Lately, among teacher-authors (these are teachers who also write), one of the most talked-about webtools is Microsoft Sway. Though fairly new, Sway may unseat PowerPoint as the presentation-tool-of-choice because Sway projects are visually appealing while minimizing the amount of time spent formatting.
What is Sway
Sway is free from Microsoft and part of Office 365 Education. It is an easier, more versatile alternative to the popular PowerPoint slideshow program. Using the Sway canvas, writers select a theme and then add notes and media. Sway organizes the content, suggests images and even data, and then helps the writer to quickly arrange everything into a comprehensive and fully-fleshed project. If the selected theme doesn’t work, simply click “remix” and get a different look. More advanced users can edit the pieces to fit particular colors and interests. When everything’s perfect, it can be shared, embedded, and/or published.
Sway accepts almost any file format including videos, PDFs, text, audio, images, native camera pictures, charts, audio clips, audio recordings, and links. A completed project can be embedded into any Office app (such as Excel, PowerPoint, or Word) and automatically updates with the original. Sway works in Windows, on iPads, iPhones, and desktops.
How to get started
- Install the Sway app to your iPhone, iPad, Surface Pro, or use it on the web.
- Create an account so you can collect all of your Sways in one place.
- Click the “Create new” button or alternatively, create a Sway from a topic or an uploaded document.
- Click to add new “cards” (these are content areas; you might think of them like slides in a PowerPoint deck). These are stacked to the right of the screen and easily moved by dragging-and-dropping. Each of these contains space for all content related to the theme of that card.
- As you add content, Sway suggests web material that may be relevant and might be good additions to your document.
- When your Sway is finished, add it to any site that accepts embed codes, send it out as a link, or share it to a variety of social media outlets.
It’s free — so much power for no money. That’s amazing.
It’s easy to use and has lots of automated options that take the stress out of being creative.
Sways are automatically saved, by default to the MS Office account you used for the sign-up.
Multiple people can collaborate on a Sway. All you have to do is send the Sway link to collaborators.
Sway will create a project from a theme. You type in the theme and Sway suggests text, pictures and more that fit that topic.
Sway requires a Microsoft account (but not Office 365). This isn’t bad, just one more place that requires a log-in.
While Sways can be shared on various social media or via an embed code that can be played in situ, other options aren’t as easy.
8 Writerly Uses for Sway
Here are some of the ways my teacher-author colleagues and I use Sway:
- Easily create quick book trailers that pop to share with your writing community.
- Create a linear website for your book with content that’s revealed with a flick of the finger.
- Create a website with your resume and/or writer’s portfolio.
- Research and collect notes in OneNote, then send that information to Sway to be mashed up as a presentation
- Write and format marketing materials. Input the text and then let Sway suggest images and other resources.
- Prepare any presentation, much as you might a PowerPoint.
- Create a themed newsletter quickly to share with your (GDPR-approved) mailing list.
- Create digital stories with a mix of text, images, and other multimedia pieces.
- Create a portfolio of artwork, poems, or writing that can be shared to showcase your work.
- Collaborate with your writing team on your WIP or marketing materials.
Overall, Sway does a great job of minimizing formatting in favor of writing — a real plus in today’s busy world.
More on writer’s tools
Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, CSG Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, CAEP reviewer, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, a weekly contributor to TeachHUB, and author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.