The following article was originally published on the Microsoft in Education blog.
Educators teach students every day, and just like their students, they also strive to be life-long learners. Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) provide the support educators need to continue to grow new teaching skills with their peers. Groups of educators can work and learn together to improve student achievement through book study, action research, or learning a new best practice through PLCs.
Now, Office 365 Education provides an easy to use framework for PLCs that was built on feedback received directly from teachers. PLCs help keeps everyone together, enabling educators to communicate and collaborate with their peers efficiently in one place.
Let’s discover together how easy this can be!
Here are three easy steps to setup a professional learning community using Office 365.
1. Create a PLC group in Office 365
Log into your Office 365 portal and click on the Outlook tile from the portal page or app launcher.
There are two quick ways to start a PLC group.
a. Drop down the New button and choose Groups, or click the “+” button beside Groups within the Outlook Web App (OWA).
b. Select the Professional Learning Community option on the right to create a PLC group.
You will be prompted to choose a name for your PLC group, and you can add a group description. PLC groups are designated as private by default, meaning that only PLC group members have access to any information or data you might share.
Once you’ve established your PLC, you’ll find pre-populated content and templates. You may modify these elements as appropriate for your group.
2. Use a OneNote Notebook for plan and do
Every PLC group gets its own OneNote Notebook, prepopulated with content and templates from real PLC groups so you don’t have to start from scratch! This is the place to plan your program of study, bring in articles and web resources, keep notes as you meet, post contributions and new ideas to implement in your classroom, and ensure that all who are in the group are progressing well on their learning path. No more trying to keep up with printed resources and ring binders. Have a look at this great blog post by Cal Armstrong listing all the many ways OneNote has become embedded in his district. Pay special attention to number nine, PLC groups.
3. Use a Planner for checking in on tasks and owners
Planner is also a great tool in PLC groups for keeping the PLC on track with benchmarks, tasks, and targets to meet along a timeline. With Planner, teams can create new plans; organize, assign and collaborate on tasks; set due dates; update statuses and share files, while visual dashboards and email notifications keep everyone informed on progress.
4. Use Connectors, Conversations as group messaging
Meeting regularly to connect as a PLC is one thing. However, the conversations, connections, and work to bring new learning into enriched classroom practice involves educators sharing from one PLC meeting to the next. Whether you are tracking a Twitter feed or monitoring the latest education blog or headlines with Bing—Office 365 Connectors surfaces all the information you care about in the Office 365 Groups shared inbox, so you can easily collaborate with others and interact with the updates as they happen, inside or outside your school.
For immediate conversations, in PLC groups you can also use the Skype “meet now” functionality. Imagine continuing an academic conversation during planning time with another in your PLC cohort without leaving your own classroom.
And, a few other ideas!
Educators often want or need to work collaboratively with colleagues from neighbouring districts or partner districts quite a distance away. PLC Groups Guest Access helps involve others as well. Have a look at, Introducing guest access for Office 365 Groups for how to make PLCs an even richer experience, and keep in mind that the Microsoft Educator Community also provides a wealth of resources you can bring into your school system. Just think of the collaboration possibilities!
Experienced educators know that when you provide a solid framework for any new initiative or best practice, adoption rates increase more quickly. Using PLC Groups provides that framework that brings everything together, from reading material prior to the next PLC, to working on an Action Step, to using Skype Meet Now and discussing the PLC presentation they are giving next, even when educators are not in the same building but across the district from each other. Give PLC Groups in Office 365 a try. See if you don’t see those same results!