I make no secret that I am a technology fan: OneNote has been an integral part of my classroom for four years. It is the best tool I have to grade, share material, and demonstrate good writing. And, while I might have the occasional student who loathes most technology (except the cellphone), most of my students love the ease of the application. I too love OneNote. And then I met Microsoft Teams.
Last year at ISTE (the International Society of Technology) 2017 Conference, Microsoft previewed their program Teams. It’s a software platform that combines OneNote, Planner, Cloud, and the Microsoft Office Suite. I knew I would love Teams; I had already started learning Microsoft Planner. As a natural list maker, Planner easily integrated into my work day. However, the software is a bit limited; it’s still just an agenda built for individual or team use. Teams, however, is built for whole classroom integration. The Planner add-in allows anyone enrolled to assign tasks. With that integration, I knew instantly that Teams is how the school newspaper will get done this year.
I’ve been on the hunt for something to match the hurried, somewhat organized, fast paced, year round (ish), task based newspaper classroom. We tried just using OneDrive; file management felt tedious. We tried OneNote last year; it felt clumsy and just not innate to the many tasks editors had to navigate. (InDesign is just not friendly with OneNote, even as a storage locker.) Teams looked just right.
I implement the software last week. I’ve already had six students ask me how they could use it for other classes and clubs. Some just want the Planner add-in; my assistant editor is a list fanatic and is already scheming how to use Planner. I can’t blame her. It’s also my favorite function. For newspaper, assigning articles and jobs outside writing is suddenly easy, organized, and visually pleasing. Within each task, you can start conversations; since I share newspaper with another teacher, this is often a great way to check in when not in the classroom. For example, while the layout editor creates the new master document for the new paper, I can communicate with her via checklist or the comment function about that task. In turn, she can check them off the list. The tabs for each task help students prioritize; I’ve labeled ours according to issue and time.
Teams also has an instant chat function. The girls can communicate with each other while in the field. Even more so, because the class doesn’t meet December through February, it gives the students a space to continue building community and sharing ideas. I’m also realizing what a great tool this will be for our spring editor. The paper shifts leadership with a new editor in spring, and I have high hopes Teams will allow for a more seamless transition. It will definitely allow for better record keeping. One of our headaches from last year was locating files from previous issues, other editors, last year…it just seemed that every editor preferred a different way to name and store files. Teams solves that right away; it has a file function built into the platform. The students can create folders and upload files right in the application. Of our current files, I created one; the editors have taken over, something I’ve loved to see for some time.
I will admit right now that the students learn faster than I do. Quite frankly, they need to: this is their publication. I’m thrilled that Teams has been the vehicle pushing them into ownership.
I’m not sure this is class ready; it doesn’t quite match my English classroom structure. I’ve started to think about how the chat function could be instructive rather than the distracting thing I’m sure it will become. I’m also keenly aware that many students can repel away from technology overload. If I ask them to use their OneNote, upkeep their planner, and then upload files, it feels a little like overkill. I’m not sure the agenda won’t just feel like a tedious task; many students are assigned one thing unlike the newspaper. OneNote also allows for individual spaces; Teams is very much a collaborative environment. So while I’m currently enjoying my new crush, OneNote and I are still in love. At least, when it comes to my English classroom.
In the meantime, I’m thrilled to see newspaper crushing on Teams as much as I am.