Digital moment - Cameron Redsell-Montgomerie
Digital Moment - Microsoft Teams
Cameron Redsell-Montgomerie, Professor in the Mathematics and Statistics Department, shares how he uses Microsoft Teams in the classroom to mirror in-personal experiences and some of his favorite features.
The Virtual Classroom
Teaching in Teams has given me the ability to mirror a lot of in-person experiences online and even enhance my classrooms. I often get asked by a group of students to work together “in the classroom” between classes, so I specifically set up my Teams meeting to allow students to arrive early and check out the “room” before I arrive, just like they would in-person. Not only do they get the comfort of working somewhere familiar, but they can also message me in the chat, and if I am available, I can pop in and give them support. This almost feels like a home room setup where the professor teaches and has their office in the same room where students often hang around, safe in the knowledge that the professor is there, if they need support. Any chat or files shared during the class are also available afterwards. There are many features in Teams that are user controlled.
Speaker coach is an optional add-on that gives the speaker private real-time feedback on what they say and how they say it. For example, it may suggest speaking slower, or pausing to allow others to speak. At the end of the meeting, the speaker receives a private report showing where filler words such as “um” and “like” are used with pointers on how to present better next time. It also provides feedback on using inclusive language.
Early on in the pandemic, Teams rolled out a feature called Together mode. You may have seen this as a gimmicky way for students to show up in a “classroom view” online, but it also brought some unexpected benefits. Together Mode cuts out distracting backgrounds, allows participants to have a new and fun way to view their whole classroom, and by default, assigns a student to a unique seat in the scene. Even if the student leaves and comes back, they will go back to that same seat. With a normal gallery view, many people, including those with attention disorders, are easily distracted by the constantly rearranging grid and have difficulty focusing on the content. Together mode ensures that participants “stay in their seats” and even allows some systems to embrace spatial audio, meaning a student in the top right sounds like they are talking from the top right.
Another unexpected improvement came when we returned to the physical classroom, with Live captions. As in-person classes resumed, I noticed a few students attending in person were also in the online live stream. They informed me that along with the ability to enable Live Captions, there is a feature in Teams that translates live captions to various different languages. For a technical subject like Statistics, I realized this was an excellent tool to support students whose native language is not English
With a number of exciting new features, such as Avatars, a UI redesign, and the deep integration with Canvas, I can’t wait to see what Teams will offer for teaching in the future.
Mohawk College is adopting Microsoft Teams as our Unified Communications (UC) platform. Microsoft Teams will become the primary collaboration tool for the college, replacing Skype for Business (Lync) as the go-to tool for instant messaging, voice and video calling and meetings. Visit the Unified Communications Strategy website for additional information.
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