ISTE 2014 has just wrapped up and I’m inspired by the enthusiasm of my fellow educators to embrace new tools that offer innovative ways to connect with and teach our students. This year, I had the opportunity to present in a session with Microsoft and meet with colleagues to share my experience with Office Mix and the potential I see for its use in the classroom. Office Mix is a tool that meets a real need – and I think flipped and blended classroom teachers will be particularly excited to get a peek into its capabilities. But as educators, we all know that a tool is only a tool until it becomes part of a solution, so I wanted to start with some background and to talk about how I see Office Mix addressing some of my teaching goals and challenges.
For me, it started with a problem that I saw in teaching my AP Calculus AB course. I had a packed AP curriculum to get through and lecture was taking up too much class time. I didn’t feel like my classroom environment was the curious, inspiring space I had envisioned it would be and I simply did not have the time to address student’s needs as individuals. I needed to find a way to get back to creating a calm and excited classroom environment despite the packed curriculum.
In 2010, I established a solution to my problem – offload the lecture to video, to be watched for homework, so that class time could be spent doing the real work – sitting with students individually and in groups, watching them interact with their classmates, joining in on discussions they were initiating, and guiding them in their learning.
The next step was embedding quizzes into my videos. Being able to collect the data before students even come into the classroom has helped immensely and aids me in determining what parts of the video need extra review as a class, what 1-on-1 work I may need to do for the day, and how to assign groups in ways that will be most productive. Flipping my classroom was a huge time investment – I’m not going to sugarcoat it. And while I love making the videos and playing with the technical end of editing and making things look as perfect as I can, I also understand that it is not for everyone.
Something I continue to hear over and over from colleagues at ISTE and other industry events is, “Wow, I love what you're doing but that process is just too much for me.” Or, “I totally want to do this, but where do I even start? What do I have to download, and what do I do with the video after I've made it?”
This is where the beauty of Office Mix comes in – it makes it easy to create online lessons. If you can make a PowerPoint presentation, you can make a mix. You'll even get the link and embed code to share with simply the click of a button – no hosting or uploading to another site required.
Using Office Mix has been a big time saver in creating and editing lessons. Previously when screencasting, I had to do the editing after the fact and had to carefully watch the entire lesson over and over again to catch any edits that needed to be made. With Office Mix, I can make the edits in real time. If I make a mistake on a particular slide, I simply hit a button to rerecord just that slide. Also, I can make my videos more exploratory without having to send students to another website while also capturing their reflections on the lesson. Sending students to multiple sites to complete one homework activity is not ideal and they often get distracted in the process of moving from one site to another.
Office Mix helps solve that problem. I can embed web and interactive content, like quizzes, PhET simulations, Khan Academy activities, CK-12 content, web content, and more. I’m excited by how it lets me use multiple sites and resources, but still keep students focused on completing the activity. In the fall, I envision using Office Mix to create exploration activities for my students.
Office Mix also delivers a great experience to the students. Mixes may start with a short instructional portion using the audio and inking features, then have interactive elements for students to do the exploration (i.e.: embedding a PhET simulation or Desmos graph with sliders), and close with a short quiz to get students reflecting and thinking deeply about the demonstration and exploration. Mixes are not only interactive lessons; students can also easily navigate from one slide to the next, just as they would be able to do in a PowerPoint presentation, and the audio, video, and inking will adjust accordingly. Simple things like being able to quickly change colors and pen thickness can be a big deal in making an online lesson clear and easy to follow.
Office Mix is not going to change the problems of addressing the curriculum side of things, and creating lessons is always going to be an investment. What Office Mix does is bring new features and functionality you need directly into PowerPoint, and make it easy to share lessons online.