Nayland College Case Study: $150,000 Savings Moving To Microsoft Cloud Platforms

This blog is re-posted content from the original Microsoft Case Study that you can read by clicking here.

Nayland College was using Google Apps for Education to reduce the need for on-premises servers and software, but the solution was not meeting its needs. So the school chose to migrate to Microsoft Office 365. The new software was so well received by staff and students that the migration finished well ahead of schedule. The school now has access to a powerful suite of teaching and learning tools, and it saved $150,000 (NZD) on hardware. Microsoft partner pcMedia facilitated the migration with its cloud and education expertise.

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Taking first steps into the cloud

Nayland College in Nelson, New Zealand, offers its 1,000 students a curriculum of inspirational learning programs designed to prepare them for scholastic and professional success in the modern information economy. The school takes pride in its state-of-the-art educational facilities and its talented, dedicated teachers. Nayland has a leading-edge cabled and wireless IT infrastructure designed to provide the school community with easy access to the its technology resources.

Nayland wants to make sure that those resources include the tools that both teachers and students need to succeed. “We want our students to develop the twenty-first-century skills they need to excel,” says Daniel Wilson, Principal at Nayland College. “And we want our teachers to have strong professional development programs so they can provide students with the learning opportunities that will cultivate those skills. We also want to make sure that our infrastructure is able to keep up with technological changes so it continues to meet our requirements.”

In 2015, Nayland decided that its existing IT systems were not meeting those requirements. The school had on-premises software and servers that were costly to maintain and update, and they could not provide features like remote access to files and lessons. To address these concerns, Nayland adopted the cloud-based Google Apps for Education (GAFE) suite, while still maintaining an on-premises student management system (SMS). However, the solution proved to have some drawbacks. “The online tools weren’t meeting the needs of our teachers,” says Wilson. “The functionality of Google Docs at the time was limited, and it couldn’t integrate with our SMS, which was a problem for us.”

Finding a better solution for the school

Because of the drawbacks of GAFE, Nayland put out a request for proposals seeking a better solution. The school chose to work with Microsoft partner and education expert pcMedia on a plan to migrate from GAFE to the Microsoft Office 365 Pro Plus hosted suite of productivity applications. The initial goal was to finish the migration in 18 months, but once the school started using the solution, the timeline became shorter.

“Our teachers were extremely enthusiastic about Office 365, and they were eager to learn more about how to use new tools like Microsoft OneNote to enhance teaching and learning,” explains Wilson. “The initial rate of adoption exceeded expectations, so we were able to complete the migration more quickly than we originally anticipated.”

Within 6 months, all staff members were using Office 365 as their primary teaching and learning tool. Nayland helped streamline the adoption process by putting an emphasis on comprehensive professional development for faculty and staff. “pcMedia provided us with a Microsoft Teacher Ambassador who conducted individual and group training,” says Wilson. “We also offered video tutorials and a OneNote staff handbook, and we set up lead teachers within departments as a peer resource.”

pcMedia also made the transition easier by providing a hybrid strategy that enabled staff and students to move from GAFE to Office 365 at their own pace. To do this, pcMedia modified the Office 365 application launcher so that all of the school’s key systems were accessible from a single place, giving users time to become familiar and comfortable with the Office 365 interface. The pcMedia solution also made things easier by using Microsoft Azure Active Directory to provide single sign-on (SSO) capabilities so that users could access multiple online tools and systems without the need to log in separately to each one. This enabled Nayland to eliminate a third-party SSO software package it had been using, saving both money and administration time. The school’s applications and devices now all rely on Azure Active Directory for authentication.

Nayland is using the Microsoft Azure cloud platform to store off-site backups of the on-premises SMS. Between Azure and Office 365, the school now has 90 percent of its data and services in the Microsoft cloud with only legacy applications and some large graphics files on a single server at the school. “We have a Windows Server 2012 with ShadowProtect Image Control on it and Azure blob storage
for the back-up. We chose Azure because it provides better cost and uptime than other alternatives,” says Lee Harper, Education Specialist at pcMedia. “Microsoft is also a brand that we trust, and one that the school trusts with its sensitive information.”

Providing benefits for the entire school community

Now that Nayland has completed its Office 365 migration, the school has access to a wide range of tools that enhance communication and collaboration capabilities, including Skype for Business, OneDrive for Business, and SharePoint Online. Staff and students are able to access course content and files at any time from anywhere that they have an Internet connection. Communication between students and teachers have increased, and teachers can more easily enhance and customize class materials.

“Our teachers can create more dynamic lessons through the use of video, which they can easily record directly into OneNote,” says Wilson. “They can also create more personalized and differentiated learning programs and choose from multiple modes of assessment to best meet the needs of each student. Teachers are also finding innovative ways to use tools like OneNote to support dyslexic students and to integrate field and classroom studies.”

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Because Nayland is using Office 365 ProPlus, students have the option to install the software on their own devices, so they have access to the same tools at home that they do at school.  Wilson has also noticed that students are increasingly using educational apps on their own devices. Parents are now able to be more involved in learning because they can see student work at home.

Nayland has also streamlined IT management with Office 365, by reducing the need for on-site administration and maintenance of servers and software—updates to the Office 365 tools happen automatically in the background. By eliminating all but one of its on-premises servers, the school estimates that it is saving $150,000 (NZD) in hardware over two years, and it has been able to redirect that money into classrooms for new computers and wireless projectors. Office 365 also works smoothly with the school’s SMS.

With its Office 365 project, Nayland has taken important steps on the pathway to a digital transformation of the school. Teachers are excited about the technology and exploring its many available options, and there is greater collaboration and sharing of expertise across the entire organization. The project has been a success, and its benefits are spread across the whole school community. “Working alongside pcMedia and Microsoft, we have been able to implement a robust, extremely cost effective, and innovative solution that meets and responds to the learning needs of our students and the professional needs of our staff,” says Wilson.

Case Study: Jumeirah English Speaking School & The Value Of OneNote & Surface Pro

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Located in Dubai, JESS is a full K-12 school with around 2,200 students running the International Baccalaureate program. The school has deployed Surface Pro and Office365 at a Grade 7 level and are using OneNote Class NoteBooks, OneDrive, Sharepoint, Office Mix, Sway and Microsoft Classroom (soon to be replaced with Microsoft Teams)

Read the full case study here

Some of the teachers interviewed in the video above were very specific about the value they see from Surface Pro and OneNote e.g.

The advantage of the Surface Pro 4 is that it combines the ability to write text with all the computing power of a laptop, and that is a game changer.

I do encourage you to watch the video and read the case study above and learn more about how JESS started their Digital Transformation journey.

School Is Finishing – How Do I Keep A Copy Of My OneNote Class NoteBooks?

One of the most common questions that I get asked my students and teachers is “How do I keep my Class OneNote Notebooks when the school year finishes?” It’s a legitimate query given this was pretty easy in a non-digital age: you simply walked off with your ring binder folder or exercise book.

In a new blog from the OneNote Team, they have explained a new way to effectively save a copy to your personal Microsoft account so you always have a copy of your class notes. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Sign in to OneNote Online, our web version of OneNote.
  2. From the Notebook list, click Class Notebooks to display all your Class Notebooks.
  3. Right-click to select a Class Notebook and then select Save a copy.

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Right-click a Class Notebook and select Save a copy.

  1. Click Next. You are prompted to sign in to a consumer Microsoft account. If you don’t have one, go here http://www.live.com to sign up.

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That’s it! Your OneNote Class Notebook is copied to the consumer OneDrive and is available for you to use elsewhere.

On the blog, future developments are hinted at as well:

This is just the initial rollout of the Save a copy feature. In the near future, we will add the ability to choose any notebook type, not just Class Notebooks. We will also roll out the Save a copy feature to your own OneDrive for Business, which will allow students to save a copy of their Class Notebook from a teacher’s OneDrive for Business to their own OneDrive for Business.

If you’re a school leader please make sure you share this feature with your students so they can ensure they’ve kept a copy of their work.

A Digitally Mediated Conversation

I came across an article in the Australian Independent Schools magazine today that highlighted the value of Microsoft OneNote and the evolution of interaction between teachers and students in the areas of marking, feedback and feed-forward. Technology has been a massive enabler in this process and the article references a significant amount of research highlighting the value of this feedback loop and how staff at All Hallows School in Queensland, Australia have used this. Of particular emphasis is the flexibility that OneNote provided in terms of:

  • Digital Inking – hand writing feedback directly onto student work in their Class Notebooks
  • Audio feedback – recording voice notes for students (and students in turn providing “thinking aloud” on their work for their teachers to listen to)
  • Video / Screen recording – teachers recording their computer screen as they’re marking the work and talking, providing students the next best experience to being present with the teacher when marking is taking place
  • Typed Feedback – traditional typed notes alongside student work.
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Click the image above to read the article on the original website.

(click here to read the entire article if the above link does not work)

A teacher in the English department at All Hallows even created a short YouTube video showing the progression of feedback over the years at the school, starting with the humble “insert comment” option in Microsoft Word right through to recording audio and the screen in OneNote whilst handwriting feedback directly on student work. It’s worth watching the two minute video below:

What I love about this article is that it finishes by noting that teachers at All Hallows have been active in sharing at various professional development conferences for teachers on the changes to their digital feedback processes and the impact of technology on their pedagogical practices. Being part of a wider community that is continually adapting and learning and sharing the journey is a key strength and indicator of a healthy institute, especially when it has been based on solid research as evidenced in the above article.

Thanks to the awesome Mike Tholfsen from the Microsoft OneNote team for sharing this article with me via Twitter so I became aware of it!

Major OneNote Class NoteBook Announcement: Sharing With Parents

onenote-class-notebooksOne of the things that has really impressed me over the last couple of years has been the responsiveness from the Microsoft Education team to the requests of teachers and how they want to use OneNote in their classes.

Today, in a new blog post that you can read here, the OneNote team have announced four new features that make it even easier for teachers to securely and flexibly share the learning of students with parents at home.

The four new features announced are:

  1. Parent or guardian access to Class Notebook (read-only links)
  2. Parent or guardian access APIs (e.g. if you have a Parent Portal or LMS that you want to generate these links automatically from)
  3. Permissions in the Collaboration Space (control which students can see which sections in the Collaboration Space – great for Project Based Learning)
  4. Delete student content when removing permissions (keep it tidier when removing students from your Class Notebook)

Of these, the first is the biggest “win” for teachers in my view as this allows them to achieve a feature request that has been around for a while – bringing the parent/guardian “into” the digital classroom by selectively and securely sharing the relevant sections with them.

Another scenario where this could work is if you have a teacher aide that wants to see a student’s work in a particular class, they could access it in read only through this method.

To see how easier it is to achieve this, have a look at the following animated GIF:

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From the original blog:

Teachers now can quickly and easily generate read-only links to both the Content Library and individual student notebooks. A parent or guardian can click the link to open OneNote on the web and view their student’s notebook. The teacher can also easily remove these notebook links if desired. This new capability is located under the Manage Notebooks area of the Class Notebook. To try the new parent and guardian features, a school simply needs to have guest access enabled for their Office 365 site. Find additional details here.

The other major point from this update is the ability to control the Collaboration Space more effectively by assigning students in groups to sections. Again, from the original blog:

OneNote-Class-Notebook-updates-include-read-only-parent-or-guardian-access-and-collaboration-space-permissions-2

Teachers can now sub-divide the Collaboration Space—based on student permissions that the teacher assigns for each section—into groups allowing project-based learning (PBL), among many other new scenarios. This new permission, located under the Manage Notebooks area of the Class Notebook, enables a teacher to create specific sections in the Collaboration Space assigned to specific students.

For example, say you have four groups of six students each. The teacher assigns each group of students to a specific section. Group 1 can work together in the Group 1 section, but cannot see that the Group 2, Group 3 or Group 4 sections exist in the Collaboration Space. This is similar to how in Class Notebook students cannot see each other’s private notebooks.

Don’t forget to check this out in it’s entirety by going to the original blog post here, and better yet, given that these updates are available immediately, go and have a play with them.

Finally, I know there will be a lot of happy teachers with these announcements as I’ve had numerous discussions over the last few months with teachers trying to work out how to create ePortfolios for their students/parents to access and now this gives that functionality in a very simple, controllable manner.

Student Note Taking: Typing or Hand Writing?

I’ve written a few posts lately about the power of Digital Inking and ways to “Think in Ink”  and I am more convinced than ever that equipping students with devices that allow them to doodle, draw, annotate and just straight hand write notes and ideas is a necessity.

I know there is also the following quote from Microsoft promotional material:

Studies indicate that diagraming thinking before solving a science problem leads to a 25%-36% higher score

A quick search on the web reveals people doubt this but a link to the research findings can be found here. Tonight I read an article on LinkedIn titled:

What is a more effective way of taking notes – laptop or notepad?

As usual, I encourage you to read the entire thing yourself, it’s only a 3 minute read after all, and it talks about research completed in 2014 showing that students that hand wrote notes had far better conceptual comprehension of the content they had been taught compared to students who typed their notes up. Even when students who had typed their notes were given ten minutes to revise them before a test a week later, they still scored worse than those that had handwritten their notes in some way.

I’ve seen similar tests completed elsewhere so this finding is not new to me, however it certainly highlights the value of digital inking and usefulness of the basic “ruled lines” in OneNote:

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I find it interesting that when testing for factual recall, students scored the same whether they handwrote their notes or typed them, but only when testing for conceptual understanding did the differences emerge:

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Again, do take time to read the original article and ponder how you record information in your daily life and if you’re a decision maker in a school, what devices are you recommending to your students to bring along.

Guest Post: Cultivate Collaborative Learning With OneNote

This post originally appeared in the Interface Magazine, April 2017 edition and has been republished with permission. You can see the online edition by clicking here.

Spade … check. Seeds … check. Compost … check. Watering can … check. OneNote … er … um … what? Three teachers and a group of Year 10 students at Mairehau High School are running a collaborative gardening project, with the aim of:

  • Giving the students practical gardening (as well as digital) skills;
  • Seeing something come out of their time; and
  • Offering an authentic context for their learning.

“It has grown and is not just about their learning but also providing for families and home, and potentially a market garden,” said Tania Swann. “It has become a bit of an entrepreneurial project for the students.

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Making a connection

The school’s planning team was assisted by Tim Muir, Microsoft Teacher Ambassador, Cyclone, Arnika Macphail, Professional Learning Manager, Cyclone, and Curriculum Consultant Kate Brown.

“In order for this to be successful, we needed the right balance of curriculum support and digital support. Kate helped us to come up with our big idea: ‘Communities work together to connect, nurture and grow’. We’d been using Google Docs with our staff and students. However, after hearing from Tim, we felt OneNote was going to be the right tool for this project. With the help of Tim and Arnika, we set up a OneNote Class Notebook for all the teachers and students.
“We’re also lucky enough to have our hands on the Digital Learning Experience from Cyclone, which means each one of the students and teachers involved has a Surface to work from, which definitely added hype to the project.”

Share and articulate

The project was allotted three hours a week in Flexible Learning Time.

“The students have had such a great attitude towards getting outside and it’s created a nice atmosphere to work in. They opted in and can opt out at any time but no one has.”

Among the green-fingered skills students learned were:

  • How to plant potatoes;
  • How to create beds; and
  • Watering, digging and sieving.

“They love getting into the garden and out into the community, and enjoy doing their classwork on the Surface. We have made the most out of our trips to local nurseries, Cultivate Christchurch, and Bunnings by using the devices to take pictures and notes, all in the OneNote. Students can draw diagrams, annotate work, add videos, add audio, and share their ideas more freely.”

2Everyone is enthused

The project has had a “massive ripple effect” through other staff members.
“We started with a big picture of the fact that it was so cross curricular in possibility, incorporating Biology, Maths, Media, etc., and wanted to connect all of these,” explained Kimberley Walker.

“On a daily basis, a person comes to the team to ask about it and how they can help. It started off as Social Sciences, English and Maths. We now have Hard Materials, the Arts and Science involved. Everyone involved is enthused.

3“We have achieved so much from this one project and it has certainly snowballed into other ideas. The best bits have been the collaborative learning. The students are passionate and enthusiastic. Running something like this has kept them engaged at school and keen to participate.

“Having a shared outcome that we can physically see and touch has brought us closer together. We have things growing in our school garden. That is an achievement in itself. But thanks to the technology, we also have a detailed, up-to-date, accurate record of learning. OneNote has been fantastic. Through using the program, the students have been more forthcoming to share and articulate their understandings.”