Bring Everything Together with Teams and OneNote

by / Thursday, 05 September 2019 / Published in Teaching with Technology

teamsMicrosoft Teams, which comes on board as part of our HCT Office 365 account, touts itself as a hub for teamwork and a tool that “brings everything together in a shared workspace where you can chat, meet, share files and work with business apps“. It’s a great soundbite to be sure, but what does it actually mean in practical terms? How can Teams help the flow and organization of coursework for your learners?

Essentially, Teams is a program that gets a group of people working together in an organized and easily monitored way. This powerful tool has several functions to do that, and one of the first is the team creation process itself. You can choose to create teams for students, staff, PLCs or other; all are essentially the same though the type you choose will dictate a few bells and whistles that come in the box. When you create a Class team for students, for example, your team comes with a built-in OneNote Class Notebook and an Assignments function, both of which allow you to incorporate other Microsoft Office tools.

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Before we get on to the tools, though, let’s look at why you might want to create a team in the first place. Teams allow you to create a closed, collaborative environment for your students where conversations, files and content can be organized according to topic. Let’s say, for example, you’re an instructor teaching a writing class. You can create a team with the name of the writing class, then create separate topic sections called channels in Teams lingo. In an academic reading and writing class, for example, some of your channels may be called Citation and Referencing, Paragraphs and Topic Sentences, Writing a Research Question, Final Project, and so on. Any conversations you want to have about these topics, any files you want to share, any collaborative documents and any additional resources you want to provide – such as checklists, weblinks and Nearpod lessons for example – can be kept within each channel. This helps keep everything organized and easy to find.

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Once you’ve got a handle on organizing your content and communication into channels, you can set your sights on the Class Notebook and Assignments tools that come as part of the Class team type. Anyone familiar with OneNote will feel right at home using the Class Notebook which is, in fact, a OneNote tool. Teachers using this can create sections that help keep material organized and can provide collaborate spaces for students. The two big benefits of the Class Notebook however are the pages you can add to each section, which can be used sort of as a ‘live whiteboard’ during online classes and then saved for student review later, and the fact that each student gets his or her own private notebook within the Class Notebook. The instructor can see all of these individual notebooks but students can only see their own, and these spaces can be great for individual student work and feedback. The Assignments tool gives you the chance to create assignments for whole classes, groups and individual students, as well as include quizzes and surveys using Microsoft Forms. While not as official as Blackboard where you’d keep any formal, summative assessments, the assignments section in Teams can be a great place to create formative or practice ones.

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The Class Notebook also comes with a Teacher-Only space, which only you or any added co-teachers can see. This can be extremely helpful for lesson planning, quiz preparation, assignment creating or note keeping. If there’s anything you want to create and finish before you share it, this is the best place to do that. Any sections or pages created in the Teacher-Only space – or in any space in the Class Notebook, actually – can be distributed to the whole class, to groups within the class or to individual students. In fact, you can even distribute sections and pages to other notebooks, so you can share work across classes that you have different notebooks for saving you time and creating consistent delivery for your material.

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All of this is really just the tip of the iceberg for what you can do using a combination of Teams and OneNote Class Notebook. Though each of these tools is great in its own right, combining them together is a fantastic way to support content sharing and collaboration between and amongst your learners.

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