GUEST BLOG – Microsoft’s Sway is Perfect for the Modern Classroom


The following is a guest post by Jonathan Wylie

For the past couple of weeks I have been fortunate enough to have access to a brand new Microsoft app called Sway. It is a fantastic product and it’s coming to a classroom near you soon. What is Sway? It's a web-based tool that lets you present content in a variety of unique and interesting ways, and it comes with a powerful set of easy to use design tools that will make your presentation look amazing in a matter of seconds. It's currently still in Preview, but in this post I will give you an inside look at just what to expect, as well as revealing some ways that you could use it in the classroom.

Getting started is easy. You log in at sway.com and create your first Sway from the dashboard. Essentially, there are two views that you will be working with. The first is the Storyline (the editor), and the other is the live preview of what your Sway will actually look like. Switching between these views is just a one click process. In the storyline view, you can add headers to separate your content into sections, and text to tell your story. You can also add images and videos from OneDrive, Facebook, YouTube or your own device. You can even add tweets from Twitter!

Each media element that you add can be laid out in a number of different ways, be that as a background image, a group, a stack and so forth. Rearranging content is as simple as dragging and dropping it to a new location. You can choose a structure for your Sway that will help guide viewers through your content vertically, horizontally, or in a number of yet to be released styles that include 3D scrolling.

However, perhaps the most powerful and most intuitive part of Sway is the design tools. You can pick an overall theme and color scheme for your Sway, or you can use the default style and click the Remix button until you find one that fits your content the best. This is great for teachers who may not feel confident in their design skills or just want to save some time, but it's also good for students who get a polished looking product without having to endlessly tweak fonts, styles and colors one by one in order to get the effect they want.

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Sway is undoubtedly very easy to use. I created and edited my Sways on a Mac, PC, and even an iPad. The user experience is exactly the same on all of those devices and everything syncs to your Microsoft account so your creations are accessible wherever you go. This cross-platform compatibility means that schools can use Sway regardless of what device they are using. Here are some great examples of what a Sway looks like.

Once upon a time in Italy

Trash is Life and Death for American Bears

The Future of Solar

Sway embodies all that is good about Microsoft’s new "mobile first, cloud first" philosophy in the way that you can access your content on the web from a multitude of different devices. If you want to start a Sway on your laptop and add the finishing touches later that day on an iPad, you can. Not a problem, and when the time comes to share your Sway with others, you can post it to social media, get a shareable link, or generate an embed code for blogs and websites. Your Sway will automatically adjust to the size of the screen that it is being viewed on, so you can be sure it will look great on all platforms.

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In the classroom, there are a number of ways that Sway could be used to enhance teaching and learning and not all of them are as obvious as you might think. For instance, PowerPoint is a fantastic tool with the power to do amazing things, but if you need something that looks great in a hurry, Sway is more than capable of filling that gap. More ways to use Sway at school include, but are not limited to:

· Student presentations

· Digital storytelling

· Procedural writing

· Informational websites

· Project based learning

· Flyers for school events

· Digital portfolios for Art

· ...and lots more!

Sway is currently in Preview, but you can request an invite by signing up at sway.com. It's unique, engaging, and interactive, so it's perfect for the modern classroom. The only question that remains is, what will you create with Sway?

Jonathan Wylie is a certified teacher with 10 years classroom experience. He has taught in Scotland, England, and the United States. He currently works as an Instructional Technology Consultant for Grant Wood AEA in Cedar Rapids, IA. Jonathan is also a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert for 2015. Connect with Jonathan on Twitter @jonathanwylie or via his blog at jonathanwylie.com.


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