Office 365: Reimagining the Writing Process

Finding time for students to imagine, draft, write and revise; quality feedback opportunities; creating effective collaborative environments; providing high-level instruction regarding the technical components of writing – can prove increasingly challenging elements of a Teacher’s role. With data and evidence growing in demand, as teachers, we want a way to effectively tackle the workload and energise the curriculum in new ways.

Microsoft Teams is a digital application that brings conversations, content, and apps together in a seamless and collaborative way. Having all your ‘stuff’ in one safe and secure environment can help tackle the teacher workload and free up invaluable learning time and support for students. Whilst hosting a ‘classroom in the cloud’ may seem like an alien concept, migrating a core area like the writing process in a more manageable way, unlocks proficient ways of working on a document, with live feedback and simple submission being some of the many advantages.

The ability to distribute and share assignments with your students, whilst providing live feedback before they hand it in, naturally revise the skills required in that particular unit of work, maximising their written outcome. Students need time to reflect, be creative and showcase the skills they have been taught and technology comes second nature to them. The writing process and supporting it are an on-going processes that require student and teacher deliverables. By using an application like Microsoft Teams, it takes the familiarity of word processing, feedback and learning to an entirely new level.

As mentioned earlier with the writing process, assessment takes planning, time and consideration. Instead of a single submission date and the rush to finish on time, providing regular live feedback develops the thought process and direction of writing, leading to a greater outcome. By creating this model in a digital way, students are sent notifications with deadlines and check-ins so they are supported every step of the way! Also, you can provide all revision materials and success criteria with built in accessibility tools, so all students get the best chance of succeeding.

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Engaging with Technology

Students will see the assignment every time they visit the Teams site in its designated area. Additionally, within the application, you can create a OneNote Class notebook to share resources from units of work covered, turning it into an online library at their fingertips. The benefit of having your own electronic notebook with you is that its accessible anywhere, on any device, any time.

The Class Notebook allows you to share all content related to the course in one place. Anything you can print to a printer you can send to OneNote. Therefore, you can quickly post an existing Word document to OneNote detailing the writing assignment as well as the criteria you will use to assess the student’s final outcome. Add in criteria, word banks and other useful resources that will aide a student in the writing process. Additionally, you can send all or a part of your instructions in the content library to every student with the distribute content feature in the Class Notebook add-in. For more on OneNote Class Notebook, click here.

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Top 3 Tips for engaging students with the writing process: 

Dictation:

One tool that crosses over both genres is the Dictation feature found in Learning Tools for OneNote. With the dictation tool, students simply speak and OneNote does the typing. Dictation is not only a great way to combat the desperate stare at a blank, white page, but it is also a perfect accessibility feature for students with written expression disorder, dyslexia, dysgraphia, or other learning differences.

Ideation, Informative and Persuasive Writing:

Once a student has used the dictate function to summarize what they are learning about pollution, they can move their work to Word 2016 and use the Researcher function to gather more resources for the assignment.

 

Frictionless Collaboration:

If a writing project requires collaboration, Real Time Collaboration in Word is a wonderful tool for students. Finding time outside of class to work on a writing assignment can be challenging, but thanks to Word Online through Office 365 students will not have any problems finding time. One student can work on it right after school, and another can complete his part at 9 p.m. after football practice. Because the document is on Office 365, students can access the document anytime, anywhere with their phone, tablet, or computer – even offline.

 

Interested to find out more about the writing process? Click here and complete the CPD Course now to earn the badge and points on the Microsoft Educator Community! 

Collaborating in the Cloud

Collaboration between staff at a school is extremely important. Inefficient collaboration processes can have a significant impact on teacher workload. When dealing with many different students, delivering an ever increasing and evolving curriculum, whilst handling loads of data, it’s really important that we work well as a team.

There are many ways that this is commonly handled in schools. The table below outlines a few, along with some of the limitations:

Traditional solution Limitations
A shared staff area on an on-site school server Whilst everyone can access their files in school, it becomes more complicated to do so when at home or not on site.
Sending email attachments to groups of staff This normally means that each staff who opens the file gets their own copy. Any changes they make aren’t automatically visible to everyone else.
A notice board in the staff room with pupil information Information can only be accessed when in the room, and is visible to any visitors on site.

Cloud Solutions

By using an online cloud platform such as G Suite for Education or Office 365, these limitations can be easily mitigated.

With both platforms, documents are saved in a file drive that can be accessed on any device with an internet connection. Think of this as a virtual USB stick with unlimited storage that you don’t need to physically carry (or lose!😮), but instead just remember your username and password!

Email attachments quickly become unmanageable when there are more than 2 people collaborating. When you share documents in cloud platforms, everyone can simultaneously access and edit a document and every key stroke is automatically saved. This means that everyone is always accessing the most current version.

With cloud platforms you can have multiple simultaneous editors – no more ‘File in Use’ messages

With cloud platforms, your files are kept secure by default. You have the power to grant access to individuals, groups or make files public and restrictions can easily be put on particularly sensitive files to prevent accidental data loss.

Collaborating in your Cloud Platform

Office 365

OneNote

Teachers are able to provide real-time feedback to students by typing directly into each student’s private notebook. The Collaboration space encourages students to work together as the teacher is delivering the lesson, collating a wealth of new subject knowledge. By searching for tags, teachers are able to provide instant feedback during the lesson to those students struggling.

Microsoft Teams

Teams is a digital hub that bring conversations, content and apps together in one place. Teachers can create collaborative classroom environments that give every student a voice and chance to contribute towards project-based learning.

Skype in the Classroom

Connect with classrooms around the world to work on projects, explore different cultures and build greater compassion and empathy for one another. Skype removes the walls of the classroom and unlocks new learning opportunities and outcomes that they just wouldn’t achieve through a textbook. Available for free at education.microsoft.com

G Suite

Team Drives

Team Drives allow seamless collaboration across multiple files. They are great for departments or year groups, and different people can have different levels of access. They make tasks like collaborative lesson planning an absolute breeze!

Chromebooks

Chromebooks can be simply configured so that all files are not saved on the device, but instead automatically in the users Google Drive. This means that any user will always get exactly the same files and experience no matter which device they sign in to and no matter where they are in the world.

Google Sites

Google Sites are a great way to build an internal staff site with really useful information that can be easily updated. You can easily specify exactly who has access to the site, and use this as an alternative to public noticeboards.

Top tip: Add a live chart from data in a Google Sheet to a Google Site and users will always see the most up to date info every time they access the site! Great for behaviour charts!

Global Collaboration, without leaving the classroom!

Seeing a Polar Bear is certainly not an every day occurrence for most of us and taking a stroll through Yosemite National park to meet the Grizzly Bears can often seem like a dream. But what if this was possible? Skype in the Classroom has the solution! Breaking down the walls of the classroom and having the world at your fingertips is all part of the immersive experience of using video conferencing to energise the curriculum and bring learning to life in a completely different way. Microsoft in Education will be hosting their annual Skype-a-Thon, November 13th and 14th, connecting thousands of classrooms to help open hearts and minds of our future generation in an increasingly complex world.

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What is the Skype-a-thon all about?

This annual event is a celebration of the power of connecting students to each other globally, and an opportunity to teach greater empathy and compassion for our planet and for each other. Through sharing stories and projects, playing games, and collaborating on similar subjects, students’ hearts and minds are opened, allowing them to become more engaged global citizens.

Skype-a-Thon is a 48-hour event in which a global community, count the distance all students travel virtually during any Skype calls made from November 13th through November 14th.  Last year, thousands of classrooms participated across all seven continents. This year Microsoft Education are setting a goal for the global community to travel over 14 million virtual miles, and aiming to connect nearly half a million students.

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What are the different ways of connecting?

Below are the 5 ways to connect your classroom globally. Click on each of the links to schedule your calls. 

Virtual Field Trips
Take your students for an adventure without leaving the classroom. Visit our experts out in the field all around the world!

Skype Lessons
Skype lessons are live learning activities given by experts via Skype around a specific topic or theme.

Skype Collaborations
Connect with other educators around the world and collaborate on a specific project. For example, if you’re teaching biomes, why not Skype with another class who lives in a very different biome to you?

Mystery Skype
The global guessing game that gets kids learning about geography, culture, and the similarities and differences of how children live all over the world.

Guest Speakers
Find hundreds of volunteer guest speakers from around the world on a wide variety of subjects.

How to participate in the fun!

Below are step by step links to get you started with planning your Skype-a-thon. Be sure to showcase your sessions via twitter to be part of this global event, using the hasthags: #SkypeClassroom #Skypeathon #WeAreLGfL 

 

Why go Cloud?

Cloud Computing has been one of the biggest buzzwords over the last few years but surprisingly, it’s likely that we have all been using it for more than 10 years now! Gmail, Office 365, Facebook and Skype are all examples of cloud solutions that we have probably experienced. We may not think about these products in this way but the simple cloud principle behind them gives us easier access to our everyday like school email account, documents and student information. An added benefit to this cloud-based scenario is it is availability on any device, anywhere, at any time which is great for teachers who work in different ways!

Productivity in the cloud is ever-evolving and the latest innovations are making everyday applications that we use in the classroom even more mobile and collaborative. With the combination of training, support and LGfL TV, moving to the cloud can effectively tackle the teacher workload and manage simple tasks like setting assignments for students. It would also allow teachers to work collaboratively, more seamlessly.

As an example, let’s take a Medium term plan. We have all experienced trying to open a document at the same time our partner teacher does during a planning session. Multiple versions get saved onto the staff drive and USB pens, copy and pasting issues…it becomes difficult to work with and plan effectively this way! By using a cloud-based platform, teachers are able to work on a document collaboratively, in real-time! The document is automatically saved to a shared folder and it gives teachers back so much more time to focus on other tasks. This makes using a cloud-based solution as easy as keeping up with your personal life on Facebook.

Moving to the cloud can often feel daunting and knowing where to start, an even greater challenge. LGfL can provide training, best practice and technical support to help you migrate to the cloud seamlessly. Our dedicated Learning Resources Consultant’s not only support you with getting the most out of your cloud platform, but assist on curriculum mapping and building a digital transformation framework to develop your schools cloud journey.

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How can the Cloud transform your School?

Flexibility – From a Teaching and Learning perspective, using cloud-based software means you are able to finish that report on the bus into work, provide live feedback to students in class and bring their latest progress data into the school hall for parent consultations. The anywhere, anytime approach really provides teachers with their classroom at their fingertips.

Security – Rest assured that your data in the cloud is much more secure than what’s hosted on a tower under your desk or in your server room. With certain applications within your cloud platform, as a Teacher, you are able to control what the students are able to access to make their experience safe and secure.

Capacity – Even now, schools spend a lot of budget on resourcing and managing infrastructure which may be out of date. With cloud computing, that’s no longer an issue. Now, you can focus on how the solution provides a shift in productivity, collaboration and progressive technologies.

Cost – Using a cloud technology can reduce maintenance fees. No more servers, software, and update fees. Many of the hidden costs typically associated with software implementation, customization, hardware, maintenance, and training are rolled into a transparent subscription fee. LGfL provide training, absolutely free and can be customised to the need of schools, on an individual basis.

It’s open –The Internet and your cloud platform will allow you to connect services to each other with seamless integration. This means that you can centralise your information and access it from anywhere in the world, on any computer or mobile device, at any time.

For more information on using a cloud-based platform and training, click here.