Increasingly teachers are utilizing a variety of online tools to help facilitate learning in their classrooms. While the dominant platform in our college remains OneNote most of our teachers utilise a variety of other tools including Quizlet, Kahoot, Moodle, OneDrive, eTV, YouTube and ClickView. While it can be advantageous to use a variety of tools, it does have the potential to lead to a disjointed experience as multiple logins, URLs and passwords can be difficult for students to manage. A second aspect that must be managed is the NZQA requirement regarding the digitization of Internally Assessed work. In recent years we have used moodle for any online assessment handin, but with our declining use of Moodle in classrooms, we have recently decided to investigate alternate solutions. This has led to us actively investigate the potential of Microsoft Teams.
Teams is described by Microsoft as the hub for teamwork in Office 365 that integrates all the people, content, and tools your team needs to be more engaged and effective. In a classroom situation Teams gives a teacher the ability to organise the digital aspects of their classroom.
One teacher currently investigating the possibility of using Teams in her classroom is Mrs Nicola Richards. Mrs Richards is part of our Physical Education and Health department, and she is currently trialing the use of Teams with her Year 13 Physical Education class. Setting up the team was managed through the creation of a Group within SharePoint, a process that we will eventually automate, through our Active Directory.
Mrs Richards’ class currently utilises a wide range of digital resources each week such as Listly, My Study Series, Scoopit and her OneNote Class NoteBook. An obvious initial benefit of the new Team is the ability to have all such resources centralised and visible for students.
The initial setup was intuitive and one of the first features that Mrs Richards utilised was the class OneDrive that Teams generates. This makes available to students a range of files which previously would have been either emailed, or distributed through the class notebook. Whilst these two methods are perhaps appropriate in the initial weeks of the year, as time passes the organisation of such files can become increasingly problematic for students and staff. A dedicated OneDrive for each Team is a great feature.
As described above, the ability to distribute, manage and collect student work using the Assignment feature was one of our initial reasons for testing Teams. By running a small-scale trial allowing students the chance to have a low stakes attempt at using this feature, students’ potential anxiety levels were reduced. Mrs Richards instructed her class to hand in a written paragraph, in preparation for a hand-in of an internally assessed piece of work a few days later. Anecdotal feedback was that students found it really easy to upload the work in the required format, and it was particularly easy for them to find the feedback provided to them by the teacher.
The management implications of online assignment hand-in can be an intimidating prospect for some staff; particularly a reluctance to mark student work onscreen. Mrs Richards acknowledges these concerns, and is sympathetic to them. However she found that marking from a teachers point of view was logical and she particularly liked the fact that she should type feedback separately or within the document.
From the students perspective, there were very few barriers to their enrollment in a team, and many students appreciated the easy of access to feedback. The success of this, largely informal, trial is reflected in the fact that over 50% chose to hand-in their final internal work using Teams.
Having conducted this small-scale trial with Teams, Mrs Richards now identifies the need to continue to embed Teams as the initial landing the point for students each lesson, whilst continuing to utilise the main benefits of the platform.
In the coming school holiday break our IT support team will automatically generate a Team for every class in our Secondary School. This will allow our trial of Microsoft Teams to gather momentum, and I am looking forward to investigating and learning how a variety of staff see the benefit of bringing together their digital resources.