15 features that make the free Office Mix software a resource for any teacher involved in flipped or blended learning
Office Mix is a free addition for PowerPoint 2013 that lets you turn PowerPoint documents into interactive online lessons or presentations. It takes any existing or new PowerPoint presentation to a whole new level, making it easy to create resources for flipped or blended learning. Here are 15 reasons Office Mix should be part of your “teaching toolbox.”
1. You can leverage existing resources.
Many teachers have existing PowerPoint presentations on a variety of topics. These presentations can be revisited and reused by quickly converting them to a Mix. With little time and effort, an existing teaching resource that is only moderately effective in a flipped or blended learning environment can become a much more effective learning resource. The difference between these two types of resources is outlined in the article “It’s called blended learning (not blended teaching) for a reason.”
2. Mix allows narration of presentations.
The narrations can be audio only, or teachers can insert a video of themselves narrating the lesson. The built-in microphone and camera that comes with most laptops is sufficient for recording this audio or video. Thus, many teachers already have the tools needed to begin immediately.
3. Slides can be annotated with free-form inking.
Using an on-screen pen to annotate and highlight key points during narration allows the teacher to draw the student’s attention to important points. Teachers also can write on slides in a free-form way.
4. Screen recordings and screen shots can be inserted easily.
This takes Office Mix well beyond an incremental improvement to a presentation. Teachers can record anything on their screen and include it in the Mix. For example, if the teacher is explaining some aspect of ancient Egyptian sculpture, he or she could visit a website covering this topic, record and annotate the exploration of this website, and place this recording into a slide in the Mix stack.
The Office Mix controls within PowerPoint
(Next page: More Office Mix features)
5. Interactive resources can be added to presentations.
These can come from a number of locations, including Khan Academy, CK-12, Geogebra, and PhET. Full web pages (such as a Wikipedia page) also can be added and can be navigated normally within the Mix. Once the resource has been used, the remaining slides in the Mix can be navigated normally.
6. Navigation is easy.
The Mix playback controls are shown below. Students can use the arrows at the left to manually move forward and backward between slides. The vertical lines on the timeline indicate where a slide changes to another; the dots indicate where a quiz, a video, or an interactive activity is present.
7. Playback speed can be varied.
Playback speed (shown below on the right and currently 1.0x) is valuable for the student, as it allows for flexibility while ensuring the narration can be understood. Users can vary the playback speed from 0.8 to two times the normal speed.
The Office Mix play controls and timeline
8. Sharing is easy.
A Mix can be shared with students in a number of ways. It can be placed on the Mix site, emailed as a web link, inserted into a learning management system or blog using the embed code, and shared on a number of social media applications.
9. Exporting as a video file is possible.
A Mix can be exported as a compact MP4 file that can be played offline on a range of devices. The file retains the slides, annotations, and narrations, but it does not contain the interactive components of the Mix.
10. Analytics are available.
The Office Mix site provides some analytics, such as how long a student spent on a Mix or the individual slides. You can also see how students performed on any quizzes you included in your Mix.
11. Mixes can be played on a wide range of devices.
A full list of devices and browsers is available here.
12. Training is plentiful.
There is a full range of training videos at the Office Mix website.
13. There is a small learning curve.
Because Mix is simply an addition to PowerPoint (and is just another tab at the top of the PowerPoint menu), many people will already know the fundamentals.
The Office Mix tab within the PowerPoint menu
14. It is easy to install and use.
The installation file is small, at just over 5MB, and thus can be downloaded quickly. It will run on any computer with Office 2013 with Service Pack 1.
15. Office Mix is free.
All you need is an existing copy of PowerPoint 2013.
Peter West is director of eLearning at Saint Stephen’s College in Australia. He has more than 15 years’ experience leading schools in technology-enhanced education, particularly blended learning using online learning environments. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.