Collaborating With The World: From Twitter, to OneNote Online, to Lync, to Yammer!

This is a story of collaboration.

It’s also a success story – of starting with a problem causing frustration and then ending with a solution that was shared with a wider community for their benefit.

In between, a whole range of different technologies were used to facilitate the collaboration and problem solving sessions including Twitter, OneNote Online, Lync and Yammer

Given that the New Zealand curriculum places a strong emphasis on participating and contributingI thought I would share this story to show that teachers, and not just students, actively engage in collaboration.

Starting The Ball Rolling With Twitter:

It all started with a frustrated tweet by me which quickly got a reply from a recent connection and fellow fan of Microsoft OneNote I’ve made on Twitter, Marjolein Hoekstra who replied:

Marjolein is based in the Netherlands, and soon helpful ideas were coming in from Arizona in the United States courtesy of Ben Schorr:

The basic task I was trying to accomplish was sharing a “template” OneNote Notebook with students who could take their own copy of the NoteBook and then edit it, either within the desktop version of OneNote (for students with Windows 7 or Windows 8 computers) or via OneNote Online (for students that had an Apple Mac). This shouldn’t have been too difficult, but given the reduced functionality in the browswer based version of OneNote, it was proving challenging.

As you can see from the above tweets, I had been including Darrell Webster, a Sharepoint Trainer from who joined the conversation with:

He then followed up his initial tweet with the key suggestion to move this conversation to a platform that supported more than 140 characters in one message that Twitter was restricting us to:

Extending The Conversation With OneNote Online:

Darrell quickly provided a link to a shared Microsoft OneNote Online notebook where we could all contribute more fully. I’ve included some pictures of this collaboration below:

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At this point, Ben signed off with an offer of further help if required:

Coming Up With Solutions Via Lync:

OneNote Online did a great job of helping Darrell and I understand what the real issues were, but then we wanted to extend this further to trying practical work around solutions. He sent me a Lync Online meeting request where his screen was shared and rather than just typing and sketching within OneNote, we were able to talk directly with each other as well.

Over the course of 40minutes we established what the issues were and some potential work arounds. During this, Darrell recorded the Lync session and later published it privately on YouTube so that Ben and Marjoelein could review it later (by this stage, both had gone to bed because of time zone differences).


Sharing a couple of screenshots of the Lync session does not do justice to the power of this tool. Keep in mind I was doing it all through a web browser on my MacBook Air – there was no desktop application involved.

With a possible solution in place, I went away to do some more experimentation, and then created a screencast tutorial of what definitely worked. This was aimed at my students so they could carry out the task at the start of Term 3, but also helped solidify my understanding and meant I could share it with Darrell, Marjolei and Ben easily.

Sharing the Success With Yammer:

Earlier this year a New Zealand Microsoft New Zealand Educators Yammer group had been created and it has quickly resulted in a number of experts and enthusiasts sharing information. Given the significant input I’d received from Darrell, I knew I had to share the results of our collaboration wider, and so I posted it into this Yammer group:

My post and screencast in Yammer

My post and screencast in Yammer

This got a couple of replies:



In the end I got what I wanted – a relatively straight forward way to share a format-rich OneNote Notebook with a class of students so that they could edit their own individual copies. It’s not as straight forward as it probably should be, but there is simply no way I would have achieved this outcome without the significant contributions from people all over the world.

I also doubt whether we would have been able to collectively understand the details of the issue without the use of technology like OneNote Online and Lync. Sure, Twitter connected us and Yammer allowed me to share the successful outcome with others, but the bulk of the “heavy lifting” of this collaboration was all achieved through typing, drawing and eventually talking, over Lync and OneNote.

A big part of teaching is encouraging students to be resourceful and to collaborate with a wide range of people to achieve a successful outcome. It’s important that as educators, we can model how this can look in “real life”. I am passionate about education and the role that technology can play to facilitate this and I think this example demonstrates how easily expertise from all over the world can be accessed to achieve a great solution for our students.

Behind The Scenes at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games with Moodle

Mr Bradley Shaw, member of the BlackSticks at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow

Mr Bradley Shaw, member of the BlackSticks at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow

Mr Bradley Shaw, our very own Year 8 teacher in the Preparatory School, has been selected to represent New Zealand at the upcoming 2014 Commonwealth Games hosted in Glasgow.

Already a proficient user of Moodle and OneNote in his classes, he contacted me asking if I could help set up a dedicated Moodle page that he could keep updated throughout the Commonwealth Games. Due to the strict social media policies in place by many of the teams competing at the Games, Mr Shaw could not blog on a publicly accessible page, or use social media such as Facebook or Twitter either.

However, by setting up a password protected Moodle course here that requires students to enter an enrolment key, he would be able to keep students and staff updated and provide a unique “behind the scenes” view of life as an athlete at a world class sporting event. I was keen to support this as it ties in with part of our wider strategy of creating globally connected Digital Citizens of our students. The Moodle course has two forums in it currently where students can:

  • Ask questions of Mr Shaw (or other athletes he may be able to track down) of what life is like at the Games, and
  • Send messages of support to the BlackSticks and other teams that Mr Shaw can pass along.
Live Twitter feed on the #Glasgow2014 hashtag

Live Twitter feed on the #Glasgow2014 hashtag

There is also a photo gallery plugin where new images will be posted from time to time. I also embedded a Twitter feed on the hashtag of #Glasgow2014 to ensure regular updates of images, results and news from the Games directly within the Moodle Course (see this blog post about embedding content such as Twitter feeds into Moodle) Additionally, I noticed that Hockey New Zealand has a Twitter account where they post results from games so I embedded that too:

Live updates from the @BlackSticks Twitter handle that will give game scores and results.

Live updates from the @BlackSticks Twitter handle that will give game scores and results.

I always like to see Moodle being used for non-academic purposes as it highlights the versatility of this Learning Management System, and we have a number of co-curricular courses such as this one being used now. Here’s wishing the Black Sticks and Mr Shaw all the best at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games!