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Managing Family Projects with Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium


With a background in project management I can say with experience that managing a family is the most challenging project I have ever taken on. Like me, other working parents I know don’t have the time to sit at a home office desk and calmly get things done. Kids are constantly on the move and have obligations both near and far. To be fully productive as a mom, I need to sneak in work time while my kids are at school, attending after school events or with a sitter. Every small pocket of time during the day is valuable. Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium and Outlook are the key tools I use to manage my family project plan, giving me the flexibility to be productive no matter where I am. I use but since Outlook is included in Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium, it is a seamless and unified solution!

Check out the video that shows how I use the back seat of my minivan as one of my key productive spaces:

Where is your favorite place outside of the house to work on family tasks?



Other tips to have the perfect mobile office:


  • SkyDrive and WiFi: Because I store my documents on SkyDrive, I know that I can access them wherever I am working, minivan included. To make sure I have WiFi on the go, I have a mobile broadband device with a month to month mobile WiFi plan. SkyDrive always maintains the latest version of my documents in the cloud, so I don’t need to worry about version control.


  • SkyDrive Organization: I organize my documents with folders on SkyDrive. One of my folders is for homework including my kids’ math Excel spreadsheets, book report Word documents and history project PowerPoint presentations. Other folders have our family photos. The household management folder includes OneNote shopping lists, Word chore charts and household Excel spreadsheets to keep track of everything from home inventory to birthday party lists. In my writing folder I manage the Word files for my tech articles. Storing tech articles in Word using Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium and SkyDrive allows me to edit at home or on the go, and easily share a link to the document with my editors for document review. My public SkyDrive folder has pictures for my travel blogs that I share with my editor and in my blog posts.



  • Set up a digital family calendar system: Our family uses Outlook to help keep track of our events. I individually color code activities on our Outlook calendar for each of our children (and for us – their parents. My color is purple!). I not only include appointments and events on the calendar, I also include reminders. One great example is summer camp signups. Some popular camps fill up within 2 hours of when online sign ups begin. To stay on top of this crazy schedule, I add “sign up for summer camp” as a calendar item, timed for 30 minutes before online signups start (so I can get ready). Using Windows 8 and Office 365 Home Premium means that I will have all the current documents needed for the signup with me wherever I might be. I even put a reminder in to schedule time with friends, vacations and sneak in a date night with my husband. When I want to make sure family members have the dates on their calendar, I set up the event and invite them to it. Outlook also allows me to keep up with my friends by displaying their social updates next to their email. Emails can be organized by categories or in folders with specific rules.



  • Set up a mobile device cabinet or space: To make sure all the chargers and accessories stay organized and untangled, ready for their next adventure, each one has its own storage bag. For laptops and tablets, I buy a case that has enough room to put the chargers and accessories. I also put each charger and tech accessory in its own labeled storage bags. A Ziploc bag or pencil case will do but there is also a wide selection of storage bags available at office supply or storage stores. Yes, it may sound excessive, but it is a huge time saver and helps me keep things organized. Even when charging the device, the case is always close by. This simple process has greatly reduced time spent looking for lost accessories both at home and on the road.



How do you keep your digital files organized?




Top Tools To Keep Kid’s Homework on Track



Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium at 1

With my busy life as a working mom, I am always on the move. This requires my technology to be flexible, fit my lifestyle and be available for the kids especially when it’s homework time. Finding the right technology tools can help my family have more productive days. Using Office 365 Home Premium is not only a game changer for families, but it is a great way to keep my kid’s homework on the right track.



Listed below are my homework tech tips and video of my family in action ( click below to view the video).





Tip 1 – Homework storage and document management: The first step for homework management in my house was to create a storage and document management system. It’s important that I can access and review my kid’s homework from anywhere, and now I can do this with Office 365 Home Premium, as it is now integrated with SkyDrive – Microsoft’s storage in the cloud.



Microsoft Office 365 Skydrive



Once we store our Microsoft Word, OneNote, PowerPoint or Excel documents on SkyDrive, my family can even view and edit them using Office Web Apps from a browser! How cool is that?





Office 365 Home Premium web apps enable classmates (or anyone we want to share documents with) to edit or view group assignments by using the links we send them.



Microsoft Office 365 Skydrive



If we happen to be out of the house using a PC that has Windows 7 or higher, logging into our Microsoft account will allow us to stream a version of Office 365 Home Premium to that PC for a one time use.



Tip 2 – Organize Homework Tools: I set up a system to help my kids have the right tools for homework and know where to store digital documents. We have homework supplies such as paper, pencils, paper clips, stapler, rulers and pens in a desk drawer of our family room desk (where our shared family Windows 8 desktop is located). With Office 365 Home Premium, our family has all the most current Office tools (Word, Excel, OneNote, PowerPoint and more) and all their work is stored on SkyDrive in organized folders. They use OneNote for gathering information, Word to create their essays, PowerPoint to create presentations and Excel for spreadsheets in math class. Our kids use OneNote, to create “homework” notebooks that allow them to write and edit using touch, type or stylus.



Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium OneNote



For some math work, a good old fashioned pencil and ruler is good enough. But when my kids work on equations, they enjoy using OneNote’s equation editor on our Windows 8 touch desktop, allowing them to use a stylus to write the equation and then have it converted to type.



Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium OneNote



They also use OneNote tools to record audio and video.



Microsoft Office 365 OneNote Home Premium



My kids’ OneNote notebooks are also the place they can gather information about their projects, including links to web pages, inserted photos and even embedded Excel spreadsheets that update the original spreadsheet when changes are made. Word allows my kids to insert online pictures to their essays and the resume reading feature allows me to utilize small pockets of time during the day to review their book reports, and resume each time at the same place I left off. There are also great templates for my kids to use when creating their book reports.





With PowerPoint my kids can give their presentations with the advantage of using Presenter mode.



Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium Powerpoint



With Excel, kids can use formulas, charts and tables to represent math equations and percentages. Using those tools to represent math assignments helps them understand the concepts. And it looks great when turned into the teacher!





3. Set Up Ways to Move and Work – to Help Keep Kids Focused: Some kids need movement to focus and get work done. One of my boys responds very well to homework breaks where he is really exercising his muscles and alternates between jogs around the house and bouncing on a mini-trampoline in the back yard. Then, quite by accident, I discovered that he finishes his work more quickly if he sits (ok… bounces) on my big, inflated yoga ball when attacking his math and writing assignments. He now looks to that yoga ball as his favorite chair, and is able to focus on his homework for longer periods of time because he moves when needed. He even learned to type while bouncing! My next purchase may need to be a balance ball chair. For longer sessions requiring significant writing or typing we ask him to use a regular chair. When sitting, he is usually squeezing a small hand therapy ball for some stationary “hand exercise”. At least that keeps him seated!





4. Teach Your Kids How to Get homework done From Anywhere. With all of our afterschool activities (and especially during Spring Little League), we can’t seem to find a regular time during the week to sit down and do homework together. It is especially challenging when I am at work or a meeting late in the day for my sitter to spread out his time between all of my kids. Luckily our documents are on SkyDrive (in the cloud), so I can help my kids with homework (and “remind” them about their assignments) even if I am not at home. When they have questions on their homework and provide me with a file name, I can take a look and help. Even though they may not especially like that I can always see the latest version of their homework files, they DO appreciate that we can edit together so their assignments get done. After my kids saw how I use Office 365 Home Premium to get assignments done no matter where I am, they started asking to do that as well. My older son figured out that while my twins are playing a baseball game during a school night, he can be there to watch but also work on school projects using one of our Windows 8 devices. Learning to get work done by utilizing available segments during the day is an important skill not only for my kids’ homework but also for their future careers. This also enables our family to check off our list of work each day, so that we can have quality time at night before bed, just talking – no tech in sight.




PATUE Meetup: Assistive Tech Tools To Support Learning

On Nov 27, I was excited to participate in the Palo Alto Tech Using Educators (PATUE) weekly edtech conference series. The organizer of this discussion was Sam Patterson (@LearningsLiving). His website, “Paperless Classroom”, is a great resource for information on how technology can help students learn. Meetups such as this one, hosted by PATUE, help both educators and parents like me interested in technology for kids with learning differences share important information.


I started my talk with a brief perspective as a parent who uses what is commonly called “assistive technology” to help my kids, each of whom has a different learning style. Speaking with me at the PATUE meetup was Shelley Haven of “Technology to Unlock Potential”. We met about a year ago when I attended one of her classes. Shelley is an educational technology consultant who provides assistive technology services including assessments, training, tech configuration, hands-on workshops, classes and more.


Her website is a great resource in this field and includes what she refers to as her Assistive Technology Toolbox, listing technology tools she uses with students and suggested resources. Shelley highlights on her website,, that “Assistive technology can be a great equalizer, helping to level the academic playing field. The right technology tools can reduce the impact of learning barriers, leverage a student’s strengths, or provide an alternative means to accomplish a task.”


The two topics I discussed were 1) the Immersion Reading feature of the Kindle Fire and 2) the new Livescribe Sky WiFi Pen. Immersion Reading is a feature exclusive to the newest models of the Kindle Fire. Readers who purchase a Kindle eBook as well as the corresponding audiobook from can listen to a professionally narrated book while watching it “come alive” with real time highlighting on the Kindle Fire. What I like about the Immersion Reading feature is the professional narration of the audio book making the story come alive, rather than a computer-generated electronic voice.


I stumbled onto this feature when looking into options for one of my fourth grade twins who loves stories but does not like to read. So for now, the Immersion Reading feature of the Kindle, when combined with audio books, is enabling my 9 year old “resistant reader” to listen (and follow) a new book every few days. When we ask him about the story he describes it in vivid detail, demonstrating high comprehension. He also is learning grammar and punctuation by following along in the text.

Here is a video on the Immersion Reading Feature:




The Business Wire press release on Immersion Reading explained:

“Academic research supports the assertion that all readers can benefit from listening while reading. In an influential 2007 study, “Learning through Listening in the Digital World,” neuropsychologist David Rose, Ed.D. and professor Bridget Dalton, Ed.D. drew upon cognitive educational research to report that “both learning to listen and listening to learn are critical to literacy in the 21st century as new technologies rebalance what it means to be literate and to learn.”


Professor David Dockterman commented on Rose’s and Dalton’s findings, “For struggling readers, narration can provide decoding support, but there’s an added benefit to well-narrated text that helps even competent readers. Hearing something read with expression provides additional clues to the meaning beyond the words themselves.”



The next assistive tech topic I covered was the new Livescribe Sky WiFi pen called Sky. This product is brand new and now has WiFi and cloud integration via Evernote. From the press release: “Livescribe smartpens digitally capture everything you hear and write, allowing you to simply tap your ink and play back everything you recorded at that moment.


“The Sky wifi smartpen wirelessly syncs your notes and audio with your Evernote account, making them immediately accessible on your computer, smartphone, tablet, or the web. When paired with your mobile device, Sky offers the natural feel and precision of writing on paper with the advantages of viewing, sharing, and saving handwritten notes on a tablet.”



Here is a video the demonstrates the Livescribe Smartpens:


Shelley Haven then discussed a wide range of assistive technology tools that can help “lower the hurdles” for those who learn differently. Shelley pointed out that even students who are successful at school may have learning differences, such as someone who can easily articulate an essay verbally but has trouble writing it down.


Some of the tools Shelley discussed during the PATUE meeting were audio textbooks from Learning Ally, electronic text and text-to-speech apps from (Read2Go for iPhone and GoRead for Android audio), Inspiration for visual mind mapping, Kurzweil 3000 for study skills, Microsoft OneNote and Evernote for digital organization and Livescribe Pens for capturing handwritten notes and synchronizing these with recorded audio, allowing students to target audio playback.


Do you use any assistive technology for yourself or your kids? If so, please share what you use.