How SWAY Blew Us Away
When I first saw the power of Microsoft SWAY I was floored. I saw so much potential that my head spun. If you do a search for SWAY in education you will get a large list of examples. One thing you will notice, though, is that they are almost all created by middle and high school students, which is great because there is so much you can do. However, I personally take that as a challenge to reach a broader audience — namely elementary school students.
I decided to start with 2nd graders and found a teacher who was onboard and excited to try it out. We came up with a simple idea to start with that fit into their curriculum: seasons. Each student had to create a title and have one picture and one fact about each season. I made a template and a link, and off the kids went. I was blown away. Without direction they were adding video clips with ease and even changing the design layout like true digital natives!
They did so well we decided to take it up a notch and have another class of 2nd graders create SWAYs, but this time they worked in groups and had to work simultaneously on the same SWAY. Again, because the students are often so much more capable than we give them credit for and the simplicity of SWAY, they blew us away. Next 4th grade wanted in and then 5th grade wanted to see what it was all about. Students were excited and motivated because they got to use a new product, and teachers were excited because this versatility meant they could easily incorporate SWAY into their curriculum.
With each new project we learned a little bit more and added new pieces, with more complexity. Teachers learned along the way and so did I. What I think is even more inspiring, though, is that teachers have seen just how fearless and capable their students are. While there are a few who do not like trying new things, so many of them do, and they love the challenge! Teachers are becoming less apprehensive of trying new things, technology and otherwise, simply because they are becoming more confident in their students. They are realizing that we can’t limit ourselves or our students simply because we don’t understand the technology. Chances are they do and they want the challenge.
After teaching in the middle school classroom for 9 years, Chelsei Fox decided to move into educational technology in Yorktown, VA. As a teacher, she saw the power of bringing technology into the classroom to support and extend student learning. Now she gets the chance to help other teachers bring the same excitement and possibilities into their classrooms. After being chosen as Microsoft Innovative Expert Educator in 2013 and 2015, she has had some incredible opportunities to share the many ways Microsoft tools can help create a 21st century classroom. Once her school division adopted Office 365, another world of opportunity was opened up to the teachers and students. While she has enjoyed finding new ways to use the traditional Office tools, she is excited about the new possibilities with the creation of SWAY and Onenote Notebooks and the future possibilities they hold.