Saturday, December 6, 2014

Getting to Know Office 365 with my Students

This week I signed up my students on Office 365 as part of a district initiative. I sent home a draft waiver provided for me by the district IS department. 


Office365 landing page

On the first day, I got 22 of 29 responses back, all with a “yes” answer. 

Once I had all the waivers back I created accounts for my students one at a time.  There is the option to bulk upload names of kids all at once in a CSV file, but I chose to do it one at a time so that I could assign the students’ password.  I followed a naming scheme for login ID’s designated by the district, and create a set of passwords for my class that each student would find easy to remember.  Office 365 wants an 8-16 digit password with capitals, letters and numbers.

Unfortunately, even though I assigned the password (as opposed to letting my students choose one), I left the box ticked that told them to change their password after first login.  Because we did this as a class at the same time, I instructed them how to change their password so they could easily remember it.

I asked my four students that have their own laptops (2 have laptops purchased by their parents, two with old laptops from their parents’ businesses), and showed them how to login first during our silent reading.  They logged in, with no trouble. They then distributed a set of Chromebooks on loan from CUEBC (really awesome initiative) to students who didn’t have a device.
Some kids who were watching and waiting, jumped in and logged in on the own.  Kids who could login themselves easily helped kids who were having difficulties, or who didn’t remember where to click.  To make it easy, I put a link on my teacher website.

Our first adventure related to our Math class (which is what we would normally be doing at this time).  Each student open an excel spreadsheet.
I then gave every student $1,000,000.  Using only Black Friday or Cyber Monday flyers they found online,

Using a simple formula, kids added the 12% sales tax to the sticker price of their purchase, and kept a running total as they shopped.

The rules were simple:
1.) Shop only using online flyers
2.) Always factor in the taxes
3.) Keep a running total
4.) At the end of 20 minutes, MR GILL KEEPS WHAT YOU DON’T SPEND.
Students worked independently, or formed ad hoc collaborations.  In a frantic shopping frenzy akin to the real Black Friday sales, kids feverishly scoured the flyers for deals, deals, deals.  Students bought gaming computers, tablets, and leather purses.  This was not making enough of dent in their budget, so they started buying higher end items, like watches and jewelry.  One student found a 4.5 meter tall replica of a the Transformer, Bumblebee. 
I have no idea where he found it.
When they read out numbers, I discovered they were not fluent in reading numbers above 9,999.  This needs to be revisited.   I also found that they were talking about math, and trying to estimate and strategize when they were shopping. 


Overall, we had students on Chromebooks, iPads, Android tablets, and laptops working on Office 365, and it performed well.  I noticed a little lag when Excel was performing a calculation, as did my students.  In some cases it could have been as a result of using lower powered tablet devices.  Or, it could have been our network speed at the time.  I don’t think I can attribute this to Office 365, but more testing over time will tell. 
Also we learned that you don’t have to hit save in the web app.  You can give your spreadsheet a name by using “Save As”, or by just typing it right over the word document.
Students are able to open Office365 documents using apps installed on their local devices, but then they may need to save their work as they go.  But at least it is saved in an accessible location, and needs only a browser to get to their “stuff”. 
Up next: tear-free grammar lessons, and editing dialogue with ease.

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