“What’s Office 365?” asked a second grade teacher last week at a casual meeting. “My district is moving from what we have now to that.” The transition, of course, was from MS Exchange and web-based email to Office 365. For the school district, moving to Office 365 will result in much greater efficiency and functionality than they have ever enjoyed. But that means this large urban school district has a lot of professional learning to engage in.

Note: This blog entry originally published by TCEA TechNotes Blog the week of 07/4/2016. Be sure to follow the TCEA TechNotes Blog for updates and great resources! Also, note that you can sign up for free professional learning sessions!

If you are a teacher in a district that is launching Office 365 in August, you have some time to get ready. Take these ten steps (five in this blog entry, five more in the sequel) to ensure you are successful in supporting blended learning opportunities that the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires.

Office1. Ask your administration for a MS Surface tablet or Windows 10 computer to use this summer.

The Windows 10 operating system boasts many powerful features, among them access for educators to a free Office 365 account. That means you can start learning how to use Microsoft Classroom, OneNote 2016, and Class Notebook tools, which are easy ways to blend learning in your classroom. You can find a wealth of resources online, and, of course, TCEA is offering one-day Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) professional development sessions around the state of Texas at no charge. Or, if you’re considering getting a Microsoft device, check out the Microsoft Educator discount program.

2. Become a Microsoft Innovative Educator.

If you want to successfully use blended technology into classroom learning, the TCEA Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) training sets you up with the tools and skills you will need. This process (watch this overview video of how to become an MIE Expert) involves you getting a free Office 365 account, which comes with free copies of MS Office 365 Online and OneNote 2016 for Windows (OneNote works on all mobile devices as a program you install or via the web with OneNote Online). You will also get access to Microsoft Education, a website with free professional learning activities that are 100% online. Register for this free training today!

Listen to this podcast by Jeffrey Bradbury (@TeacherCast).

3. Create a OneDrive and Docs.com account.

When working with students and colleagues, you will need to be able to create and share content online. Office 365 grants you free access to Word Online, Powerpoint Online, and Excel Online, as well as OneNote Online and one terabyte of cloud storage in OneDrive. This enables you to share and collaborate with students and colleagues (e.g. teachers working on lesson plans). Once you have completed the MIE training, you will be able to easily interact with content online for creation and sharing.
What’s more, with Docs.com, you can easily share documents (e.g. booksnewsletterspresentations) you create (e.g. Word, Powerpoint, OneNote, Excel, Newsletters) with others. Listen to this podcast featuring Dr. Tom Grissom on using Docs.com (http://docs.com/mguhlin).

4. Get to know Microsoft Classroom.

Need a quick overview of Microsoft Classroom? Watch this short video about how a school in Spain is using Microsoft Classroom. Then ask yourself how are you doing this in your classroom?

As you can see, MS Classroom provides an actual environment where you can interact with your students online. What’s more, through the use of tools like OneNote Class Notebook, you can create a Content Library to which you can add class learning resources. Students can then copy items from the Content Library to their OneNote notebook, where they can begin interacting with documents. Microsoft Classroom comes with a Class Notebook built-in, and you can see the main components of a Class Notebook in the image below.


5. Learn from the experts.

“An expert is someone who isn’t afraid to share how they mess things up while they are learning.” That’s my personal definition of what an expert is. While there are many people you can learn from online, consider adding these individuals to your professional learning network (PLN). What’s more, take advantage of TCEA resources listed below. In addition to following the Twitter hashtag, which does not require a Twitter account, #MIEExpert, you can also add these folks to your PLN:

  1. Robyn Hrivnatz @RobynHrivnatz
  2. Mike Tholfsen ‏@mtholfsen
  3. OneNote Central ‏@OneNoteC
  4. @OneNoteEDU ‏@OneNoteEDU
  5. Pip Cleaves ‏@pipcleaves
  6. Anne Mirtschin ‏@murcha
  7. Jennifer Mitchell ‏@jenemitchell

And, of course, follow @mguhlin on Twitter, as well as check out the TCEA Connect! OneNote Online notebook where I share my learning experiences. You will also want to follow the #tceamie hashtag online.

6. Digitize your print documents.

Tired of dealing with paper? Your students are as well! Take advantage of MS Office Lens app (available on Android, iOS, and later this summer, Windows) to digitize documents and go paperless with OneNote. You simply start the app, take pictures of the paper, and it organizes it into pictures or a PDF file or enables you to save it to OneNote for easy sharing with students. Or alternatively, use the built-in capture of OneNote app on your mobile device of choice. Make it a goal to digitize your documents during the summer and avoid the time sink during the school year. Once you have a digital copy, you caneasily annotate (draw/write on it) in OneNote.

7. Convert your multiple choice assessments to paperless Microsoft Forms or Excel Online Surveys.

Did you know that Microsoft Forms features an assessment component? Students submit responses to an online assessment and Forms takes care of scoring it for you. Watch this video for a quick introduction to Microsoft Forms.

8. Explore MIE Expert videos to fuel your learning and spur classroom innovation.

You have access to a global cadre of Microsoft Innovative Educators and Experts, all eager to coach you on how to transform teaching and learning in your classroom. This means you are not alone in blazing  a trail in your teaching, learning, and leading environment. Our children are learning directly from YouTube, so why not get inspired in the same way to make your classroom learning environment even more engaging than it is now? For example, you can see tutorial videos for MS Sway,Office 365 in the ClassroomOneNote Class Notebook, and many more.

9. Manipulate Portable Document Format (PDF) files to save paper.

Are you accessing materials from Lead4ward and other online PDF documents? Instead of printing everything, you can quickly split PDFs, printing only what you need. Use the no-cost PDFSAM Basic.

After you split PDF files, you can insert them into your OneNote Class Notebook’s Content Library as a file printout. This means you can then distribute those PDFs to students, and then they can use their Surface or iOS tablet device to fill things in by interacting with the PDF.

10. Create Podcasts with OneNote audio recordings on your mobile device.

Are you doing awesome things in your classroom? If you and your students are learning, then the answer is “YES!” Why not record audio into a OneNote, describing a picture or screenshot of a student artifact? Then,students, parents, and others can access that OneNote Online to listen to student reflections about that artifact.
Teaching in a Microsoft-empowered classroom can be much more than just being about the technology. It really is about the transformations your students can accomplish with information, converting it into knowledge that is useful and meaningful to them.
Note: This blog entry was inspired by Tom Mullaney’s blog entry at Sustainable TeachingTen Things You Can Do This Summer To Prepare for Teaching in a 1:1 Classroom with Chromebooks. Thanks, Tom!

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure