Office Mix creates rich and engaging lessons

Guest post by Kristen Messer, Teacher, Career Academy

When I grew up we had four television stations and cartoons aired on Saturdays. Pong was the only video game on the market. I played outside. I loved puzzles. So going to school was exciting. After all, there wasn’t much else to compete for my attention.

Today, on-demand entertainment streams to students’ computers and phones 24/7.  In fact, The National Center for Biotechnology Information cites a decrease in attention span from 12 seconds in 2000 to just eight seconds in 2013. Compared to the nine-second attention span of a goldfish, you will see educators have their work cut out for them.

So here’s the plan.

Let’s entertain them! Some teachers have no problem being dramatic or assuming a costumed alter ego. I’m not that teacher. The entertainment value in my high school class needs to be at the student’s workspace, not at the front of the room.

I work in a 1-to-1 Windows 8.1 district, complete with Office 365 — which is so helpful. I also have the privilege of opening and managing our district’s Makerspace, MELS Garage — short for (Connecting) Manufacturing and Engineering to Learning through STEM. Students, staff and the community have access to 3D printers, soldering irons, line-following robots, Minecraft, Arduinos and some of its add-ons, and other toys.

Students working on a project

My school district, Manteca Unified, wants this space to support a maker/coder/hacker environment, but can you imagine opening the doors and turning students loose to unleash their creativity? And with the added bonus of different students coming and going at different times?

As a teacher, I feel there does need to be some instruction, if for no other reason than safety. Plus, students are becoming makers after spending a decade of direction-following. Quite the conundrum. We have chosen to use Office Mix to bridge the gap between “Follow these instructions” and “Here, go make something.”

Office Mix vs. PowerPoint

Office Mix takes PowerPoint to the next level. I create a PowerPoint to share a concept, for example “How to Solder.” In the past, I would go through the presentation using dry erase markers on the PowerPoint projected on a whiteboard. At the end of the presentation I might ask, “Does anyone have any questions?” Crickets. I’d then respond: “Ok, then, you must have been paying attention and I deem you ready to solder,” or even, “Here, take this quiz so I know that you know what you’re doing.”

And what if a student missed the PowerPoint presentation? In the past, I would share the PowerPoint with them, and either walk them through it, or ask them to go through it alone and let me know if they have any questions. I really couldn’t even confirm that they looked at it.

In our Makerspace situation, PowerPoints of the past didn’t work so well either. Students drop in when they have a few minutes, or focus on different areas of MELS Garage. But with Office Mix, that’s OK.

After creating my PowerPoint, I can pretty effortlessly add an audio recording in time with digital inking to show the finer points of soldering, just as if I were using the dry erase markers. I can insert a video of a very brilliant example of soldering. I can insert quiz questions to check for understanding. And once I upload it, Mix will generate a link for me to share with students.

Each student can view the Mix when and where they want. At home in pajamas, before school at the local coffee shop, or right in MELS Garage. I won’t have to ask, “Did you watch the Mix?”

Behind the scenes, Office Mix also keeps track of the analytics, by slide, by quiz question or by user. I can see how much time was spent on each slide. I can also see which quiz questions were answered correctly, and which may need some reviewing.

When that student has mastered soldering, she can move freely onto the Mix about 3D printing to learn some of the basics before trying it. Mix is a powerful tool for a flipping the classroom, for differentiated learning, and for self-paced environments.

And if that isn’t enough, Mix can take it a step further.

Are you teaching angles in math? Let’s toss in an interactive Geogebra activity where students can compare angles. Perhaps you have a physics unit on balances. You can add in an interactive PhET activity and let students add and move weights closer and further from the end to really drive the concept home. There are also add-in apps for Khan Academy, Code Hunt, Fluid Math and more.

Are you intrigued? Check out the Office Mix website where you will find examples to spark your creativity and tutorials to help you every step of the way!

Office Mix lab apps

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