Alone in the office, with the lights low, I often succumb to a guilty pleasure! (It's not what you think!)  I spend time looking at the Office Labs site. Now before you imagemake any snap judgements, the Office Labs are not the ‘Geek-fest’ you might imagine. After all in her last post, Kristen describes the future thinking around technology going on at Live Labs. She is out and proud, and I thought I would get out of the closet and join her in a celebration of innovation and ideas at Microsoft.

The Team at Office Labs describe themselves as a place to ‘explore, experiment and discuss’. I think you might agree that this is a great approach to learning in the classroom. How does it influence the Office Labs team's approach to developing ideas around technology? The team describe their ideas as “Concept Cars." They aren't actual products or features of Microsoft Office and may not work perfectly under all conditions. However, they are steps toward improving everyday productivity and we’d like you to be part of the innovation moving forward by taking a test drive or two, telling us what you think, and helping us shape the technology of the future.”

Visiting the site gives me sense of pioneering adventure, being able explore these innovations and thinking how they might be used in education. It also gets me thinking how we should be using technology in the classroom to meet the needs and demands of a 21st century curriculum.

So what gems can you get your hands on at Office Labs?

Community Clips – This great little application allows you record, with a commentary, ‘how-to’ videos of not just Office applications , but any activity on your computer. This imagecould be used to create instructional videos for students, or by students themselves to share their ideas and skills. It would also be an ideal way of undertaking assessment, recording students progress and achievements in ICT. The application is very easy to use, it works as plug-in to Office or as a stand alone application. I have had a go myself at creating some ‘How to’ videos for the Innovative Teachers Network. These are a work in progress at the moment, especially as they caused much hilarity amongst my team. (I seem to adopt BBC newscaster persona when speaking into a microphone!)

In addition to the application itself, the community clips site offers the opportunity for users to share their ‘How to’ guides. So if you, colleagues or students are looking for guidance on how to do something with Office, this is a great site to find that information.

Find out more about Stickysorter

If you are an avid Post-It note user in brainstorming sessions then Sticky Sorter might be the ideal tool for you. This simple application allows you to to create simple screen notes and organise them into themes. It could be really useful for students working collaboratively and being able to identify common themes in their research.

Find out more about Canvas for OneNote

I think from my previous posts you know how brilliant I think OneNote is, especially for education. So, I was really excited to find on the Office Labs site,  Canvas for OneNote  this allows you to view your OneNote notebook as large canvas. Imagine spreading your paper notes over a table and being able to move between notes in any way you want and you will get the idea. This plug-in certainly adds another another dimension to the use of OneNote in education. I can see this being used to allow students to work collaboratively on projects, using an interactive whiteboard to arrange, exchange and manipulate their notes. It's not too far from the touch wall described in Kristen’s Live Labs post. It's both scary and exciting to think how close we are to the possibility of that sort of technology use in schools.

Why not check the Office Labs site for yourselves and have a look at some of the technology they are developing? Why not give it to your students for them to ‘test drive’? The Office Labs team (as well as Kristen and I) would welcome your feedback.