Yammer, the enterprise social network and one of Microsoft’s most recent acquisitions, allows you to collaborate, communicate and share your thoughts within your network, be it a school or business. Think ‘The Social Network’ and Facebook’s origins, where students at Harvard University could communicate with one another via a private social network. Yammer creates a newsfeed based on updates from your co-workers, all of whom are responding to the simple question: “What are you working on?”

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One of the first things I couldn’t help but notice was the Facebook-esque design of the home page, where you can view your newsfeed, create a poll and comment on updates from people within your organisation.

However, when you start to look a little deeper, the features also echo those of Twitter. With hashtags, mentions and followers, as well as the ability to update your Yammer from Twitter using #yam, it would seem that the founder, David O. Sacks, has taken all of the best features from our known and loved social networks. He’s then combined them to create the one site which allows you to communicate with your colleagues easily and securely.

So now you know some background, you’re probably wondering how it would help in a school environment. The exchange of short, frequent answers to that one key question allows teachers to learn about other departments, get tips and tricks from other staff members and gain insight into the overall operations and activities within the school. The instant feedback which is received creates a more productive workforce, increases collaboration and engagement, and, most importantly, reduces the amount of needless emails for you to check throughout the day. The infographic below shows Yammer’s effect upon its users.

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In my opinion, Yammer could create a whole load of new opportunities, not only in relation to staff communication, but also for students. Here are some ways I think Yammer could improve the teaching and learning in schools.

Group work

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We know that group work is a great way to encourage students to engage with their peers, but this isn’t easy when they all use different social networks, clouds and systems. By joining Yammer, students can create secure groups via which they can communicate their ideas, ask questions and share files, as well as allowing for their competitive side to come out through ‘Leaderboards’, which show data about who has received the most likes, replies and much.

Study help

In addition to letting pupils chat about group projects, they can also post questions about their studies via their updates, which either teachers or other students can reply to. This is invaluable around exam time, and allows students to get a more instant response to their queries. This means that they are able to continue their studies without being stuck waiting for a response from busy teachers.

Content sharing

The numerous applications, question and poll facilities and fast feedback means that teachers can share files, news and activities with one another, creating a more unified workforce. The newsfeed also allows for interesting content to be shared amongst staff regarding new technologies and systems in education, which may otherwise be sent out by mass email. With Yammer, your email inbox can be saved only for those important emails. And if you’re worried that having yet another webpage open is just too much, you can update your status, post to groups and send private messages through your email. Learn how here.

Praise app

The praise application, found in the ‘More’ drop down menu of the update bar, allows you to praise someone within your network for anything you want. Everyone loves being praised, especially publicly for all their co-workers and peers to see, and it is essential to the learning process for students. Teachers can therefore praise their students for doing well in a lesson, completing a project to a high standard, or simply exceeding everyone’s expectations. Similarly, students can praise staff for an interesting lesson, extra help with an exam or just being really great. This interaction which may not occur face to face will lift morale and motivate both students and staff to perform to their very best.

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If you would like to know any more information about Yammer and Microsoft, check out our press release.

By Katie Hook.