The volume and variety of tasks and responsibilities faced by teachers can be something of a conundrum.
Admin issues on a recurring basis (whether that’s class to class, or daily, weekly, monthly, term by term or annually) can be a big challenge, to say the least.
But it’s not just admin. Keeping yourself au fait with products to enhance the modernised learning experience is also really important. Combining everything – or, rather, covering everything – in one product would be the dream, wouldn’t it?
The complete package
The perfect solution does exist: Microsoft Teams is the go-to package.
It’s a highly versatile digital hub which brings together a variety of essential apps and functions. Working within Microsoft Office 365 for Education, Microsoft Teams has built in AI which allows for seamless integration of apps (such as Microsoft OneNote, Excel, Word and PowerPoint). It will also integrate with non-Microsoft products.
In the eighteen-or-so months since its launch Teams has reached over 20-million users, and it’s not difficult to work out why. In terms of the teaching environment, Teams offers pretty much the complete digital learning opportunity for everyone involved – educators and pupils alike.
Teams is simultaneously a workspace and social environment where both ‘formal’ tasks and the growth of a learning community can be managed. Teachers can set up ‘channels’ for their different classes, with all members of each class being included in the appropriate channel. No pupil gets ‘left behind’ because of this.
Within that channel the teacher can set specific tasks, tests and homework assignments for their entire roster of students, or for specific individuals. Teachers can quickly and efficiently roll out relevant learning resources or share important handouts with specific pupils or a whole class at once. No more trying to make sure enough handouts have been printed, or any of the other myriad problems associated with distribution.
Work can also be marked using Teams, with individual feedback detailed for each pupil. So Teams provides the facility to implement learning, and to measure it - and the opportunity to keep track of all aspects of it, which significantly enhances the chance to keep on improving quality.
Educators and learners can also remain in contact easily – either en masse or one-to-one - with Teams’ messaging, and build a community through chat facilities. So educators can communicate with and support each other across the spectrum of teaching tasks – for instance; lesson planning, developing after-school programs or sharing best practices.
Students can share the findings of their research with one another. Problems and ideas can be shared and dealt with, and team-based activities or projects can easily be monitored and managed.
Nobody wants a runaway horse
Confidence in what is now such a fast-moving vocation is essential for education professionals. Nobody wants to be at the reins of the learning experience but feel like they’re trying to stop a runaway horse. Being in as much control as possible - clear, organised and efficient with time and resources - is absolutely crucial for success in every industry.
To be honest, describing teaching as ‘an industry’ really is one of my pet peeves. I’ve heard people use the word with absolutely no awareness of how inappropriate or offensive it feels. Educating people seems, to me, to be an absolute privilege. Not some sort of factory function.
But, in this instance, there’s a big parallel which can be drawn – or, at least, a good lesson to be learned. Implementing a workplace digital system which is highly organised, user-friendly and actually supports the aims (so isn’t just admin for admin’s sake) is the perfect solution to the efficiency conundrum.
It seems to me that that is Teams. And it seems to me that Teams really is the future of the ‘digital classroom’. Or, at least, the future of handling the many tasks and responsibilities I mentioned at the beginning of this piece. As a way of maintaining confidence and keeping control of not just the learning experience itself, but all of the associated admin, it’s top class.
Good luck with your teaching!
Natalie Smith, Public Sector Head, Ebuyer