Microsoft for Education

Continuing on the trend of technology integrated into education, Microsoft has launched a new classroom platform to further shape current and future classrooms through digital workspaces.

Since its founding in 1975, Microsoft has proven itself as the leading developer of personal-computer software systems and applications.

In 2011, with strict competition from Google, Microsoft Office 365 reached general availability and brought together its online services to then create the now-successful and widely used Office 365. Over the course of 5 years, Microsoft has gone on to expand Office 365 services through providing packages for small business, medium size business and even large businesses, etc. It’s even being used more and more by colleges and universities.

Through the Student Advantage Program, students at major research universities, like the University of Georgia, are able to have free access to the full version of Office 365 ProPlus during their tenure at the University of Georgia.

In April 2016, Microsoft launched Microsoft Classroom, stitching together tools from already widely-sued Office 365 and other learning management partnerships.

Google Classroom has already proven to take classrooms by storm, and the hopes for Microsoft classroom are the same. However, because of its inclusion of the already proven successful Office 365, there are some differences in the two educational platforms that could potentially tailor one over the other.

The big plus, it’s free for all Office 365 Education users.

The basics of Microsoft Classroom

What makes Microsoft Classroom unique is that just like Google Classroom, it operates like a learning management system. It has some similarities to what Google already offers, yet has some key differences that make it synonymous to Microsoft.

Just like Office 365, apps like Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneDrive are all available to be used.

What makes it unique

What separates Microsoft Classroom from Google Classroom is Microsoft Classroom comes with the capability of being integrated with other learning management systems including Edmodo and Brightspace.

This is a key plus because this allows for “grades on assignments to be delivered via Classroom can automatically feed into supported third-party gradebooks,” according to EdSurge.

Perhaps what sets Microsoft Classroom apart from anything else is the School Data Sync feature that allows a schools’ student information system, like Infinite Campus, to automatically update individual class student rosters within Microsoft Classroom.

Comparing Google to Microsoft

 

Feature Google Apps for Ed. Microsoft Office 365
Browser Chrome Internet Explorer/Edge
Word Processing Docs Word
Spreadsheets Sheets Excel
Presentations Slides PowerPoint/Sway
Email Gmail Exchange/Outlook
Pages Sites Office 365 Sites/SharePoint
Drive storage Drive OneDrive
Instant messaging Talk Lync/Skype/Yammer
Video conferencing Hangouts Lync/Skype
Social networks Google+/Groups Yammer/ So.cl
Notes Keep OneNote
Native search engines Google Search Bing/Fast Search
Service status dashboards App status dashboard Office 365 service health dashboard

(Chart produced by campussuite.com)

So, which one is better?

Both Microsoft for Education and Google Apps for Education provide many services that cater to the growing needs of students and educators. Both are continually being worked on to evolve to become more user friendly and technologically savvy.

Microsoft, having just been launched allows educators full access to Microsoft applications they are all potentially comfortable with using. One other key advantage to Microsoft Classroom is the Professional Leading Center (PCL) feature, that provides educators with ability to interact with other professionals.

Google Classroom, on the other hand, has been pretty widely used since 2014. One thing that might keep users away is that it is only offered as a web-based platform, so if internet capabilities are down, so is Google Classroom.

Both platforms provide adaptability, efficiency and interactivity. Ultimately, it comes down to which one you are more comfortable with using.

 

 

Longform: Technology in the eyes of student teachers

It’s true, technology is all around.

In today’s world, people have supercomputers in the palms of their hands. It isn’t hard to pay a bill on a mobile application, post latest whereabouts to the social media outlet of choice or even stay up-to-date with the most recent news in such a charged social climate.

One of the most recent trends is seeing technology creep past the cinderblock walls of classrooms across America.

Integrating technology in classroom instruction is more than just teaching basic computer skills—it is an effective way to further enhance the learning process across the board. Whereas 15 years ago, students were still assigned textbooks and wrote notes by hand, today’s students read textbooks online and take digital notes on school-lended technologies.

The Athens-Clarke County school system has implemented instructional technology goals system-wide, with the emphasis of moving all of their schools closer to a 1:1 ratio–that is, 1 piece of technology per every enrolled student.

Clarke County schools refer to their technology plan as “Learning Technologies,” which is described as the “application of technology for the enhancement of teaching, learning, and assessment.” Learning technologies look different among every grade level.

For example, among the middle school grades, technologies used in Clarke County schools vary from Google Classroom to Socrative to even learning to code.

Teachers already inside the classrooms aren’t the only ones who are having to adapt to learning new educational technologies. Thousands of college students enter the cinderblock walls of classrooms across the nation every day to gain field experience through student teaching. Not only are student teachers having to learn how to manage a classroom in one semester, they are also having to learn how to adapt–quickly–to the increasing trends of implementing technologies into lesson planning and curriculums.

The University of Georgia is home to one of the leading colleges of education in the United States. In fact, several student-teach in the Athens-Clarke County School System.  

Logan Fetters, 21, a secondary English language arts and math primary education major, from Canton, Georgia, currently student teaches at Clarke Middle School in Athens, Georgia. Although Fetters thinks having technology inside the classroom is beneficial, in her experience, she’s also discovered a lot of negatives that can hinder her students’ learning.

At Clarke Middle School, students are loaned laptops at the beginning of each school year and must return them at the end of the same school year. Students are tasked with charging laptops at home every night and bringing them back to school the next day so that they can adequately perform tasks assigned every day.

Logan Fetters, 21, from Canton, Georgia, currently student teaches at Clarke Middle School. Every school year, students are loaned a laptop to finish class assignments and complete various tasks, including homework.
Logan Fetters, 21, from Canton, Georgia, currently student teaches at Clarke Middle School. Every school year, students are loaned a laptop to finish class assignments and complete various tasks, including homework.

“[There will be] at least one student in every class who either doesn’t have a computer or doesn’t have a charger for their dead computer,” Fetters said. “So, if they don’t have a computer or charger, they cannot participate in the activity.”

Even though Fetters doesn’t use technology with her students every day of the school week, she still has had a learning curve adjusting to what technologies are available to use. Fetters wasn’t trained on anything in her college classes, so she’s had to rely on her mentor teacher to show her how to best utilize educational technology.

“I know I’m supposed to be from the technology generation, but I struggle sometimes with using the computer for education purposes for my students,” Fetters said. “My mentor teacher is also older, so she didn’t grow up with technology and doesn’t have positive emotions towards using technology.”   

Fortunately for Fetters, technology is not implemented into every day’s lesson plans. She says they use computers inside the classroom about once a week. As a future teacher, she appreciates the exposure she has received on how to use technology, but in reality, has realized that it can be hard to manage a classroom full of students at the same time.

“It’s hard to make sure every student is on task,” Fetters said.

As a soon-to-be teacher, Fetters appreciates the exposure she has already gained with use of technology in the classroom, but would ultimately love to use games, like Desmos, to excite students about learning certain subjects, like math.

Emily Smith, 22, a middle grades education major, from Valdosta, Georgia, is one of those students. She is currently student teaching at Hilsman Middle School in Athens, Georgia, where she is emphasizing in social studies and English language arts. Hilsman Middle School is one of Clarke County school system’s 1:1 schools.

Just like Clarke Middle School, Hilsman Middle School students are issued a computer that they use for the duration of the school year.

Their technology of choice: Google Chromebooks.

Like Fetters, Smith had no formal educational technology training in any of her college education courses, so she has had to figure everything out as she goes along.

Smith has found that the daily use of Google Classroom has allowed a more mainstream approach for both herself and her students.

“Basically everything is done on computers,” Smith said. “Most students keep an online notebook assignments are posted and submitted in the Google Classroom, and videos on the drive are shown on the smart projector.”

As an English language arts emphasis, Smith has also found that utilizing Google Classroom and smart boards are extremely useful. For example, Smith feels that smart boards assist in underlining important things to note or working on grammar in an English class.

Smith finds many positives with implementing technology into her future classroom. However, one thing holds her back from time to time.

The one hindrance to everything being based on a computer is not handwriting anything–even notes.

“Students tend to retain less because they are not handwriting,” Smith said.

But, like Fetters, the biggest worry for Smith is the distraction that technology enables.

“The biggest hindrance is that it is so easy to become distracted,” Smith said. “Many students will play games on their computers instead of working and many get away with it because everything is done on the computer anyway.”

Overall, Smith is still passionate about implementing the technologies she has adequately learned while student teaching, especially the interactivity smart boards and projectors provide for English lessons.

Even with learning curves for future teachers, like Fetters and Smith, one thing is for sure: technology makes things easier for the students.

Recent trends in educational technology

Technology is everywhere. It is ubiquitous and has the capability of connecting us to others within a matter of seconds.

As we become more interconnected through the use of different technologies, the more technology is being integrated into classrooms and curriculums across the United States.

Integrating technology in classroom instruction is more than just teaching basic computer skills—it is an effective way to further enhance the learning process across the board.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, technology ushers in fundamental structural changes that can be integral to achieving significant improvements in productivity.

School systems across the country are implementing “Bring Your Own Technology” initiatives, allowing students to bring their individual technologies to work on in the classroom.

Blended Learning

According to the US Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology, “In a blended learning environment, learning occurs online and in person, augmenting and supporting teacher practice. This approach often allows students to have some control over time, place, path, or pace of learning. Blended learning often benefits from a reconfiguration of the physical learning space to facilitate learning activities, providing a variety of technology-enabled learning zones optimized for collaboration, informal learning and individual-focused study.”

Schools are implementing blended learning into their curriculums differently.

In order for blended learning initiatives to prove a success, the curriculum used within the classroom has to be designed in such a way to allow technology to supplement what students are already learning. Blended learning is a success when there is a common goal that both the student and teacher work towards together.

Founded in September 2006, Khan Academy is a non-profit educational organization that allows students and teachers to supplement what has been taught within the classroom through practice exercises, instructional videos and personalized learning.

Khan Academy provides tutorials and supplemental material in most every subject for every grade level—math by grade, computer science, economics, science and engineering, as well as SAT, MCAT, and AP exam test prep. The best part about it is it’s free.

Google and the Classroom

Chromebooks

        Chromebooks are becoming widely used within the classroom for many reasons. First, they are a more cost-effective alternative compared to an iPad. Chromebooks cost about $200 compared to the iPad at around $400. Chromebooks are known for their durability and the integration of Google Apps for the Classroom.

Google Classroom

        Google Classroom is a free platform that integrates Google Apps for Education with widely-used Google Apps—including Google Docs, Gmail and Calendar. Google Classroom allows for less paper, easier turn-around, enhanced communication and organization and is free for those who use. Teachers can set up individual classrooms for each period of students they teach and within a matter of minutes, post homework assignments and reminders for their students.