What Are Blended Learning Platforms?
Blended learning combines technology and face-to-face interaction to improve student engagement, streamline assessments and open the lines of communication between teachers and students.
Both Microsoft Teams and Google Classroom offer a core package of tools that cover classroom essentials. In Microsoft Teams, for example, students and teachers have access to Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Google Classroom provides similar applications through Google Docs, Sheets and Slides.
These online tools make it simple for teachers to send class materials, grade assignments, conduct assessments and monitor student progression.
Meanwhile, students can seamlessly collaborate with classmates, submit assignments digitally and access class materials outside of regular school hours.
Preliminary research suggests digital platforms can improve student testing outcomes. When the Maricopa Unified School District in Arizona introduced blended learning classrooms, students using the program scored higher than the district average on all six of the statewide achievement tests.
What Can Microsoft Teams for Education Deliver to Your Classroom?
A major draw of Microsoft Teams is the amount of control it gives teachers, students and administrators over their respective roles in education.
OneNote, for example, lets students and teachers compile their notes in a single, online location that can be accessed on any connected device.
Using this application, teachers can gather interactive lesson plans for each class into one hub. This makes it easy to distribute to students and share with fellow teachers.
“I really like my students to be able to get information from me instantly. Through Teams and Class Notebook, I can push materials right out to them, or I can drop class notes right into their notebook,” said Amy Welsh, chair of the mathematics department at Davidson Academy in Tennessee. “Teams is a way for students to interact, gather information, and share it right when they need it. I think Teams really embodies the way this generation uses technology.”
Microsoft Teams also helps teachers collaborate on lesson plans and school initiatives. Microsoft’s recent acquisition of Flipgrid adds built-in videoconferencing tools to Teams, giving teachers another way to connect across schools and districts.
“Being a teacher, you never have all of the answers, so it is nice to be able to collaborate with other team members, whether it be down the hall, in another part of the building or in another state,” said Cherie Scholten, a fourth-grade teacher at Picotte Elementary School in Nebraska. “Using Teams is just an easy way to get more ideas on how to reach the kids in the classroom.”
For IT professionals, Teams includes Microsoft Intune. This device management program makes it easy for staff to delegate administrative roles, centrally configure new Windows settings, collect insights on device use and security and potentially reduce device configuration time by 84 percent.
Microsoft Teams also includes SSync, a file system synchronization utility, which automatically creates student profiles within Microsoft Teams based on school roster data.
What Can Google Classroom Deliver to Your Classroom?
Teachers who use Google Classroom praise its user-friendly accessibility.
Google designed the Classroom suite to be simple to use, so teachers with less experience in technology can quickly incorporate it into their teaching.
“Google Classroom’s document sharing, data collection, communication channels and closed environment are great benefits. It’s very easy to start a classroom — helpful instructions guide you through the entire process,” according to a United Federation of Teachers blog. “Once you add students, sharing is even easier; you just send resources to the entire class.”
Classroom also offers a robust feedback component. Teachers can use the commenting tools in all of the core offerings to make notes on students’ work, from assignment to completion.
“You can comment on works-in-progress, providing help along the way. Feedback on completed work can be a two-way conversation, mirroring an in-class conference,” according to the blog. “No more illegible margin notes that students ignore.”
In a nod to the many administrative tasks that teachers must handle, Google also included a variety of classroom management tools. For example, the Classwork page lets teachers switch quickly between assignments. And with tools designed for more efficient grading, teachers can spend less time evaluating assignments and more time interacting with students.
Classroom is also compatible with numerous applications that teachers can add to their profiles to improve lesson plans. For instance, users have access to Workbench, an online platform focused on science, technology, engineering and math education content, where teachers can create and share lesson plans.
Both Google Classroom and Microsoft Teams can help teachers improve student outcomes through blended learning. Collaboration between IT leaders and teachers can be a great way to understand which program may be the best fit.