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Teachers are busy people. They must keep up to date with changes in their curriculum, teaching and learning styles, and continue their own learning path. Getting help from peers and leveraging each other’s best practices can be a big time saver.
That’s why educators can form Professional Learning Communities (PLC) to work together and to improve their professional skills and teaching methods. The communities encourage a culture of collaboration between their members. PLCs often extend their networks beyond their originating schools, to educators from other schools, other communities and even other countries. This results in ‘learning for all’ – for students and for the teachers themselves. If technology has a role to play in this, then the tools that teachers use must be simple and easy to access.
Microsoft has developed Office 365 Groups, a way of bringing people together to communicate, collaborate and coordinate through a simplified set of services. Members of the education sector have become the keenest adopters of Office 365 Groups, and when a PLC uses an Office 365 Group, community members can quickly get on with working and communicating together. Members are not hindered by cumbersome tools or access difficulties.
But, simply put, you can get started with a PLC Group by,
- Visiting your Office 365 Mail (Outlook) in your web browser.
- Creating a new Group choosing the Professional Learning Community template.
Once you have created a PLC Group and invited your members, here are 5 tips to encourage a supportive, collaborative community:
1. Subscribe to updates from the PLC group.
When your group organizes events and meetings, make sure you automatically add them to your personal calendar. Subscribe to updates from the group and you’ll also receive a copy of conversations in your own Inbox. To subscribe to the group:
- Visit Outlook in your web browser and open your PLC group.
- Click the Joined menu and choose Subscribe to this group by email.
2. Favorite your PLC group.
If you belong to several groups and classes, make your PLC group easy to find. It will appear at the top of your of groups, wherever groups are listed. To favorite your PLC group:
- Right click your PLC group and choose Add to Favorites.
3. Pass it on.
Sometimes you’ll receive an interesting email conversation or attachment from someone outside your PLC. If you think it might be of interest to your PLC, share it. Forward it to the group. Every PLC group has an email address. Then start a conversation about it by replying to the email from the group conversations.
4. Sync your PLC Notebook to your device.
Take PLC groups with you wherever you go. Open and sync the notebook in the OneNote app on your mobile, tablet, PC or Mac. You can quickly and easily add ideas, pictures, research, photos, audio notes and more. The PLC group notebook is full of guidance to get started. Customize it to suit your PLC’s needs and literally keep you all on the same page.
5. Sync your PLC group files to your PC or Mac.
We aren’t all confident with navigating to where our PLC group stores their files. Make it simpler for yourself to access group files, save them and even co-author the content. Sync your PLC group files using the new OneDrive sync client on your PC and Mac.
There are many more ways that a Professional Learning Community can use Office 365 Groups, but their greatest benefit is saving time and lowering barriers for working together. Look for 5 more tips for collaboration in PLC groups in the near future on the Microsoft in Education blog.
Our mission at Microsoft is to equip and empower educators to shape and assure the success of every student. Any teacher can join our effort with free Office 365 Education, find affordable Windows devices and connect with others on the Educator Community for free training and classroom resources.
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