“Let me Bing that for you,” says no one. Ever. It’s always, “Let me Google that for you.” So much so that Merriam-Webster added the verb, to Google, to its dictionary. Google then became so much more than a search engine: email, pictures, blogs, websites, full online document capabilities, and then...Classroom. It changed the way teachers interacted with their students. The simplicity of using all Google features was, and still is, one of its biggest attractions. Then came Microsoft, trying to catch up, with Office365. That’s where our story will take us today.
My district is an Office365 district, for better or for worse, that’s what we have. Many of you are familiar with Outlook, Microsoft’s email component. There’s OneDrive (similar to Google Drive) and all of the components you expect with Microsoft (Word, Excel, Powerpoint) and even some others (Forms, Sway, and OneNote), now available online. The compatibility with the online version and the desktop version is pretty good - fewer font selections and some limited features, but overall, the products work. Since the district has adopted this platform, all students and teachers have access to Microsoft Classroom and all of the Office365 features.
This past year, I taught fourth grade and my class had the computer cart once a week, sometimes twice. This did not leave much room for technology, but with the little time I had, I made sure to use Office365 as much as I could. Coming from Google, the transition was bumpy. It still is. Microsoft is still playing catch up, BUT, it works. They’re getting there.
My main purpose with using Office365 was for the collaboration feature for the students. I wanted them to be able to collaborate on documents and projects in real time on multiple devices. So, I tried OneNote. Then, I quickly stopped. OneNote, for me, was too sporadic and wasn’t able to update in real time, thus creating a problem for student collaboration. I do know teachers who have used OneNote successfully in their classrooms. I am not one of them. However, in the spirit of embracing Office365, I will be trying it again this year.
I was also brave and ventured into the world of Microsoft Classroom. It works. It does the basic job of communicating with students (provided they open/login to 365, click on Classroom, and read announcements) and is a good place for assigning and collecting work. There’s just so many steps and clicks before being able to actually use it. We used it often, but only having the computers once a week meant that it took a while to actually finish an assignment. The students had an easy enough time accessing it and working on it and seemed to enjoy it. I was even able to create a template for students in Powerpoint and have them use it to create mission brochures (side note: you do not have the ability to create slide master, so if a student deleted a text box, they had to go in and add one themselves).
Text boxes appeared all over the place and students were typing over each other
|Mission brochures created from an uploaded template|