At my current school we use the Office365 platform for a range of things. It certainly has improved over the last couple of years as a platform for delivering a number of software tools and services. Do we use everything? Not really but that in itself is not a bad thing. I’ve never been the sort of educator and learning technologist who, just because they have a wonderful idea regarding a tool or service, decides to then mandate it for use across the staff body.
However it is always a good idea to be looking constantly at other tools and services to see what could work within your school environment. I’m sure other schools probably use tools like Yammer or Slack (I might write a separate blog on Slack) and I would certainly look at what they do but I will also explore the site myself to examine some of the ways in which it could be used.
For a very specific list of uses of Yammer in the classroom I found this really nice list from a South African Microsoft Partner – click here. I will therefore look at more general issues.
To me Yammer is essentially Twitter on steroids with the added security of knowing that communication can only take place within your school environment. This deals with the issue of staff not having to worry about little Jonny talking with dodgy people online as their messages will be contained within the school silo.
I also like the way Yammer enables you to set up groups within your school environment. This is great for small groups of pupils to communicate with each other on a project. I’ve used it before in helping a group of computing pupils work through some problems for a coding competition.
The messaging features work really well for setting questions in a small group setting and for getting pupils to respond. I like the potential for pupils who lack that confidence in class to feel that they can contribute more effectively online.
I also like the idea of the file sharing feature but what I have noticed in my own school setup is that pupils can directly share files themselves (whereas they are blocked from doing so on Sharepoint). Pupils could share files they have created and stored on OneDrive. Although it is very easy to see who has shared a file the potential for this to be abused remains high. This is an issue which can hopefully be addressed through back-end administration.
In addition there is a note taking feature which again could be really good for sharing thoughts and ideas among team members. As well as the polls, praise feature and hashtags it is possible to create quite a dynamic and hopefully engaging communication environment for schools.
My recommendation would be if you have access to Office365 in your school and you are not using Yammer yet do so by all means as it does offer some distinct advantages. You will need to keep an eye on potential abuse but as messaging is done in the clear with easy access to name of users this theoretically shouldn’t be an issue.
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