When talking about moving over to the cloud and using cloud services I usually get ask “But WHY?”
You may be sitting there thinking “the way I use IT in my school works and meets the needs for the curriculum so why should I move over to using the cloud and Office 365?” Really the question you should be asking yourself is “why am I not using Office 365 and the cloud?”
There are many advantages of using Office 365 and it opens your school up to so many new possibilities that you probably haven’t even thought of. Recently I’ve been working with a number of schools and helping them move to Office 365. Instantly they are wondering how they ever managed before the world of O365.
I’m going to talk about some of the main features within Office 365 and how your school might benefit from using them.
When people think of Office365 they think its solely an email system. The Email app within O365 will more than likely be your most used app. It will transform the way your school works, no longer will you have to quickly nip down to the office to ask if little Timmy is having hot dinners today or have someone run round with that late afternoon school notice. A simple email will get you that information you need. It will change the way your students can interact with each other and the class teacher. You’ll be able to send out that homework quickly and your students will be able to ask you a question if they are stuck on that piece of work.
Wouldn’t it be great to get rid of that scribbled in diary or move away from the restrictiveness of the school diary within your MIS system. Office 365 will provide you with a great way of creating and sharing calendars. The calendar app within Office 365 has been what some schools have benefitted most from when initially setting up O365. Being able to have the ability to create a school diary and having it accessible anywhere, anytime and by whoever you want makes school scheduling so much easier. It’s also a great way to keep track of school resources, such as seeing if a classroom is in use or if anyone is scheduled in to use a piece of equipment. Even working as an individual, you can share your calendar with colleagues in your domain so they can see when you’re free and send you an invitation to an appointment or meeting.
Collaboration and Sharing
Once you start using Office 365 you will come to realise how great it is for sharing and collaborating with other users. You can share pretty much everything within Office 365. Sharing a document couldn’t be easier, you simply click on the share button and type in a person’s email address or a group’s email address then select if you want them to view or be an editor of that file. Simple things like school reports or lesson planning become so much easier by simply inviting a co-worker to view and edit the document with you. O365 gives you the ability to have more than one person working on a document at any one time. No longer will you have to have that document that’s emailed out stating “version 1, please check.” Then that document flying around 4 or 5 times when it finally says final version 256. A simple click on share and inviting someone to edit it then you can both edit it in real time and you’ll both see the changes.
This will change the way your children work and communicate with each other in the classroom; group work will never be the same again. Instead of having a document where one student is writing down notes about the discussion, you can have multiple students working on the same document. No longer will you have to make sure they are saving their work to the right location so it’s accessible by everyone else involved. A simple click on share and then an invitation to the appropriate people to view or edit will allow your students to work together. You are also able to track the history of the document so you’re able to see how effectively the students are working.
Ease of use
Even people within your school who are a “technophobe” will soon learn how easy Office 365 is to use. I’ve seen members of staff get excited about discovering new things within O365 and feeling proud when they’ve surpassed their boundaries.
You’ll be bringing that excitement back into the classroom by using other tools like Sway and Office Mix. Both tools are easy to use and can produce a professional result with very little effort needed.
OneDrive and cloud storage
We all dream about not having to worry about our work being backed up and being able to access it anywhere at any time. Office 365gives you that peace of mind where you don’t have to worry about backups or where your data is saved. One Drive does exactly as the name states, it gives you that one drive, that one space where you can store all your data. With Office 365 you get 1TB of space per user, this is an incredible amount of personal cloud space. As mentioned before, anything you save in your OneDrive you can share with anyone on the internet.
Included in Office 365 is an online version of your usual Office applications such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint. They are broken down versions but will do most things that you need the applications to do. It brings a fast and ‘on the fly’ way of working.
Another App included in Office 365 is OneNote. Some will argue that OneNote is Microsoft’s strongest asset. Just imagine being able to take your bookshelf and all the folders on it and being able to digitalise it without losing your great organisation of it. OneNote makes that possible. You can create that one file that recreates your whole bookshelf. You’re able to setup different sections, like your folders and then within those sections you can create different tabs, like your documents within your folders.
Overall, I think Office 365 is the perfect solution for any school. It works on any device no matter what operating system it is running. It will change the way your school is run and will also change the way your students learn.