A few months back, Microsoft released a preview version of Office Mix, a new tool that turns PowerPoint presentations into interactive broadcasts complete with quizzes and exercises for the viewer. Today, the firm announced an update to this intriguing tool that is based on feedback from educators who have been using the preview. It also provided some information about how educators are using the Mix.
"Microsoft and Office Mix are at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) 2014 Conference this week in Atlanta," a Microsoft representative told me. "Microsoft is paying close attention to the digital transition that is happening in education today, and also how it can play a role in providing support and opportunities for educators and students. Because Microsoft knows that not all teachers have the latest versions of OneNote and PowerPoint available to them, it is offering teachers attending ISTE a one-year subscription to Microsoft for free."
Microsoft announced one major feature for Office Mix at the show: A public Gallery. This was a top request, so Office Mix now has a public Gallery designed for sharing and discovering great lessons. Through the new public Gallery, you can upload your favorite mixes, make them available to others, and browse content created by others to spark ideas or share with your class, Microsoft says. The gallery has featured mixes as well as categories such as Arts, Math, Science and so on.
As interesting, Microsoft says it got feedback about how educators are using Office Mix. Some of the top ways include:
Formative assessment feedback loop. Almost all of the mixes that have been created for instructional purposes have assessments built in.
Bite-sized learning. Most mixes are less than five minutes in length, which suggests that educators are using Office Mix to teach individual concepts rather than replace entire classroom lessons.
Global appeal. Even though Office Mix isn't localized yet—the web site and materials are only in English for now—Microsoft is seeing mixes in a variety of foreign languages including Mandarin, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Romanian, and Finnish.
Not just for teachers. Microsoft was surprised by how many teachers were asking students to create their own mixes as part of project-based learning assignments.
Catch-up. Some teachers are using Mix to record their class lectures for students who missed a class or would benefit from a repeat of the lesson.
Microsoft also revealed that more partners are on board, meaning that more and more diverse educational materials are available now. In May, the company announced that Khan Academy and the CK-12 Foundation had signed up to be part of Mix. This month, the University of Colorado's PhET physical science simulations app is now available through Office Mix, and an Office Mix math app from GeoGebra is coming later this month.
Finally, Microsoft is also launching an Office Mix contest later in the summer. It will be open to anyone as long as a school is identified to receive any prizes. Details will be available at a later date.