Investigating SharePoint as a Learning Environment: Training

Back in December Peter Williams, Maths teacher at The City of Leicester College, embarked upon an individual innovation project to investigate the use of SharePoint (part of the Office 365 package) as an alternative Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) for the school. Peter’s project is now coming to a close, and before he submits his final reflections on the project, he wanted to shared a brief update on the training he has provided for both students and staff.

“Having spent time designing and developing our use of SharePoint, there was a clear need to run some training, initially for students on how to access and use SharePoint effectively, and then later for staff across the maths faculty and then the rest of the college on what SharePoint is and how it could be used.

Training up Students

Training students happened within the classroom. I made sure that I planned in activities which would make use of the SharePoint tools regularly so that students would have time to get familiar with SharePoint and begin using it efficiently and often, including outside of our lesson time.

I was able to then spread this training to the whole of year 9 as we run a 10 week carousel during the last part of their year. This meant that over the course of those 10 weeks I taught every year 9 maths group for 2 weeks, so I was able to put together some basic training on SharePoint which could be repeated across an entire year group.

The training lessons were very simple, I set up a handful of tasks for them to complete which introduced them to each different aspect of SharePoint very briefly.  They had an hour to work through the tasks independently, and the students really enjoyed the freedom to explore something new with the help of their peers.  They were tasked with writing an update post on Newsfeed using a specific hashtag, creating folders to store their work in on OneDrive, and accessing 3 different resources which I had created in SharePoint Sites.

This opportunity to introduce SharePoint to a whole year group at once meant that widespread use of the tools happened very quickly, and students were able to begin using these tools, particularly newsfeed, to begin interacting with one another with very little need for prompting from staff.  Many of the students quickly saw the benefit of using OneDrive for their work, and loved the fact that they had permission to use a social network within college.  My hope is that in particular the use of newsfeed will grow dramatically next year as we start extending our device per student programme.

Training up Staff

As well as using SharePoint with my classes, there was also a need to train up other members of the maths faculty on using SharePoint Sites.  The resources I have been working on were previously available on our VLE, and staff wanted to keep using them with their classes.

Because a lot of the resources I put into Sites were already familiar to staff this was done very informally, I only really needed to show them how to access Sites (which is very easy!), and they could work out the rest from there.  This was taken up really well by the rest of the faculty and it quickly became a faculty wide resource used by the majority of staff.  This easy uptake was in part due to the simplicity of using SharePoint, and in part because the staff and students were already familiar with using outlook webmail which is an integrated part of SharePoint, so they were already familiar with parts of the system.

Due to the now widespread use of SharePoint by students across the college, it also became apparent that staff from other areas of the school wanted training on making use of SharePoint.  There were a handful of staff members who were particularly interested in how to use Sites effectively to share resources, and some members of staff had already begun experimenting with OneDrive and Newsfeed to see what they were and how they might be used.

To facilitate this I teamed up with Tony Tompkins who has been working on college-wide new technology projects to organise and run some twilight staff training sessions.  I ran a session focusing specifically on the use of SharePoint for creating and sharing resources which focused primarily on using OneDrive and setting up a SharePoint site, and the following week Tony ran a session on collaborative learning tools which included using OneDrive for collaborative document editing and how to use Newsfeed effectively.

This training was well received and the staff involved have all been very positive about wanting to explore and use these tools as part of their teaching and learning in the next academic year.  I am now in the early stages of working out how to deploy these tools, particularly the use of OneDrive and Newsfeed, across the whole college, which will mean further training for both staff and students and deliberate and intentional inclusion of the tools in our teaching and learning throughout the year.

Working with new technology is often challenging, but my experience with SharePoint through this year has consistently been that once I had done the legwork in setting things up it was always very easy to train up students and staff to use the system.  I have been pleasantly surprised at how easy most jobs have been within SharePoint, and the students have generally adopted the system quickly and really enjoyed using it.”

Peter’s final project post is due over the next few weeks and will include feedback from students and staff – stay tuned!

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