Sway is a great tool for helping students spend less time on the appearance of a presentation and more time on the content. Sway also has some built-in scaffolds for students who need some extra help getting started. When creating a new Sway, you can choose to use the templates. But for students that need even more structure to get started and stay on track, they can start a Sway from a topic. Welcome to Day 53 of 365 Ideas for Office 365.
Locating Sway from a Topic
I was actually disappointed, initially, when Microsoft added the start with a template in Sway, because it bumped the start with a topic out. Or so I thought. It’s true that Sway from a template took the place of Sway from a topic on the Sway homepage, but I eventually found it still exists. You just have to scroll down and click to get to the old home page.
If you’ve followed these blog for a while, you might recognize this as something recently added to PowerPoint, as the Quick Starter. When students enter a topic, it creates an outline of slides, in PowerPoint, or an outline of cards in Sway from a topic. Sway pulls the headings from whatever headings are in the Wikipedia article on the topic.
Safe for schools
(BTW, I just tested…the boundaries… and I am delighted to report that not everything in Wikipedia will yield results in a topic search in Sway.
If you do pick something appropriate, it will often ask a clarifying question to make sure you get the results you are hoping for. For example, when I query about Cornell Notes, I don’t get an exact match, but Note-taking comes up, and as you will see, Cornell Notes is one of the headings in that article. This shows that the algorithm used to find appropriate content from your search goes deeper than just article titles.
Notice that, while the Template opened up in Play mode, the Topic opens in Edit mode. As it says on the title card, “hints” have been added throughout the Sway, as notes. You can immediately close all the hints at any time by clicking on “dismiss all”.
These notes function much like notes in PowerPoint. They appear to the presenter, but not to the audience. In Sway, they appear in the Edit mode, to the creator, but they appear nowhere in the presentation in Play mode.
Immediately after Title card is a single (empty) text card with one paragraph of basic information about the topic in the notes section. After that, they are just given Heading cards with topics, and, depending on the topic, one or more relevant images. Beyond that, there are just some suggestions in the notes of specific ideas to research.
What all this means is, start from a topic does not “do all the work” for a student. It simply gives them an organizational framework to do their work within. Sway from a topic is simply the scaffolding that some students need to organize both their research and their content.
If you are giving students an assignment in which you have already provided them with this kind of structure, then maybe tomorrow’s topic, “WordSway”, will be a better match for your classroom than Sway from a topic.