By Charlotte Fourie
For the first three years of being an IT and CAT teacher, I scheduled extra classes for learners who missed lessons (you know, those that always have to leave school early for sports and that one learner who is always sick) and extra workshops for learners at risk on Saturdays or during holidays, but at the start of this year, I just couldn’t handle the extra work anymore. I had twin babies at home and time just ran out. “Catch-up” classes had to go.
I have been using Teams for education actively in all my classes since 2017, but for the first two years it was still a developing App, not really that well known (in my circles anyway), with regular updates and new features – most of them I didn’t really have time to explore and I only got to know those features I would stumble upon by accident (that’s also how I started using Teams – by being supposed to use OneNote in a workshop and seeing a purple, interesting-looking icon). I am a millennial and we’re a bit lazy when it comes to reading up on “how to’s”. One of these accident-stumbles changed my life at the start of 2019.
I have been struggling to get a decent projector for my classroom, which is huge with learners sitting in a U-shape against three walls of the class (the back is about 17 meters from the front wall where I project the screen). As I demonstrate code in Delphi on my laptop and project it on the wall, it became a real barrier to learning when none but the three learners in front could see what I type – not to mention the four unlucky souls sitting with their backs to me 17 meters away. As it happened, I stumbled upon the Meeting-feature in one of my classes’ conversations-portal in Teams by accident one day, started a meeting and saw the “share” icon. I just clicked it to see what will happen and saw all my open apps (screens) as options. I selected one and instant music in the background, fireworks overhead, streamers falling form above! I could share an app on my desktop in the meeting!
The next class I had, IT grade 10’s, were the first guinea pigs. As they all have Teams installed on their desktops, the App opens automatically when they sign in to the computers. I made a meeting in the Team site, shared my desktop and instructed the learners to join the meeting. Instant exclamations followed as each learner saw my desktop (the Delphi program we were working on) on their own screens. I quickly showed the learners how the split their desktops (Windows Key + arrows) and we worked at double speed! After that, at the beginning of each class, a learner would ask shyly “please create a meeting, ma’am?”, until it was such a part of my lesson that I already started the next meeting while the next class was entering and everyone knew to join the meeting and split their screens.
My next breakthrough came a week or so after that revolutionising lesson when I saw the “start recording” option in the meeting and thought to try it. I actually recorded my whole lesson! After the “teaching” part of the lesson was over, I stopped recording, unshared my screen, left the meeting and the recording of the lesson was left in the conversations tab and uploaded to Microsoft Stream – automatically! After that, I think I kind of became a meetings-professional – and definitely a meetings-addict. I learned to give my meetings clear names, like “SQL Act 3.2” or “Loops validation Example” to make it easier to search for later. We also added meeting notes at one time, but I couldn’t teach and make notes at the same time and we just stopped doing it.
And here’s the evidence: all the lesson recorded and accessible by all the learners in the specific Team at any time in conversations or on Stream.
Gone are the days of having to give extra classes to students who were absent! I have had learners who are sick at home, join a meeting on their smart phones and watch the lesson as I give it, learners who were absent because of sports use these recordings to catch up on what they missed in class and learners who use the videos as revision before tests. It truly is liberating!
I have ordered a decent microphone so that I can stand up from behind my computer and my voice will still be recorded in the meeting. I have even had learners request that when I leave for maternity leave in November, we schedule meetings during their periods, and I can stream the lessons from home while they join in class. Why not?
The Teams Revolution is here.
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