How Microsoft’s Sway presentation tool is being used to foster creativity in students

Kareem Anderson

Image Credit: Sway Slideluck Project
We’ve been increasingly engaged in reporting on the Microsoft’s Sway product. For those unfamiliar, Sway is part of a new wave of Office Suite additions developed by Microsoft. The new Office client is a more interactive presentation tool with web and cloud roots. Sway can pull in content from multiple and relevant media sources, like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. Instead of the traditional .exe download and install approach, Sway lives in the browser for most (iOS being the only available app). Microsoft’s new approach to web productivity is beginning to attract a likely audience of fiscally aware schools and staff.

Meet Winston Struye, a New York City artist-teacher at the Slideluck Youth Initiative, a non-profit arts organization. According to the ‘about’ section of Slideluck:

Slideluck, a 501c3 non-profit arts organization, is a combination of a slideshow and a potluck and mixing things up is an essential component of our programming. Slideluck brings together diverse groups of people, artwork, food, music, ideas and perspectives under one roof. From this diversity, something unique and magical is born. The work of established artists is shown alongside that of emerging and non-professional artists, with no distinction between them.  Each event is localized, so artists from a community are presenting work to that community.  The same goes for the home-cooked dishes brought by those who attend.

As for the Slideluck, Youth Initiative is a division of Slideluck that is dedicated to photography outreach programs for under-served communities in the New York and Los Angeles areas. Winston, who is the charge of the New York area, approaches his job with a strong belief in an art teacher’s responsibility to offer their students the right tools for expression.

“To me, the role of an “artist teacher” is similar to that of a “creative leader” in a workplace: someone who can incite creativity in others, open people to possibilities that they did not see before, and, above all else, point students towards the “artist” they all have within them. My method of doing this is by providing students with tools (such as ideas, applications, methods) that can potentially illuminate their own creative potential. And Sway has turned out to be one of the most effective luminaries for showing my students the artists they all within themselves.”

Winston finds that creative technology is widely available but when teaching youth students, those technologies become less accessible and often difficult to use. With Sway, Winston and his students can leap those hurdles and get back to being creative. Sway offers Winston’s students a creative, dynamic and engaging multimedia canvass to tell their stories now. Winston notes:

“Because Sway is so easy to use, I can have my students lay out their images in a manner that is confusion-free, dynamic, and fun—all essential parts of the creative process that I’m constantly trying to maintain. And, the finished product will always be something they are very proud of and have confidence in, prompting them to return to the program and create more stories; therefore building more creative thinking blocks in their brain.”

Microsoft’s Sway is being used to foster creativity in students

What is more encouraging, however, is that Sway is becoming a tool that teachers, journalist, bloggers, and others outside of enterprise are starting to gravitate towards. As a photographer himself, Winston also uses Sway to tell the simple stories he catches with his camera. Recently, Microsoft reporter Mary Jo Foley used the presentation tool to document her recent vacation and fashion forward Smith Fashion Company used it to chart their expansion in the industry creatively.

With new features like online collaboration, embedding, social media sharing and new media sources being added, Sway has the potential to be the new face of presentation tools for a new wave of productivity minded individuals.