After completing the 2019–2020 school year, Onslow County Schools worked through the summer to prepare for school openings on August 17. This time, however, the district opted for a hybrid teaching mode with students spending part of the week learning at home and part of the week in school. “We wanted to keep the focus on instruction,” says Holland. “With Teams, teachers can provide direct instruction to both groups of students synchronously, and they can monitor student progress every day. That element of consistency was incredibly important.”
In the months before schools opened for the 2020–2021 school year, Holland, Taylor, Torres, and their other team members, Jason Laurence, Angie Conklin, Gretchen Robinson, and Sachelle Dorencamp went on a “road show,” highlighting how hybrid learning in Teams could work. “The first principal who watched our hybrid learning demonstration looked at us when we were done and said, ‘I feel like I can breathe now.’ That was when we knew it was going to work,” says Holland.
Today, teachers across the district use Teams on their Windows 10 laptops for video calls with at-home students and a SMART Board or projector for writing notes or demonstrating concepts. Using the dual-screen capability in Teams, teachers can share the SMART Board with students at home, while in-person students participate in the class from a safe distance. The teacher can also use the multiwindow capability to see students at home, who use the raise hand feature or the meeting chat to contribute to discussions.
“That’s the best part of Teams for me,” says Holland. “It’s great to see a teacher talking to their class and then hear a voice from an at-home student chime in and contribute. That was a big focus for us, making sure students didn’t lose emotional and social connections to their peers just because they were joining a class from home.”
Teachers can use breakout rooms to pair in-person and online learners together for projects. “Elementary school teachers in particular enjoy using Together mode to make sure that younger students can see their friends and participate in classroom learning together,” says Taylor. “Teachers also find the Teams assignment feature extremely helpful. When they assign work, they can provide resources and monitor timelines right from the app.”
And, with Education Insights, an analytics tool in Teams for understanding students’ participation, teachers gain insights that help them make sure all students are learning and staying engaged. “Insights lets you quickly see who is engaged and who isn’t,” says Taylor. “It always helps when you’re talking to students or parents about participation to have a dashboard to help visualize and explain.”
Taylor and his colleagues are excited about new Teams functionality such as the spotlight feature, which allows teachers to feature an individual participant’s video for everyone to see, no matter who is speaking. Accessibility tools in Teams like Immersive Reader and Translate are also gaining traction across the school district. “I love all the accessibility features in Microsoft 365 and especially Teams,” says T