Guest blog post by Helen Gooch, Microsoft Fellow: Office Mix, It's a Game Changes for Teachers to Create Interactive Lessons

What is it? It is a GAME CHANGER! Microsoft announced Office Mix last week and how this add-in for PowerPoint that will allow any teacher to create a great learning opportunity. Think of it as a student, self-directed module. Take a PowerPoint that most educators use to drive or reinforce curriculum, if not daily then at least often and add Office Mix to provide solutions for many issues and challenges in today's education space. Let's discuss possible opportunities where this might be a great solution. The flipped classroom concept could definitely benefit. Homebound instruction would be a good fit. Reinforcing a difficult concept by providing additional instruction or practice is yet a third natural solution. So what exactly is Office Mix and how do I acquire it and use it?

To get started in the process of using this new feature go to Office Mix and download the add-in. You will need to sign in with a Microsoft account, Organizational, Facebook, or your Google account.

After you download Office Mix you will be prompted to open PowerPoint to see your new tab in your toolbar ribbon.

You now have the ability to:

  • record (audio and video of yourself teaching your lesson),

  • insert quizzes, videos, apps, screen recording, or screenshots,

  • preview, upload, and/or export to video, and

  • send feedback and request help. The Feedback and Help features are so important to making this project work and the team is dedicated to getting you the assistance you need. The Office Mix Update button will bring any new enhancements or features to your experience easily.

Once you have Office Mix downloaded, create your PowerPoint slides as you normally would, but now consider that you can insert quiz questions or formative assessment opportunities along the way! You can include video instruction, both that you find and attach, as we have been able to do all along, but also video of yourself introducing a new concept or re-teaching a concept that needs refinement, reinforcing learning for students who need to have it presented in another way. Office Mix also provides the ability to link websites that are into your PowerPoint which might be the perfect simulation that enhances the curriculum you want your students to master.

Several weeks ago this educator began playing with Office Mix while the Office Mix program team, led by Shanen Boettcher, were still working to bring this game changer to all educators. Several questions came to mind which Shanen and his team were happy to answer:

Q1: What is the official release date for Office Mix
We released the preview on May 8.

Q2: One piece of advice you would give any educator who wants to try this?
Be creative! We have already been amazed at how teacher testers are using Office Mix, and we want to see what other uses creative teachers can dream up.

Q3: Why was Office Mix created?
We've heard from educators through our account teams and through our Microsoft's education program that the classroom is transforming. We spent months talking with teachers about how they use technology and new pedagogical approaches like blended learning, BYOD and feedback loops. One thing was clear – teachers want technology that can help them reach students in new ways, but they don't want to lose focus on the classroom, and they don't have a lot of free time to learn a brand new technology. We took that input, and began working on a way to help teachers take advantage of these new technology and teaching paradigms with a tool they already knew how to use.

Q4: Any idea of future direction/enhancement? – I know you are just launching but …
With cloud enabled services like Office Mix, we rapidly ship updates. We are very happy with our customer preview release. We'll share more as we make significant changes to Office Mix. Stay tuned!

There are several helpful hints discovered as this educator created her first mix.

  • Make sure you have the most recent install of Office Mix. You will notice there is an update feature built right in the Office Mix ribbon. Shanen and his team are watching and listening for issues and are responding quickly to make this feature work seamlessly for all. Keep your Office Mix updated.

  • Check your audio/video tools out and give them a test drive before you record an entire mix, only to find out that the audio or video settings need to be adjusted and you have to revise and re-record your work.

  • Keep your first effort(s) straightforward and simple until you get the tools under your belt. The Office Mix ribbon is easy to use and intuitive, but you are adding a whole new dimension to your instruction.

  • Be upbeat when you record and do play back your effort. We do not always come across as we think we do.

  • Gather your resources you may want to use prior to working up your lesson.

  • When you are ready to publish your mix, choose a time and place where you have good internet connection and upload capacity. The Office Mix team has been very responsive to this educator who does not live where high speed is the norm. They are working to make this successful when using high speed or not so high speed internet connection/upload speed.

  • If you have an issue, do use the "Send Feedback" feature. The team is proactively looking at each instance and they do provide feedback to you. They are also creating a Q & A section and best practices suggestions on the Mix Gallery website.

Now, as amazing and valuable as everything we have covered so far is, hold onto your seat because it gets even better. You, the educator, have the ability to share the mix you just created with your students. You control when you upload to the Office Mix Gallery, and when you publish your mix, you can determine whether just your students will have access to your instructional resource or if you want to publish it so everyone will be able to see it.

In addition, the Office Mix Team has included great analytics so that as your students complete a lesson or learning activity, you can see how well they mastered the objectives, and you can view the results if you included quiz questions such as multiple choice, true/false, and short answer. Or, you can monitor how long they spent on various aspects of your instructional sequence. Did they breeze through certain parts or did they truly take their time to learn. These are great formative assessment features!

Office Mix requires Office 2013 SP1. The team will check to see if you have the right version during installation, and let you know if you need to take action. If you know you need Office 365, you can try it for free for 30 days.

Is this a GAME CHANGER! Thought you would agree! Why not try Office Mix for yourself? Download the customer preview of Office Mix today, and if you create a mix that you would like to share with the world, send the link using the "Send Feedback" option to the team and they will consider posting it to their examples gallery!

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