OnSlow County School – providing lesson in effective hybrid learning

On August 17, 2020, the first morning of hybrid learning at Onslow County Schools, Erin Holland, a Digital Learning and Teaching Services facilitator at the school district, was prepared for a torrent of questions and issues. “In the wake of COVID-19, my colleagues and I spent the summer training teachers in the school district in a hybrid learning environment.” Rather than being inundated with requests for help, Holland’s experience was quite the opposite. “On the first day of school, I walked past classroom after classroom of teachers using Microsoft Teams to host their hybrid learning classes without a hitch.”

“I love all the accessibility features in Microsoft 365 and especially Teams. Immersive Reader and Translate are huge for us and help us support our Exceptional Children and English Language Learners.”

Stephen Taylor: Director of Digital Learning and Teaching Services, Onslow County Schools

Onslow County Schools, a district in North Carolina with 27,000 students ranging from kindergarten to grade twelve, had embraced Teams as its learning management tool for years before COVID-19 sent students and teachers home. “If you want your students to communicate, collaborate, create, and think critically, Teams, combined with the entire Microsoft 365 suite, is a powerful tool to help every learner do just that,” says Stephen Taylor, Director of Digital Learning and Teaching Services at Onslow County Schools. “Also, it was important for us to know that Teams is an extremely secure platform. We have to be aware of CIPA and COPPA compliance, and Microsoft helps give us peace of mind that we’re meeting those regulations.” Because the district had already successfully implemented Teams, it wasn’t difficult to begin using it as a remote learning platform. Holland and her colleague Christy Torres were among the 20 Digital Learning and Teaching Services technology facilitators at Onslow County School District who stepped in to provide video conferencing instruction. Teams meetings proved intuitive to use, and teachers quickly embraced it as remote learning platform. “Many counties closed for a couple of weeks, but everyone at Onslow County Schools grades three to twelve was doing live Teams calls and keeping up with classes after only one day of transition,” says Taylor.

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


Teams is also popular among educators at Onslow County Schools who use the platform to build a connected community with their colleagues. Today, Teams is the go-to platform for principals’ meetings in all 39 Onslow County educational facilities, and most schools hold regular virtual check-ins with teachers to share best practices. After collecting feedback from teachers on their experiences using Teams during COVID-19, Taylor and his team found that 85 percent said they felt well connected.

Teams is popular with teachers and students because it’s easy to learn. This is important for Onslow County Schools because the district is near one of the largest US Marine Corps base in the world, and many new students arrive throughout the year. “Teams makes it easier for new students and teachers to get adjusted quickly, and parents also find it easy to use Teams,” says Holland. “In the past, parents sometimes had difficulty helping their kids with homework because teachers used different tools. With everyone in Teams, it’s helped parents support their kids learning at home.”

Counselors use Teams to support wellness efforts at the district, such as helping students set up class schedules and giving advice. And some student clubs are holding group meetings in Teams to collaborate on projects.

Taylor and his IT colleagues used Microsoft Power Automate, a workflow automation solution within Teams, to create an app to help maintain social distancing when parents pick up students from school. “Using the app, parents drive up and scan a QR code that automatically alerts a teacher, who then sends the student out to meet their parents,” he says. “It helps avoid students congregating outside the school. We also used Power Automate and Teams to streamline the process of submitting bullying reports so that counsel.

Bringing peace of mind to parents, students, and teachers with Teams
The Onslow County School District was well placed to respond to COVID-19 thanks to its history of embracing new technology and the dedicated efforts of the IT department, led by Chief Technology Officer, Jeff Pittman. “Onslow County Schools is unique in the focus we put on technology,” says Holland. “We have 20 Digital Learning and Teaching Services facilitators, whereas other districts might have five at most.” That technology-forward approach proved valuable when schools in the district were able to respond quickly to the crisis and keep students up to speed.

In the first days of remote learning, providing consistency was important to everyone at Onslow County Schools. “Parents and kids were uncertain about a lot of things, but one thing they could be certain of was that their teachers were waiting for them in Teams,” says Torres. “That really helped settle everyone.”

For Torres and her colleagues, the ability to teach students seamlessly was a great relief. “On that first day, I started to get pictures from teachers showing me their Teams classes were working, and I even got one photo from a principal with tears in her eyes because she was so happy to see the kids were safe and learning from their teachers,” remembers Torres. For the school district, Teams has become an indispensable tool for responding to the unexpected and providing a great learning experience to students, no matter where they are.

Sammamish High School—six months of OneNote Class Notebooks

Sammamish High School—six months of OneNote Class Notebooks

adopted from https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-365/blog/2015/03/19/sammamish-high-school-six-months-of-onenote-class-notebooks/

Today’s post was written by Bill Palmer, Ed.D, curriculum developer at Sammamish High School (Bellevue School District, WA).

Sammamish High School is a public, neighborhood high school serving 950 students in a diverse suburb of Seattle. Our students come from 53 different countries and speak 42 different languages. Sammamish prides itself on having a collaborative approach to problem-solving, a commitment to teacher leadership, and a focus on college and career readiness for all students. Over the last five years, we have been shifting to a problem-based learning (PBL) in every content area (for more information about PBL check out this case study).

On the second day of school we distributed laptops with digital ink capacity to all of our students. Within a few weeks we canceled all orders of paper for the copy machines.

Sammamish High School 1

We’re now six months into using laptops and OneNote Class Notebooks and this is what teaching and learning looks like:

We asked student focus groups about the difference the 1:1 laptop program has made in their learning. What surprised us was how predominantly OneNote was featured in all of their responses:

Working on OneNote allows me to catch up on anything that I may have missed in a class by checking the Content Library. Anna

I really like the ability to handwrite notes and having them saved in a place where I can find them easily. Having digital notes makes it that much easier to organize and retrieve them later—I love having all my work in one location. Robert

If we didn’t have OneNote Class Notebooks I’d probably be failing all my classes. It’s so much easier to find my assignments and make sure the teacher sees my work. Kelsi

Using OneNote means that I get feedback from teachers more quickly than ever before, which allows me to get the help I need before big test and quizzes. Daniel

When teachers share materials in OneNote, it means I don’t have to copy all the notes down—I just get to highlight and add my thinking or reflections. It makes it easier to think during class—and I’m doing less busy work. Stephanie

The Collaboration Space in OneNote makes it possible for us to work on our group projects anywhere, anytime. Before this year we would be stuck if one group member lost the memory stick. —Colton

Teachers are starting to reflect on how their own practices have changed as a result of using the OneNote Class Notebooks. What excites me most about the implementation of OneNote Class Notebooks is how it changes the dynamics of feedback in our classrooms. Through classroom observations, student and teacher focus groups, and survey data we are seeing four emerging ways student learning benefits from real-time digital teacher and peer feedback:

  • Receiving synchronous feedback (occurring in the same time period and medium) through OneNote dramatically shortens the learning cycle, giving students immediate opportunities to correct misconceptions or move ahead.
  • Online collaboration in a PBL context allows teachers to give feedback on the process of collaboration, as well as more skillfully guide student group work before their final product is finished.
  • Student work and growth over time can be organized and shared easily. OneNote has become a digital portfolio that shows both how students have improved and the feedback or interventions that led to learning.
  • Students work is generally improved with an audience. Teachers are finding that the ability to see and provide input into student work during the class period has led to greater student engagement and reduced workload outside of the class period.

“The constant feedback provided to students as they are crafting their ideas and responses has not only prompted more students to participate in class through writing through increased accountability, but students frequently seek feedback as they have developed a sense that it will increase their understanding,” said Keith Onstot, science teacher, sharing his thoughts about providing real-time feedback through OneNote. “Interestingly, while piloting this technique, students began to request to have the teacher’s screen projected while providing feedback. Students who became stuck in class, would look at the feedback being provided to others in hopes of translating the same concept to improve their own response. This has fostered an environment where students frequently share their own feedback to small groups, further increasing accountability by not only being accountable to the teacher, but needing to participate fully to receive the best feedback possible to share with the peer group. Seeing participation levels rise, quality of written responses improve, and changing of student’s mindset on assessment from punitive to supportive have all emerged as possible consequences of implementing a routine of providing real-time feedback in class.”

Sammamish High School 2

Within a few weeks of the school year, almost all of our 79 teachers were using OneNote Class Notebooks to deliver and organize learning materials. A few months later para-educators were all using OneNote to provide individualized support to students. Six months into this year, our students tell us that they can’t imagine life without OneNote. I’ll be excited to share more about how our teaching and learning continues to transform as a result of PBL and OneNote. Thanks to the OneNote team and the work of educators like Rob Baker who pioneered teaching with OneNote.

Bill Palmer