Review by Marianne Rogowski, Common Sense Education | Updated September 2019

Sway

Create dynamic visual presentations on flexible storytelling platform

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • Arts

Skills
  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Creativity
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
6–12
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Teachers say (12 Reviews)
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Pros: Combining text and images to tell a story is a snap with tons of features and an uncluttered user interface.

Cons: The navigation is a bit outdated, and classroom-friendly options are lacking.

Bottom Line: A seamless transition from design to presentation makes Sway a great fit for presenting carefully curated content.

Consider using Sway as a digital portfolio tool where students can offer highlights of their written and visual work on the web. Students can share their work with peers in a virtual show-and-tell-style gallery walk. Liven up a lab report by having your students import charts, graphs, and images from their latest lab into Sway, and then have them enter their written responses in between. Or have your students create a digital history presentation, researching a topic and then adding appropriate images to heighten the effect. In English language arts (ELA), use Sway to illustrate a text you're reading in class. Students can import passages from a short story, novel, or play and then include images and video to tell the story visually. 

Teachers can take advantage of Sway's easy design templates and simple creation platform, too. Support your lessons with striking visual content, or collaborate with colleagues to add layers of interest to staff meetings or professional development (PD) presentations. While Sway lacks the animation features that other presentation tools offer, powerful images paired with a just-right amount of text can offer a polished look and engage your audience.

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Microsoft Sway is a digital storytelling website that integrates with the Office online suite. Teachers and students log in with their Office credentials and follow the short tutorial to get oriented on how to add text and images and then how to customize the way users will scroll through a story -- layouts include Horizontal, Vertical, and Slideshow. Students or teachers can create new presentations from scratch, generate a topic outline, or upload a document. The Insert feature allows students to pull in content such as images, videos, or animated GIFs from their device, OneDrive account, or the web. Suggested searches appear in the sidebar, but teachers should note that students are responsible for complying with copyright laws. It would be nice if student-friendly image sites such as Photos for Class were connected here, but kids can take advantage of the option to search Creative Commons only. Students can also collaborate on presentations via a shared URL. 

Once students complete their design, they can share a public or private link to it online via the Sway website or just keep their Sway local on the device. The site offers a short tutorial and a few lessons that highlight what's possible and provide some inspiration to teachers or students who want to make their presentations pop, but without a decent-sized gallery of ideas or lessons, they'll find themselves largely on their own to think of creative ways to present material.

Once you get the hang of it, creating visually stunning stories in Sway can be a lot of fun. Since there's not a huge learning curve, it's a good fit for kids who get distracted by more complicated presentation tools. Teachers can easily address multimodal learning preferences by accompanying simple captions with multimedia content. Presentations can be mixed up, too, toggling the format (such as changing a story that scrolls vertically to one that scrolls horizontally) or  functionality (such as changing a swipeable stack of photos to a static gallery). Those little changes can help teachers create original, slick, sophisticated presentations to share with students or colleagues. Viewers can scroll through at their own pace, taking their time to explore the text and images and make meaningful connections. Teachers need to be sure to balance images, videos, and text, though -- too much or too little of any will make presentations seem dull or incomplete.

Sway's self-paced experience is nice, but more interactive features such as tools for annotation or commenting would make it even better. A gallery of teacher-created lessons would be a great addition as well. As it is, Sway may not become a go-to presentation tool, but it's a great way to create stylish presentations that are visually appealing and super simple to navigate. 

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Sway was created more for adults than for kids, but middle school and high school students could find the flexible features and simple interface engrossing and empowering.

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

There's great potential for exploring storytelling and presentation skills, from writing clearly to choosing the sequence of text and images effectively.

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

Although the sample presentations are outdated, the features are intuitive, and it's easy to get started with your own creations. Updated tutorials would help inspire users to discover Sway's potential.

 


Common Sense Reviewer
Marianne Rogowski Media specialist/librarian

Teacher Reviews

(See all 12 reviews) (12 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Filippousis Georges F. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Leonteios School of Athens
Athens, Greece
A powerful, useless, interactive and flexible tool for storytelling and presentations
This is a tool that the teacher can use to present the lessons. Important elements are: the flexibility, easy integration of many different files, and the sharing. Also, it is very important that students themselves use this tool to benefit their learning because they become creators.
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