Sharing Knowledge and Improving Outcomes with Sway– Åsa Girgensohn, Sweden

Åsa Girgensohn doesn’t see the growing dominance of personal technology in classrooms as a challenge to productivity. Instead, the ever-present mobile phones and tablets her students and their parents use are a window of opportunity.

“All my students and their parents have smartphones. It’s about time we use them for educational purposes,” Girgensohn says. “I strongly believe that communication and sharing knowledge has become an important part of the role of learning and teaching.” 

How Girgensohn goes about sharing knowledge is part of what makes her story interesting. She’s embraced Sway to collect and present important information about her lessons – photos, videos, links and more – and then share that information with both students and parents.

“That makes it possible to increase the knowledge about the topics we [study],” she says. “Sharing in Sway is safe and I don’t have to worry if the recipient has space enough or the right program to watch my presentation. I just send a link and everyone can watch it on whatever device they like.”

This isn’t the first time Girgensohn has opened doors with new technology. She was named a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert based, in part, on her Classroom in Your Pocket project. Using a creative classroom app that she created, Girgensohn was able to send weekly messages to parents, post calendars, contact lists and other critical information, and even maintain a class YouTube channel so that students could show off their video work.

With Sway, she has a new solution to other classroom challenges. “As a teacher in Sweden you have a lot of things to do other than just preparing the lessons,” she says. “It’s often hard to find time for creating nice presentations, so being effective is necessary. Sway is a tool that makes the creating faster, but the result is still as good as, for example, PowerPoint.”

While Sway is a relatively new tool, Girgensohn has been using it to full effect. She created this Sway about space travel, and this one… about Sway. Her students are more engaged then ever – both in the classroom and away from it. Girgensohn’s colleagues are benefitting, too, as she shares her work with them through Office 365, lesson plans through educreations, and best practices through her blog.

We can’t wait to see what Åsa Girgensohn does next – but in the meantime, here’s today’s Daily Edventure.

Why did you decide to use Sway?

When I found out what Sway was about, how easy it is to search for a media via Bing, how it suggests ideas that match my topic. For example, I choose the heading “Space” and want to add a picture. I get suggestions of pictures tagged with creative commons license. I don’t have to write in the search box because Sway recognizes my heading. I can also get suggestions of videos, articles and music. That makes it easy and saves a lot of time.

Some other advantages I see of using Sway, compared to other tools are for example:

Without leaving Sway I can add pictures from my OneDrive, Facebook, Bing, Pic Hit, YouTube or Twitter. I can also add my own sources, text, notes…upload files from my computer. By remixing my Sway I can choose the layout I like the best and I don’t have to spend time to create nice artworks.

The best thing about using Sway is the easy sharing. A link is much safer than sharing, for instance, a PowerPoint. The link doesn’t require space in your mailbox and it’s easy to add in a document or homepage. A lot of information can be included without affecting the sharing.

How is Sway helpful to teachers?

I use sway because it’s so easy to create and it saves time. For example, I can upload a presentation or a document I have saved on my computer or in OneDrive. The best thing is that I never have to leave my Sway to search for items to add. All the tools are there, and I have direct access to Office 365 and my OneDrive, which makes it easy if I want to upload a ready-made presentation.

To use Sway in the classroom makes it possible to focus on the students and the discussions instead of just providing a lecture. Using Sway on the screen in the classroom opens up deeper discussions because the students can see what’s coming up. I strongly recommend Sway as a tool if you want it simple and fast and if you have a lot of information to share.

What is your approach when using Sway in your classroom?

I collect facts about things I’m going to teach in a Sway. I write the things I want to tell my students and I add pictures, short movies and links. I share my Sways with my students by just sending them a link and they can follow my presentation on their own devices or on the big screen in the classroom.

When I use Sway on the screen in the classroom, my students can see what’s coming up, movies for example, and I noticed that they are more engaged. For example I showed them a Sway about man in space and had small pictures of the embedded movies from the International Space Station. My students became very curious about how to wash your hair in space and we had a discussion before we saw the movie. After the presentation many of my students watched the videos again on their own computers or cellphones and continued the discussion with their friends.

I also share my Sways with my colleagues on Office 365. We have a special place for sharing good ideas, like I mentioned before sharing ideas is important for me. I share my work in two homepages, one is for the students and their parents, including planning, latest news, contact information and “all you need to know.” The other is a collection of instruction movies in mathematics. Free to use for everyone.

What makes you proud as a teacher?

Almost everything I do in the classroom can be viewed on the Internet. I have students that live part-time in another country, and this new technology makes it possible for them to follow the same lessons that we have here in Sweden, just by sharing lesson plans and documents, I think having access to my material at any time is essential for all my students. Some of my students even started using Sway for their own work now. I’m proud to be able to make education visible, and most of all, to be able to share knowledge.

Why did you become a teacher?

I became a teacher because I like the challenge of making every student understand. I want to arouse curiosity, and the biggest reward for all my work is when a child says, “Now I understand!”

Where do you see technology develop in the future?

I think school has an important challenge to be at forefront of modern technology. Our students are the ones to promote development, and for me the use of Sway and similar tools prepares the students for future collaboration and communication. All students should have the best and latest technology in their education. I see it as an investment on the future of our country and also an important part of 21st century skills. 

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