With the Covid-19 lockdown creating unprecedented remote learning challenges for teachers and students, Microsoft has a range of online resources and ideas to help education continue outside of the normal classroom environment, writes Sam McNeill.
Learning online can be just as personal, engaging and socially connected as learning in a classroom. Students and educators can stay in touch and help each other using conversations, and can feel like they are meeting in person using live meetings. Educators can track student progress in their daily work. No one needs to feel out of touch. Many students who learn online say they feel they have more of a voice, and they feel more connected to their educators and peers than they did in the classroom.
Maintaining student engagement and focused learning can be a challenge, especially for those moving to remote learning for the first time. Educators and parents need support to help make this work. To help, Microsoft has created a ’Remote Learning Guide for students and parents’ (bit.ly/msremotelearningguide). For Educators, tools like Flipgrid, Skype in the Classroom (education.skype.com) and Minecraft:Education Edition can also help to mix up the day and give students ways to communicate and demonstrate learning in new ways.
While there are a huge amount of tools inside of Microsoft 365 for Education, perhaps the most ‘in demand’ in times of remote learning is Microsoft Teams and the great news is this is available at no cost as part of the A3 Education offering from Microsoft.
Probably the best place for educators to start is the online guide ‘Get started with Microsoft Teams for remote learning’ (bit.ly/ getstartedwithmsteams).
Microsoft Teams is a digital hub that brings conversations, content, assignments, and apps together in one place, letting educators build collaborative class spaces and create all-in-one learning environments.
Within Teams, educators can converse with students, share files and websites, create a OneNote Class Notebook, and distribute and grade assignments. School administrators and staff can stay up-to-date and collaborate using Staff Teams for announcements and topical conversations.
FREE WEBINARS – FOR HELP AND GUIDANCE IN USING MICROSOFT TEAMS AND SHARING THE REMOTE LEARNING EXPERIENCE, FREE WEBINARS AND ON-DEMAND RECORDINGS ARE AVAILABLE AT MICROSOFTTEAMS.EVENTBUILDER.COM/TEAMSEDUCATION
Remote learning with Flipgrid
Flipgrid (flipgrid.com) is a free, simple way to foster short video-based discussions on classroom topics – and supports SSO with your Office365 username/ password. Educators, learners, and families can use Flipgrid to stay connected and share learning experiences.
CHECK OUT A SIMPLE, ONE-PAGE GUIDE, REMOTE LEARNING WITH FLIPGRID (BLOG.FLIPGRID.COM/REMOTELEARNING) FOR ALL THE INFORMATION YOU NEED TO GET STARTED.
Free access to Minecraft: Education Edition
All state/state integrated schools have free licensing to Minecraft: Education Edition thanks to the Ministry’s M365 A3 deal with Microsoft, through to the end of the current agreement on 31 December, 2021.
Microsoft has also compiled a special Minecraft Remote Learning Toolkit (aka.ms/remote-learning-kit), which includes more than 50 lessons, STEM curriculum and project-based learning activities, so educators can use Minecraft: Education Edition with their students whether they are in school, at home or in another remote learning environment.
Features like classroom multiplayer allow students to collaborate on projects in their Minecraft worlds, building, planning, learning and even chatting as they work together. Download the how-to guide for using Multiplayer Mode (aka.ms/multiplayerguide).
“Distance learning requires students to be engaged in content in news ways,” said educator and Minecraft certified trainer Becky Keene. “As they work remotely, they need to have activities and environments that motivate them to learn. Minecraft supports almost any content area, and students can show me their learning without missing a beat!”
Mark Henkels, a Minecraft educator, added: “It’s the social interaction that really is a major part of why the game is so popular and great. And that social interaction is what makes the game such a great educational environment.”
The ultimate Minecraft: Education Edition Guide – Getting started
I get asked almost on a daily basis what needs to be done to get Minecraft:EE up and running. So, I’ve written a blog post – and update it regularly – to answer this question. It’s mainly as bullet points to show just the key information and make it quick to read.
READ THE BLOG AT BIT.LY/MCNEILLMINECRAFTGUIDE
Remote learning with Minecraft: Education Edition across the internet
Historically, Minecraft: Education Edition was only playable across the Local Area Network (LAN). However, with the launch of Join Codes this has opened up internet play as well. Simply sharing the code is sufficient for a guest user to enter a world, but the host does need to take some steps to allow this, which comes down to something called ‘port forwarding’.
The team at Minecraft: Education Edition have posted a great PDF guide to multi-player gaming. I’ve also explained it all in a blog guide at bit.ly/minecraftinternet
Online learning with MakeCode
Microsoft MakeCode (makecode.com) is a web-based environment for learning to code with physical computing devices, such as the micro:bit. It runs in any modern web browser.
In the online learning section (makecode.com/online-learning), there are multiple, self-paced tutorials and projects students can complete on their own, including:
MakeCode for the micro:bit: Engage in making and physical computing with the micro:bit – a small programmable device with lights, buttons and sensors. Even if you do don’t have a micro:bit at home, you can use MakeCode with the simulator.
MakeCode for Minecraft: Education Edition (minecraft. makecode.com). Use MakeCode for Minecraft to program mini-games, automated builds, and change gameplay behaviour in Minecraft.
Join the Microsoft Enable Remote Learning Community
To support remote learning in schools, the Microsoft Education team has created an open global community for academic institutions to connect with each other and Microsoft education experts, on best practices, tips and tricks, and personal learnings on how to enable distance learning for schools.
Check-in with students
Emotions can have a big impact on learning and wellbeing. Switching to remote learning can make expressing and understanding emotions a little trickier. Check-ins (bit.ly/ mscheckins) can help members of your school community feel heard, valued, and connected during remote learning.
A Microsoft Forms template (aka.ms/check-in) can help you check-in with students and provides a digital space where they can practice reflection and self-expression. You can customise the template by editing the title, description, questions, and answer options.
Don’t forget the parents and guardians
At times like this, it’s natural to focus and concentrate efforts on educators and students when it comes to remote learning, but don’t overlook the role of parents and guardians as well. ‘Distance learning with Office 365: Guidance for parents and guardians’ offers help and advice for parents in understanding how Microsoft 365 supports remote learning (bit.ly/msremotelearningguide).
It’s super important that communities come together at this time to support each other, support our wonderful educators and school leaders and ensure that our students are feeling loved and supported during these rapidly changing times.
Office 365, Teams, and other app experiences can help bridge the communication gap between educators, students, parents, and guardians, and can enable online connections and key learning outcomes when the physical classroom isn’t an option.
SAM MCNEILL IS A EDUCATION SOLUTION SPECIALIST AT MICROSOFT NEW ZEALAND.
FOR A FULL SELECTION OF MICROSOFT REMOTE LEARNING RESOURCES VISIT VISIT SAM’S BLOG AT BIT.LY/MCNEILLULTIMATE