Using AzureAD Groups To Quickly Populate Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams is the new digital classroom platform from Microsoft and I’ve already reviewed the key features recently here, but if you’re unfamiliar with it here is the official overview video:

I have recently been asked by a few secondary schools and tertiary institutes what is the quickest way to populate students into a Team. You can, of course, use the official Student Data Sync tool which will take information from your Student Management System (SMS) and populate the relationship between teachers, students and classes in a very tidy way (full guide available here)

However, if you’re after a super quick way and you’re already using AzureAD Security Groups then it’s a 5 second job to add all your students into a class. Follow the instructions below to learn just how easy it is!

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You need to start by looking at your existing Groups in the Admin Portal and making sure that you have one that reflects the students/teachers that you want to add to your Team. In the above example this is a mail enabled security group called “Demo Students” with an alias of demos@educationgate.school.nz

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Next. go to your Team in question and by clicking on the Team name (in the above example, 11 History) you will see in the above example there are only three members of the team: 1 owner and two members.  You will also see the “Add Member” option on the right

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Once you have clicked “Add Member” will have the chance to add either individual students/teachers by searching for their name directly OR you search for your AzureAD Group name – in this case “demos”. You need to select this and hit “Add”

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Note that it automatically recognises that there is four members of the group and that it will add each of these members to your Team in one go.

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Confirmation that all four members from the AzureAD Group “demos” have been added to the team.

This is a real time saver for situations where schools are already using AzureAD to populate Groups with their students/teachers. In these examples, you can add an entire class of students as easily as adding a single student.

UPDATE: A keen reader reminded me that the above method is a one time import of the Members of the AzureAD Group – it will not keep them in sync if the membership changes dynamically (to achieve this, SDS is the better option). So the above is certainly a time saver in situations where you want to do a one off import and are prepared to add/remove additional members manually at a later date.

Microsoft Education Cloud Solution: End To End Guide For Deployment

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2017 has been the year that has seen the various pieces of Microsoft’s Education offerings come together in a more cohesive, end-to-end offering that can now be deployed very easily by schools or their ICT partners.

Naturally, this is centered around Office365 and the power of the Azure cloud identity with Azure Active Directory, combined with the recent Creators Updates in Windows 10 providing a great overall solution for educators and students alike.

To the make the process of deploying this even easier, Microsoft have released a great step by step guide, with accompanying videos. The overview article, and the best place to start if you’re new to all of this, can be found at the following link:

Deploy & manage a full cloud IT solution with Microsoft Education

What is Microsoft Education?

Microsoft Education consists of these new and existing services and tools from Microsoft:

  • Microsoft Intune for Education for simple set up, control, and management of the resources for your school including apps, devices, and settings
  • Office 365 for Education provides online apps for work from anywhere and desktop apps for advanced functionality, built for working together and available across devices, and it’s free for schools, teachers, and students
    • School Data Sync to help automate the process for importing and integrating School Information System (SIS) data that you can use with Office 365
    • OneNote Class Notebook to organize course content, create and deliver interactive lessons to some or all students, collaborate and provide private feedback to individual students, and connect with major LMS and SIS partners for assignment workflow
  • Microsoft Teams to bring conversations, content, and apps together in one place and create collaborate classrooms, connect in professional learning communities, and communicate with school staff
  • Learning Tools are moving beyond the OneNote desktop app and is now available in Office Lens, OneNote Online, Word Online, and Word desktop
  • Whiteboard to create interactive lessons on the big screen, share and collaborate real-time by connecting to Class Notebook and Classroom
  • Windows 10, version 1703 (Creators Update) which brings 3D for everyone and other new and updated Windows features
  • Minecraft: Education Edition which provides an open and immersive environment to promote creativity, collaboration, and problem-solving

I’ve collated the following video guides from the individual instruction pages which are all worth checking out, with the goal of having a “one stop shop” for school IT admins to be able source all the help they need to deploy and maintain Microsoft Education.

In the following walkthrough videos, we’ll show you the basics on how to:

  • Acquire an Office 365 for Education tenant, if you don’t already have one
  • Import school, student, teacher, and class data using School Data Sync (SDS)
  • Deploy Microsoft Teams to enable groups and teams in your school to communicate and collaborate
  • Manage apps and settings deployment with Intune for Education
  • Acquire additional apps in Microsoft Store for Education
  • Use the Set up School PCs app to quickly set up and provision your Windows 10 education devices
  • Log in and use the devices

So, let’s get started with the setup process!

Set Up An Office365 Education Tenant

(full instructions here)

Use School Data Sync To Import Data

(full instructions here)

Enable Microsoft Teams For Your School

(full instructions here)

There is no video for this one, but the step by step instructions on the link above are very easy to follow along with.

Configure Microsoft Store For Education

(full instructions here)

Use Intune For Education To Manage Groups, Apps, and Settings

(full instructions here)

Set Up Windows 10 Education Devices

(full instructions here)

There is no video for this one either, however the above link shows you how to use the free Set Up School PCs App to quickly deploy new devices and join them to Azure Active Directory (AAD) – this process usually takes less than 5mins for a brand new device out of the box.

Finish Windows 10 Device Setup & Other Tasks

(full instructions here)

Conclusion

It’s now easier than ever before to quickly set up a feature rich educational environment using the Microsoft cloud offerings of Office365 combined with Windows 10 devices.

I hope the above guides help but if you have further questions, drop them in the comments section below.

Microsoft Teams For Education Is Here – And It Is Awesome

Big news from over the weekend is that Microsoft Teams, already available in commercial Office365 Tenants, has arrived in Education with all of the new features dedicated to making this app the “one stop shop” for students and educators.

Read the official launch blog post here.

There are a number of major differences in Teams for Education (which replaces the Microsoft Classroom app that was in public preview) and these are designed to streamline the workflows for students and teachers.

Assignments:

Teams Assignments 1

From assigning, through to submission and marking, assessment can be completed directly within the Microsoft Teams app.

Persistent Conversations:

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These allow students and teachers to share ideas on the fly, from anywhere and any device (iOS/Android/Windows Phones supported, along with native apps for Win10/MacOS and Browsers)

As a trained teacher, I can really see the benefit of setting up various channels for persistent conversation where links could be dropped for future reference/revision, video links for homework viewing and even just a fun channel where only semi-related content could be shared e.g. if you’re teaching a history class interesting facts about different periods of history that students enjoy but are not being covered in class could be shared.

What’s more, you can moderate content being shared in Teams persistent conversation to keep everyone safe. (Click here to learn how to run a Content Search on Teams. Click here to read ICT Admin FAQ for Teams).

Given students will be able to contribute to persistent conversations from any of their devices this opens up great opportunities for learning outside the classroom such as sharing a photo of your backyard if school is closed for snow; or take a selfie photo during term break and play “where in the world is….” with students guessing the location of each other.

Deep Integration With Other Products:

OneNote Class NoteBooks are, of course, built straight into the Teams app and this will likely be the central hub of Teams for many classrooms, with teachers populating content and students contributing their ideas and work into the Collaboration Spaces and their own sections.

However, one of the best parts about Teams is the ability to extend it with third party apps to plug in as Tabs in your team:

Teams Add Apps

Examples of some of the available apps already, with new, education focused apps being added regularly.

As blogged about earlier, the Meet Now function within Teams allows for both scheduled and ad-hoc video conferencing between students and staff.

Additionally, there are various types of Teams that can be set up and used and teachers and students can seamlessly switch between each team:

Teams Create

When creating a new Team you’re prompted for what type of Team you’re wanting to bring together to collaborate with.

The PLC (Professional Learning Communities) Team is based on the same structured inquiry based learning that was available in Groups and with the ability to add external team members from outside of your school/organisation coming before the end of the year, then these will be perfect for teachers that participate in cross-school professional development such as the Communities of Learning in New Zealand.

Omaha Schools District Case Study:

“Our students interact and socialize with a larger circle of influence than what we’ve ever had as a society. And when you look at how we prepare students for that type of environment, digital citizenship and literacy really come to the forefront. With technology in the classroom, we focus on the 4Cs – communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. Microsoft Teams really does all of them.”

I really like that focus on the “4Cs” when it comes to the use of technology in schools and using this as a way to evaluate the usefulness and effectiveness in the classroom:

  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking
  • Creativity

Ready To Get Started?

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If you’re ready to get started with Teams, then do check out this overview for ensuring Success With Teams or click one of the specific links below:

 

Planning To Deploy MS Teams? Check This Resource First

With many businesses already deploying Microsoft Teams, and many educational institutes looking to follow along once Teams for Education in Office365 is officially launched, the following website is a great starting point to successfully start planning:

Success With Microsoft Teams

The website aims to provide practical guidance on best practice tips for deploying Teams and includes:

  • A link to download planning resources
  • Video tutorials including an overview/introduction, guide for deploying/operating teams, tips for ensuring success with Teams in your organisation and a bandwidth calculator to identify what impact Teams may have on your network
  • A link to download the Teams application for all the supported platforms including Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android and Windows Phone (and of course web browser platforms).

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Screenshot of the bandwidth calculator provided on the Success With Teams website

It is good to see Microsoft putting together companion websites for a new tool like Teams to ensure that organisations can introduce it smoothly. Here’s the other info from the website:

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Screenshot of the help topics available

Using “Meet Now” In Microsoft Teams

Video

I just learnt about this feature in Microsoft Teams – the ability to “Meet Now” and have a spontaneous video conference with the added ability to do screen sharing within it.

Given that Microsoft Teams is going to be replacing Microsoft Classroom (previously in public preview for the last six months) this looks like a very handy feature for students to collaborate remotely with.

Guest Post: Integrating technology in class for great results: 6 tips from an expert

For many teachers, effectively integrating technology into their classes is the start of a journey in transforming their teaching practices. Most find challenges along the way, however there is always successes to be enjoyed when students engage meaningfully with their learning through the use of technology. Today’s post is a link to a recent article from the Microsoft Education blog where six tips from an EdTech expert are shared.

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Technology opens plentiful possibilities for students, but for teachers it can present a unique challenge. New tools should not only engage students and fit seamlessly into lessons, but also add value without taking away from the many “musts” on every teacher’s list.

Eileen Heller, Instructional Technology Trainer and Elementary Innovation Facilitator for Omaha Public Schools (OPS), is responsible for instructional technology training at 21 of Omaha’s 63 elementary schools. As a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (MIEE), she sees both challenges and opportunities in bringing technology into the classroom.

While recently working with a class of fourth-graders on Microsoft Teams (which OPS is piloting), Eileen saw first-hand how big a difference the right technology integration can make.

Read the remainder of the article here.

For those that don’t read the entire article above, below are the headings of the six tips (all expanded on in the article itself):

  1. Listen and learn from your students
  2. Shift to a student-centered environment
  3. Fall in love with the right tools
  4. Embrace instructional design
  5. Reflect and revise
  6. Showcase and share

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Azure AD B2B – Simplifying Collaboration With Users Outside Your Organisation

AAD B2BCollaboration is a buzz word that is hard to avoid in virtually every sphere of life these days, whether that is education, work environments and right through to team building exercises. This week I learnt about Azure AD B2B a new feature in Azure Active Directory that went into general availability in April 2017.

This feature solves a very real problem many organisations currently have: how to securely and easily invite users from outside your organisation and enable them to access key applications and resources that are only available to internal Office365 tenant users. Existing Microsoft customers have made it very clear that the ability to work with external partners is critical:

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I am particularly excited about this feature to enable better collaboration between schools in the Communities of Learning here in New Zealand. For those unfamiliar with what a CoL is, here is the summary:

A Community of Learning | Kāhui Ako is a group of education and training providers working together to help learners achieve their full potential. These include early childhood education services me ngā kōhanga reo (early learning services), schools, kura and post-secondary.
Each Community of Learning | Kāhui Ako sets shared goals, or achievement challenges based on the particular needs of its learners.

I’ve added the bold highlights above to focus on the fact that for these groups of schools (often 10-15 in number, clustered together geographically), and having the ability to access and share key resources is critical. This is where Azure AD B2B excels:

The key benefits of Azure AD B2B collaboration to your organization

Work with any user from any partner

  • Partners use their own credentials
  • No requirement for partners to use Azure AD
  • No external directories or complex set-up required

Simple and secure collaboration

  • Provide access to any corporate app or data, while applying sophisticated, Azure AD-powered authorization policies
  • Seamless user experiences
  • Enterprise-grade security for apps and data

No management overhead

  • No external account or password management
  • No sync or manual account lifecycle management
  • No external administrative overhead

Put in simple terms, schools can all sign into a “host” Office365 Tenant’s Azure Active Directory using their own school’s email address and password, or even a personal email address such as yahoo.com or gmail.comThis immediately removes any barriers to access of documents but retains full security and the application of policy to these external users is very easy too e.g. requiring Multi Factor Authentication (MFA) to ensure security around accessing content.

This is all explained in the following video which I do encourage you to watch through to the end to see just how easy it is to set up.

If you’re interested in getting started immediately, click this link for more information.

Other cool features (demonstrated in the YouTube video above) include:

  • Setting up a “request access” page so that external users can proactively request access and then have a nominated tenant administrator approve all requests in one go, reducing the need to manually set up external users one by one
  • Future plans exist to federate with popular third party identity providers as well such as Google/Yahoo to provide true Single Sign On (SSO) experiences.
  • Easily use AAD Groups to manage access and policy e.g. create an “External Schools OneNote” Group that teachers from other schools would be added to so that they can access and share OneNote resources (or Sharepoint, or Teams etc).
  • There is advanced feature such as MFA that can be applied, restrictions based on OS e.g. allow only iOS or Windows 10 but block Android, as well as detailed reporting around sign in and accessing of content from external users.
  • Access source code on GitHub published by Microsoft to support getting AAD B2B up and running quickly.

Setting up Azure AD B2B has a wide range of potential uses in school settings and I’m interested to see how this plays out over the next few months as it gets picked up and used by schools.