Common Sense Review
Updated October 2014

Office Mix

Transformative PPT add-on gives a personal touch to flipped lessons
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Common Sense Rating 4
  • As an easy-to-download add-on, it's perfect for PowerPoint users.
  • The online gallery includes mixes on multiple subject areas and topics.
  • From the "Mix" tab, record video, audio, as well as your own handwriting.
  • A help page offers FAQ's, feedback, and support.
It works right inside of PowerPoint, so you can turn existing presentations into engaging, interactive lessons.
As a tool for creating, sharing, and remixing, more engagement in the community would boost usefulness.
Bottom Line
These engaging, interactive digital lessons can take on a personal, human touch that offers the potential for great learning.
Jennifer Sitkin
Common Sense Reviewer
Classroom teacher
Common Sense Rating 4
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 4

Elements like audio/video narration, writing on slides, and embedded quizzes make slideshows more interesting, especially when delivered by a teacher kids know. But the actual content teachers create will drive kids' enthusiasm the most.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 4

Great for flipped-class teaching with a personal touch; teachers can also collaborate and remix lessons in ways that boost their instruction. Features to support synchronous, in-class lessons and student creation could take learning further.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 4

Installation is easy, and a tutorial offers clear directions for use. A support page has responses to user questions. Students can watch from any Web browser, but won't have access to the assessment features from a mobile device.

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How Can Teachers Use It?

If you're already using PowerPoint with Office 2013 (on a PC), getting on board with Office Mix is a sure-shot way to inject some engaging, interactive features into your presentations. Before you start importing all of your existing PowerPoint decks, try creating a Mix from scratch to test out the new features. As you're becoming familiar with the tools, you'll get a sense for how you'll want to augment your pre-existing slideshows. Consider how the presentations you once showed live, in class, can become another thing entirely that students can view, and learn from, anywhere.

Beyond the basics, you can use this type of instruction in a number of ways. You can record lectures for extra review or for students who've been absent. If you're already using popular online tools from Khan Academy or CK-12, for example, you can easily build this content into your Mixes. Capitalize on the tool's features to support flipped instruction and have your students watch your lessons outside of class, on their own time. If you're logging in through Office 365, monitor your students' participation and progress to identify areas for reteaching to ensure their understanding. Last, in addition to creating your own presentations, visit the Office Mix website to to explore the growing gallery of other teachers' work on a wide range of topics. A lot of what's there is shared openly under Creative Commons, so you can customize and remix presentations to best fit your students' needs.

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What's It Like?

Office Mix is a tool for creating multimedia presentations called Mixes that can be hosted online and viewed from any Web-enabled device. As an add-on tool within PowerPoint (available to PC users running Office 2013), you can use it to create new Mixes from scratch, or transform your existing PowerPoints into presentations with more interactive, dynamic, and engaging elements. The add-on appears as a new tab in the PowerPoint toolbar -- it includes a host of new tools for creating presentations. Teachers can register using a Microsoft account, an organizational account from their school, or even a Gmail or Facebook account.

Within the new Mix tab, expanded features include the ability for presenters to record video (and/or audio) during a presentation, as well as the ability to add animations or free-form writing to a slide. You can also add hyperlinks or even embed Web pages. There are also tools to add quizzes or polls throughout a presentation, although these aren't designed for synchronous, in-class use. Once a Mix is complete, teachers can upload it to the Cloud and share the link with students, privately or publicly. The Office Mix Gallery includes featured presentations on a wide range of subjects, including math, science, computer science, and the arts, among others. For those just getting started, training videos offer support for building and sharing presentations. Through the Office Mix Web portal, users can create, manage, and share Mixes, and also view analytics on students' assessment performance (though this feature is only available with an Office 365 account). Students can view the finished, online presentations on the Web, from any device.

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Is It Good For Learning?

PowerPoint has long been the go-to tool for classroom slideshows -- with the addition of Office Mix, teachers can take things to the next level with engaging, interactive features that bring their presentations to life. The tool helps slideshows feel more like live presentations, even as students watch on their own, from anywhere. By using the audio/video narration, writing on slides, and including embedded quizzes, polls, and other online content, teachers can enhance their flipped-class style instruction. All of these elements encourage more of students' active engagement and participation, especially when they're watching on their own, outside of class. That said, Office Mix also has a lot of potential as a creation tool for students themselves, and a more student-centered creation platform could promote a more active learning experience.

For teachers, adding Office Mix to their toolkit is a no-brainer. But the catch is that the add-on is currently available only to PC users running Office 2013. Also, the tool's best creative features will work most seamlessly on a Microsoft Surface -- using the stylus and camera synchronously as you create is at the heart of the experience. It's hard to fault a tool simply for being limited in platform -- especially one this practical and innovative -- but the value of Office Mix also depends on having a rich community of shareable, remixable content from users. At this point, the community's offerings span a wide range of subjects and grade levels, and are generally good quality, but more engagement in this area would add a lot to Office Mix's value. Teachers are bound to love the idea of transforming their existing slide shows -- beyond saving time and improving instruction, it validates a lot of their previous work. It's a safe bet that many will want a crack at trying it.

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See how teachers are using Office Mix

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