This week I’ve introduced my students to Microsoft Teams and Onenote. They’ve also had a little play with Forms as I used this to assess their reading and guide their thinking. This post is to summarise my preparation, the actual delivery and the key learning moments from this first week.
Scaffolding the Use of the Software
As I noted in my previous post, I created several scaffolds for the use of these tools. I made a video, which sat on our learning management system (a MOODLE platform) for the weeks before the course started, I also created a Teams and One Note Cheat Sheet for the students to help support them through getting to know the platform.
I planned to spend the first 15 minutes of the session explaining why I’d chosen Teams and Onenote and getting them to experiment with it. It turned out that we needed a little longer than this. Even after the third time I’d run the workshop, 25-30 minutes was what it really took. All of my students experienced the following:
- An explanation that I’d chosen Teams and Onenote because I thought it might be better than Moodle as it runs along more modern lines of communication – I was curious to see what they think. (Shared learning)
- A confirmation that the DFE in SA has just rolled this software out across schools in the state and so I wanted them to leave with some serious employable skills to add to their CV and help them stand out
- Understanding where the “me” and “we” spaces were in Teams and how this was importance for privacy
- I had them all “spam me” by using the chat app icon and typing my name. This made sure they all knew how to use Teams to contact their tutor
- I had them create a group chat with the people on their table and experiment with this. Some started exploring the Video call options.
- I showed them the apps in the list like Chat, Assignments, Files etc and spoke about them in their context.
- I explained that if they used the “conversations” tab in the general channel of their team they would be able to talk to us all. I realised very quickly that, in the four years they’ve been studying, most of them didn’t know what a back channel was. I also made it very clear that, that was not the space to share personal issues! Leave that for the chat app.
- I showed them the ” Class notebook” tab in the general channel and introduced OneNote
- Students explored the “ring binder” (the one note itself), the coloured dividers (content library, Collaborative Spaces, personal OneNote) and explained their roles.
- I explained the context of these tools as a teacher (where I could) and shared more resources for learning the “teacher” side of Class Notebook.
Once we’d all located this I eased them in with tasks using the Content Library as a start. All of my teaching notes are in a tab named by the week we’re working in. The role of the content library replaces a block in Moodle and gives them a way of taking content from there and placing it into their own workbook. Each week will have a page for readings and then pages for subsequent content that will be taught. I’m planning using the accelerated learning cycle (4 part lesson plan) and so I’m naming the sections of the notebook according to the section of the cycle we’re working in. This helps me with my pace and focus! I will continue to use this as my structure to make sure it’s all familiar and follows a strict structure. I’m hoping that will ease navigation.
The first task I set them involved them using Post-it notes to record one idea. Then, in their groups, narrowing down 5/6 opinions to 3. Once they had the knowledge they wanted to share I then asked them to use a One Note collaboration space to share their ideas with each other. I figured that this way, I separated the cognitive load of the knowledge for the topic from the knowledge of the new technology we were working. This seemed to work well as it only required one member of the group to use the tech whilst the others watched. This enabled those who were confident to lead whilst they modelled to the rest of the team what they might need to do in the future. It certainly made the information easy to share very quickly. We then used this screen to focus a whole class discussion.
This discussion helped us all to see what experiences we’d had on prac., as a parent, etc.. and how these were influencing our concerns and thinking as we started the topic. As we talked, I took the opportunity to share where in the course we would cover these concerns and helped (I hope) them to connect the learning journey they’re about to embark upon, with the profession they’re about to enter.
Once we’d finished this discussion, I moved them into the groups I’d placed them into for the pre-reading work. This meant they physically moved ( 1 hour or more after first sitting.. that’s got to be better for them!) and met some new people for the second part of the workshop. I shared the next collaboration page for the ‘Activate phase’ and explained the next task. The first time I did this I prepped this page in advance with pre-inked examples. As a result, the students in this workshop weren’t sure where to find the inking tools. So, in subsequent workshops, I deleted the pre-inked examples and instead, modelled the inking live as I created a random example of what we were working with.
In my lesson plan I had stated that I would use big paper and pens to record their thinking. However, as the students had coped so well with the last task, I made sure that we had access to the styluses for the new iPads (recently purchased by the university), I gave them the option of using the new iPads to ink their brainstorm into their own page in collaboration section. Interestingly, across all three workshops, no one chose to use the pen and paper. Every student enjoyed working with the inking capabilities of One Note and the new iPads.
The inking also added new dimensions that I’ve never seen on big paper and pen. Illustrations began to appear as students exercised both sides of their brain. Of course, they were having fun exploring different pens (the rainbow pen spawned a large shoal of rainbow fish on one page!) but it was fascinating to see them experimenting in this space and using a combination of inking and typing. Some chose to only use inking for both writing and images. I chose the example here because this group chose to use both text and images. An interesting choice which suggested to me that they were scaffolding their own learning. Using the basic typing functionality they’d just practised in the previous task and then slowly adding in the inking as they explored. A possible interesting insight into them managing the cognitive load of sharing learning from the reading and learning to work with the new platform.
In two of the workshops, I then had the students stand and present their notes with the goal of making everyone else in the room want to read their reading. In truth, the extra time spent going through Teams and OneNote took away valuable time I needed for a plenary session I’d planned. I’d placed some plenary questions into each of their personal OneNote books. Questions to help them settle their thinking and move it forward.
In the third workshop, I experimented with using Teams for this process instead of a presentation. Instead of asking each group to come and present, I gave students one reading to focus on and asked them to read the OneNote that that team had produced. They did so and I could hear some interesting discussion from the teams as the grappled with either conflicting perspectives or were excited to discover elements of understanding that connected and developed throughout the readings. Then, instead of asking anyone to come to the front and explain their thinking, I asked each group to post a question in Teams. Using the “Conversations” tab in the General channel, they were tasked with asking at least one question to the authors of the notes. They then had to wait for a response. I’m hoping that these conversations will continue in between class. However, it might take time for this ecosystem to become so fluid for them.
What I learned
- I didn’t leave enough time to go over the new systems. I’m glad that I gave up more time for this though as there were far less questions about how it all worked. Whether the Teams interface is more intuitive than One Note, the cheat sheets or something else.. the technology never got in the way of our learning.
- Students are talking to me using Teams. I’ve had at least one message a day over the past week. I think they’re enjoying the “messenger” like nature of Teams. I’m keen to see how this grows
- I’ve learnt from my students as they used it. I will write another post about this but it’s been really good to use this with a class and find the unexpected issues caused by using multiple platforms (Mac OS, Windows 10, iOS, Android) and by some of the gaps we might have found in the workflow in Teams.
- The students were far more willing to experiment and take risks than I thought they would.
- My planning has got to be pretty fluid for a bit. Next week’s plan contains some much larger “white space” with backups if needed. It’s been hard to judge timing whilst we’re working with something so new.