All you need to know about Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams is a chat-based workspace in Office 365 that was initially launched in March 2017. Microsoft Teams brings together people, conversations, files and tools in one place, giving both students and teachers instant access to everything they need. 

All you need to know about Microsoft Teams

My journey with Microsoft Teams began in April 2017 when I was looking for a platform that could be used in connection with the creation of an international project. At that time, I needed to find a tool that could replace Loomio, Slack and Asana that was free, user-friendly and intuitive for both students and teachers and that could be used across borders. After several weeks, I finally chose Microsoft Teams and I was not disappointed. Below, I highlight the key benefits this attractive platform offers anyone with access to Office 365.

Cloud-Based Service

Microsoft Teams is a cloud-based service that does not require buying new software or installing anything. It is also completely free for teachers and students who have an Office 365 Education subscription. In addition, Microsoft Teams can be used on the go by downloading the Microsoft Teams app for iOS or Android mobile devices. When students forget their PCs/ Macs, they are able to easily access all of the channels via the Microsoft Teams app and will be able to submit all tasks via their smartphones or tablets. In addition, users’ resources, files and links are all in one place which makes teachers’ jobs easier.

Communication and Collaboration Tools

Using the Microsoft Teams platform, teachers and students can communicate one-on-one or in groups. Teachers can send messages to individual students or to entire classes simultaneously. Individual users can also create private chats with other users. With the channel feature, teachers can create subcategories in each team for file storage, special projects or focused topics. Moreover, users can conduct video conferencing with the built-in Skype technology or can engage in video discussions with Flipgrid, which is also integrated directly into the platform. For example, if you are away at school, you can easily call or contact your students directly in Microsoft Teams.

All you need to know about Microsoft Teams

Teachers can also use OneNote Class Notebook to share notes and files and provide feedback to individual students. Another important feature that teachers and school leaders can use is the creation of new teams. Those teams can act as professional learning networks (PLNs) for teachers from their own schools but also as places where other teachers collaborate across departments, schools and even continents. Microsoft Teams simplifies and streamlines communication between teachers and other individuals such as students, your colleagues, and school leaders.

Social Emotional Learning (SEL)

Building and maintaining strong relationships with students is the most challenging and yet important task for any educator. When the Covid19 pandemic started, many teachers had to consider an abrupt move to online teaching. Their biggest worry was how to infuse social and emotional learning into their remote lessons. Having used many different digital education tools, I have to admit that Microsoft Teams has enabled me to connect with my students and community like no other tool that I have used before. Not only was I able to call my students privately to chat, but I could also schedule virtual meetings for the whole class and throw class parties. To my surprise, many students found this form of connecting to be as engaging and effective as real-time and face to face classroom interactions.

Project Management

While Microsoft Teams is a complete collaboration solution, it can also be used for project management and task management. One of the task management tools integrated into Microsoft Teams is Microsoft Planner. With Microsoft Planner, teachers can easily create new plans, organise and assign activities, share files, chat about what they are working on and get updates on students’ progress. It is also possible to transform Microsoft Planner into Kanban boards which is extremely useful for anybody who works in Scrum or Lean operations.

Project Management using Microsoft Teams

Assignments and Grading

As teachers, we spend a lot of our time on grading and providing our students with good and timely feedback. When using Microsoft Teams, teachers are able to create tasks and assessment criteria that are available for future use. In October 2018, a new feature was created that makes it possible to create quizzes directly in Microsoft Teams. Teachers can send quizzes to all classes and select the automatic grading option. It is also quite easy to create tasks for individual students or small groups. In this way, one can differentiate teaching in a simple and effective way. For example, in my English class, I tend to personalise and differentiate tasks so that students can select tasks they find challenging or interesting, but also at their level. With Microsoft Teams, teachers can copy and reuse all tasks, quizzes and tests at a later time, which is both time-saving and environmentally friendly.

App Integration

Kahoot, Nearpod, Quizlet, Microsoft Forms, Wakelet and Flipgrid are some of my favourite apps I use almost every week with my students. In Microsoft Teams, I can add a specific tab to one of my channels so that all students have quick and easy access to these apps. Students who are members of my team can discuss and collaborate on Kahoot or another app by liking or posting comments (which may include attachments, emojis and GIFs).

Immersive Reader

Immersive Reader, which is included in OneNote’s learning tools, is a full-screen browsing experience that increases the readability of content in OneNote documents. Immersive Reader, integrated into the Microsoft Teams platform, supports students with learning disabilities such as dyslexia and dysgraphia, thus enhancing language skills in English language classrooms.

Having used Microsoft Teams for almost three years, I have noticed that my control of the classroom environment is much easier and that this tool gives students both a voice and choice when teachers start using it in their teaching. The new features found in Microsoft Teams are not limited to classroom collaboration only. Built-in professional learning communities (PLCs) make it possible to share and communicate with others so that teachers can now collaborate more easily. Teachers’ utilisation of all of the educational opportunities results in a powerful tool in which students’ learning and development are at the centre.

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