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Focus On Free: Microsoft Teams

Are you using Microsoft Teams? It's included in your free Microsoft 365 subscription which is part of your HEA member benefits. With the ongoing pandemic, finding ways to stay connected is more important than ever.

Teams is a video conferencing platform, similar to Zoom, Google Meet, and many others. It has all the features you'd expect, including recording meetings. There are no limits to the length of meetings, or the number of participants (well, none that I've found yet anyway) However, it is more than that. The platform, designed for business, allows groups of people to connect via chat, share documents, make audio calls and video calls. Calls can be scheduled, or impromptu, just like a phone call. Essentially, Teams provides an all in one solution to allow various forms of communication for a team of people. One of the features that I particularly like, and which might be useful in the home education setting, is the ability to add people to your team. Within the platform, you can create a 'team', give it a name and add members. These members can then chat (like a text message), as well as work collaboratively on shared documents in real time (like Google Docs), video calls (like Zoom), and audio calls (like a phone). There are many ways to use Teams, here's a couple to get you started:

  • Co-ops could set up a team to continue to socialise and learn online during lockdowns, or between meetings

  • Kids could set up a friendship Team, allowing them to connect with their friends in a safe, free, easy to manage platform.

Teams also has some built-in accessibility features. With live captions, Teams can detect what's said in a meeting and present real-time captions and subtitles (if was pretty fun to play with!). Closed Captioning could not only support communication for students with hearing impairments, but also students with auditory processing disorders, or learning difficulties affecting processing time, such as ASD or ADHD. Closed Captioning has now been enabled in our domain. To use it, you need to turn it on in the three dots once you are in a call. It's a reasonably new feature, so it's not yet available in the web-based app. However, there is a free mobile app that it works in, and there is also a download button in the bottom left of the web-based app. I was able to download it, and it works, but I haven't been able to figure out if it is going to ask me to pay after a certain number of uses. If you try it out, let me know what you learn and we can all learn together!

Another accessibility feature in Teams (and all of Microsoft's apps) is immersive reader. This is such a fabulous tool it deserves its own review - so more about that next time.

In the meantime, if you need a little help to keep up with the tech, head over to the Microsoft Educator Centre for a very helpful, free course about using Teams.

Free Microsoft 365 Education for Home Educators and Home Educated Students is included in your HEA Membership! Sign up for 36 here

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