Sway in Office 365

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Before I get into why Sway is a cool tool and how I’ve seen it used, let me give you some back story. For my entire career as a tech coach (a grand four years), I’ve been immersed in everything that is Google. I’m a Google Certified Educator, I’ve promoted Drive to teachers as often as possible, and use it for personal projects because I think it’s so user friendly. Now that I’m working in a district that uses Office 365, I’m getting a hard and fast understanding of everything within the 365 suite of tools. Of those, I am really liking Sway.

Sway is, in my opinion, the love child of PowerPoint and a photo slide show. It’s a great digital storytelling way for students to show what they know. There are several things I like about this program.

First, as a former middle school teacher who allowed students to create in PowerPoint, I <3 the fact that students don’t have many options as far as transitions/actions. Despite my stern warnings, the students would spend 90% of their work time on changing fonts, slide transitions, colors, effects, etc. Then, they’d run out of time and throw the content on the page. During their formal presentation, their audience would be subjected to an assault on their eyes. In Sway, students have limited options to change the formatting of the presentation.

Second, back to those middle school presentations. Besides the assault to the senses, the worst part of being in the audience was listening to the students read. the. entire. slide. Because the format is different, students have to learn brevity and summarization. This is such a great skill that even many adults have difficulty with.

Finally, unlike static programs that live on a student’s device, Sway lives in the Cloud. This means that multiple students can access the presentation at the same time and collaborate together in real time! Hopefully, being able to work at the same time will discourage one student from doing all of the work while the other students sit and stare or disrupt others.

I’m constantly amazed at the new things I see in educational technology. Just today, I watched a roomful of sixth grade students work collaboratively in Sway. Their goals was to create a presentation convincing investors to financially support their inventions, Shark Tank style. Every student was engaged in what they were doing! When I asked students to explain their project, they didn’t just talk to me; they showed me their presentation in Sway!

In what ways can you see this tool being used?

An Alternative to Kahoot

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So, let me be honest with you. I am not a fan of Kahoot! There, I said it. I know, I know. This is not really a popular opinion. I believe Kahoot has it’s place, just like every other technology tool out there. My problem with Kahoot is that students are more interested in how FAST they can answer the questions instead of how CORRECT they answer the questions. If student excitement is your goal, then Kahoot is great for that. But what if you’re interested in both student engagement AND adequately reviewing content?

Let me introduce you to Quizizz. The site’s concept is the same: answer the given question before time runs out. However, there are a few differences. First, questions and answers are all on the student device. The teacher does not have to display anything. Second, even though students are still competing against their classmates, the leaderboard can be turned off. That way, the students won’t be reminded with each question where they are in relation to each other. Third, if you are running the iOS app, the questions and answers can be read to the student. This ONLY works on the app; the questions cannot be read through the site.

With students, I’ve used both programs during the same class time. The excitement and engagement was present for both sites. However, the students performed better when using Quizizz. During our reflection time, students shared with me that they felt pressured to answer as quickly as possible in Kahoot, even though they might get the wrong answer. Obviously, every group of students is different and will perform differently. Which brings me back to my one of my original statements: there is a place for every technology tool. You have to decide which tool your situation calls for.