• Dave Foord
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Changing behaviour with Office 365 and Tablet Devices

Over the last week I have produced 4 posts around ideas of using Office 365 in education:

  1. Using Office 365 to create collaborative learning activities.
  2. Using PowerPoint and Office 365 to create a collaborative learning activity.
  3. Using Excel and Office 365 to create learning activities.
  4. Using Word and Office 365 to streamline assessment feedback.

The idea that I am trying to get across, is that Office 365 isn’t just a slightly newer version of the Office Suite, instead it works in a fundamentally different way, but to get the benefit from these improvements, requires people to behave differently, and with the arrival and (I predict) rapidly increasing number of Microsoft tablets within the education system – and the mobility that these devices offer – getting Office 365 to work properly is going to be key.

The main behaviour change, is reducing the number of different versions of the same file that exist in different.

For example: If I create a Word Document, and save it to ‘My Documents’ on my computer. There is one version of the file. I then email this to a colleague. There is now the version in My Documents, a copy in my sent items, and one in my colleagues inbox – so thats 3 versions. My colleague downloads the file (4 versions) and then makes some edits, saving the file to their network drive (5 versions) they email this back to me (Their sent items and my inbox gives 7 in total) – I Download this (8 versions), and save a copy (with a new name) back to my Documents (9 versions).

So – the very simple example above with me asking 1 colleague to proof read and edit a document has created 9 files without me thinking about it. If I had collaborated with more people this number could quickly run into the hundreds – which makes no sense, there is a risk of ‘old’ versions re-appearing a later date, and the total memory used up on the system (especially if a large file) costs money and slows everything else down.

If I use Office 365 and OneDrive (the new name for SkyDrive) the behaviour would be as follows:

I create a file, and save it to my OneDrive. There is now a version on my computer and a synchronised version ‘in the cloud’, I email a link to this file to my colleague, they edit this via the web interface in the cloud, and let me know when complete. I can check their edits, and if unhappy with them I can use the history option to roll back to an earlier version or discard the changes. Ultimately though – we still have the same file on my Computer and a synchronised version ‘in the cloud’. There are no extra versions loitering in mail systems or download folders.

One of the reasons why this becomes so important with tablet devices, is they rely on files being transferred via wireless – so we need to make the whole process of file management more streamlined. If I am working with a class and I want them all to access an image rich  PowerPoint file for example – for me to ‘push’ that file over the slightly ropey wifi in that classroom to 30 different devices could take 10 minutes or more, which isn’t realistic. For me to use the file sharing mechanism within OneDrive and  the students to access this via the web interface will effectively stream the content, as the students view it, rather than pushing the whole file out up front.

In the previous posts I talked about the collaborative teaching and learning opportunities this brings, and with the extra mobility and battery potential of tablets over laptops or desktops, means we can use these devices in any environment including the sports hall, kitchen, on field trips etc.

As with many of my blog posts – the key to changing these behaviours is an investment in staff development. Because Office has been around for so long, Office training is far less common – there is an assumption (which is an incorrect one) that people don’t need to be taught basic office skills. With Office 365 – there is a huge need to reinvest in training in this area, otherwise its potential will not be unlocked.

At the moment I am working with a company called The Tablet Academy who provide training and consultancy around the use of tablet devices (Apple, Android and Microsoft) in education. If any Schools or Colleges in the UK (including Scotland) purchase 20 or more Microsoft tablets (including ones made by other companies) they are entitled to free training, provided by someone from the Tablet Academy (only downside is the current offer is only for training that is delivered before the 31st March 2014). If you work for a school or college in the UK and have purchased such device recently and your reseller hasn’t mentioned the free training offer then contact the Tablet Academy who will chase this up for you.

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Why are paint tins round? (and what has that got to do with e-learning?)

I have recently decorated a bedroom at my house, and as part of the process we visited the local DIY store to choose and buy paint. something that I noticed whilst doing this was most of the tins of paint were in traditional round tins but about 20% are available in rectangular containers. This made me think, and I realised that a rectangular container is far more sensible than a round one – they stack more efficiently on a shelf so easier for the shop to store and display; they will occupy less room on a lorry so better for the environment; for the user like me if I am using a roller I can dip this straight into the can if I want so all in all a far more sensible vessel than a round tin. so why is it 80% of the paint on offer still comes in round tins? well it is probably the old situation of human beings not liking change ‘it has always been in a round tin so should stay in a round tin’.


Paints

Originally uploaded by Abhisek Sarda

So what is the point of this tale. Well when we look at e-learning, there are a small percentage of people that are prepared to challenge the norms and this is essential for progress to be made especially whilst the technology is changing so rapidly, but there are still a lot of people who are not keen on change and whilst these are in the majority then their behaviour will remain the norm (like the 80% of round paint tins) and although not deliberate they are in effect stifling progress. so what is the solution? as we enter more difficult financial times most senior managers will tighten their financial belts and restrict anything that isn’t proven but a few (possibly through financial necessity) may create a culture in their organisations where risk is not just allowed but rewarded, and in these places the norm may be to ‘challenge the norm’ and then real progress can be made.

So although recession is a bad thing for everyone I do genuinely believe that some educational good may come out of it.