Collaborating in O365

I’m a bit of a self-confessed geek, I love trying new things particularly when those things are technology related. Sometimes I love them and stick with it – for example my Pebble Smart Watch, other times I ditch them – for example using my iPad for handwritten notes. I’ve never been one for persevering for too long, the change needs to be seamless for me to stick with it.

Since Glow moved to an O365 tenancy I’ve been tinkering with it to work out how it can make a difference in my classes. I’ve been using my OneDrive to replace a growing number of Pen Drives and OneNote to keep track of my various to-do lists.

I decided that it was time to introduce a class to O365 and see how easily they took to the web-based Office Suite (our school is still using Office 2007 so it doesn’t tie into O365 yet). As part of our S1 ICT course we complete a research task called African Adventures where the pupils research a country in Africa and complete a group presentation. Traditionally we’ve used PowerPoint 2007 and each group member has independently complete 2 or 3 slides before e-mailing them to the group leader who was tasked with collating them and adding transitions etc. The downfall of this method is that the various pupils always overlapped on some of their slides leading to duplicate information and when the group leader was collating the final presentation the rest of the group was left twiddling their thumbs (or most likely playing games online!). There had to be a better way to do this…

Thankfully I’ve previously mail-merged the usernames and passwords to all of our pupils so that they could take advantage of the Microsoft Student Advantage program, so everyone was able to log into Glow with very little hassle. Next was how to get into O365, create a presentation and share it with the others in their group which again was very simple. The only issue that we encountered was a delay in shared presentations appearing in the Shared with me section of OneDrive. I later discovered that a link is e-mailed to all contributers almost instantly so I’ll be showing my classes how to use this method in future.

I was impressed at how quickly the pupils took to using O365 and how my workflow changed throughout the project. Around 2 weeks into the unit of work I had to attend an SQA Understanding Standards event so the night before I logged into each of their presentations and added comments to give them tips on how they could be improved.

During their ICT period the class logged into O365 and began working before the cover teacher even arrived, and at the end of the SQA course I was able to log in and check on the work that had been completed.

From the pupils’ point of view they were able to easily work on their presentations outwith the class during their free time in a way that wasn’t possible before. Several of the group arrange to ‘Meet Up’ online to work on their presentations and gave each other advice using the comments section of the presentation.

The resulting presentations were invaluable when it came to assessing each of the pupils. I was able to look at the presentations as they developed rather than just seeing the finished product. Through version history and comments I was able see which group members contributed to the presentation most and crucially for me, through the comments I was able to offer discrete, targeted support to the pupils who needed it most.

Following on from my trial with this class, I’m planning to introduce O365 to all of my own classes in session 2015-2016 and we’re planning to trial the same project again with every S1 class in faculty.

OneDrive for Business Mac Sync Client

It’s finally coming!

Any area which has been discussed on the Glow National Newsfeed and support forums is the lack of a OneDrive Sync Client for Mac…this has been the only missing piece of the puzzle for a while following the release of iOS and Android apps which complimented the original Windows Sync Client.

The good news is that Microsoft appear to be almost ready for a public release of the Mac client, infact the beta has now been released, but unlike the Office 2016 preview my advice for now would be to avoid it. The installation was fairly smooth and choosing a Sync folder was simple. The app created a folder in the location I specified called ‘OneDriveBusiness’ and pulled down all of my existing documents. However I quickly noticed that my battery was draining quicker than normal and the fan on my MacBook Air was on almost constantly (which is very unusual!) so it seems the app isn’t quite as efficient as it’s Windows counterpart yet…hopefully they get it sorted soon and I can finally have the same funcitonality on OS X as I have in Windows 7!

If you do want to give the app a try you can download it here.

O365, Glow Scotland and Mac OS X

One area that I’ve always felt is lacking on Macs is Microsoft Office. Don’t get me wrong I love Keynote, but for school work I need fully fledged Office, particularly for developing resources for the pupils and until now that’s meant keeping an old laptop with Windows on it for screen dumps or, my preferred solution, a virtual machine…that’s all about to change. Microsoft have just released their Office 2016 for Mac preview, you can read more and download it from the Microsoft Blog here.

My initial impressions are good, download and installation was very quick and it automatically picked up my O365 sign in details from OneNote and I had the option of creating a new document, opening one from my Mac or opening one stored in Glow.

The user interface is very familiar, infact it’s almost identical to Office 2013 for PC – see the screenshots below PC followed by Mac.

Powerpoint and Excel both have a equally similar layout and saving into Glow is the default option, there’s no other settings to mess around with which is great.

A quick word of warning though, the software is still a preview. There is some features that may not be there or that don’t work as expected, for example I’ve been unable to get Outlook to launch at all. For that reason I’ve kept Office 2011 installed to allow me to swap between them if necessary.