Last month, we announced the customer preview of Office Mix, a tool designed to make it easier for teachers to incorporate online content into their lesson plans. Since then, we’ve been gathering feedback about what educators find most useful about the tool and how to make it even better, and we’re sharing what we’ve learned at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference in Atlanta this week. Overall, we were pleasantly surprised to see teachers using Office Mix in ways we hadn’t anticipated (for example, asking students to create their own mixes), and we noted some usage trends that will influence how we evolve the tool in the future.
Easily discover and share lessons created with mixes
The top request we’ve received from teachers is to make it easier to share mixes. In response, we created a public Gallery designed for sharing and discovering great lessons. Through the new public Gallery, you can upload your favourite mixes, make them available to others, and browse content created by others to spark ideas or share with your class.
We’ve heard from educators that finding relevant, useful content can be a challenge, and we hope the Gallery makes that just a little easier. Additionally, you can now embed Office Mix content, so it can show up on virtually any website.
More ways to use mixes in the classroom
We’ve also learned how teachers are incorporating Office Mix into their classrooms. Here are some of the ways we’ve heard about:
- Formative assessment feedback loop. Almost all of the mixes that have been created for instructional purposes have assessments built in.
- Bite-sized learning. The vast majority of mixes created are shorter than five minutes, suggesting that educators are using Office Mix to teach individual concepts rather than replace entire classroom lessons.
- Global appeal. Though we haven’t localized Office Mix (the website and materials are only in English at this point), we are seeing mixes in a variety of foreign languages: Mandarin, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Romanian, and even Finnish.
- Not just for teachers. We were surprised to hear from a number of teachers that they were asking students to create mixes as part of project-based learning assignments.
- Catch-up. Though this doesn’t seem to be the predominant use of Office Mix, some teachers are using it to record their class lectures for students who missed a class or would benefit from a repeat of the lesson.
More Office Mix partners means more education materials are available
The list of content partners continues to grow (in addition to the partners we announced in May: Khan Academy and the CK-12 Foundation). University of Colorado’s PhET physical science simulations app is now available through Office Mix. An Office Mix math app from GeoGebra is expected to be available later this month. Check out www.geogebratube.org for advanced viewing of thousands of STEM education materials that will be freely available through GeoGebra in Office Mix.
Partners are already letting us know that they are excited about the opportunity to broaden their reach, allowing them to help more educators. “The goal of the CK-12 Foundation is to create, curate and allow customization of high quality, free content that we can then make available to all teachers globally. Our partnership with Office Mix has allowed us to provide teachers with a faster, simpler way to integrate this information into their PowerPoint lessons,” said Neeru Khosla, executive director of the CK-12 Foundation.
Listen to what teachers are saying about Office Mix
Here are a few of our favorite comments so far from teachers who have used Office Mix:
Brien Gorham, English Teacher at Forest Ridge School of the Sacred Heart
- “Mix provides teachers with an easy way to create flipped lessons for students since most teachers are already familiar with PowerPoint. Being able to create self-directed content for students creates more class time for more challenging project work and writing assignments. Having students work with ‘static content’ at home allows for more differentiated instruction time in the classroom. Being able to track their progress is an essential feature of this tool.”
- “The familiar interface of PowerPoint is one of its greatest strengths. The layout of the Mix toolbar is easy to navigate and very user friendly. Another huge advantage is that teachers can easily repurpose their extensive libraries of existing PowerPoints into student directed content. Finally, the analytics are simply fantastic. I can see at a glance if students are engaging with the content, how in-depth that engagement is, and, through quizzes and questions, how much of that content they absorbed.”
Helen Gooch, Microsoft Fellow and Master Trainer
- Office Mix offers “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!”
Vicki Davis, full-time teacher and IT director for a small school in Camilla, Georgia and blogger at CoolCatTeacher.com
- “Think of it [screencasts] like team teaching with myself – an online me and a face to face me. Because it is so easy, Office Mix is changing everything about how I screencast. Just click the Office Mix Plug in inside PowerPoint and record the video slide by slide. It lets you do screencasting, embed videos, write on the screen and will record webcam.”