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Better than I expected
Kevin McCannon, Sociology

I don’t often consider myself a creative person, but this semester I think I got a bit clever. I am using Microsoft Teams as a collaborative tool for a project in my undergraduate Principles of Family Sociology course on how the Covid-19 pandemic is affecting American family life. The project focuses on learning skills of qualitative data collection and analysis in steps leading up to a research proposal. 

At first, I was hesitant. I didn’t understand Teams, and I didn’t particularly like it. It felt clumsy. However, I began to appreciate it as an alternative communication tool for student group work and meeting with me (which a few have done). So I required students in this class to use Teams for the main project, because as I learned from my other two classes, voluntary doesn’t work. Most had never used Teams, and a few struggled with it at first. Some had questions, but overall, students figured it out (I provided assistance). 

I put them in small groups (three to four) in Teams to collaborate on different steps of the project. They are using it to share files and give feedback (with my guidance) on each other’s work. For the first part of the project, a sprinkling of them tried initiating contact with their group, only to get crickets. I thanked those students in their group chats for reaching out, hoping a little encouragement would help. After I lit a virtual fire under students’ feet, I saw a trickle of chat posts become meaningful conversations. Late comers were apologetic. 

“So sorry guys! I have been working all week and this is my day I get the Majority of my work done for the week. Just saw all the emails.” 

“Hey friends! Sorry for the delay, I couldn’t get Teams to work through my phone and my computer is being weird, but I got in touch with IT and it seems to be working now!” 

The cordiality was nice, but what intrigued me was how many students offered their phone numbers to collaborate by text, at least nine out of 28. I wondered: just how much collaboration can one do by texting? Kinda defeats the purpose of Teams. Some research suggests texting can be better than email for communicating with students, so why not group work? We’ll see. Thus far, using Teams has turned out better than I expected. 


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