Skip to main content

Help, (Teams), I need somebody...

I was thrilled that this year the Math Department has decided to move fully on to Microsoft Teams to provide Math Extra Help.  While we'll continue to provide face-to-face drop-in help during lunch, students in any course can post a question on the Math & CS Team, in whichever channel corresponds to their course.
Microsoft Teams is freely available to everyone so any school (or individual teacher!) can give this a try.  If you already have Office365 it should be an option (although your IT department may have turned it off!  If you don't see it, ask!).  Anyone can sign up for their own Teams space just by clicking on the link above.

Microsoft Teams, in case you haven't encountered it yet, is a conversation space that brings in all manner of collaboration options.  Picture an organized Facebook.  Within each conversation space, you get a file space too (picture a "google drive" attached to every Whatsapp group, say) along with being able to plug in whiteboards, Skypes, Flipgrids, OneNotes, you name it.  And, heaven help you, both students and teachers can use emojis, stickers, memes and gifs (although less social IT departments can turn this off).
We created a Team, Math & CS Team, and made all the math & CS teachers as Owners of the Team and then added all the students so it's just there for them, without them doing anything.  You could also just create a join code to give to them to have them self-subscribe.  Students can Favourite their course so that it is always near the top and they can get notified if there is new content there.  Of course, the name always goes bold if there is new content anyways.
We like the Teams interface since it is so easy to do a screen clip in OneNote and paste it right into a message -- you can show all your mathematical workings, including graphs and sketches so that folks helping can pinpoint where you may have gone astray.

As I mentioned, although the main (driving) part of Teams is the Conversations, you can add anything to the space. Notice across the top the tabs for "Conversations", "Files" (any attachment to a message gets stored here) and "Scratchpad".  So, one thing I added to my channel (Grade 10 Math - MPM2D) was its own OneNote Scratchpad so I would always have access to a #digitalink scratchpad in case I wanted to actually write math (typing can be slow, error-prone and, well, infuriating to do math).  I can quickly copy & paste my scribblers back into Teams, or link to the page so the student can get at it.  It's open to everyone so it's effectively a collaborative whiteboard space.

I think the most long-term power in using Teams is the little video-camera button when you go to Reply to an item.  This immediately jumps you into a Teams (Skype) call allowing you to share whiteboards in a synchronous space, making a solid, easy bridge between the asynchronous and synchronous spaces.  AND once you're done with the F2F (well, online) conversation, it attaches a video/screencapture and chat log of the online discussion for later review!  You could always just do a Video Reply with yourself, making it an instant screen capture posted right to Teams!

Our long term goal is to coach all students to provide support to their colleagues; while teachers will always be active in the Team, making sure the answers are constructive and correct (and coaching when they are not, rather than just correcting), it is always more powerful to have students help other students. They both learn from the encounter.
Instructions in OneNote for Middle School Students
There's also a very convenient phone app for both Android and iPhone/iPad ... I remember doing Christmas shopping while answering students' questions via the app!
One of the biggest concerns was that Teams is not anonymous -- so we provide a back door for students not willing to post their challenges publicly, though.  They can email the question to their teacher, who then posts it to the channel.  While we always want to encourage folks to be public about their errors (we're a school, after all) that is still an uphill battle.
We started this discussion group process with Yammer, another option in Office365, many years ago ... it was effective for the teachers that used it and the results there really helped motivate the rest of department to agree to give Teams a try.  It's just another reminder to let trials run their course; it takes time for teachers to feel comfortable that a new approach is going to make a difference.


Popular posts from this blog

Escape Room / BreakOut in OneNote

[[Part 2 of this article is here: Link] ] So when I was visiting  Anna in Edinburgh  during March Break, she showed me how she used Password-Protected OneNote sections within the OneNote ClassNotebook to help students check their work -- she set the password to the correct answer, so they knew they had it right when the Section opened up. I figured I could use this for Math Review, so I set aside a couple of hours (turned out to be 3 hours but a fair chunk of that was solution-time) the other night to put an Exam Review together for my Grade 10 Mathematics course.  I pulled together as many multiple choice questions and short answer questions on the topics as I could Google and tried to balance each Section with a mix of topics and then threw in a couple of pop-culture questions, too.  The students worked on the problems in each section and used the answers as passwords to unlock the next section until they got to the Prize section. Result?  Near total continual engagement

So you want to hack your OneNote Class Notebook

Taking a brief break from my "Getting Started with OneNote Class Notebook" series (you can start that one here )... This is a little advanced so if you're not comfortable setting permissions inside of Office365 you may want to avoid this.  Or set up a Class Notebook to play with so that it doesn't affect any existing Class Notebooks.  Yeah, the latter is a good option. One of the great powers of OneNote is that you can do some really neat permissioning of the Section Tabs. When the Notebook is created, of course, it gives you an "open permissions" on the Collaboration Space and student-read-only on the Content Library.  And then each student space is wide open to each individual student. But we've found that occasionally you want to mix up the permissions a little.  For example, you could create a space in a student section for your private notes that the student couldn't see, or maybe you want a tab in the Collaboration Space that students cou

Desmos, OneNote & Replay

So using Desmos activities are a great way to encourage exploration and discussion in math class -- if you haven't tried them, I encourage it.  They're collected at  But ... Desmos doesn't give you quite enough.  It doesn't have a way of capturing the work that the student does within their space, and it doesn't allow for annotation of class contributions as we come together to discuss.  Well, not surprisingly, OneNote comes to the rescue.  Using the Windows shortcut Windows-Shift-S it is really quick to snag the Desmos screen and pop it into a waiting OneNote page.  From there, we can grab our pen and (using wireless projection) talk about what all the different responses mean and where to go from there. (An aside : one of the nice features of Desmos activities are the way you can hit PAUSE and it will pause all the screens of the students working.  I always give them a heads up "10 seconds to pause..." and it's refr