Given all that we’ve been through in these past couple of years and a shift toward wider appreciation of the power of asynchronous learning, it becomes all the more important to expand our usage of these awesomely powerful tools!
One way to do this is to add voice to our slide decks. This is how to do it in each of Slides, Keynote and PowerPoint
Google launched the ability to add audio to slide decks in 2019. There are two ways to do it:
Use a third party voice recorder to create an audio file > download this file > upload to Google Drive > Insert – Audio in your slide deck.
Use Mote to do all of this for you and reduce the process to a couple of clicks!
Apple offers a version of Keynote both as a standalone app (both MacOS and iOS) and a web based application. Currently, only the standalone app supports insertion of audio files.
With PowerPoint, it’s possible to add audio through both web based and standalone applications!
In the web-based version, tapping ‘Audio’ allows you to upload any audio file already saved to your device.
In the standalone application, users can add voice notes and more to their presentations by clicking on audio and choosing to either upload audio from their computer (‘audio on my PC’) or to record sound directly onto the deck.
Even the shortest email can take a long time – worrying about everything from greeting to sign off and all that’s in between! AND, even when you think you’ve got it right… you still have concerns over the tone. Simply put – written copy, however good, just cannot convey the same sense of person as voice!
Wouldn’t it be great if there were a tool out there allowing users to add audio to their Gmail messages?! Good news for you: there is and it’s called Mote!!
Install the Mote Chrome extension by visiting this link on the Chrome Web Store.
Open up Gmail and start to compose a new message; you will see the Mote icon next to the send button. Once recorded, all that you need to do is send! Take look at this video below for a quick run through:
Anyone that receives an email message containing a mote, will see the clickable card.
Those that have Mote installed will be able to listen to the voice note, without leaving the message.
Anyone accessing without Mote, will be taken to the landing page for the voice note where they can hear and read any voice to text transcription.
The most recent Teacher Wellbeing Index reports that 77% of teachers experienced symptoms of poor mental health due to their work and 54% have considered leaving the sector in the past two years due to pressures on their mental health.
There is no silver bullet to the problem. The 5 apps below are merely some of the many technology tools out there that may help in some way.
Have any that you’ve explored and benefitted from? Please let us know and share as a comment.
5 Minute Journal
The 5 Minute Journal is a great way to start and end your day. The journal has sections for you to write about what you’re grateful for, affirmations, and spaces to set goals.
It’s quick and easy to use which makes it perfect for a busy teacher who doesn’t have much time in their day.
Breethe is a freemium app that brings meditation into your life in a way that feels both accessible and challenging. It’s not about clearing your mind or emptying the contents of your thoughts, but instead it aims to help you be the best version of yourself by filling the space between them with stillness.
Clanbeat helps students build positive learning habits with our regular reflection nudges, work planner and goal setting features. Actionable insights on students’ mood allow ny potential issues to be identified and tackled before they arise; supporting your students and saving your time!
Their website says “Think of Headspace as your mind’s best friend. We’re here for you whenever you need us, wherever you are, helping you get through tough times and find joy in every day.’ Offering free access to teachers through this link – it’s definitely worth a look.
Feedback is an art. It immeasurable value in learning (see Mote’s Feedback Masterclass) and takes time to do well. Sometimes a LOT of time. With Mote, not only will using your voice make it 3x faster to leave feedback. The intonation will alleviate any concerns over misunderstanding and help build rapport with your learners.
Excellent beginners lavelier. Great sounds and cheap On step up from the Boya (above) for great sound is the Rode SmartLav. Make sure you plug these into an external recorder or use your phone as a recorder. The difference in quality is very noticeable.
Our reflections on ‘zero to one’ and announcing help we’re getting to go from ‘one to ten’
Going from zero to one means bringing something entirely new into existence, and being lucky – or far-sighted – enough to have created something that a lot of people find useful enough to use and to share with friends.
Going from one to ten means taking that early success and figuring out to make it relevant and exciting for a much bigger group of people. It means identifying and fixing the ‘break points’ in the current product, and it means scaling the energy of the founding team to a much larger organization.
Today, I’m reflecting on our own ‘zero to one’ journey – in our case that’s getting to the symbolic one million weekly user milestone on the one year anniversary of our product launch. And we’re also announcing and celebrating a new partnership that will help us get from one to ten.
Mote from zero to one
In January 2020, Alex and I started work on the project that became Mote. By the time we launched Mote just over one year ago today, the World was gripped by the first wave of the Covid 19 pandemic, and we wondered just what this meant for our nascent startup.
We’ve been lucky – we got quite a few things right with our initial product idea, and we’ve been blessed with a fantastic community of users who shared their ideas for improving our product.
We’ve been frugal – we were largely self-sufficient for the first six months, and we only started paying ourselves once we started generating a meaningful amount of revenue, in September.
And, as we grew our revenue from sales, we were also able to hire brilliant team members with energy and expertise that complemented our own.
In getting from zero to one, we continued to refine our idea of what 10 or 100 might look like. In our case, we kept coming back to the key insight – Mote makes it easier to talk instead of type, and our users really like this. To get from one to ten, we will need to find more people, places and ‘jobs to be done’ where talking can be faster, better and more enjoyable than typing.
Mote from one to ten…and beyond!
Alex and I have always been confident that Mote has potential to become more than ‘just a feature’, that we are building something with real significance, however I’ve not always been very good at explaining this vision. That matters, because explaining the vision is really important in bringing brilliant people to work with us at Mote.
Telling the story and painting the bigger picture is also essential to attract the kinds of investors who are experienced at helping startups make the leap from one to ten. Today, I’m really excited to be announcing that we have secured partnership and investment from Craft Ventures, a top tier Venture Capital firm that believes in our mission, with a team that brings decades of experience in building startups through this phase of their growth.
With the funding we have received, we will be investing in growing our team and increasing our expertise to better serve the needs of our community. The funding gives us the additional capacity to address both the immediate top priorities of users and partners, as well as the longer term priorities that will help us meet the needs of both current and future users of Mote.
Some of the things we’ll be working on include…
Bringing a better Mote experience to mobile and tablet devices – starting with iOS
Integrating Mote into more products and ecosystems – starting with Microsoft
Better understanding and addressing ways to make Mote more useful every working day
For our users and customers, this means you’ve got a stronger partner in Mote – we have the resources to invest in serving you better than ever. We wouldn’t be here without the trust and kindness you’ve shown us so far, and we will be working very hard to win your continued support.
Most importantly, for our amazing team members, friends and early supporters, this investment is validation of the faith you placed in Mote and in its founders. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for taking the leap and for giving so much of your time and energy to this project – onwards! 🚀🌔✨
Think back to the last time you gave someone feedback – in person, on video chat, on a document or assignment. How did it go? Did they thank you? And most importantly, did anything change?
Here at Mote, we’re obsessed with these questions, because we believe they hold the key to unlocking more – and better – feedback. And this matters, because feedback is the essential ingredient in all learning. But don’t just take our world for it. According to the Education Endowment Foundation,
“Feedback studies tend to show very high effects on learning.”
While for Netflix, former employees have reported that feedback “‘…can be intense and awkward”, and that “the pressure to give and receive feedback was ‘the hardest part about the culture.”
Fix feedback…with feedback?
Recognizing that feedback is both really important and really hard, here at Mote we’re working on tools that make it easier to give and receive better feedback. And while we started with a focus on improving the medium of feedback, we know it’s also essential to help improve the message, which starts with helping feedback creators to better understand what’s working.
We’ve just released a major update that makes it easier for users to track the engagement that their mote feedback has received. Feedback creators can see – and hear – all of the feedback that they’ve left on their Activity feed, and can filter this by whether it’s been ‘moticed‘, as well as by the recipient, the assignment and class. Recipients leave emoji reactions on feedback, which also helps feedback creators to understand what’s clear and actionable for recipients, and what’s not working quite so well.
It’s a step towards our vision of a world that learns faster through feedback, one with all the benefits of feedback – authentic human connection, faster, more personalized learning – with none of the downsides. If you’re excited about that vision, then please hit ‘follow’, drop us a line, or try mote for yourself.
Dear Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics teachers,
Thank you for training the next generation of inventors and builders, for giving your students a problem solving toolkit they can apply wherever life takes them, and for your tireless creativity in finding new ways to teach your students during a pandemic.
STEM mode is for you
As a little token of admiration and appreciation for STEM teachers, we’ve just launched a new feature for Mote that we call ‘STEM mode’.
With this new feature enabled, you can choose to have mathematical expressions and chemical compounds formatted and rendered beautifully within your document comments and on our website landing pages.
In order to detect STEM expressions within transcripts, we iterate through the text of a transcript and build a potential expression when we land on language that may be related to Math or Chemistry. Language that might qualify for a potential expression includes numbers, variables, functions, math operations, or letters in elements. We also consider homophones of STEM-related language, to ensure that errors in voice transcription do not lead to us missing STEM expressions. This means that an incorrect voice transcription like “why equals sign x” and “see oh 2” can still be formatted as “ y = sin x ” and “CO2”.
For potential Math expressions, we ensure that we only format expressions which are logical, meaning we don’t leave functions or math operations hanging. This helps avoid false positives, making sure that statements like “This is good, plus I think it’s a sign of improvement” aren’t reformatted to “This is good, + i think it’s a sin of improvement”, even though the plus sign, “I”, “sign”, and “a” could be interpreted as potential Mathematical language by themselves. False positives proved to be one of the larger challenges in evaluating STEM, as many words for Mathematical processes can be used in other contexts.
Evaluating Chemistry expressions involves determining whether a sequence of letters and numbers could feasibly represent a chemical compound. Iterating through a potential Chemistry expression, we have to make sure that each letter either represents an element in the periodic table by itself or represents an element when joined with the letter directly preceding/following it. If this rule is broken, then the potential chemical compound will not be formatted, as it is not composed solely of element abbreviations and numbers. However, there are still unclear cases where a piece of text could be either a combination of element abbreviations or a single word. In order to decide ambiguous cases, we search to see if the rest of the Mote contains any chemistry-related language such as “atoms”, “ions”, or “covalence. Depending on what we find (or don’t find), we are then able to make a more reasonable conclusion as to whether you’re referencing Colorado or carbon monoxide when you say “CO”.
With the evaluation of potential STEM statements finished, formatting accepted expressions presents its own set of challenges. For Math expressions, the symbols involved equations typically follow the same order as the words representing them, meaning an equation like “y=ax+b” is read aloud in the same order it is written. However, when inverting or applying derivatives to functions, this order is often mixed around. For example, one might say “y equals inverse sin x plus the derivative of f of x” for the equation “ y=sin-1x + f'(x) ”, where we can see that the “inverse” and “derivative” might be spoken before the functions they apply to, but the symbols for each are written after the functions they apply to. This means that formatting Mathematical statements is not a simple manner of replacement, but rather requires consideration for the role of a Mathematical symbol within an expression. Chemistry expressions are easier to format, as we only need to ensure that letters are capitalized if they are the first (or only) letter in an element’s abbreviation and that any numbers occurring after letters are turned into subscripts.
With the STEM expression fully formatted, it is inserted back into our representation of the transcript, with identifiers that will allow it to be rendered properly by the Mote Chrome Extension. In terms of the user experience, we decided to have STEM mode be a setting that a user can toggle on or off for individual Motes. This allows users to choose between the classic Mote text representation of transcripts and the new STEM Mode version with STEM expressions rendered using AsciiMath in conjunction with our React.js frontend.
To enable STEM expressions to be rendered and edited in our ‘Editor’ view we replaced the existing HTML textarea with a contenteditable <div> that contains both MathJax strings and editable text. The STEM expressions are separately editable only when selected, in a separate editing pane, and using the AsciiMath syntax. We’re pleased with how cleanly this seems to have solved for the need to edit both plain text and STEM expressions in one UX.
And that’s it! We hope that STEM mode proves to be a clean and elegant solution for your feedback!
This post was co-authored with mote’s own Chris Skokowski, Alex Nunes and Emir Mehić.
As a passionately remote-first company, I’m occasionally caught in the apparent paradox of having to explain why spending some percentage of our time together in the same location is a necessary part of Mote’s operating model. In fact, it’s so important that my relocation to Europe this Summer was partly motivated by a strong sense that our company’s future depended on Alex and I being free to spend at least some percentage of time together, free from the spectre of enforced two-week quarantines.
Anyhow, this week Alex and I have been able to spend quality time together, working on a business-critical product release, planning out the next few months, and taking stock of our progress. And coincidentally all of this has been against a backdrop of beautiful Greek countryside, many shared meals and more than a few shared drinks.
So, why is time together so essential for high-functioning remote teams? Here’s my take:
In startups, you tend to be working very hard towards a highly uncertain and amorphous goal. Success depends on founders’ – and early employees’ – ability to convince one another that this goal is attainable and highly desirable. Time together is a way to mutually re-commit to the mission and journey.
Sustained periods of high-intensity work will cause unintended stresses and strains on any relationship. This is true both at home and amongst work colleagues, and both sets of stakeholders deserve a level of reinvestment.
Some tasks really are much easier to undertake while colocated. Really complex or novel product specification, quickly iterating on user journeys and priorities…