Expert Educator Columns, Featured
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Koen Timmers: Office Sway- Create, Present, and Share

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by Koen Timmers
Expert Educator Columnist, Belgium

Sway and I, it was love at first sight. As a teacher, I saw educational opportunities and as a web designer, I instantly loved its ease of use. Sway offers the opportunity to create trendy onepagers in the blink of an eye. The attractive user-interface ensures a fast result. Sway is a webapp; this means you don’t need to install software, don’t need to constantly hit save, yet still have access to your sways at all places. No more resizing images or putting them in place– Sway takes care of it all. What’s even more exciting is Sway will soon also be available as an app! This page will also give you a quick overview of the app.

How exactly do we position Sway? Can we call it a website, a presentation, or perhaps something else? David Alexander, member of the Sway team at Microsoft, explains:

“Specifically, a Sway is not just a website. While Sways are easily viewed on the web, and many will use Sway as a website, as we make more native apps for devices more people will experience Sway elsewhere than the web. So we tend to think about it more as a new type of interactive ‘document’ with an adaptive layout.”

Sway is still in beta, but as of December 15, you can now access Sway Preview without a waitlist. This gives the developers the opportunity to remove some bugs, listen to the early adaptors and implement requested features from their users. Sway Preview is open-ended because the team deosn’t want to limit the amount of feedback they get. For the developers, it’s key that the product evolves to be what the users want.

David illustrates the three main elements of Sway’s value:

  1. Sway lets you create and share an entirely new type of output (an interactive canvas of multimedia that you can use to express your ideas)
  2. Sway lets you easily add your content from a variety of built-in sources, right within Sway (and those sources will expand over time, largely thanks to feedback we get about which sources people request)
  3. Sway acts as your digital design assistant – it lets you focus on your ideas, while it continuously creates a polished and presentable output for you. You could decide “I’m done” at any time and be ready to share and know it will look great on any device.

Once you’re working with Sway, you won’t find the opportunity to change fonts, text size, etc. Chris Pratley is the partner director of engineering for the Sway team and tells us more about the Sway Philosophy. He evolved from wysiwyg (What You See Is What you get) to wygiwyw (What You Get Is What You Want). Everybody has ever been in contact with wysiwyg. We all know the text-editor, which promises a lot, but sometime doesn’t keeps its promises and gives a result far from earlier intentions. Wygiwyw aims to solve the adaptive layout problem, the design problem and improves the authoring experience.

Sway allows us to create, present and share, and thus is an interesting tool for educational purposes. Why? Constructivist teaching is based on the belief that learning occurs as learners are actively involved in a process of meaning and knowledge construction as opposed to passively receiving information. Sway offers the opportunity to construct knowledge by gathering information, creating a presentation, and can even evolve to social constructivism– learning by collaboration. Sway can be used by both students and teachers in project-based education, the flipped classroom, collaborative learning, student self-assessment, knowledge building, etc. All 21st century skills can be covered by the implementation of Sway.

Let’s ask for David’s opinion:

“All three elements listed above definitely apply to educators. #1 (the new type of format) is valuable because Sway provides teachers with a new, interactive, multimedia rich ways to present lessons and content to students. Particularly when you consider examples of non-linear Sways (such as this one, about the U.S. States), where students and teachers and pick the sequence of a lesson, peruse concepts at-will outside the classroom, or use the new format to help with a flipped-learning approach to teaching (where students learn at home and then apply the learnings in-class). As for #2 (easily add your content), Sway can help teachers save time by more quickly putting those interactive lessons/content together by helping them aggregate their content from a variety of sources. #3 helps in a similar way – Sway helps save teachers time by assisting with a lot of the design work, so teachers can focus on the ideas they want to teach, while having confidence that Sway will help them create a polished, presentable output that will engage their students.”

Last but not least: For which purpose was this tool developed? How does Sway position itself towards PowerPoint and other presentation tools?

David clarifies that Sway is an addition to the Office family that adds additional choices for the way people create and share their ideas, depending on their circumstances. There will be situations where PowerPoint continues to be the best tool, and there will be situations where Sway will be the best tool. It’s something we’ve already seen and will continue to see. For example, Sway is a wonderful new option in situations where somebody is looking to quickly get their ideas formatted in a polished, cohesive layout, thanks to assisted authoring and content aggregation by Sway. Sway will save those people time by making design choices for them and allowing them to tweak the output based on their own unique style. PowerPoint continues to be a fantastic solution for people in situations where they want more specific design and formatting requirements, and the desire to have complete control over aspects ranging from font size, to (x,y) coordinate positioning of their content, to gradient pattern specifications, and exact crop handle and edge placement of their photos. The same person could use Sway for some situations and PowerPoint for others.

Want to start with Sway? I wrote a quick guide: http://zlfstd.be/guide-sway

Want to know more about Sway? Visit Sway’s blog and Touching Base on Sway Preview

Want to explore some beautiful Sways? Take a look at these from MIEs:

Shiromi We- Sri Lanka: https://sway.com/umd4sDd7ZdEhDkWV

Dženita Arbak Demir – Bosnia and Herzegovina: https://sway.com/RFlq7KhhmVSdVi9Z

Olamilekan Adeeko – Nigeria: https://sway.com/7dcw2DiZ1lzXXlkp

Angels Soriano Sanchez – Spain: https://sway.com/qMKcqbZ5V5J-_fnq

Tammy Dunbar – USA: https://sway.com/CL7tVJLCSiZ4aJsx

Nádori Gergely – Hungary: https://sway.com/a5-k70yVfwewpSQV

Kurt Söser – Austria: https://sway.com/wB8iZVsRq7FvP6r

Koen Timmers – Belgium: https://sway.com/_O3sW4yqyb_usfDj

Марија П. – Macedonia: https://sway.com/deHKPVT4M9VwMOdb

Bozena C Kraj – Poland: https://sway.com/vhov48OFllSQ9trj

Bai Sheina Balabaran Kusain – Philippines: https://sway.com/6EnJsCfHNjTGCJST

Sandi Adams – : https://sway.com/20EdVah4tzyYf_cs

Jonas Miranda Cabusbusan – :https://sway.com/uJ6uqXWzQstKLWIi

Meenakshi Uberoi – :https://sway.com/vIdL-DMMNgDBEweO

Champa Rathnayake – : https://sway.com/E55uYgdKMcXMzqnX

Andrew Fitzgerald – : https://sway.com/2bS73n8eAFuqhrKM

Sandi Adams – : https://sway.com/X-TRy9ThXPjtsFxE

Khurshed Alam : https://sway.com/LEwzPwb-LAx-dPq4

Nádori Gergely – : https://sway.com/OFZo3VaEMCIoDpDC


koen

My name is Koen Timmers and I’m a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert. I teach computer science, and more specifically, web design at CVO Heusden-Zolder in Belgium. Since the moment I became a teacher, in 2000, I’ve been passionate about e-learning. I try to be innovative by implementing blended and distance learning, screen casts, social media in my class room. OneDrive, Office and Lync spice up my lessons.

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