Creating engaging and accessible learning resources with Sway.
Amy Edwards-Smith, Lecturer
School of Community Health and Midwifery
Delivering to Foundation Entry students is a unique, but in my opinion, particularly rewarding experience. The variety of individual needs and experiences the students have, require a learning environment whereby students can tailor their development opportunities. I wanted to create some simple guides for students to access, which embed into their Microsoft Teams learning space, and provide personal experiences whereby they are guided by a ‘real person’. It was also important to ensure that these resources were engaging, but also accessible to all.
Microsoft Sways are simple to create (my 14-year-old has taken to using them for his homework after seeing me create them!) and can be embedded within a Teams space. PowerPoints can be used to create a Sway, which is a useful time saver for individuals who do not wish to recreate a resource they already have. I created a channel within a Team, which I renamed ‘Skills Development’. On the General page I included a menu and hyperlinks, which allowed the students to access the documents directly. Some of the benefits I found with using Sways are as follows;
Accessibility – Sway has an accessibility view which allows a more basic reading experience and disabled animation which is particularly beneficial for students who have sensory issues. The text and background automatically change to black and white, which leads to a higher contrast reading experience. I also found that those students who were lacking in ICT literacy appreciated this facility, as it allowed them to focus on the important information on the screen. Using this view allows the integration of assistive technology, but hopefully in the future Microsoft will incorporate the immersive reader function.
Audio recording – This is a useful tool for differentiation. This feature allows me to expand on information to support those learners who need additional support, and using my own voice means the experience is much more personal.
Videos – One step further than the above is to use videos. Videos can be created in Stream, and then embedded in Sway. Those of you who are familiar with Stream videos, will know that one of the benefits is the use of captioning to improve accessibility – as well as the ability to embed Forms within them to check understanding. Editable captions are also available within Flipgrid.
Navigation tool – This allows a clearer view of all the content within the Sway. Thumbnails are created which allows the viewer to navigate straight to a particular section. This is useful for a large topic and revision purposes, but also with additional resources so a student can decide if the information is useful for them.
Views – A Sway will count the number of views. I have found this particularly useful in gaining insight into areas in where students may need more support. For example, I created a Sway on square breathing for anxiety (right before their first assessed presentation), and 80% of my cohort viewed it. From this I was able to develop more resources concerned with managing stress and mindfulness. In this way it can be used as an assessment tool.
Embedding content – I have mentioned embedding videos and audios in Sways above, however there is a huge range of content which can be embedded and are useful in different ways. Some examples are Forms, other Sways, Flipgrid, Padlet, Images, Ted talks, Youtube clips, polls and Google Maps. These are beneficial in different ways, and perhaps require a whole new case study on their own, but I would like to draw your attention to embedding Forms. The use of Forms in Sway allows you assess understanding of content, along with gaining feedback on the usefulness of the information. This is pertinent to the experience I was aiming to create, in which students access the material as a supplement to their online class learning. I need to have the ability to iron out any misconceptions in the interpretation of the content and, of course, reflect on their experiences.
Many people are comfortable using PowerPoint as a tool to relay information; however, I feel there are benefits to using Sway as an alternative. Sway allows you to produce a narrative, in that it feels more like storytelling, and therefore is arguably more engaging. PowerPoint also has a (sometime negative) reputation and is sometime associated with ‘boring briefings’ and offering an alternative makes students rethink what learning is, moving away from the traditional approach and its negative connotations to a more innovative experience.
Using Sways has also been beneficial for using in a flipped classroom approach, as students are accessing information beforehand in an accessible manner. Links to external resources encourage a deeper level of reading and question prompts guide students to think about classroom discussions beforehand. For some students this results in an increase in confidence, as they have been allowed sufficient processing time for their needs and this understanding results in more contributions and engagement.