Presented by: Steven Payne, Microsoft Learning Delivery Specialist
During the COVID-19 crisis in Australia, many schools remained open, ensuring that essential workers could still send their children to school. This saw schools provide a blended model of teaching to students learning remotely and those learning on-site. During this time, teachers taught from home, or from their classroom or school office. What this meant was that the staggering amount of work that teachers put into moving to remote teaching and learning in a very short time was often done online through live calls as well as online communication tools for chat and file collaboration.
For schools using Office 365, Microsoft Teams was the superhero of staff collaboration during this crisis, and as students and teachers return to permanent face-to-face learning, schools are looking to continue staff collaboration online, as well as face-to-face. The beauty of Microsoft Teams is its flexibility. Teachers have the option to collaborate live on their files, send typed communication via channels or chat, or start live video calls. All the communication within a school, teaching department or working group, can take place in the one place, with the one tool, making it much easier to keep track of what’s happening, whether you’re in the same physical space or not. Teachers from across Australia were keen to share their stories of how Teams transformed staff collaboration in their schools.
Andrew Cornwall, Studies Coordinator at St Bede’s Catholic College in Chisholm, NSW shared how Teams had transformed staff collaboration not only within his school but across his diocese:
“For our school, Teams is now the way we do things. When COVID hit, we had already ramped up our use of Teams so that we had a single Staff Team with channels for faculties, events, groups and special interests. Teams ensured a smooth transition to a fully digital staffroom and, if anything, improved the level of collaboration. Conversations that happened in the lunchroom now happened transparently in Teams channels. It didn’t matter if you were there or on duty, you could contribute to those rich discussions. The asynchronous manner helped support deep levels of thought and engagement using Teams and OneNote, while Stream helped us to rapidly flip from just-in-case PD to just-in-time. Teams has really flattened the leadership structure of the school and ensured everyone gets the opportunity to contribute, increasing transparency and access to information. Overall, we got a group buff of +10 to Collaboration.
Similarly, our diocese had secondary KLA networks (SKLANs) which met twice yearly with minimal interaction in between. In response to COVID, the diocese created Microsoft Teams for these SKLAN groups. This immediately took off as colleagues started generously and rapidly sharing resources, learning, ideas and lesson plans. The success was in the simplicity of the platform. For school teachers who were already using Teams as a central component to their day to day teaching, Teams added that collaborative overlay that put the work they were doing in their own school right next to the larger work of their colleagues in other schools.
Five years ago, OneNote Class Notebooks thinned the walls of our classrooms, and now Teams is thinning the walls between and within schools.”
Pete Baum, Principal at Gunnedah South Public School in NSW shared how Microsoft Teams ensured that students at his school had equitable access to learning during COVID-19 and how teachers worked together to transform the way they work not only during remote learning, but now and into the future:
“At Gunnedah South PS (GSPS), the imposed changes brought on education by COVID-19 has had a cross generational impact on student, staff and parent technology skills that has been and will continue to be life changing for our students.
Through utilising the Microsoft Teams platform, that was introduced to our school by Megan Townes, our school Technology Team was able to guide and support teachers to provide the highest quality educational opportunities available in Australia for our students. This was only possible as a result of Microsoft Teams, our schools new learning platform which is now an essential tool for all future learners at GSPS.
Beyond the at home learning experience, the skills that all stakeholders (students, teachers and parents) were provided with have enhanced collaboration to a point that education was strengthened through everyone working together for positive outcomes for students. Our kids engaged, our staff engaged, and parents engaged! Together GSPS Teams brought our school community onto a level playing ground for every student. This is equity at its finest.
Our students and school will benefit moving forwards as a direct result of utilising the powerful tools available through Microsoft Teams to enhance educational programs. We are certain that we will go only forwards and intend under the guidance of our DP Curriculum, Technology Team and all staff, we will continue to grow our skillset to ensure students have the best educational opportunities available in the world.
Our greatest learning as a staff was that through providing high impact learning in the Microsoft Teams platform, our imagination was our only limit for GSPS Teams.”
Jason Lane, eLearning Pedagogy Leader from Villanova College in Coorparoo QLD shared how OneNote, available within Microsoft Teams, was used to share the workload to create teaching resources:
“Senior School Religious Education and Humanities teams used collaborative OneNote Class Notebooks for the first time to share the workload, creating resources for remote teaching curriculum. This gave teachers the ability to distribute the workload based on areas of expertise and interest. A key benefit was seeing tech savvy younger staff taking the reins and leading the curriculum leaders, showing them how to add feedback to distributed pages, embed content and mark-up pages to enhance readability and visual appeal. This collaboration has continued since our return to F2F teaching as teachers now see the benefits of curating and creating content across curriculum areas where previously some teachers preferred working within their own “ICT comfort bubble”. AND … Video channels with sharing permissions were created for all faculties, college-wide, enabling teachers to create content for embedding into OneNote lessons. Knowing that videos were private to groups gave teachers a platform to create flipped and instructional content, free of external sharing. Teachers were able to see the tutorials posted by their colleagues, this has seen significant uptake in the use of instructional video content shared across department channels.”
Jarrel Rivera, IT Trainer from the Defence Force School of Signals in Victoria shared how his staff collaborated better than ever before and how they transformed staff meetings to be accessible whether staff were on-site or not:
We are used to our daily standups and monthly meetings. We’ve been using OneNote for meeting minutes, and for sharing documents. We thought we were already innovative then came COVID-19 and we realized that we can actually innovate some more.
We no longer restrict ourselves to meeting physically, bounded by the four walls of our classrooms. We are also no longer fused to our usual seats in the conference room. We can now meet wherever, so long as there’s internet connection. We can even meet right from the comfort of our homes. The excuse that a staff cannot attend a meeting just because they are not at school is no longer valid.
We also thought that we are already a collaborative team. We are open to each other and we help when needed. We share notes, we share documents; after all, that’s what Sharepoint is for. However, COVID posed so many concerns that one person may not be able resolve them alone, and for that we became more collaborative than ever. The creative juices of the staff flowed like a river, and we can’t help but share the key learnings across teams, even across departments. Who would have thought that having a Teams channel for the parents would actually be such a great idea!
Moving forward, we intend to keep the meetings in person and via online stream. We also intend to keep the communication channels with the parents, as it’s a very good and easy way to communicate with them too. On the other hand, we are still discussing the option of recording the classes for contingencies and for sharing the good practices across staff.”
Teachers went above and beyond their duty when it came to supporting their students during remote learning, but they also went above and beyond to support one another as well. As teachers return to full-time face-to-face teaching, their ability to transform as a group to work smarter, and not harder, has been proven. Now they can continue to use those skills and technologies to keep working smarter because they’ve definitely worked hard enough already this year!
Complete the Microsoft Educator Centre courses to learn more:
- Support learning initiatives with Staff Teams
- OneNote Staff Notebook: Tools for staff collaboration
- Teacher Training Pack – Office 365 teacher to teacher