Posted in Professional learning, Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff

Move over classroom, Teams is coming to town

I have really enjoyed Microsoft classroom, and school had been enjoying a high rate of uptake from staff and students. Despite a few teething problems that any new system will have, the roll out school wide as a learning management system had been successful. Some departments or individuals decided that OneDrive suited their needs or tasks better, while others opted to stick with Office 365 groups that they set up last year. But most are using Microsoft classroom as an LMS, and it has worked really well. So I did have a feeling of dismay when I heard that classroom was being replaced by Microsoft Teams – or more specifically Microsoft Teams for Educations. But after having a play, and seeing a couple of demonstrations, I am certainly feeling brighter about the prospect of unveiling Teams to my staff, and there are certainly some exciting new features that will really boost the classroom performance and adaptability of Teams EDU. For now, I am just itching to get my hands on the teams EDU to have a play around myself.

If you want to find out more, you can do so HERE

To kick start the process of upskilling myself, I have had a play with the teams app. As a ‘place’ for almost everything 365, it automatically grabbed events from calendar, files from onedrive, and it was easy to create new teams and add members.


Calendar events showed up in the meetings tabs – I’m hopefully that maybe the EDU version will have a different ‘language’ as not all events on my calendar are meetings. Still, it is very convient to have everything in the one place.




Files has access to all recent files, as well as Onedrive




It is super easy to add apps into the teams environment – and you can see there is a massive variety of apps too


onedrive4-17-28-05 (2).png
The mobile app is also pretty solid, the files tab goes straight to recent files. I was a little dissapointed the calendar tab was missing from the mobile app – it would be nice to have all of the pieces together in one place.


So my initial verdict on teams was that is was positive but it felt VERY corporate. It looked to be a useful app for personal use, but to be honest, I wasn’t super sold on it as a classroom replacement.

And then I saw a preview of Teams EDU via the surface expert call and on a Microsoft call which went into a bit more detail. It is fair to say I was blown away by the additional features – although still not quite sold on the names 🙂

Some vital stats are listed below – the summer referred to below is of course the Northern Hemisphere summer, I am REALLY hopefully NZ gets this in winter to try out before our new school year starts in Feb 2018.

edu features

The following pics are either screen grabs from the call or from the MEC site. Because I still don’t have access to Teams EDU, I’ll have to make do with explaining the demos’s I’ve seen.

Highlight ONE – INKING

So, firstly Teams EDU comes with a classnotebook, that will be populated via the data sync. In fact, all class ‘teams’ will be populated this way. This is a massive tick from me, as it saves considerable time for all teachers, and because it is done for them, it really does increase update of use. The Classnotebook looks great, and the fact that it opens within the team environment is another tick – it saves leaping from tab to tab. And the ability to ink right in teams – will that is just lovely 🙂



Assignments and Planners

These don’t quite get a highlight status, but they looked practical and a little more ‘friendly’ than the assignments tab in classroom. The ability for students to add activities or assign tasks to planner also looked like it could be an excellent tool for increasing learner agency and/or chunking larger assignments into smaller tasks for students.

Students (and teachers) can easily keep tabs on what assignments are coming up, and teachers can mark them in the teams environment.


I liked the look of the planner feature – giving kids agency to plan out their tasks and plan their activities looks awesome.


This really was a massive selling point for me, and I’m pretty sure it will help me sell the change from classroom to teams to the staff at my school. The ability to embed a kahoot app into the team environment, and play it right there looked pretty sweet. As did the ability to have a chat window open, so students can still ask questions or give feedback as they go.

convo next to kahoot.png

Kahoot is an example of the apps that are available to be added in to the teams EDU environment. The demo list of apps was not as extensive as the list I could add to my generic team space – not sure if this was due to it being a preview, or a deliberate restriction of apps. I suspect the IT admin will be able to control the apps available within teams EDU (but don’t quote me on that). The presenter on the call also said Microsoft will continue working with partners and this list could keep expanding. The apps all stay within the teams environment, and show up as an additional tab across the top.

add ins grab.png


Teacher spaces

Also within teams is a ‘Teacher Space’, which looks a bit like a PLG group from office groups. There looked to be a very nice power BI dashboard that could work really well for data analysis. There was also space for shared planning, resources, readings, and a cool meet now feature where you can ‘skype’ within the team environment to have a virtual meeting. As someone who does a lot of work from home once the small person is asleep in a department with similar people, I can see this being a useful feature (as well as a possible great distraction!!)


So over all I am really hopefully that teams will deliver on the promises. And that it will be similar enough to classroom and groups that I will be able to assist teacher become confident users without too much trouble. The really big highlights for me were the inking and the app (kahoot) integration. And that it looks like the SDS process will be similar – getting the data out of KAMAR (our SMS) is still going to be a significant task, but a doable one for a good end result. If your an admin person, there is some good info HERE

A last piece of info – if you have set up classroom in your school, the handy chart below explains what will happen to things stored in their. The bottom point is probably the most important – make sure you have those grades back up!! The chart below came from HERE which has some useful info on the changes from classroom to Teams.

what happens to classroom stuff.png

So, all in all, I’m feeling pretty positive about teams. The name is a little corporate, and will possibly be the hardest sell with teachers. But the way it works looks really good. Bring on 2018 🙂

Posted in Professional learning, surface, Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff

Getting started with Microsoft Classroom

When I first heard that Microsoft was bringing a ‘classroom’ option to the Office 365 suite of educational software, I was a mixture of excited to see what it looked like and worried it would be just another add on. I had also had a play with the teacher dashboard which was nice but a litle underwhelming. Google classroom has had plenty of praise and I have been impressed with what was possible on that platform. Then I started seeing what people could do with Microsoft classroom and I got very green eyed as one by one schools in New Zealand and around the world were getting picked for the preview option.


I love the leaf as the icon for Microsoft Classroom – learning and growing together


And then I got a glorious e-mail saying we had also been selected to preview Microsoft classroom and school data sync. I was so excited when I replied, I forgot to attach the questionaire and signed documents back.


The preparation for the data sync was sadly a bigger job than I had expected. We were wonderfully supported by Guy, Keith and Mike from Microsoft via 3 skype seminars where they walked us through some of the finer points. But as we are using Kamar as our LMS, we needed to prepare csv files, which had to be done manually, which meant a big job for Lyndon (our DP in charge of Kamar). So we opted for 4 volunteer teachers with about 8 classes between us to test – around 190 students mostly in our junior school (we have around 1050 students in our school). I also had to enter a promo code to get classroom installed on the tenant and turn on the licence for the staff concerned. Once that was set up, I downloaded the powershell set up tool and we got the sync underway.

(If you are planning a sync like this, make sure your csv files are saved some-where sensible. They can’t be in zip form either…. We are now investigating a more robust place to store these files than my surface’s hard drive – perhaps where the server for Kamar is run, or a specific computer for admin……And after some conversation with the connected learning advisory and other NZ teachers, it seems that there are sometimes similar issues with KAMAR and Hapara…. not sure about google)

Again, the team were great as the talked me through the set up process…. you can see my mistakes where I entered the wrong thing in the wrong place, or tried to use the zip file…..


The errors in red and black are due to me having installed the anniversary edition windows 10 update. So I had to alter the text files (helped by the crew…..) and then it ran fine


The sync errors were because we had students who were doubled up in multiple classes – so we had to go back to the student csv file and remove the double ups. The error reports where very specific about where the errors were and it took Lyndon no time to fix them (definitely not my area of expertise)

And then we hit go with classroom, and it was quite magical watching the classes populate. Calanders, onedrives, group e-mails, newsfeeds all just appeared. To get it visable on the students app launcher, we also had to turn on their licences in the admin portal. It took about 30 minutes for all of the classes to load – which is pretty quick really. If we need to update, the files with just scan for changes, so it is only the initial setup that will take a while.

So then I skipped off to my year 10 Science class, and there is was for my students 🙂


As I added a test they have on Monday, it automatically (and almost instantly) popped into their calendar (and mine too). It was great to see both classes this student was loaded into appear straight from the sync.


From my end, it looks like this – 10Be is the class that went through the data sync – L1Sci and L2 Chem are classes I have added manually. So I still need to activiate the licences on these students accounts to see if they have a different experience from the data sync students.

classroom view.png


Early days yet, so all the posts are mine. Hopefully this changes as the class uses this platform more




The conversations tab sends you to outlook, and the files tab sends you to a group Onedrive (so a sharepoint document library). The set up for the classnote book is al ready to go, just choose your sections and away you go.

So, once we had the preparation sorted, this really was a dream. And I can see a real benefit to students if they have all their classes loaded as they can use the calendar to organise their course work and assessments, and use the collaborative spaces to share resources and ask and answer questions.

Next steps

This sync happened about 48 hours ago. So still very early days. My next steps are to

  1. support the other teachers using classroom preview to use it with their classes
  2. Investigate how we can improve the transfer of data from the SMS (Kamar) to either the CSV files or directly to classroom.
  3. Investigate a more long term storage place for the csv files…..
  4. Compare the experience of classroom users to the teacher in our school using groups and classroom notebook – I suspect for individual teachers they will have a similar experience, but the students will have a better experience via classroom due to the summaries on the home page.
  5. Compare synced student experience to manually added students – might save us a lot of time with the CSV files for next year if we can skip this step…. but then it might not encourage teachers to use it……
  6. Get some feedback from the students to see what they think
  7. Plan for implementation for the whole school next year if it goes according to plan

My first impressions are that it is a very user friendly overlay system that takes all the best bits of sharepoint and makes them much easier to use for teachers or students. More confident/competent or adventurous teachers might find they like the freedom of the sharepoint sites they already have set up, where as other teachers who have been reluctant will definitely enjoy the automatic population of their classes.

An enormous thanks has to go to the Microsoft crew who helped us out over skype (the time difference meant I think we kept them at work a bit late) for their patience and expertise, and to Lyndon for bearing with my when the job was bigger than I expected. But it looks like it was well worth the effort – watch this space