along came Leslie Fisher‘s webinar and I discovered Delivr. WOW! Now I can see a LOT of data so I started sharing my accessibility notebook with this link: https://delivr.com/27zf2. With Delivr, you can pull a report for the last 90 days to view the traffic to your link. As long as I check it within those days, I can keep track of the countries specifically and even states and provinces.

Also, Delivr links are NOT case sensitive. https://delivr.com/27zf2 goes to the same resource as https://delivr.com/27ZF2.

Delivr data as of 8-26-18

So what are the downsides to the free version? Unlike TinyURL and Bitly, you cannot personalize the end of link so it isn’t as easy to share out verbally. You are also limited to only 5 links at a time. HOWEVER, you can change where the link points to at any time.

For example, I created a handout of internet search tips (Boolean tools) in Word (Bitly link). Then, a colleague imported it into Sway (Bitly link), inspiring me to use that medium instead. The Word link had already been tweeted out and I couldn’t change where it pointed so I had to create a new Bitly. With Delivr, I could have changed it, Internet Search Tips (Delivr link), so people who had the original link would get the newer format.

YELLKEY.COM

If you are sharing a link verbally, Leslie Fisher also introduced me to an incredible tool called Yellkey. What is Yellkey? Basically, when you need to share a link easily and quickly, drop it into Yellkey and a URL is created using yellkey.com/ and a common word is added to the end. For example, yellkey.com/star.

Yellkey - enter URL and length of time for key to exist. Next field for selecting time for link to be live. blue button "generate yellkey" made with love by delta lab

Upside/downside? That link only works for up to 24 hours. You set the time, however.

Be aware that links ARE CASE SENSITIVE. The add on word must be lowercase, according to my tests.

Yellkey enter url and length of time for key to exist. 5 minutes, 10, 15, 30, 1 hour, 3 hours, 6, 12, 24 hours

There are numerous other URL shorteners online, some with dubious reviews like AdFly, which sounds great to monetize your resource, but I found posts talking about viruses and scam questions.

Goo.gl has been used by many, but is no longer an option.

 

COMPARISON CHART and SUMMARY

Bitly: free, but can upgrade to enterprise version for $6-7k a year, overall statistics and the last 30 days available, can customize link. Delivr: free for 5 links, subscription plans available - cheapest is $270/yr for 100 links, detailed overall statistics for the last 90 days available, cannot customize link. TinyURL: cost is free, data is none, can customize link. Yellkey: free, no data, cannot customize link.

They are difficult to rank, but I would put Delivr as my favorite due to the INCREDIBLY DETAILED statistics, though you cannot customize the link and you only get 5 links in the free account version. (If sharing a link verbally, you could paste your Delivr link in Yellkey and then have the user bookmark it.)

Bitly also offers free accounts AND you can customize the links and see overall statistics and 30 days worth of data. There doesn’t seem to be a limit to the number of links you can create. The free version doesn’t let you change the site the link is pointing to, but you could create a fresh Bitly.

Tinyurl is free, lets you customize, but does not give you data. No sign in.

Yellkey is free, does not let you customize, does not give you data, and has a time limit. Sometimes, I did not like the word it created. One example was Yellkey.com/fear which sounded negative, but you can just create another one. No sign in.