ASF has a new Office: Office 365

Any effective school is open to new ideas and new integrations to improve learning and overall efficiency. ASF is no exception to this. As the new academic year progresses, the school has adopted a new tool in the learning and efficiency toolbox: Office 365.

Office 365 is a line of software subscription services offered by Microsoft (MS). With over 1.2 billion users of Office worldwide, Office 365 is both a business and educational platform that allows users access to the entire Office suite and so much more. According to Microsoft, 85% of the fortune 500 companies use some form of the office software. Many colleges and universities have also made the shift from open platforms like Google, for Office 365 which clearly offers more security and a more robust software suite.

“The deal was too good to pass up,” shared Javier Landeros, Director of Information Technology.  The upgrade would not cost ASF any more than it is already paying for the current Office software on individual computers. “With Office 365, teachers and students can download it to up to 10 devices (personal or school-owned): computers, tablets, phones. Everyone will have access and will be able to collaborate real-time with anyone at ASF through the online versions.”, he explained. This access is a critical point that motivated both Mark Iver Sylte, Executive Director, and Landeros to move forward with the decision. “Adopting Office 365 makes us able to communicate better internally and externally.” Landeros shared. The varying versions of Office used throughout ASF would now be leveled with this adoption. Sylte explained that the Office 365 adoption would provide a more professional and seamless platform for ASF to learn and grow with.

ASF’s adoption will continue to give access to Microsoft Office: Word, PowerPoint and Excel. However, now students and employees have access to Office Online where with a simple login, a student, teacher, or staff memeber can access the same tools online with the same robustness of the desktop versions. Beyond this, the following are included with ASF’s adoption:

  • OneNote: a digital notebook application where users can create notebooks with sections. Notebooks can be shared for collaboration, and notes can be handwritten, typed, or dictated.  

  • Publisher: a desktop publishing program that can be used to create a variety of publications like business cards, greeting cards, calendars, newsletters and much, much more. 

  • SharePoint: a document management and storage system that is highly configurable and adaptable to meet the needs of the organizational demands.

  • Flow: to create workflows to automate tasks by connecting different apps.

  • Planner: to organize and assign tasks, share files, chat about what has been done, and get progress updates.

  • Staff Notebook: collaborative note sharing between faculty and staff members.

  • Stream: share among ASF users, videos of classes, meetings, presentations, showcasing, with other students teachers or staff.

  • Word: document creation with great proofing tools.

  • Excel: spreadsheet tool: connect to data, model and analyze it, visualize insights.

  • PowerPoint: create presentations, slide shows, etc.

  • Image result for skype icon Skype: a video chat and voice calling program to communicate between computers, tablets, mobile devices, the Xbox One console, and smartwatches connected to the Internet and to regular telephones. Skype also provides instant messaging services.

  • Sway: an online presentation tool that can be viewed and edited from web browser. It is a seamless tool that integrates searchable content from Bing, Facebook, Twitter, and much more.

  • OneDrive: a cloud-based file hosting and synchronization service with generous storage options.

  • PowerApps: an initiative by Microsoft that allows developers and nontechnical users to build mobile applications from selectable templates. With PowerApps, students and teachers can build new capabilities via apps, without requiring that they have code expertise.

Javier Landeros is eager to open up all the options, but the Technology department has a plan for rolling out access and readiness at different levels. He explains, “Some of the tools we will turn on for some but not for others, as we see how they are being used and their usefulness for the department.” He is excited about the possibilities not only in the classrooms but in the administrative offices too. He continued, “We can create workflows and workgroups with these programs that will make it easier to communicate, collaborate, and become more efficient.”

Both Sylte and Landeros assured that Office 365 would not be replacing the current integrations of Google applications being used in instruction and within the administrative offices. Sylte explains, “Google is a great tool for collaborating, and I am not willing to take that away or replace it.” What Sylte admires from his previous experiences with Office 365 at the university level is that Word and the tools embedded within the program are more professional and more deeply integrated. “The ability to format a document with precision and ease . . . the research and review tools help our students to make a truly professional document.” Landeros in-kind sees the power of Office 365 through a differing lens, “Office 365 gives us more security with documents and information.” He explained that the encryption on OneDrive and SharePoint would allow for a more secure means of sharing documents and storing documents.

The deployment of Office 365 will be accompanied with a set of training and educational resources to develop skills in the use of these productivity and collaboration tools, data science, computer science (coding, etc.), through the Office 365 Training Center and a subscription to the Microsoft Imagine Academy provided by ASF.

In the classroom, this adoption places new tools in the hands of our students and teachers. “I like Office 365. It will be nice to have access to other tools to integrate into our lessons.” Upper School History teacher, Jonathan Brown, shared. His experiences in his university as an undergraduate were positive with Office 365.

The potential of PowerApps, an application building program, excites students who are into coding. “I haven’t used it before. I have used other programs, but it will be nice to have access to it.” Grade 9 student, Stanislaw Ostyks, said. Moreover, Microsoft purports little or no coding experience is needed to build an application through PowerApps, so not only coding frenzy students but also teachers and others from administrative offices can look to create applications that build in efficiency and ingenuity into the ASF community.

Middle School Math teacher, Penny Blackwell, happily sees the potential of Office 365, “I am excited about the possibilities of using Skype in the classroom. I can call in experts in a particular field, conference with parents, or tutor students who are absent or need other support.”

Grade 12 student, Claudio Álvarez, also likes this choice of Office 365. “I am sure I will be using it when I go to college. It would be nice to get familiar with all of the tools before I go.”

Other schools, which have made the same move as ASF, have seen positive results. The Immaculate Heart in Cincinnati, Ohio, a K-8 private school reports more students were empowered to work from anywhere on any device which engaged them in their own education. In São Paulo, the Paula Souza Center, which oversees 223 technical schools found the integration of Skype in their classrooms opened lines of communications between students and teachers, and also expanded and shaped communications between the Center and the schools. The Wild Rose School District in Alberta, Canada, found solace after several years of complications with governmental cloud storage (the ability to store documents online) in Microsoft’s OneDrive that allowed the freedom to tailor and refine the cloud to their own storage and access needs.

Here at ASF, the adoption of Office 365 is met with excitement and a bit of tension; however, with the reassurances from administration that this is an addition and not a replacement of other applications is settling. Integration of Office 365 will be incremental and a choice for users. This adoption will continue to proliferate opportunities for growth which is in line and akin to the school’s 130-year history.

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