Posted in Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff

Sharepoint update – interactive unit plans

This year the Science department took a leap of faith and started using Sharepoint to store thier files and organise things. Along with Technology, Science really are leading the school in their use of Sharepoint to manage workflows, store data and organise bookings. It has been a real collaborative effort, but Kevin and Ryan has worked ridiculously hard to get in up and running, and I think we now have some really good systems to help Science department members find what they need. I has been a massive change to move away from the massive ‘hole’ the was the teachers shared drive on the server, but it has been well worth the time and effort. This post is about how the STAFF are using sharepoint to work with other staff, rather than with the students – There has been some use with students, but with the increasingly successful classroom roll out I think we are going to use sharepoint for staff/staff work and collaboration, and classroom for staff/student work and collaboration – with a few exceptions of course.

So the Science Site looks like this – Ryan definitely likes things to look ‘nice’.


Each of the scrabble letters takes you to the subsite for that cohort or class – they are our most frequently used pages. With the exception of the coffee cup, which takes you to our Science Support page. All the links are also down the left hand side of the page.

The Sci support page is where our super awesome technition helps us with our gear bookings etc. The current date is always displayed on the landing page, but you can click on the calendar and bring up the whole week as you need, or flick forward to make future bookings. There is also a message board for the ‘who has this and hasn’t returned it’ type comments.

We then have different subsites for the different cohorts in Science. Here is the home page for junior sci.


The folders go to a big ‘dump’ of documents for that year level that have all been tagged with file type, topic and year level. The buttons on the right go to pre filtered libraries and show only the documents tagged with that tag. (Big ups to Kevin for this, he has worked relaly hard to get this working as well as it is). Below are some pics so you can see how the tagging and filtering is working.


Our latest step has been to revisit and update our unit plans so that the resources are all linked it. Here is a snapshot of our genetics unit plan for year 10


Each of the blue lines is a link back to the resource – either online, youtube etc, or stored in the sharepoint library. It means 2 things – 1) a new person working from the unit plan can find a range of resources without having to go looking and 2) an experienced person has a reason to check back to the unit plan often to grab the resources. The goal is that as we work through them next year we keep refining and retuning – which will make the unit plans living documents.

So our next steps is for each department member to start adding some of their resources to the sharepoint library and the unit plans. Everyone has had some training on this, and of course everyone has slightly different ways they like to do things, so it should mean we get a really good array of resources for each unit of work. It will also hopefully let us have a bit of a clean up of all the old cross words and word finds that have been around for ever.

And again, just acknowledging the huge amount of work the Kevin and Ryan have done on this, I’m really excited to see them making such progress and how useful this will be next year.

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





Posted in Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff, Uncategorized

Office 365 as a learning management system update

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.

Pe cal
More of Kevin’s handiwork – colour coded calendar for room bookings.



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…..

What’s next?

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…

Yes, it is 2016 and we still have a paper copy of staff briefing notes



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

Posted in Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff

Sharepoint update – almost ready to be the LMS

So, after a big effort over 2 terms we are nearly reading to roll out SharePoint sites for staff next year. The Student learning management system side still needs a few more tweaks as departments decide how they will be running certain tasks. For example, the English department needs to be able to track changes in documents to show that modifications have been made for some of their assessment pieces, and so a OneDrive or class/teacher dashboard system will probably work better than a SharePoint site. I am a massive advocate for task then tech, so we are still working our way through some of the finer points.

There has been a bit of tweaking around how we set up the sites – originally we were going to have 3 sites collections, Admin, Curriculum and Students


However, even within the curriculum sharepoint sites this hasn’t quite worked. Why you ask? Because even within departments, no-one would decide on tags to use, or formats to use, or how to structure things. Which was frustrating to say the least…….

But also, it makes sense to have difference and diversity is important. After playing around with individual tags and permissions, it became easier to put most departments into a separate site collection each. They are still linked to the main curriculum page, but it has made it easier for each department to personalise their digital spaces to suit their needs.

Graeme in the Technology department went full steam ahead, and has a wide variety of resources


The Science Department has also started to gather some momentum…


And each of the images links into take you to different subsites or pages. We have also set up a page for our (incredibly patient) tech in the hope we will use the booking calendar and notice boards to track gear down for her next year.

sci sup.PNG

Kevin has been amazing getting his documents uploaded. The best thing about this is the way he has tagged them – he has both folder view where everything is in nice little folder that people feel safe with….


And then a flat view where everything is mixed in together


Which has been invaluable to me as I try to explain to people about tagging and moving away from folders.

Because I have been so busy helping everyone else, the chemistry site is currently very incomplete


And I am having dramas about whether to embed office mix clips onto the sharepoint site, or just provide a link. Having them embedded means they play right from the site. They do take up a bit of room – so students would need to scroll through the list to find the ones they wanted.

If I provide a picture linked to the Mix, I can make better use of the analytics of who is watching and when etc. But it is more clicks….


And other departments have made progress too – sharing documents, uploading pictures and videos and starting to use the documents more collaboratively. A ‘fun’ story from one department – everyone got set up with their class page and made an ‘Admin’ folder. NIGHTMARE as all of a sudden there were 6 admin folders. So it was a good chance to rationalise what needed to go where and think about file names and management.

So I am going to keep tinkering over the summer with the sites. We will have a period when we start back in Feb with some confusion over what goes where, but I am confident that by term 2 (a term later than originally planned, but oh well) we should be running fairly smoothly.

Posted in Techie stuff

Searching through folders – Sharepoint continued

We have continued to make some excellent progress on the SharePoint front, with several departments having got a wide variety of pages, subsites, document libraries and resources available for their staff to use. We are on track to have SharePoint as out learning management system for next year. As the staff have gotten more confident they have been more daring in giving things a go so some of the designs for their pages are looking really good. So far the buy in has been good with some departments doing more than others, and a key factor being the ability to customise the site to their needs rather than being stuck to a template. However, a big request I have had is how to keep the traditional folder set up while making use of the meta data tag. Happily, SharePoint let us have the best of both worlds, although it still isn’t perfect it is making people much more likely to use SharePoint which can only be a win.

Searching through folders

I commented at the start of this process that there was a little resistance to using the metatag to sort data. Folders are ‘safe’ and familiar so people went ahead and made lovely folders in their SharePoint document libraries and used metatags on the documents (as this was one of the things you were prompted to do when you uploaded a document). Now people are finding the search terms really useful, and are frustrated that if a document is in a folder, it gets skipped over in the search. Thankfully (with some help from the ever amazing Liz Coup and Kevin from my school) you can change the search setting so the meta tags can be seen through the folders. The discussion was along the lines of ‘ if it gets people using it, then do it’ rather than keep resisting/forcing just the tags on staff.

I made a Mix to show how to modify the view that you can watch HERE.

Or, all you need to do is scroll to the folders button on the modify view option, and click show all items without folders


Eventually, I am probably going to go through and do this at the ‘top’ level for documents as this completely removes all the folders. But as people are learning, changing the ‘views’ seemed an excellent intermediate step. This way people can see how one document can fit into several different boxes, but still have the traditional file structure too.

Posted in Techie stuff

Sharepoint update – Racing ahead

Just over a week ago I briefed the curriculum directors at my school about Sharepoint Sites and the plans we have outlined to use Sharepoint for our document sharing and storage. I set up a subsite for each curriculum area and asked them to talk about it with their curriculum areas, with a focus on what documents that would like to store on the sharepoint sites. The directors went away to talk to there various departments around working out some plans and how they wanted their sites to look.

The important points coming out of what has happened are

  1. Another timely reminder that teaching adults (especially teachers) is very different from teaching ‘teenagers’. I have been thinking about this a while, and have talked about it with some different people who are also leading some professional learning in their schools – and I simply LOVE this blog post from @AKeenReader. So much for the specific instruction of lets stick with doc to start. All of the departments have flown off in different directions and speeds. It is great though, as we are making more progress than I had hoped for. It does mean I have been rushing round like a mad thing getting pulled in all sort of directions, but seeing the results has been fantastic.


This isn’t docs – but subsites for different ‘branches’ of the social sciences which are linked in to their home page. Each department wanted it’s own page.

2. I have started a blog to try and help staff get their heads around the important bits they need to do. Office Mix has made this so easy, just a few simple bullet points and screen capture and away we go. Staff are finding this easier than the youtube clips, as it is specific to our environment.


It also means there is a portal to share resources, which makes sense as this is what Sharepoint is all about 🙂 But it was really positive when I was able to share a document a CD made to share with his staff outline the process with everyone about how they were planning to use the site structure. Big up to Graeme for his work on this


I’m also adding mixes as I make them – I’ve made this one on basic site editting, and the next plan is for one on the differences between sub sites and pages.

3. We have made a call and are going to house all of the student documents on a separate site collection. While I am getting more confident managing site permissions etc, having them in a separate site collection means less chance of documents being shared accidentally. It does add another layer of complexity for staff though, and we have laready had some challenging discussions around where each document should go, but we are trying to clarify it with staff sites for admin, student sites for teaching resources. Hopefully we get it right.

4) less about sites and more about ‘data management’ – we are slowly getting around some of the initial confusion and mistrust of the shared document idea. Some areas are persisting with folders, while others are embracing the meta data idea. At this stage, if people want folders, we are building folders as it is better to get people up and using it. I am going to learn how to make these folders ‘searchable’ so the tagged documents still come up on different views. The linear data storage is very entrenched in the “teachers drive”  mindset and I have to remind myself to be more respectful of the need for organisation in this way – even if it isn’t my own way of thinking.

So, all in all, it has been a much smoother process than I could have hoped for. My next steps are getting the student portal into some sort of workable shape and designing a ‘class’ page template. As well as making sure the Curriculum areas are getting what they need to progress.

Posted in Techie stuff

Progress update – Sharepoint

As part of my role, I have been heavily involved with the implementation of Microsoft 365 SharePoint sites at my school. This is looking to overtake Ultranet as our Learning Management System (LMS) next year. After attending a workshop run by Darrel Webster in term 1, I was feeling a bit frustrated about our lack of progress getting Sharepoint up and running. Fast forward a term (and a whole lot of support from Liz Coup at Share the Point) and I am have just rolled out to our curriculum directors a possible sites structure and got some good feedback on how we want our Sharepoint Sites to look.

Essentially we are going to have a three level system. One level for Admin (Oh My Goodness to do schools have a lot of admin), One level for the curriculum teaching documents, and One level for classes.

As I was working through this last night at the meeting, one of the CD’s made a very valid point. We are going to have to change how we view files storage from what it is about, to who do we want to share it with.

For me, this is a non-issue really. Of course tests need to be kept securely, but I don’t mind if people see my appraisal. If everything is at a staff level, then it shouldn’t really matter and we should have trust in our colleagues to do the right thing.

But it is I think going to be the single biggest mindshift for our school and departments to consider. Moving away from the silo’d file storage and into a meta data tagged document. The acceptance that an ‘idea’ or piece of data can be important to more than just one thing, or found relevant to more than one area will take some getting used to for people you are used to following such linear chains. And the idea that ‘their’ resource actually might not be ‘theirs’ – so bridging that collaboration gap will be a wee bit of a challenge too.

But even the realisation of this is a help to me in planning how I am going to help people get the hang of our new system. I am so used to the idea (or perhaps it is just how my brain works) that a spider web of files is way easier than a linear progression that I do need to take more care to introduce this idea to staff.

So all I achieved in real time was to show the CD’s their new sharepoint curriculum sites, and how to upload some documents into those spaces, and use the tags the amazing Liz helped use get set up. Because obviously it takes more than one go to do such things, I made a wee office mix when I got home to help everyone get their head around it so they can have a play.

Excuse the sound – I made a rookie mistake and forgot to select my head set mic, so you can here my todler in the background 🙂 And here is the link, in case the embed doesn’t work 🙂

The next step is to work round each curriculum area and support them to add the pages and subsites they need for their particular needs. Sadly, each area is different, so we will need to do some tweaking. Then hopefully we can get some groups set up on active directories and invite them in, and we will be away laughing.

So definite progress on the Sharepoint front. And again, a massive thanks to Liz from Share the Point – hopefully I can take it from here without too many frantic phone calls.

Posted in Professional learning, random ramblings

Step 1) get excited and learn heaps of new stuff. Step 2) crash back to reality

Today I was fortunate enough to attend a sharepoint training session. I went with high expectations around wanting to learn how to get our 365 sites up and running, how to get some sharepoint document libraries working and of course to meet some people I had previously connected with in the virtual world face to face.

The course itself was very content heavy and was sadly hindered by a very patchy internet connection – not sure what Otago Polytech was on about but it should have been much better – that meant I couldn’t get through as much in the training site as I would have liked. However, I was still able to complete a lot of the tasks outlined and more important find some work around for some issues we have been having.

My big take aways for the day were

Meta data tags – make them work for you

This idea is not new for me, but was very new for some people in the room. Instead of making endless folders of files, make a big document library and tag your documents for easy searching, sorting and viewing. I like this, I am not a fan of our current ‘T drive’ which takes about 10 ticks to find a document and heaven help you if you don’t know what folder a document is in.

sharepoint stuff You can easily add lists to the share point site or page, and if you use the tags correctly, it means you can easily sort the documents. Our school really needs to invest some time into training staff how to do this to make sure we are sharing documents in the most efficient way.

Use Tables in your web pages

Again an old trick, but still relevant – using a table is the best way to get the formatting to look good. I have used this for moodle, the ultranet but had forgotten for sites, so a timely reminder.

Use the method that suits you

Like many things, there is more than one way to skin a cat on Sharepoint. Call me old school, but I liked the ribbon across the top of the page


It has a comforting feel – not being that experienced or comfortable using sharepoint yet having a nice safety blanket to work from was nice.


About the worst thing from today is I learned a whole heap, but due to the permissions employed by the people about me at school, I can’t implement a lot of what I saw. My permissions are unlikely to change and I’m not sure how to go about getting this issue sorted. I can see us rocking back to school tomorrow, nothing getting set in concrete and next term will roll around and nothing will have changed.

So I am going to build some pages around the site that I have had made for me (I don’t have permission to make any new sites), I am going to keep nagging for class book creator to be installed (because really, this should have happened last year). I am going to best I can with what I have, but it is still incredibly frustrating to know I could do so much more

So I am at a cross roads of sorts at the moment. Through different opportunities and through me being proactive, I have learned an awful lot about how to use 365 software to enhance my teaching and learning programs. I want to share this with others. But at my current school, I have no time allowance and there is no set time for PD for any staff. I need to remember I am employed as a teacher, I have 6 classes and I should make them my priority. I need to find a way to stop other teachers interupting my lessons and very valuable non-contact time to ask how to connect their printers.

So do I look for a techie/teachy job? Do I aim for an HOD roll? Do I look for non teaching consulty type jobs? My heart is still in the class room, but it is getting a bit beat up with the challenges of knowing I could be delivering an amazing course if only it didn’t take 20 minutes for students to log into the school laptops.

So I really got a lot out of the course today – but sadly it was more questions than answers. So much potential is there, it could be done relatively easily, but until someone flicks a switch my hands are tied and I can’t move it forward. Do I want to be the person who gets to ‘control’ that switch? I’d like to think if it was me, I would not be the only person with a set of keys.