It seems there isn’t one aspect of our daily lives that hasn’t been impacted by the global Covid-19 pandemic and education is no exception. Schools, training institutes and colleges & universities have all been closed in a collective effort to keep people safe. The result is a massive transformation in how education is being delivered.
Teachers are looking to establish virtual classrooms where they can continue teaching students via videoconferencing. In some cases, parents have taken on the responsibility of teaching the curriculum at home. In each scenario, educators are forced to adapt to a dramatically different new world than what existed just a month ago.
As a parent and former teacher, I know firsthand the challenges that present themselves when trying to transition students to a foreign learning environment. Should you find yourself in this situation, I have some good news for you – you’re not alone and we’re here to help.
There are a handful of incredibly helpful tools that can ease the transition to a remote learning environment. In some cases, they may even offer better options than traditional classroom learning. Here are three tools that will help the transition to remote learning.
1. Microsoft Office Lens
Microsoft’s Office Lens is a free scanning application available on PC and mobile devices. The application enables you to capture a document, hand-written notes, information from whiteboards or blackboards or anything with a lot of text (including photos) – from the real world and bring it into the digital world without the need to manually retype it. Your scanned files can be converted to PDF, or an editable Word or PowerPoint file; and those file images can also be saved to OneNote or OneDrive. It is then possible to share those image files via email or text.
Office Lens represents a quick and easy way to capture a non-digital file, bring it into the digital world, and then share it in a document for your students or colleagues to read and edit if necessary. Printed and handwritten text will be automatically recognized using OCR (object character recognition), so you can search for words in your captured images and edit as required.
Looking for a practical example? Let’s say you are teaching a section on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and you want a student to examine and comment on an excerpt. With Office Lens, that students can quickly capture that passage from the textbook and convert it to an editable digital format. Now they can insert notes and comments into that text without having to type it out.
2. Microsoft Teams in education
Microsoft Teams in education is a secure, cloud-based platform that allows for seamless communication and collaboration within a small or large group of educators and students. With Teams, you can conduct lessons, connect with students – either as a class, or peer-to-peer, distribute, grade and provide feedback on assignments, or collaborate with a colleague. The application also enables both educators and students to share, edit and co-author documents anywhere, anytime and on any device.
Teams is an excellent tool that not only brings together students live, through a virtual classroom enabled by videoconferencing, but allows them to be truly engaged in learning with multiple paths to stay connected to their peers and teachers. Specifically, Teams enables:
• Active conversations with students via live chat, video conferencing or audio calls
• A communal workspace for active collaboration and sharing of ideas
• A repository for creation, sharing and storing of class resources
3. One Note Class Notebook
Creating, sharing and managing assignments/tests/quizzes is one of the biggest challenges in a remote learning environment. The concern is often whether it will still be possible for students to work effectively on these tasks as well as continue projects with a partner or in a group. With Class Notebook, the answer is a resounding yes!
With Class Notebook, you can create a personal notebook for every student that can only be shared between the teacher and each individual student, as well as a content library for student-specific handouts, lesson notes, subject/course readings, permissions forms and other supportive documents. A third component of every Class Notebook is the collaboration space. This section is designed where everyone, teachers and students alike, can share, organize and collaborate on communal work and activities.
Class Notebook allows you to keep everything in one place and utilize its powerful search engine to find and retrieve what you’re looking for. It even allows students and educators to incorporate handwritten notes, sketches, videos, and images in documents or assignments. One of the best features is that like Microsoft Teams, you can access your content anywhere, anytime, and from any device.
These three tools will not only be useful in the short term but will also help you get a head start on the classroom experience of tomorrow. Nobody knows what the lasting impact of our current crisis will be, but history has taught us that innovation brought about in times of crisis tend to stick around.
We may be at the beginning of an evolution in the way we deliver education; and these tools will undoubtedly be the bedrock upon which the change is built.
If you would like to learn more about how these tools can benefit your learning environment, don’t hesitate to reach out. I would be happy to discuss it with you. For more information, visit this page.