I’m breaking from my typical tutorial style posts to talk about Remote Learning with Microsoft Teams, something I’ve created a lot of training materials for recently. So Day 100 of 365 Ideas for Office 365 is a persuasive essay about using Microsoft Teams for Remote Learning! Well, not really, because I don’t have the proper introduction, conclusion, one paragraph about each point, counterargument, rebuttal, and all that.
Teams vs Slack & Zoom & Google Classroom & Evernote
You can read about Teams vs. Slack in the business world, Teams vs. Zoom for videoconferencing, and Teams vs. Google Classroom in education, but right there is the point. It’s as good as, or arguably better, than each of those tools that are limited to trying to do one thing well, but it does them all well. Microsoft Teams was made for such a time as this, when schools all over the country, no, the world, are suddenly thrust unwillingly into remote learning. I realize people debate whether Teams or Slack does group communication better, but either way, even if Teams isn’t the best there is, it’s close enough to debate, and that’s true for each of these categories. Oh, and then there’s the same debate over Evernote and OneNote, but Evernote has nothing like Class Notebook, so for schools, that’s not even a debate.
Although Microsoft Teams was originally designed for business, it sure looks like it was made for education.
Accessibility in Microsoft Teams
Immersive Reader is the premier example of Universal Design for Learning. It is an entire suite of reading accessibility tools. Not just read aloud, it includes a picture dictionary, colored backgrounds, line focus, color-coded parts of speech, breaks words into syllables and translates into over 70 different languages. You can open any text in Teams in Immersive Reader view. OneNote is incomparable in education for providing organization. It, too, has immersive reader (in fact, that’s where it started) and dictation. Class Notebook allows teachers to provide organizational structure to the entire course content. Channels and tabs provide further structure in Teams for students who need some support with executive functions.
Communication Tools in Microsoft Teams
For communication, the Post tab in Teams does everything my Stream tab does in Google Classroom, except I’m not limited to posting text, a web link or a file attachment. Throw in Gifs, stickers, emojis, polls, praise, turning it into an announcement, the ability to post in multiple channels at once and the ability to limit who can reply and you get a taste of how Teams is in many respects “Google Classroom on steroids”.
Microsoft Teams has moderation of posts in channels, meaning you can control who can create or respond to posts. (Any middle school teachers out there?)
You have all the same options for assignments, with a few improvements, although Classroom comes really close to Teams in this area. When you set a “deadline” in GC, students can still turn it in after the deadline. They can in Teams, too. Unless you add a firm deadline. There is a separate due date and cutoff for turning things in, although you can also make them the same if you like. You can create a rubric in Teams and reuse it in other assignments. But you can also score directly on the rubric, and the score goes into the gradebook, which also syncs to many external grade books like PowerTeacher. Teams also has Skype for Business baked right in. You don’t have to go to a separate app like Google Meet and coordinate connecting through Classroom. With Teams you can blur your background, record your meeting straight to Stream, which then automatically replaces the “Join the meeting” message with a “View the meeting recording” post. Gab the link and add it to an assignment about the content!
Channels and Tabs
Channels and tabs in Teams are both really versatile. Use tabs as a convenient access point for what students need quick access to all year, or for just what they’ll need to get to today. Tomorrow, replace those tabs with tomorrow’s content! You can create channels for units, topics or chapters. You can also create private channels for small group work, and for differentiation. Students can be members of multiple private channels, so one students can be in a channel for their group project, and another for students that need simpler text, and another for different learning preferences (ex. the audio group, or everyone who chose novel A over novel B).
I won’t even get into incorporating Stream video curation, or Planner as project management for groups and assignment management for individuals, or using Booking to schedule office hours, or how you can open Nearpod lessons and Flipgrid and Quizlet and Sway sites right inside of Teams. Or how you can open and edit Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote without leaving Teams. Or how you can put your entire curriculum inside of the Teacher Section of a OneNote Class Notebook within your class Team and distribute the content to students for the entire year from inside of Teams.
Files and Drives
But I will point out that you can add your Google Drive to your Microsoft Team as well. (Try adding your OneDrive to your Google Classroom. Go ahead; I’ll wait. (Or Dropbox.) You can also sync the files area of your Team, and your OneDrive, to your device, so you can click and drag files between them. And you can pull files from any Team to access, use, or add to assignments on any other Team.
This article is already long enough, and I can’t even mention all the tools in Teams, much less delve into how to apply them in your classes. That will have to wait for some other posts!
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If you like this style of directions and screenshots, walking you through ideas for using Microsoft tools in your classroom, check out my book,
All the Microsoft Tools You Need to Transform Your Classroom: 50 Ideas for using Microsoft Office 365 for Education available on amazon in both Kindle and paperback.