Posted in Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff

DNA sways

I have really only dabbled with Microsoft sway as I find I use OneNote and Office Mix way more often. But with the new addition of Microsoft Classroom and being able to just add links into the files for students to review, it is a little easier than before to share. So I am revisiting sway as a tool for my teaching and learning programs. A big bonus for the Genetics topic we are currently doing is that is so easy to insert videos and diagrams, as well as room for the all ‘extensive’ vocabulary the students need to learn, (as an FYI, I  struggle with how language rich the genetics topics always is, watching boys eyes glaze over as I go through new word after new word is a bit tough for everyone)

The first thing was a revamp of a previous sway on the relationship between DNA, genes and chromosomes, with a recap of DNA structure too.

We then did my FAVOURITE activity from the Science learning hub, edible DNA. I love this lesson, but to add a little bit more of a goal into the lesson, I asked my students to use their DNA models to make a short video, which I then uploaded to youtube, and embedded into a sway for easy sharing

Next steps will be a Office Mix (still love my office mix) explaining punnet squares and some online animations to practice them, and then perhaps another sway for adaptations and variation.

Posted in Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff

Stepping up with Sway

Since my last post on how I have been using sway, I have used this software in a different way in my classes. As part of our genetics unit, a colleague (Mel) and I have designed our unit resources to fit into sway. Traditionally, for the level of students we are teaching, this unit is interesting but a bit ‘dry’, especially as we are getting towards the end of our school year. To try and brighten things up a little, we have done (or are going to do) an individual sway for each learning objective (so a lesson or two), and then embedded each sway into the ‘MASTER SWAY’ for the students. Because Sway is now in the Office 365 suite of software for education, it has been really easy to collaborate with Mel on this unit of work.

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Each learning goal has it’s own sway with a mixture of text, videos, files and links to animations for the students to work through.

This has allowed us to share resources between the two classes easily and effectively. It also means that as there is only one link for the students to click on, there is less confusion about where to go to. For us teachers, it also means we can have a snap shot of the whole unit visually in front of us. Because we are both authors on the sways, we can each modify them. And as sways are easy to duplicate, if we want to do slightly different things, we can still work together to make the majority of the sway, the copy it, and have a separate one for each class.

My class had the option of completing the set tasks on the sway either in their books or via a OneNote or word document. The other class has been making sways of their own. This is so we can do a little comparison of how the unit worked for each class, and what we would do as we refine it for next year.

So far, the unit is going really well. More capable students are able to move ahead at their own pace, and because all of the resources are there, they are able to learn independently. Less able or less confident students are enjoying that the can review the notes or movies multiple times at their own pace to answer questions. So we have the added bonus of giving the students more ownership and agency in their learning. That said, we are still doing some whole class activities as well.

Because sway will easily let you include a variety of resources, it has been easy to include some pictures and videos of what we have been doing in class.This meant that the activity can be revisited. And while my students were a bit shy about going on camera, they have been quite proud of the photos and videos too.

For example, when we made edible DNA today, it was super easy to take lots of photos of the process, as well as some short videos of students explaining their DNA models.

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So for this style of unit design, sway has been really useful. The ease of use for staff and students means it as easier than building some web pages. This class likes the scaffolded structure of the different sways within the one unit over the ‘text book feel’ of a OneNote (I still love OneNote, but it is a little more linear in it’s layout than a sway). But for juniors, so far it has been a super effective way of delivering the content while letting them work at their own pace.

Posted in Professional learning, Techie stuff

Playing around with Sway

If you haven’t had a look at Sway yet, I really suggest you do. It came online as part of our schools 365 software about 6 weeks ago, although I had been using it off and on for about a year. It is a flexible presentation medium that allows for a wide range of images, videos and documents to be stored in one place. Sway also looks great on any device and as it is solely web based will work on any device. While I am still not 100% sold on using sway to deliver content and would still mix it up with OneNote and Office Mix, I am 110% sold on my students using sway as a tool to get their message across.

Some situations where I have used office sway have been

As additional information for my CV.

When I applied for a job earlier in the term, I put some additional ‘supporting information’ onto a sway. I did this as I still felt uncomfortable submitting a completely digital CV (not because I was didn’t think it would work, but I am also very aware of the need to a piece of paper to read for some people) so I compromised and did both.

I also used it to put together a (slightly rushed) application for the roll of ICT rep for Otago Southland (which I didn’t get, but never mind). Incidentally, this was my first ever sway I made – it really is very easy to use. Just drag, drop and type really. It will even automatically search images etc for you.

As an alternative to Powerpoint for a presenting

I have used sway a couple of times when presenting now. I have found (for me) if I am using it as a presentation tool, I like to keep it simple and mostly images – if you have too many things flying around, it gets a bit busy and confusing. So this sway was for a catch up with other MIEEs from around NZ just highlighting what I had been doing. This sway was a presentation I gave to staff after I got back from Seattle.

I’m still not sure exactly what my favourite app for presenting is. I really like using OneNote as a ‘Trezi’ style (Travis Smith uses OneNote exceptionally well, like a prezi presentation with even more awesome), and sometimes there is safety in powerpoint 🙂 But a sway can be a great tool to move away from ‘bullet points’ and reading off slides.

Displaying content

A real advantage of Sway is that you can easily incorporate other files and images into it. When you are on the home page, you have the option to import other documents straight away

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For time poor teachers who may already have resources made up, this is a real time saver. You can create a sway from a resource you already have. For example, there was a powerpoint already made up for a genetics topics coming up. So you can chose to upload this straight into a sway

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You can then ‘remix’ the sway to get it to look how ever you like.

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I sometimes find this function awesome, and other times frustrating. I would prefer an ‘options’ or pick template. But the students love remixing their sways, although they can occasionally waste a bit of time on it too. But it does break up the content in different ways.

So in the case of the genetics powerpoint, I am going to keep what works of the old and add in some more pictures, videos and maybe a mix or two. Then a real beauty fo this system is it so easily embeds into Sharepoint sites, so you can add content to a site in a really straightforward way – even if you are not super confident using technology.

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So, all in all, Sway is a super easy to use, super flexible display/presentation tool that seems to work seemlessly with other software (and on a mac too). I think I will still mostly use OneNote and Office Mix for most of my content delivery, but will definitely allow my students to submit their work in this way if they wish.