Matthew Burns

10 Top Microsoft Teams Tips & Tricks

Since the beginning of lockdown in March 2020, we at Sedbergh School threw ourselves fully into the world of Microsoft Teams, initially for our Remote Learning, but, since September, as a tool to support our regular in-class teaching.

We love it!

Here is a quick run through of the 10 best things we have found about using Microsoft Teams to transform teaching and learning.

1. Using Assignments

All our prep (homework) is now set using Microsoft Teams Assignments, so that pupils always know what prep is set and when the deadlines are.  Supporting documents (PowerPoint presentations, Word worksheets) can be easily attached, and work can either be completed on- or off-line, depending on what the teacher thinks best.  Teachers can record marks and feedback on Assignments so pupils know exactly what to do next time to improve their work.

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2. Linking with OneNote Class Notebook

OneNote is a really amazing Microsoft tool which allows you to take notes on any device.  A Class Notebook is a notebook set up by a teacher which has private sections for each pupil. Any work that pupils complete in their notebooks is instantly visible to the teacher, allowing immediate feedback and dialogue to take place about work, transforming the work/feedback process.

3. Tutor Group Teams

Teams isn’t just for academic work.  We have Teams set up for each of our tutor groups, with private channels for each pupil, and a public main channel for tutor group chats.  Here we can share achievements, talk about issues of the day, and have private conversations helping pupils if they are struggling.  It’s a great way to stay connected throughout the day when we can’t always be together face-to-face.

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4. Running your Department

All academic departments now are fully set up so all their files and internal communication happens via Teams.  This means work files can be accessed on any device at any time, and communication stops clogging up our email inbox.  Communication becomes more fluid and informal, when it needs to be, and the Team space becomes genuinely collaborative and productive.

5. External Meetings

We started off the year with a bit of a mixed economy of various methods of communicating with video chat.  We initially had been using Zoom for many staff meetings, and for communicating with external users.  However, we quickly made the decision to simplify things and push all video communication through Teams, partly for security reasons (all using our main school email address) but mainly for end-user simplicity. External users can easily be added to any video chats, and with the newest update of Teams this is even more straight forward.

6. Staff Training

In these Covid-times, we have become much more inventive when it comes to how we deliver staff training at Sedbergh.  One of the best ways in which we have done this is through setting up a Team for IT Advice and Training.  This has become the central place for staff to ask questions, to directly connect with expertise and each other, and also for staff to access hand guides and how-to videos.  We also hold regular Teams seminars which can be accessed live, or people can view the recordings at their leisure.

7. Link to Stream

Stream is Microsoft’s version of YouTube, but for internal use only!  What is great about it is that people can upload their own videos (for example of topics to teach, or staff meetings) and can assign permissions according to the structure of Teams.  So I can upload a video and make sure only my class can view it, or we can host videos and make sure the whole school can view it.  It’s so easy to upload, categorise, or even screen record, straight from Stream.

8. Using it on any device

The beauty of Teams is that it is 100% device agnostic.  In other words, the experience for users is virtually identical, whether you’re using a laptop, a Windows PC, a Mac, an iPad, or even your phone.  And in some ways, using it on multiple devices enhances the experience: I can get notifications of messages coming through on my phone and my Apple Watch, and then switch to my PC for a video call, or to upload and work on documents.  Seamless!

9. Collaborating on documents

And it’s the “Team” in the title that makes this work so well in a school environment.  Working together is at the heart of everything we do at Sedbergh, and Teams allows pupils and staff alike to work together on everything they do, whether it be communicating, working on documents, preparing presentations, or organising workflows and projects.  The simplicity with which documents can be shared, and then worked-on in real time changes what you can achieve, and certainly empowers learning.

10. Replacing your phone!

Well not quite… but it replaces the need to store people’s numbers and have to use various combinations of text messaging, WhatsApp etc.!  When used on a phone, the Teams app works just like a phone, allowing you to call, leave messages, set up video chats, and much more.  From an organizational point of view it reduces the need for expensive internal communications software and reduces the amount of device management.

So hopefully you can see that although we think we’ve just scratched the surface when it comes to fully implementing Microsoft 365 and all it can offer, we’ve got so much out of the use of Teams and related software already.  We’re always keen to share our ideas with others, so please be in contact!

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