“Teams is a digital hub that brings conversations, content, assignments, and apps together in one place, letting educators create vibrant learning environments. Build collaborative classrooms, connect in professional learning communities, and connect with colleagues – all from a single experience.”Microsoft
To put it more succinctly, Teams is a powerful digital hub that centralises learning, work and collaboration in one place, whether teaching and learning is in-class, online or a mixture of both (Blended). For many teachers, I’m stating the obvious as they have already had firsthand experience of Teams for ERT (Emergency Remote Teaching) during the recent lockdowns (Albeit, with differing degrees of success). In the midst of the first lockdown scramble, we (like many other schools) went with Teams, initially for live staff and class communication. Whilst relieved to have a freely available tool for this purpose, that with some on-the-fly upskilling, all staff could readily use, it was hard not to see the limitations of the app, out-of-the-box. In particular, the live meeting experience with limited participant views, non existent breakouts and unnecessarily complicated signups for starters. Soon I started to look longingly at competitors in the space like Zoom, WebEx and Meet, that already had these bells and whistles. This probably was an unfair comparison as all these listed are dedicated video conferencing tools whilst Teams is designed to do much more than video calling but nonetheless it was frustrating at the time.
Jump forward 2 years and Teams has transformed, continually evolving to become more powerful and easier to use. I’ll not deep dive on the minutiae of each update but instead focus on what (In my opinion) are the five key takeaways for teachers and students from recent updates in 2021. As we continue to live is truly uncertain times, a return to online and/or blended learning can’t be ruled out. However, irrespective of the educational landscape come 2022, digital learning will have a significant part to play going forward and if you’re a Teams user (Or plan becoming one) you will have a superior digital toolkit to utilise this time around…
Reading Progress – Reading Progress is a tool designed to help students build confidence and reading fluency through personalised reading experiences built into Assignments in Microsoft Teams. Teachers can upload reading passages and assign these to individual students to read aloud. On submission their recordings can be accessed and reviewed with (Or without) AI-powered error estimations by the teacher at any time….More
Education Insights – provides real-time analytics of student progress and activity within a class team which teachers can use proactively to track student experiences. Educators are presented with meaningful, reliable data to make informed decisions regarding their learning communities. During the recent lockdowns academic progress could be evaluated remotely. However most teachers found social and emotional wellbeing much more difficult to gauge. Reflect check-ins in Teams enables conversations about students’ feelings and needs that a teacher can view over time, helping them to identify patterns and better support students emotional well-being….More
The Whiteboard in Teams chat, channels, and meetings has been completely redesigned for increased functionality and useability. The new collaborative workspace includes over 40 customisable templates, the ability to insert images and shapes, live participant reactions and embedding of PowerPoint presentations and other 365 docs for live annotation (inking)…More
Breakout Rooms finally landed in Teams last December, albeit with rudimentary capabilities. The past 12 months however, have seen a raft of updates rolled out that have significantly improved functionality. The most recent of which make breakout rooms in Teams more flexible and accessible through the ability for meeting organisers to assign specific participants to manage each breakout, create rooms in bulk, add or delete individual rooms, configure meeting options, adjust session settings and pre-assign participants via both manual and automatic assignment options…More
Dynamic view and Presenter modes make live screen and content sharing much more engaging for students. Dynamic view intelligently arranges the contents and participants in a call for a better viewing experience. In addition, the participant gallery automatically adjusts when the meeting window is resized. New Standout, Side-by-side and Reporter presenter modes enable teachers to control how shared content appears on screen and helps create a more natural classroom online by allowing students to see their teacher alongside lesson content…More