Oh my, it’s been a long year. And now, it seems, I’ve gone months without posting. Part of this is learning to balance motherhood and teaching; part of this is the Covid-19 pandemic that has re-shaped our daily lives in a way few anticipated. I started November loathing daycare. They got to spend all day with my little one, experiencing every first multiple times. I left as early as I could to pick him up every day, terrified I missed something.
And now, I miss daycare.
Like most teachers in Virgina, shelter in place doesn’t just mean learning to teach virtually. It might mean sharing your workspace with someone in a completely different field, shooing the cats away who clearly do not understand the term “social distancing,” forcing yourself to work on a 70 degree spring day while woefully glancing out on your garden, a mere 20 feet away. For some of us, it might mean suddenly finding yourself employed as mom, teacher, and daycare provider.
All this in the module of my absolute favorite class, my mecca, my corner of the scholastic galaxy: my Future Fiction course with the seniors. In a way, it’s quite fitting: re-formatting MicrosoftTeams for online teaching because of a new virus induced pandemic. It has all the great makings of dystopian literature, except the part where this is real. And, the more I re-map Alan Moore’s Watchmen, Netflix’s Black Mirror, and Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale, the more the ironies of those novels morph into real, eerie connections to the world today.
And my nerd self is so ready for this version of the class. Weird, I know.
In the spirit of being an educator, I’m sharing how I’m re-tooling Teams to help me teach. In the spirit of trying to be mom and teacher, it’s happening in list form, because when the noise machine fails to drown out the husband making baby food via instapot and blender, it’s my turn to be on call.
How to use Microsoft Teams to teach Online
- Embrace the multifunctionality of Teams and become a Microsoft Classroom. Asking students to use google docs, Blackboard, PowerSchool…some other platform but to check in with Teams is going to be a time suck and only cause chaos.
You’ll wind up explaining things via email, on the actual document of the assignment, again on the platform…Teams allows you to have multiple spaces within the platform to deliver instructions in different ways. For example: the general posting area is great to quickly inform/remind my students of class/assignment basics. My students have already learned that quick post in that section yields a faster response, thanks to an almost perfect integration of desktop and phone app.
- OneNote is right…there…in…Teams. There is no need for a google site, a google
document, and OneNote is much more condusive to distance learning and collaborative spaces than Google Classroom. It’s smoother; with a Teams integration it operates much like the class dungeon guide. I use mine to post daily lessons and share documents; I even use OneNote as a recordable whiteboard.
3. You can post assignments right into OneNote from Teams. And then grade them in the same space. To be honest, I’m a little put off that I have to then record grades into a whole other system (MyBackPack is another kind of hell.) To be honest, I’m also kicking myself for not knowing this sooner. If I had, every class this year would be in Teams (switching through notebooks to grade is very tedious work).
4. The channels feature is a great way to engage students in a classroom discussion. Now, to be transparent, I have not yet tried this function with an English class. My newspaper staff uses it all the time to comunicate among the different sections (i.e. the Community staff has its own channel and so on). I’m curious to see how this will work on Wednesday as part of the daily grind of online class. I’ve posted my discussion question and asked students to respond using the reply function. I haven’t quite found a happy way to grade their responses yet; I’m hoping that emerges as the chat happens.
5. While I’m using WeVideo to create video content, Teams allows me to store these massive video files in a Course Library. I could embed them in OneNote, but one limiting feature of OneNote is the cumbersome way videos work and their potential to make loading OneNote a nightmare. Now, I can just direct my students to the class Teams file library. I can even post a link to those videos in their OneNote.
6. The video meeting function is so much more necessary when teaching remotely for students, especially international students. I plan to use it during the paper writing process. When in a live Teams meeting, you can share a screen. Imagine the ability to conference with a student who is in Russia about a paper, and the rough draft is on both your screens! You can also record this meeitng. I’ve even recorded some of my early videos with this feature, making it a bit easier for those who are inimidated by WeVideo to create video content.
7. (Maybe). I haven’t yet installed it, but Teams allows its users to add a Wiki. This may not seem like much, but imagine teaching Watchmen with the Watchmen Wiki for the new HBO series. Let that sink in. There is a bevy of other add-ins that I’m excited to explore.
I’m really embracing the Kool-Aid and this isn’t lost on me. While I know that Teams has its limitations, I have to confess: I don’t see online teaching working quite this well anywhere else. And I’ve used many online platforms- Blackboard, Google Classroom, Weebly, PowerSchool (aka Haiku)- they just don’t have the smooth integration of collaborative space and content delivery as Teams.
Now, if only Microsoft Teams and Twitter could play nice…
I’m home and, with the assumption that nap time will get easier, hoping to post more. Be prepared: I’m geared up for graphic novels, sci-fi, and superheroes.