Sep 14 2016

Microsoft Education Updates Improve Classroom Efficiency and Promote Exploration

From interactive quizzes to virtual field trips, the latest Office 365 updates have a lot to offer.

By now, teachers and students are settling into their classrooms for the new school year. As they are getting acquainted with each other and with their classroom’s technology, there are also new Office 365 Education updates from Microsoft to check out.

Last April, Microsoft announced Microsoft Classroom, the tech giant’s latest foray into educational technology. As we reported, Microsoft Classroom is an education hub that offers schools an alternative to Google’s established Google Classroom product.

Laura Stanner, a technology integration consultant from Iowa, says Microsoft is listening to what teachers in the districts she serves — and all over — are saying.

“Microsoft is really valuing the feedback from educators about the tools,” she says. “It’s been really fun to grow with Microsoft and see how they are responding to needs in education.”

Late this summer, Microsoft announced several updates to its education tools on the Office 365 blog. In addition to improving the workflow in Classroom, Microsoft simplified the single sign-on capabilities through School Data Sync and made a few more tweaks ready to be incorporated into lesson plans.

Microsoft Forms Now Available with Teacher-Approved Updates

Now widely available through Office 365 Education, Microsoft Forms lets educators and students create custom surveys and quizzes, as well as easy-to-access questionnaires and registration forms.

Stanner, who has blogged about the value of using forms for individualized education, told us that while Microsoft Forms was still in the testing phase, she and some teachers submitted feedback to Microsoft that the developers listened to.

“We Skyped together. It was great for those rural teachers to see the power of their ideas,” Stanner says. “Unlike some of the other resources, Forms is specifically created for educators.”

OneNote and Microsoft Surface Pen Combo Make Perfect STEAM Tool

This summer, we reported on the power of using a stylus like a Surface Pen to create meaningful learning experiences. Now, OneNote, the popular tablet notetaking app, has released updates to improve the inking experience, the Microsoft blog reports.

An exclusive feature of Windows 10, OneNote offers big benefits for arts and math teachers. The blog reports that students can now shade and sketch in a whole rainbow of colors — which stemmed from a direct request from a student.

Also, with the ink math assistant, OneNote will be able to recognize if a student is doing an equation and offer them help in solving it, including showing the work they’d need to do to get the solution, PC World reports.

Skype Offers Virtual Field Trips

Video has long been a classroom staple for helping students explore outside of the classroom, but now Skype has taken it a step further with virtual field trips. The Skype in the Classroom community, which is totally free, has prerecorded adventures to national parks, the bottom of the ocean and to a variety of animal habitats, the blog reports.

The field trips are hosted by experts, who can apply to the Skype in the Classroom community to create their own field trip at any time, so the catalog is expected to grow as the school year progresses.

For a complete overview of Microsoft’s back-to-school updates, visit the blog.


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