Sway It: Save Time, Communicate Better, Connect School and Home

The following was originally posted on the main Microsoft in Education blog, and was written by guest author Michelle Zimmerman, an educator from Washington State.

Guest Post by: Michelle Zimmerman, Educator: Sway It: Save Time, Communicate Better, Connect School and Home

Microsoft in Education Team

Guest Post by: Michelle Zimmerman, educator at Renton Prep in Washington State

From Houston to Philadelphia to the Los Angeles Unified School District, Sway is redefining learning and getting a lot of attention in the process. Whether you've already been in school for almost a month or still have a couple more weeks until the #firstfivedays, and educators are looking for ways to save time, and get ideas out there in new ways.

Sway allows you to create polished presentations, portfolios and communication in minutes. Best of all, Sway is smart. You don't need to be a design major to make them look good. You can change the look by just hitting "Remix!" If you haven't started school yet, consider sending a visual supply list to support English Language Learners and families. By adding images of supplies instead of written list, educators can make it easier for families to identify objects by opening the Sway on a mobile device when walking through the store. Families can make purchasing school supplies part of language building skills through a scavenger hunt in the store and show even young students the images to have them help find the objects to drop in a cart or basket.

Here are just a few ways educators are using Sway:


So how does Sway work?

Remember the days of writing on notecards to start a draft for a research paper, when you could rearrange or lay the notecards out on the floor? Now imagine that these cards are digital, holding a range of media -- like YouTube videos, photos, graphs, embed codes, slideshows and comparisons. It's as easy as drag and drop. Sway even offers suggestions for images and media based on your topic.


Sway does the work for you to polish and publish with just one link, viewable on any device. How cool would it be to explore history or family culture through art portfolios? What about teaching other educators how you use MOOCS as blended learning with logic, literacy, mathematics, physics and theater? Or letting parents know about the multiple connections across various subjects?

Let's face it. It can be a challenge to communicate with parents and guardians. There are many reasons for this:

  • Time: It takes time to compose and write coherently and revise for clarity.
  • Language barriers: Some speak a language other than English, making communication a challenge.
  • Distraction: Some are working multiple jobs to support their family. Printed letters fall out of folders or get lost. Even email gets lost in bins and folders. Programs that verify email was opened are great for knowing who didn't see it, but you can't make a parent open an email. What happens when work emails are flooded? What's the motivation to read one more email?


What's a teacher to do?

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, and parents and guardians are on mobile devices more than ever, let's show them what the school day was like. What if you had something to visually document the positive learning progress so easily, you could finish it within 10 minutes and have a professional product in one link, viewable on mobile devices?

Think of the impact for parents working night shifts, or for overcoming language barriers, or even sharing the victory of the child who showed positive behaviour for the first time and completed a learning goal. Think of the benefit for parent-teacher conferences for family members traveling for work or out of the country. Writing a letter home can't capture the expressions, the excitement, the nurturing and caring in the same way.

Sway helps you communicate and share a story that is personal and meaningful. Once you start, you won't want to stop. That's what Docs.com is for. Collections. But that's a story for another day.

This guest post was written by Michelle Zimmerman, who received her PhD in Learning Sciences and Human Development from the College of Education at the University of Washington and has taught all grades from preschool - 10th grade.

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