Product Review of Sway
Microsoft Sway is a digital storytelling website that integrates with the Office online suite. Teachers and learners log in with their Office credentials and follow the short tutorial to get oriented on how to add text and images and then how to customize the way users will scroll through a story — layouts include Horizontal, Vertical, and Slideshow. Students or educators can create new presentations from scratch, generate a topic outline, or upload a document. The Insert feature allows learners to pull in content such as images, videos, or animated GIFs from their device, OneDrive account, or the web. Suggested searches appear in the sidebar, but educators should note that learners are responsible for complying with copyright laws. It would be nice if student-friendly image sites such as Photos for Class were connected here, but kids can take advantage of the option to search Creative Commons only. Students can also collaborate on presentations via a shared URL.
Once learners complete their design, they can share a public or private link to it online via the Sway website or just keep their Sway local on the device. The site offers a short tutorial and a few lessons that highlight what’s possible and provide some inspiration to educators or learners who want to make their presentations pop, but without a decent-sized gallery of ideas or lessons, they’ll find themselves largely on their own to think of creative ways to present material.
Consider using Sway as a digital portfolio tool where learners can offer highlights of their written and visual work on the web. Students can share their work with peers in a virtual show-and-tell-style gallery walk. Liven up a lab report by having your learners import charts, graphs, and images from their latest lab into Sway, and then have them enter their written responses in between. Or have your learners create a digital history presentation, researching a topic and then adding appropriate images to heighten the effect. In English language arts (ELA), use Sway to illustrate a text you’re reading in class. Students can import passages from a short story, novel, or play and then include images and video to tell the story visually.
Teachers can take advantage of Sway’s easy design templates and simple creation platform, too. Support your lessons with striking visual content, or collaborate with colleagues to add layers of interest to staff meetings or professional development (PD) presentations. While Sway lacks the animation features that other presentation tools offer, powerful images paired with a just-right amount of text can offer a polished look and engage your audience.
Once you get the hang of it, creating visually stunning stories in Sway can be a lot of fun. Since there’s not a huge learning curve, it’s a good fit for kids who get distracted by more complicated presentation tools. Teachers can easily address multimodal learning preferences by accompanying simple captions with multimedia content. Presentations can be mixed up, too, toggling the format (such as changing a story that scrolls vertically to one that scrolls horizontally) or functionality (such as changing a swipeable stack of photos to a static gallery). Those little changes can help educators create original, slick, sophisticated presentations to share with learners or colleagues. Viewers can scroll through at their own pace, taking their time to explore the text and images and make meaningful connections. Teachers need to be sure to balance images, videos, and text, though — too much or too little of any will make presentations seem dull or incomplete.
Sway’s self-paced experience is nice, but more interactive features such as tools for annotation or commenting would make it even better. A gallery of teacher-created lessons would be a great addition as well. As it is, Sway may not become a go-to presentation tool, but it’s a great way to create stylish presentations that are visually appealing and super simple to navigate.
Overall User Consensus About the App
Sway was created more for adults than for kids, but middle school and high school learners could find the flexible features and simple interface engrossing and empowering.
Curriculum and Instruction
There’s great potential for exploring storytelling and presentation skills, from writing clearly to choosing the sequence of text and images effectively.
Although the sample presentations are outdated, the features are intuitive, and it’s easy to get started with your own creations. Updated tutorials would help inspire users to discover Sway’s potential.