Aug 21 2017

5 Takeaways from Microsoft’s Back to School Live Event

The tech giant held the first of its Facebook Live PD events.

In just the past year, Microsoft has made great strides to expand its place in K–12 education. From the launch of Minecraft: Education Edition to the announcement of Windows 10 S, an operating system designed with teacher feedback, the tech giant has made changes to help support today’s educators.

Now Microsoft is offering educators valuable professional development on its products through Back to School Live events. The online workshops, which are hosted via Facebook Live on Microsoft Education’s page, kicked off Aug. 16 with a series of videos offering advice from educators and experts.

Here are five things we learned from the series launch.

1. Microsoft Teams Facilitates Collaboration Before Class

One of Microsoft’s latest tools for the classroom is Teams, a digital collaboration hub for educators and students alike. Michelle Zimmerman, the director of innovative learning and education at Renton Prep Christian School in Washington, explains in the video that Teams facilitates back-to-school PD for her teachers because it allows them to talk and embed resources in a cloud environment.

“Teams is one of the tools that has really surprised me,” she says. “It streamlines the process of getting back to school.”

Raanah Amjadi, the marketing manager for Microsoft Teams, says the tool is useful for groups of teachers to collaborate and receive training because of its versatility on multiple operating systems and web-based clients.

“It’s a really great way to save your inbox from the types of communications that are just quick back-and-forths,” says Amjadi.

2. Teams and OneNote Class Notebook Go Hand in Hand

Whenever an educator or administrator creates a Teams group — categorized by classes, personal learning community, staff or anyone — a OneNote Class Notebook is automatically generated for that group.

Cheryl McClure, a science teacher in Bellevue, Wash., has been using OneNote’s Class Notebooks for the last few years as a lesson planner and agenda template. Using Teams, she can more easily share the day’s agenda with the class, including discussion questions. Her students can facilitate digital conversations, including videos responses, and it’s all saved in the Notebook and Teams channel.

“If a student is absent, they know to look in Class Notebook,” she says.

With the Notebook tab in Teams, students can seamlessly navigate class discussions and reference class materials.

3. Minecraft: Education Edition Explores Computational Thinking

Early in the summer, Microsoft announced Code Builder, a tool that allows students to learn programming skills through Minecraft game play.

“You really can do it with any grade level,” Jeff Gearhart, a technology coordinator for Brinnon School District in Washington, says in the Minecraft portion of the event.

Code Builder toggles easily from drag-and-drop block coding to JavaScript, so students can continue to use the tool as their skills grow.

4. Cortana Explores the Future of AI in Education

While artificial intelligence in the K–12 sector might seem far off, Microsoft Vice President of Worldwide Education Anthony Salcito explains that by using digital assistant Cortana, students are already reaping the benefits of AI in education.

For example, when searching in Microsoft Edge, if a student right-clicks on a word or topic and asks for more information, Cortana will pull up additional resources.

Also, in Microsoft Word, students can conduct a smart lookup using Cortana to define vocabulary and discover related resources and images. The search results are optimized to whatever device the student is using.

5. Intune for Education Keeps Everything Running

With the abundance of new apps that teachers might want to use and new devices to deploy, a small K–12 IT department might become overwhelmed. But, that’s where Intune for Education comes in.

The deployment and management tool includes an option for Express Configuration, a wizard that helps set up users and devices with unique settings. IT and admins can give each student, class or district certain settings or apps that will follow students to whatever Windows 10 device they log in to.

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