Monthly Archives: August 2022

Spend less time in your email inbox with Microsoft Teams and SharePoint

Are you opening your email inbox to hundreds of emails and nowhere near enough time to go through them?   

The constant ping of email notifications can be overwhelming, and it’s easy to miss, overlook and lose vital information.   

And, because most people are in the same boat, there’s a high likelihood of your emails – that you spend so much time crafting – also get lost in someone else’s inbox.   

Luckily, there are so many ways that the Microsoft Suite can help you get control over emails and improve communication across your organisation – whether you’re a business, school or trust.   

Firstly, it’s important to think about what you’re trying to communicate and who you’re trying to reach.   

For example:  

  • Is it for the whole organisation to see?   
  • Do you need people to respond?  
  • Is it urgent?  
  • Will people need to refer back to the information at a later date?  

From here, you can start to see whether or not an email is the most efficient and effective way to communicate with your colleagues.   

Simple ways to reduce your email inbox with Microsoft Teams and SharePoint. 

Use SharePoint to communicate with a mass audience.   

Sending out an email to everyone in your organisation or a large group of people, like a department?   

Consider creating a dedicated SharePoint site for this group to share all news and announcements in one central place.   

It’s easy to set up central areas for specific groups (I.e. “All staff” or specific departments), and you can use this as a central hub of information that people can log into whenever they need to.  

SharePoint News Site Example

For example, upload a student uniform policy to a student-facing SharePoint site for your whole school. Or, share a news item with your staff about an upcoming charity event that needs volunteers.   

Not only does this reduce the number of emails being sent out and landing in people’s inboxes, but it also makes sure information isn’t being lost or overlooked in a busy inbox.  

Instead, people can get updates at a time that suits them.   

With SharePoint, you can set up multiple authors so that they can add their own news items and announcements.   

(Pssst… Here’s a guide we wrote on how to make your SharePoint sites look great.) 

Share urgent updates on Microsoft Teams.   

If you have an urgent message to send out to a group of people, use Microsoft Teams.  

Setting up Teams channels for departments and project groups means you can instantly communicate urgent and important information without it getting overlooked in an inbox.   

For example, you may need to share an issue that needs resolving urgently or update a team on the progress of a project.   

Teams channel for all staff example

A benefit to using Teams instead of email for this type of communication is that you avoid long and confusing email threads caused by that dreaded “Reply All” button.   

With Teams, you can use the @[channel name or username] feature to tag specific people in the post or notify the whole channel. Meanwhile, you can make your most important announcements stand out by customising fonts, adding images and pinning posts to the top of the channel.   

Urgent message example on Teams channel

Start conversations with individuals and groups using Chat.   

You can also instant message colleagues (individuals and groups) via the Teams Chat function. Similar to social media platforms like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, the Chat feature in Teams makes collaboration a whole lot easier compared to email.   

For starters, it’s a lot easier to quickly chat over an idea for five minutes during the workday rather than wait for an email or try to arrange a meeting at a time that suits everyone.  

You can also see who is available to chat. Users can manually set their availability, and it syncs with your calendar, so people know if you’re in a meeting or on holiday and won’t be able to respond immediately.   

And, of course, the ability to host video calls, share your screen and collaborate on a whiteboard means that you can get everyone on the same page in a shorter amount of time than you would be able to over email.   

Group message chat example on Microsoft Teams

Found this helpful? Share this guide with your colleagues and students.

CDB Portal: A central place for school leaders to manage SharePoint and Teams

The CDB Portal is designed to make life easier for our customers. It’s a central space where school leaders and administrators can manage SharePoint and Teams. Users with permissions can create new SharePoint sites, organise class cover and generate assignment analytics reports in just a few clicks.  

Recently, we’ve given it a brand new look, so we thought we’d create this quick guide to refresh you on what you can do in the portal.

Quickly organise class cover.  

With Cover Manager, you can temporarily assign a teacher to a class, giving them access to the Class Team and all the necessary resources to start teaching.  

If they’re covering the class for a set time period, you can set a date when the teacher is automatically removed from the class.  

You can set a date when the teacher will be automatically removed from the class.  

Organise class cover quickly in Microsoft Teams with CDB Portal

  1. Select Cover Manager.  
  2. Under Teacher, type in the cover teacher’s name and select the user you wish to assign to the class. You can search by display name, surname or UPN.  
  3. Under Add to Class, type in the name of the class and select the class that needs a cover teacher. You can search by display name or nickname.  
  4. Then, you can set the dates that the teacher should be added to and removed from the class.  
  5. Hit Save 

You can see the existing cover in the Cover Log at the bottom of the page.  

CDB Portal Existing Class Cover Log

Create a new site in SharePoint.  

You can easily create a new SharePoint site for your school or trust within the CDB Portal.  

This tool gives you a good head start and gets the site ready for you, adding it to your school’s mega menu and adding your selected Owners and Members. Everything is set up and ready for you to start designing and publishing content.  

You can also delegate site creation to someone at the school without giving them Admin rights in the tenant. This means that any sites created using the tool when using naming conventions are not listed as public sites.  

  1. Select Create Site. 
  2. Choose between Team Site or Communication Site. 

CDB Portal Create a SharePoint Site Team or Communications Site

A Team site is great for collaborating in small groups. It’s a fantastic alternative for replacing shared drives and folders as everyone has everything they need in one place, and it’s connected to Teams so you can set up online meetings and instantly chat with your colleagues.  

Meanwhile, a
Communication site is brilliant if you need to publish information to a wider audience – like a school or trust. It’s set up to only allow a few people to edit and publish the content.


3. Choose a name for your new site. 

4. Fill in the form to start creating your new site.  

You have the options to: 

  • Work from a Teams template.  
  • Choose which megamenu it’s visible in. 
  • Add Owners that will be able to edit and publish content. 
  • Add Members who will be added to the SharePoint site.  

You can see an overview of what sites have previously been created in the Create Site History Log at the bottom of the page. 

CDB Portal Create Site History Log SharePoint

Create assignment analytics reports.  

Assignment Analytics gives you a detailed overview of how well staff are setting assignments across the school.  

CDB Portal Assignment Analytics

You can see: 

  • Total number of assignments set. 
  • Number of active assignments 
  • Percentage of classes with assignments. 
  • Average number of assignments per class.  
  • A graph of assignments over a set time period. 

You can also drill down into each subject and class.  

  1. Hit Export to generate a CSV of the data.  

CDB Portal Export Assignment Analytics

Switch between schools in your trust. 

If you’re part of a multi academy trust and have several schools to manage, you can easily switch between schools using the drop-down menu at the top of the portal.  

CDB Portal Switch between schools

Don’t have access to the CDB Portal? 

If you need access to the CDB Portal, ask a Global Admin to give you permissions:  

In a web browser, navigate to

  1. Select School Access. 
  2. Hit Add. 
  3. Choose the Access Level. School Manager allows you to do everything; School Leader allows access to Cover Manager and Assignment Analytics. 
  4. Type the user’s name and select the user to grant them access.  

Click here to share this guide with your Global Admin.

CDB Portal Permissions and Access

The CDB Portal is just one example of how we help schools and MATs harness the full power of Microsoft Education. If you would like to find out more about our Cloud Box platform book a free demo today. 

How to make writing easier with the Dictate tool in Microsoft 

Microsoft’s Dictate tool is great for those who struggle to get their ideas down onto paper – it allows you to speak into your microphone and convert your speech to text on the screen.  

Dictation is available on all Microsoft tools that use text. It’s an excellent feature for both students and teachers, helping you get ideas out of your head and onto the page quickly, without the distraction of spelling and grammar.  

Simply hit the Dictate button, start talking, and your ideas will flow onto the page. Then, if you need to, go back and edit the document later.  


How to use Dictate in Microsoft: 

  1. Open any Microsoft Office application. We’re using Microsoft Word in this example.  
  2. Select Dictate from the top Home ribbon. A notification appears, letting you know that it’s listening.  
  3. Start speaking! Your words will appear on the screen.  

A GIF demonstrating how you can use Dictate in Microsoft if you struggle to get your ideas down onto the page

Tip: Microsoft not only dictates your voice but also listens to your instructions too. For example, if you say, “New line”, “New paragraph” or “Full stop”, it listens and adds your directions to the text too.  

4. When you’ve finished, hit Dictate again to prevent Microsoft from continuing to dictate your speech.  

Note: You may need to give Microsoft permission to use your microphone the first time you start using this tool.

A GIF demonstrating how you can quickly convert speech to text with Microsoft's Dictate tool

Why we think Microsoft’s Dictate is great:  

  • It’s great if you find spelling tricky and can help with spelling words you struggle with. 
  • A blank page is daunting – Dictate can help you quickly get all of your ideas out of your head and onto the page.  
  • It saves time – great if you type slowly and spend lots of time correcting typos.  
  • It’s a quick solution to typing up handwritten notes.  

If you enjoy using the Dictate, you should try the Read Aloud tool in Immersive Reader, which allows you to listen back to what you’ve written.  

Here’s a podcast episode we recorded with Engineering UTC North Lincolnshire about how they use features like Immersive Reader to support students with Special Education Needs (SEN) and English as an Additional Language (EAL).

Found this helpful? Share this guide with your colleagues and students.

Summer Training Series: Free Microsoft training sessions for schools and trusts

Cloud Design Box is hosting two free webinars for schools and multi academy trusts as part of a Microsoft 365 summer training series.  

The virtual sessions take place in August and are completely free for teachers and senior leadership teams to attend.

Keith and Team

CDB Trainer Keith (right) and the rest of the CDB Team at the Bett Show

Setting group assignments in Microsoft Teams –  09/08/2022, 3-4pm

The first session focuses on setting group assignments in Microsoft Teams and is hosted by Keith, who has over 17 years of experience training IT systems across the UK and abroad.  

During the webinar, teachers will see the new group assignments feature in Teams and learn how to allow students to collaborate to submit one assignment as one group. Additionally, the session covers how teachers can provide feedback and grades to either each student or give an overall grade for the group.

CDB - Setting group assignments in Microsoft Teams

Setting up your Class Notebook for the new academic year – 18/08/2022, 10-11am

The second session covers Setting up your Class Notebook for the new academic year.  

“As the new academic year approaches, we wanted to show teachers how they can save time and improve the quality of their class notebooks by following some good practices,” says Joe, a Cloud Design Box trainer with a background in supporting SEND students in secondary and higher education. 

Joe, Cloud Design Box Trainer

Joe, Cloud Design Box Trainer

The session will show you how to set up your new class notebook and how to use some of its unique features to prepare for the new academic year.  

CDB - Setting up your Class Notebook for the new academic year

“Our summer training series is just another part of our ‘sharing is caring’ ethos,” explains Tony Phillips, Founder of Cloud Design Box.

“We love sharing resources, tips and knowledge with schools and teachers so they can harness the full potential of Microsoft for Education.”  

Head to our events page to sign up for our free summer training series.