Microsoft in Education: Q&A with Adrian Edgar
At Metalogix, we’re strong advocates for enhancing and empowering education through technology. We sat down with one of the leading figures in this realm to discuss Microsoft’s vision for educational institutions and to explore insights into how technology is shaping modern learning centers.
Metalogix: For our readers, could you give us some background on who you are and what your experience is in the education sector?
Adrian Edgar: My name is Adrian Edgar and I am a Director at AspiraCloud, a Microsoft Gold Cloud Platform and Productivity Partner. For twenty years, I was a teacher and school leader working largely in the 11-18 age range. At my last school, I was Director of ICT for a 3-18 boarding school.
Microsoft has been aggressively pushing in the education space since the advent of the Contoso Learning Companion app in 2013. Where do you see the future of the classroom going?
Microsoft took a while to find its feet in the education space, and it spent a long time playing catch up. However, their focus really took off when Satya Nadella became CEO. Suddenly, we were seeing keynotes focusing on empowering every child. Nadella began talking about providing the skills and the tools for “students to create the world of tomorrow.”
Now, the focus is clearly set on providing a full set of tools, affordable hardware, and the best platform that O365 can be. Regardless of the student’s ability level, Microsoft has the means to enable that student to achieve their best.
Earlier this year, Microsoft made Office 365 for Education free to educational institutions that qualify. Are you seeing a pickup in adoption and usage patterns?
We spend a lot of time with our Edu customers looking not just at Office 365, but at how their cloud approach fits into the strategic development of teaching and learning in the classroom. For many schools, the starting point might be with mail migration, but that will have little effect on students. Many of our customers look beyond the mailbox and into the flexible learning space that SharePoint, OneDrive, and OneNote can provide.
We start by showing them how SharePoint can be used to help support learning, both in the classroom and at home. It provides access to support material to complete an assignment, as well as a space to collaborate.
In one of our schools, the Department of Mathematics uses a newsfeed to set a daily question or challenge. The students then engage in a social conversation with their teacher or peers in a manner they are comfortable with. They may be utilizing the SharePoint newsfeed, but they’re also discussing math on a higher level.
Some schools use Office 365—and in particular, OneDrive—as a way to reduce their reliance to on- premises file shares. This has the added advantage that students can access their work from any web-enabled device or location. Learning is fundamentally at its best when it happens anywhere and anytime.
How has being a teacher for 20 years impacted the way you view technology in education?
I’ve always advocated the appropriate use of technology in the classroom. For many teachers, it always seems to start with: “If I use technology in my lesson, what will be the impact?” or “What happens when it goes wrong?”
I always worked from the opposite end of the spectrum, and that was my philosophy when supporting other teachers. Treat technology in the classroom in the same way you may use other tools to support and enhance the quality of teaching and learning. If it’s not necessary for a specific lesson, then you can find another use for it. However, when you do find a technological solution that works, embed it into your lesson and make it an organic aspect of your agenda.
Students need access to the right tools so that high-quality learning can take place at anytime. If they have access to educational material on a device, then encourage the student to learn however they feel most comfortable.
We’ve seen Microsoft launch education-specific applications like the OneNote Class Notebook, and third-party vendors have built applications through portals like the Teacher Dashboard. What are your thoughts on how institutions can take advantage of these kinds of applications?
There are now a few schools that are really starting to leverage the OneNote Class Notebook. Since the tools for content distribution and assessment have become more prevalent, it provides a very flexible way to work.
Again, under Nadella’s guidance, the work that Microsoft has done recently with some of the OEM providers have helped make incredible, school-ready devices a reality. I’ve personally seen some great examples of OneNote used in modern language classes, where students are encouraged to record themselves reading in French or reciting grammar exercises from their German homework.
Microsoft recently replaced the Microsoft Classroom app with Microsoft Teams. Do you see this as beneficial?
Bringing the Classroom app, collaboration space, and the OneNote Class Notebook under the
Microsoft Teams banner can be considered a wise move, but it does have the tendency to confuse schools. Specifically, should they be using team sites in SharePoint or modern Teams?
Microsoft Teams is a new concept, and now that it’s linked to School Data Sync (SDS), it may help to bring all of these tools together. Fortunately, Microsoft recognized the need to control the live chat and discussion tools. I’m a believer in encouraging students to collaborate in class, but I spent most of my teaching career trying to get them to stop chatting and focus.
The entire education industry is now entrenched in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, with schools creating curricula matching that of emerging technology breakthroughs. Has Microsoft done enough to assist schools develop and build upon fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, and the Internet of Things?
I don’t think any technology provider or government agency has done enough to prepare the children of today for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. For the time being, though, we can rely on the inquisitive nature of children to adopt technology.
Schools have made giant strides in adapting the ICT/Computing curriculum, but the common message from most of the schools that I visit is that there just aren’t enough qualified teachers yet to deliver a technological curriculum at a high standard.
What is your advice to educational institutions adopting Office 365 across their organization?
- Encourage an open and social approach to collaboration, but manage it well. Teach students in the way they want to learn. Embrace social media.
- Find innovative ways to embed the use of technology in your lessons. Using a laptop to do something shouldn’t be considered anything other than normal.
- Think strategically across the entire organization about how to embed the use of IT. IT is no longer the exclusive tool of techies.
- Never underestimate the power of the data that your school holds. Learn to harness it properly.
- Find yourself a Microsoft partner who will become your strategic partner as you focus on empowering your students and teachers.
How Metalogix Helps Empower Education
At Metalogix, we’re committed to ensuring the success of students around the world. If your educational institution is looking to move to Office 365 for Education or hoping to better manage its users on the platform, we can help. Check out a free trial of Essentials for Office 365 and see how our tool can optimize your educational institution’s control over administration and security.
Adrian Edgar joined AspiraCloud in 2012 after serving as a teacher for twenty years. As an Educator, Technology Evangelist, and Senior School Leader, he has always demonstrated a passion for using IT and understanding how it can affect the working life of other users.
Adrian has a wide range of experiences delivering IT projects in all aspects of highly regulated businesses using SharePoint, Office 365, and Microsoft Azure. He has spoken regularly on behalf of Microsoft at events for both Education and the Law industry on topics such as “Adopting a Strong Cloud First Approach to IT” and “Trusting the Cloud.”
He is an enthusiastic advocate for Microsoft Cloud technology and is dedicated to focusing on helping customers obtain the best value from their investment, while ensuring a sensible, secure, and strategic plan for change.