Late last year I wrote a blog about how we were planning to use SharePoint and the office 365 environment as an LMS and as a ‘T drive replacement’. After 2 terms, I have been thinking about what different teachers are doing with their classes or with their departments and how things are fitting together. It is still very messy, with some teachers using OneDrive, others using groups, some exclusively using OneNote Class notebooks and some using nothing. We still have some classes using the ultranet (which is being phased out) and others are not in any online space as yet. We are also investigating Microsoft Classroom and whether this would be an effective solution for some of our staff.
So it is a good time to pause and reflect on the relative successes with the technolgoies we are currently using.
SharePoint is definitely the most flexible option for staff and students, but it does come at a cost of being technically demanding. So far, only Chemistry, Physics and Technology are using SharePoint to share work with students. This is working very well and it is easy to provide a wide range of resources, as well as options for students feedback/contribution.
My Colleague Kevin has done an awesome job of organising his physics students site
A view of one of the chem pages is not so exciting….. Although a really big advantage of having a site is that it is easier for multiple contributors. So my fellow chem teachers can easily edit and add documents in. We have also (as a comparison mostly) not put the shared documents in a library but just put the files on the site. This means students only have the option of downloading the files rather than viewing them online. We did this due to some queries around permissions and editing rights – it has worked well for this cohort.
Where SharePoint is really making a positive difference is in organising staff documents and bookings.
More of Kevin’s handy work – he has overlaid calendars to provide a colour coded chart of where members of the PE department are at a given time. This is awesome and I need to learn how to do it.
The science dept is also utilising the shared calender function to organise booking our practical gear – it seems to be working really well, helped by our awesome tech Aimee. It is also really nice to have single copies of assessment docs, marking schedules and feedback that we can all contribute to. Our ‘poor’ HoD does get a little exasperated with some of the comments we leave on department meeting agendas – but it also gets some of the discussion out of the way before the meetings which frees up more time for shared work.
The Arts department has recently come on board and made some excellent progress getting their documents shared. It is a wide spread and diverse department so it has taken a big effort for the Curriculum heads to get this started.
Several teachers are using groups to share files and discussion with their students. This is working well for these students and staff, it is easy to email the whole group with updates. The file share is an overlay for SharePoint libraries that seems to take some of the technical issues away for less confident staff. (when I tried to tell them they were using SharePoint a couple were a little overwhelmed…) You can share all sorts of files and links very easily with a target group of people.
One downside of groups is they are able to be seen by others, even if they are private groups. An example was a couple of staff set up pastoral care groups which we discoverable by students. Students couldn’t access the information but were able to email all the teachers involved…. so for use in schools it would be really nice if groups could be made undiscoverable to others in the network. The other thing missing from groups is the ability to format files shared – it has a very definite ‘folder look’. But it is working really well for staff and students using it.
Staff in several departments are using OneDrive to share student notes, assessment material etc. this can be a slightly time consuming set up, but once each student has a shared file with the teacher, it is up and running and easy to use. I am really hoping the soon to be released Microsoft Classroom automates some of this process. Staff have chosen this option over a classnote book as we are not a one to one school – so accessing a classnote book to access a word file was proving a bit much for the streams the students have access to. For NCEA assessments it provides a secure document storage solution that can easily be downloaded or printed of for marking/moderation.
A bonus in this method is despite the time consuming set up, it is simple to use. Because OneDrive was the first Office 365 app people used, it does have an element of comfort to it!! But students can easily access it, it works on any device reliably and work on students devices (with windows 10) can automatically sync to the cloud.
Shared docs via OneDrive are also slowly shifting our appraisal documentation into being a living document. By having a shared document it also a more fluid process for completing these documents.
OneNote Class note books
Some staff are purely using class note books to share learning activities with their students – especially in our yr 7 and 8 classes. The sci dept has also used this for the junior school (who are not yet on sharepoint) to scaffold and track progress of students science fair projects. OneNote Class books are really good – especially with the recent update where pages can be easily pushed out to all students in a class. We have had a few issues of where the OneNotes are stored – it had lead to syncing problems with some classes. The single biggest issue for us with the class notebooks is students don’t have their own devices, so it can be a bit slow if every student is trying to access or modify the pages at once. More recently, we have wondered if groups can be set up within a class note book for group assessments or tasks…..
We have made some really big steps in getting depertments and classes using the 365 environment. The next big step is to get the staff handbook online. This is such a big job it kind of makes me want to curl up in a ball and hide under a rock for a while. But I did get a kick in the pants when I helped host a workshop at Taieri in the holidays and people couldn’t believe we still had one of these…
So while we have made some great progress, we still have a way to go. Getting the staff meeting minutes online is easy, but getting all staff to accept that shift might be slightly more difficult. We have a shared calendar which still causes issues, but by gradually shifting important docs online we should hopefully see more shift. So my aim for this term is to start the process of getting more of the staff documentation into the 365 cloud