Office Lens

iOS App Store link

Office Lens is a utility made by Microsoft that works on any platform to capture business cards, documents, images and whiteboards. Lens then processes the images to improve clarity before providing various export locations. If you are an Office365 subscriber you also have the benefit of exporting to any of the Office365 apps including directly into a page of a OneNote Notebook.

Below are a couple of scenarios that would work well in an education environment:

Scanning Documents

Document Scanning
– Backup students work
– Store documents from a PD
– Capture pages from books to use in lessons
– Use OCR on a document

Scanning Notes/Work

Scanning Notes
I often find that teachers feel pressure to stop using pen and paper once iPads and Laptops are introduced to the classroom. To me it is perfectly fine to continue working with paper, do your math lesson on paper, brainstorm, think, draw – you can still use paper and then capture the image after the fact.

Scanning the Whiteboard

Scanning whiteboard
The obvious one here is to use this to scan the teachers whiteboard work at the end of the lesson but another love of mine is encouraging students to use the whiteboard to think out their ideas. My mechatronics/engineering class will often have groups of students sharing their ideas on the whiteboards scattered around the room. I also like the idea of the whiteboard desk. Once the thinking is done – take a photo.

Saving to OneNote

OneNote Options
I will point out specifically how Office Lens interacts with OneNote as this fits perfectly into the brainstorm and think on paper or whiteboards and then capturing to digital. Most of my thinking and group work in classes is stored inside OneNote so using Lens certainly makes moving files directly where I need them to go quick and easy.

Podcasting Microphones Extras

So since my last post where I discussed my recommendations for a good podcasting microphone I have received a couple of orders from Amazon.

First is a shock mount which is designed to remove some of the vibrations that may occur from moving the microphone to bumping the desk.

This is the one I grabbed:

Shock mount

The only problem was that I didn’t check the sizes so I needed to 3D print a part so that the microphone sat comfortably.

Mic Enlarger

I also purchased a foam microphone wind protector to help soften the noise of the microphone.

This is the one I grabbed:

Foam Cover

Together they all look pretty cool:

Mic with Foam Cover and Shock Mount

Podcasting Microphones

For all intensive purposes do not record audio through the microphone of your laptop, these microphones pick up far to much background noise and never provide any kind of reasonable quality.

A starting point is to just use the microphone attached to Apple AirPods – which will provide a clearer recording just by the fact that it will sit closer to your mouth. It also works well while on the move.

In my experience the “feel” of a podcast changes dramatically based upon the quality of the recorded audio. Some of the clear “low quality” sounding podcast generally arise when the presenters are located in the same location sharing one microphone.

So how do you choose a good microphone that has a reasonable price? Well you could head to this blog post by Marco Arment of Tumblr, Instapaper and Overcast fame.

Podcasting Microphones Mega-Review

tl;dr – get yourself an Audio Technica ATR2100-USB.

An amazing value for the money: it sounds great for the price, and pretty decent at any price, as long as you speak up very closely to it. With USB and XLR outputs and a built-in headphone jack for USB mode, I don’t know of a cheaper or simpler all-in-one solution to recommend. Compared to other inexpensive USB mics aimed at beginners, which are usually large-diaphragm condensers, the dynamic ATR-2100 picks up far less room echo and background noise. But you have to speak up closely to it β€” get more than about two inches from it, and it gets very bad, very quickly.


This microphone is fantastic and provides great value for money. Tracking one of these down in Australia is its biggest down sides. I managed to grab one from my local PLE computers for $99.

So why this microphone – other than price?

Inputs and Outputs


Connecting to a laptop or even iPad could not be easier.

XLR outputs

Flexible enough to connect to any professional audio equipment and cabling.

2.5mm Headphone Jack

Plugging your headphones directly into the microphone enables the ability to listen to exactly what the microphone is picking up. This actually makes a huge difference while recording.

A small stand

Easy table top setup.

Example Recordings

Like what Marco did in his review, below I have included some example recordings I made using the internal microphones from an iPad Pro 12.9 and a MacBook Pro with also recordings made on both devices with the AT2100-USB Microphone.

MacBook Pro Internal Microphone

MacBook Pro with AT2100-USB Microphone

iPad Internal Microphone

iPad with AT2100-USB Microphone

iPad Setup

iPad Connection

Podcasting Series

One of the many ways I like to pass time while running or driving is by listening to Podcasts. They cover so many topics, themes and styles that really there is an endless amount of content available. I like to listen to podcasts covering technology, education, science and tv shows. At the end of this post I’ll link to some of my favourites that I could not live without.

Over some of the next few posts I will go through the setup that I have been putting together to record, edit and publish a podcast so that people can subscribe and listen. I will try to cover my experiences and choices that I have made – like keeping costs to a minimum.

I would like to point out a couple of resources that I recommend – and that I have used to help in my decisions.

Six Colors – Podcast Posts
Casey Liss – How I Make Podcasts

Podcast Recommendations

Accidental Tech Podcast
Hello Internet
Future Tense

OneNote Lock Collaboration Space

Very happy to see the addition of a lock for the Collaboration Space in a Class Notebook. I can now have a much happier workflow to enable this area when it is needed and then lock it up when I cannot keep an eye on my students.

The lock is currently only available via the web, but I’m hoping they will add to desktop and mobile devices in the future.

Step 1

First browse to in your web browser.

Step 2

Choose Manage Notebooks.

Choose manage notebooks

Step 3

Scroll to the notebook that you want to lock and then click the slider:

click lock Collaboration Space

Step 4

Your Collaboration Space will now be locked


OneNote Add Teacher-Only Section to a Class Notebook

The Teacher-Only Section is an area of your Class Notebook that is only available to Teachers of that Notebook. This is a great place to prepare or store data that you do not wish students to see.

Step 1

First browse to in your web browser.

Step 2

Choose Manage Notebooks.

Choose manage notebooks

Step 3

Scroll to the notebook that you want to enable the Teacher Only Section. Then click Enable Teacher-Only section group.

click enable teacher-only

Step 4

The page will update showing the section is enabled.

teacher only enabled

Step 5

After syncing your Class Notebook you will see the new section next to the Content Library.

new section available

OneNote Class Notebook Distribute Page Tool

To speed up annotating student Pages you can use the Distribute Page tool. This will enable you to distribute a page from the Class Notebook directly into the student sections – it could be for homework or pages of a workbook/booklet.

Note: the page needs to be located inside the Class Notebook, currently you cannot distribute a page from one notebook to another. My recommendations is to store the page in the Content Library.

Step 1

First pick the page:

chosen page to distribute

Step 2

Now choose the Distribute Page tool from the Class Notebook tab:

choose Distribute Page

Step 3

You will then be asked which section to place the Page inside the student sections.

which section

Step 4

The Page should now be copied to all of the student sections. Hopefully the students now complete the work.

Step 5

Once complete you can now use the Review Student Work tool:

review student work

This will open a side panel with the option to choose which Section and then which Page to review:

choose section and page

Step 6

OneNote will now provide a list of the students that can be selected. By selecting a student you can navigate directly to the Page you would like to review.
(I blurred the names in my example)

choose student

Step 7

Give them some feedback!!

OneNote Class Notebook Feedback

Being that a Class Notebook is a “live” notebook where all changes are synced continuously there is a fantastic opportunity for teachers to provide feedback to students at any time.

feedback in OneNote

In the image above you can see my written feedback in response to a Spaghetti Bridge assessment. For this I chose to use my iPad Pro, just so that I could write with the Pencil. If you have a Windows tablet, iOS or Android device you can use pen/stylus or even your finger. As a macOS user you can type and use highlights etc for your feedback.

I will recommend that as the teacher you choose a colour that will identify yourself to the students and then ask them to not use that colour – purple is my favourite as it is something that people don’t normally choose.

Something to consider..

You may realise that if you are giving feedback on a Page that has complete editable rights by the student (their section or the Collaboration Space), the student can delete or edit it. Hence, I could not recommend using this for any formal assessment unless you copied the pages into another Notebook to ensure that your comments are not altered. It really is a great way to start a conversation with a student about the work they have completed.

OneNote Class Notebook Collaborating

Another major feature of a OneNote Class Notebook is the ability for students to collaborate together on a Page. I have found this most beneficial as a learning tool and it has solved so many problems that I had experienced in the past. Most collaboration tools are limited by either being a “word processor” or only available via a webpage (which severely limits functionality). OneNote provides an endless digital piece of “butchers paper” or digital “whiteboard” if you prefer. They can write, highlight, mark or insert images, movies and links. If they have a touch input device (Windows, iOS, Android) they can use a pencil/stylus/finger input to draw and write. This can all be achieved via the Collaboration Space

The Collaboration Space

collaboration space

As you see in the image above, the Collaboration Space can be used very effectively for students to work together on a task. I use this extensively in my Engineering class where many activities follow the “engineering process” of design, production and evaluation (plus the rest).

Though the Collaboration Space provides much of the functionality required for collaboration it does have some issues. One of which is that you cannot change the rights of this area – basically it is a free-for-all and could be used negatively by some students. OneNote attempts to minimise this issue by tagging added content with initials of who ever added the content (including the teacher). As a teacher you will need to monitor the Collaboration Space for anything untoward. One classroom management strategy could be displaying Pages on a projector – it won’t take long for someone to point out in appropriate use. In the worse case you can delete this section – but hopefully it doesn’t come to that.

Perhaps in the future there may be a way to lock pages from being edited or see a log of any changes. Another strategy could be to assign smaller groups of students to edit certain pages, rather than everything being editable.

Overall it is a fantastic way to collaborate in your class and it certainly has changed my classroom having this tool available.

Alt text

OneNote Sharing

To me, the most basic reason to set up a Class Notebook is to share and the best thing is you can share … just about anything really. You can add documents of any kind to your Notebooks and if you upload a PDF it can even display the contents (which of course means you can annotate over the top – did someone say worksheet?). Believe it or not, it even embeds YouTube movies just by pasting the link:
YouTube embedded into OneNote

So who can share?

  • Teachers can share documents by uploading to any page in any section – so if you want to be really specific you could drop one file into one students notebook section. Ideally I would recommend using the Content Library or use the Distribute Page tool.
  • Students can share by adding to the Collaboration Space.
  • So basically everyone πŸ˜€

The Content Library

content library

This is the most obvious place to share content in your Notebook as a teacher, basically because that is what is designed to do. Even if you are planning on using the Distribute Page tool, I would still place everything here.

As a bit of a side: remember that anything in the Content Library is visible to all members of the Notebook, so if you are the kind of teacher that only likes to release work to your students on a lesson by lesson basis I would recommend that you set up a “normal” Notebook in OneNote to do all of your planning, then copy over as you need.

As you can see in the screen shot above you can upload Word files and PDF’s, which can then be downloaded. PDF files also have the benefit that they can be inserted as a PDF printout. On a Mac just drag and drop the PDF into a Page and you will be prompted how to insert:

choose how to insert PDF

By choosing “Attach” the PDF just becomes a file icon. By choosing “Insert Printout” the PDF is displayed with content. For Windows users, you are able to achieve the same result with Word files, i.e. OneNote can convert the Word file to PDF on the fly and insert the document. My only thought that this is different is that Microsoft is aware of how easy it is to create PDF on macOS as opposed to Windows :P

It is really up to you how you use the Content Library but one idea I like is to insert a workbook for students to complete over a unit.

workbook example

As you can see in the screen shot above, there is a Section called “Term 1 Science Booklet”. In the past you may have printed and handed out such a booklet for the students to complete or distributed PDF files to students via a share or email. These options always have issues with

  • Students loosing their workbook
  • Finding methods to submit PDF’s
  • Teachers carrying boxes full of workbooks
  • How to annotate to provide feedback to PDF’s
  • Returning annotated PDF’s.

OneNote really does solve all of these issues.

Remember the Content Library is “read only” for students so it will need to be copied to their Notebook or as a teacher, you can use the Distribute Page tool.