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Microsoft Office Mix: No-Teacher-Left-Behind Course Authoring

timothy posted about 8 months ago | from the it's-just-respecting-their-character-class-as-gatekeepers dept.

Education 27

theodp (442580) writes "While they aim to democratize learning, the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) movement has, for the most part, oddly left K-12 teachers out of the online content creation business. ZDNet's Simon Bisson reports on Office Mix, Microsoft's new PowerPoint plug-in and associated cloud service, which Bisson says makes it easy to create and distribute compelling educational content (screenshots). GeekWire's Frank Catalano also makes an interesting case for why Office Mix's choice of PowerPoint, "the poster child for delivering boring presentations in non-interactive settings," could still be a disrupter in the online content creation space. By the way, MOOC.org, the collaboration of edX and Google which also aims to help "teachers easily build and host courses for the world to take," is slated to go live in the first half of 2014. It'll be interesting to see how MOOC.org's authoring tools differ from Google Research's Course Builder effort."

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The problem isn't PowerPoint itself (4, Insightful)

sootman (158191) | about 8 months ago | (#47082925)

The only problem with PowerPoint is that anyone can use it, and most people aren't capable of making compelling content. I know some people who can do great things with PowerPoint, but just like any skill, it is only possessed by a small percent of the population. The average person can't sing, dance, cook, act, paint, draw, or code exceptionally well, either. It would be like blaming Word for an abundance of badly-formatted, boring stories.

Re:The problem isn't PowerPoint itself (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 8 months ago | (#47082939)

This is certainly true in many respects, however the quote (FTFA)

After visiting the Office Mix portal, educators (or anyone) can download the add-in that causes a Mix ribbon to appear within PowerPoint.

Just seems so wrong on so many levels.

Think of the children!

Re:The problem isn't PowerPoint itself (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 8 months ago | (#47082983)

The other problem is every school already switched to Google Docs. Even at educational discounts, the copies of Office 2013 often cost more than the computers themselves if they want Access and Publisher.

Re:The problem isn't PowerPoint itself (1)

Trepidity (597) | about 8 months ago | (#47083079)

Do schools actually need Access?

Re:The problem isn't PowerPoint itself (1)

davester666 (731373) | about 8 months ago | (#47083703)

yes, they need access to Office 2013, so that their subjects can be trained up on it for their clients.

Re:The problem isn't PowerPoint itself (1)

Danborg (62420) | about 8 months ago | (#47083081)

Don't under-estimate the power of Office 365 to draw schools back into the fold... one of the local systems here just rolled it out county wide.
I think the appeal is outsourcing the day to day management and administration of Exchange email... and well... Office just rides along for free.
Many systems also seem to feel compelled to teach Office because that's what businesses use, and they want to prep the kids accordingly.

Office "education" (1)

bussdriver (620565) | about 8 months ago | (#47084563)

Give a student Office 365 and they are prepared for a job, TEACH a student how to use computers and they will be prepared their whole career.

Re:The problem isn't PowerPoint itself (2)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 8 months ago | (#47083467)

As long as there is OpenOffice,org, LibreOffice, etc, there is no need to be drawn to the dark side.

Raise your hands: Who here trusts Microsoft (or Google) with education?

They're going to monetize this somehow, and that money is going to be taken from the hides of educators and children. It doesn't have to be that way.

Re:The problem isn't PowerPoint itself (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 8 months ago | (#47082985)

The only problem with PowerPoint is that anyone can use it

Somehow I can't help but to take an entirely complementary stance on that. Given that PowerPoint is a great solution for exactly the wrong problem, creating online course material in it seems like a task for PowerPoint gurus (how to solve importing from and exporting into dedicated e-learning platforms like Moodle? how to automatically repurpose the authored contents for generated interactive material like quizzes, exercises, or flash cards?), so while there's probably quite a lot of capable teachers and teaching material creators (i.e., these are people who are supposed to be experts on the subject matter and general pedagogy), there's probably many fewer of them who can author good online teaching material (i.e., these are people who are supposed to be experts on the subject matter and general pedagogy AND the use of complicated software systems).

(Now obviously there has never been an overabundance of capable teaching material creators even in traditional media - witness how many horrible textbooks you can find out there for every good one - but at least online services allow a single writer to approach a much larger audience.)

Re:The problem isn't PowerPoint itself (1)

RazorSharp (1418697) | about 8 months ago | (#47083561)

Perhaps I've just never seen these amazingly compelling PowerPoint presentations, but I'm going to have to disagree with you there. At least HyperCard had Myst -- I've yet to see a PowerPoint that comes close to that.

Just to make sure I wasn't sticking my foot in my mouth, I even YouTubed "Amazing PowerPoint Presentations" and I didn't find anything interesting. I find the super-animated artsy PowerPoints to be more annoying than the boring, static, bullet-list crap my boss slaps together. Our customers want to be wowed by numbers, statistics, and a few pictures. They couldn't care less about how artsy the PowerPoint is.

I think that's the flaw in the point you're trying to make, and especially with your Word analogy. When writing a story in Word, the story is the product and it must be polished and ready to be published with minimal changes. PowerPoint presentations are a way to communicate ideas; a super-duper-polished PowerPoint, in most cases, represents a poor use of one's time as it's an inefficient way to communicate ideas.

Re:The problem isn't PowerPoint itself (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 8 months ago | (#47083653)

Perhaps I've just never seen these amazingly compelling PowerPoint presentations, but I'm going to have to disagree with you there. At least HyperCard had Myst -- I've yet to see a PowerPoint that comes close to that.

I put my faith in DynaBook Jr. - if that damned thing will ever get finished. ;/

Re:The problem isn't PowerPoint itself (1)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about 8 months ago | (#47084149)

I find the super-animated artsy PowerPoints to be more annoying than the boring, static, bullet-list crap my boss slaps together. Our customers want to be wowed by numbers, statistics, and a few pictures. They couldn't care less about how artsy the PowerPoint is.

There is this odd audience demographic that seems to be impressed by fancy slide animations. Frankly, when I've talked with such people, it usually comes from people who are presenters themselves, and are a little jealous -- they want the cool eye candy too.

But people who are just trying to get content? Well, slide animations or cool slide transitions aren't going to help convey content or ideas in most cases. I have inevitably found them to be the tools of choice for people who give poor presentations, communicate poorly, and use Powerpoint (or whatever) as a way of keeping the audience at least minimally engaged by stupid visual tricks.

In my own presentations, I don't put up a picture unless I'm actually going to talk about the picture, or unless it's needed as a reference to identify a thing or person or whatever I'm talking about. I don't play music or a video unless I'm actually talking about the content of the music or the video -- not just for random eye candy. And I've been known to frequently throw up a blank black slide when I don't need the visuals at the moment: suddenly, the audience turns and starts to LISTEN to what I'm saying. (I know -- crazy.)

Of course, to get away with this style, you need to have an engaging presentation demeanor and keep people's attention just by talking. Not everyone can do this well -- it takes practice. (And I still am discovering new things about it all the time from good speakers.)

But the benefit is that you can actually communicate MORE ideas in a more concise way than if you have a hundred slides of meaningless photos and whatever just to punctuate when you say "happy" with a photo of kids playing or something. That's just sloppy, stupid, and the hallmark of a presenter who doesn't trust the content of the talk to be enough to engage the audience.

PowerPoint presentations are a way to communicate ideas; a super-duper-polished PowerPoint, in most cases, represents a poor use of one's time as it's an inefficient way to communicate ideas.

I think of Powerpoint sort of like movie music. Generally, you're not supposed to actually notice it -- it's in the background, subtly changing your mood and helping to enhance your understanding of the movie. Once in a while, it comes to the foreground to make a point: the hero has finally achieved the goal, and there comes the trumpet fanfare to highlight that.

In a similar way, you can make your Powerpoint a bit "slick" and "polished" as long as it isn't distracting from the actual content. It shouldn't be noticed except when you actually NEED a visual to make a point (like a graph or chart or something). The moment people start paying more attention to your cool visuals, fancy animations, and slide transitions than they are to your content -- it's like some random orchestra blaring loudly during a quiet dramatic movie scene... and that's not going to help you appreciate the story or understand the content.

Re:The problem isn't PowerPoint itself (1)

bbsalem (2784853) | about 8 months ago | (#47088993)

Sounds like ditto for "We can make everyone program.". I can do more with org,mode in emacs and even more with ipython notebook to make compelling interactive presentation or documents than was ever possible with PowerPoint, cute graphics notwithstanding. Still, there are simple rules about not cluttering slides with too many points and using a large font to keep it simple, stupid, that lay the traps for most presentations. That is no fault of PowerPoint of its ilk.

Offtopic, HTTPS certificate is expired (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47083067)

Hey, Slashdot, I don't know you listen to the Beta complains, but at least renew your HTTPS certificate!

Re:Offtopic, HTTPS certificate is expired (2)

NotInHere (3654617) | about 8 months ago | (#47083295)

AC is right, it expires today.

Focus is all wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47083127)

As an individual working in the corporate training field and currently working towards finishing my M.Ed, the largest problem I see with the OP's approach is that it's based on PowerPoint, the worst tool for learning. Learning doesn't happen by reading or listening to a presenter drone on - it happens by interacting with the facilitator, community, or materials. It looks like the "compelling educational content" means adding quizzes to a powerpoint. Not good enough, even if the educator does have great ideas for creating learning interactions.

I prefer Beamer. (1)

colinrichardday (768814) | about 8 months ago | (#47083517)

Ever try doing math in PowerPoint?

Are they trying to reproduce this? (4, Insightful)

matbury (3458347) | about 8 months ago | (#47083735)

We already have advanced, powerful, flexible learning management systems and promising new ones appearing all the time, e.g. Instructure Canvas. The better ones are easily good enough for most online learning and teaching needs and most learners and teachers only use a small percentage of the features on offer (some claim 80% using 20% of features). For all its sins, Moodle has been a pioneer in this respect and one that many are trying to emulate.

Then there's open educational resources (OER): Creative Commons licensed learning and teaching resources that anyone can download, edit, use, and redistribute with no strings attached except respectful attribution. UNESCO are leading a large co-ordinated effort to make this the new standard in education: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/c... [unesco.org] . There are dozens of repositories of resources, worksheets, media, learning activities, and whole courses available today and the number is growing. Anyone can set up an installation of Moodle as a courseware "hub" from which other Moodle's can import learning content from. Here's Moodle.org's official hub: http://moodle.net/ [moodle.net]

So what are Microsoft and Google bringing to the table? What we already have plus PR, marketing, and wholly unethical blanket surveillance? Do they intend to "fudge" important issues and manipulate education systems to generate yet more revenue for themselves, regardless of any detrimental effects on learning outcomes? Remember that the people we're teaching today are the ones who have to take care of us and fix the messes we've created tomorrow. I'd like them to be smart, insightful, intuitive, creative, analytical and critical thinkers rather than the rather uninspiring products of common core standards and bureacractic mediocrity.

Leave the unions behind (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47083939)

We can keep the teachers. Just leave the unions behind.

MOOC...riiiiight... (2)

bradley13 (1118935) | about 8 months ago | (#47084017)

Sorry, but MOOC is hype...

Yes, there are serious, useful courses out there. However, these are the minority that actually have students submit work and get feedback on it. It is precisely the interaction with qualified instructors - emphasis on interaction - that makes a good course. Without interaction, you could just look at YouTube videos or go read a website (or a book). Which works fine for some people, but is not a MOOC.

The younger your students, the more important the interaction with the instructor. Someone complaining that elementary school teachers are missing the "MOOC movement"? First, there isn't a MOOC movement, only a MOOC bubble. And, second, they aren't missing anything, because MOOC is totally inappropriate for their students. /rant

Re:MOOC...riiiiight... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47085519)

Part of the role of the teacher is to differentiate the learning for each student. a MOOC is the opposite of that.

mmmm data! nom nom nom (2)

sgt scrub (869860) | about 8 months ago | (#47084433)

I guess if you want to know absolutely everything you possibly can about the consumer you funnel there classwork to your data collectors too. "You want a piece of candy", is much more effective if you know what type of candy the kids like.

Plenty of k-12 resources (3, Interesting)

fermion (181285) | about 8 months ago | (#47084573)

There are a couple of things going on here. First, there are plenty of places a K-12 teacher can go to create content for their class. Some of these resources are pay-for sites, some are free in limited use. For instance Prezi and Pollev can be used for most of what happens in a classroom. In addition, there is nothing stopping a K-12 teacher using something like Moodle to organize content using many different tools. This just insures that MS tools get used. There is nothing wrong with that, there are other sites out there that only use google tools.

Second, is the MOOC portion. To be honest, there is simply not a compelling case for this except in certain cases for K-12. We are not going to be setting 8 year old kids alone with a computer and expect them to learn. Maybe one day, but not with MS tools.

This initiative, however, will probably provide some value to MS and k-12 teachers. For the most part K-12 teachers know how use MS products. The presentations are in powerpoint, which is why they are generally useless, and the worksheets are in word, which is why they are ugly, and the one great part of MS Office, Excel, is so misused that even it does not survive the experience.However, these are the tools that teachers have and packaging them so that students can get experience learning on the computer is valuable.

Re:Plenty of k-12 resources (2)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | about 8 months ago | (#47085113)

I despise Prezi. It's powerpoint with asinine animations and always-on internet required. Every time someone suggests I use Prezi in my classroom I want to cut their tongue out with an angle grinder. Ugh.

Re:Plenty of k-12 resources (2)

fermion (181285) | about 8 months ago | (#47085687)

I have not used Prezi that much, but I do not that local software can be used to play the files offline. Some people find it good to create links. I generally use LaTex.

Captive Market (1)

bbsalem (2784853) | about 8 months ago | (#47089069)

The first rule of business, adjective "ruthless" is redundant, is to create a captive market which is something both Micro$oft and Google are about. You do this so you can lock in your customers to your product or service and ask for ransom if they want to leave. The only reasonable answer is to either steal the product or create a workalike that makes the functionality non-unique. This is what Open-Office and LibreOffice represent WRT Microsoft Office and why Microsoft has to roll new releases each year. You get maybe 90% of the functioality in the workalikes but the market share is retained by human nature; people are afraid to drop their addiction to Word, nuch of that due to conservative business leadership than actual functional utility.

For a company whose motto, "Do no Evil." the situation of Google Docs is a disgrace. Not only is the product really a closed standard, it is based on open standards not enforced, or bastardized just enough to make them closed, that is evil. It also reveals another important seduction of business, creating convenience. People use Google Docs because it is easy to get started with, now exporting their work may be an entirely different problem, but that is what a captive market is for,

Were it not for a persistent cursor positioning bug in Google Chromium under Ubuntu, I might be trying to write open source code using Google Docs, but I would never use their WYSIWYG formats. So Google has shot itself in the foot.

It's All Compelling (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47090091)

If we're just going to use the word 'compelling' for fun, might as well save the trouble of working with Microsoft and just show the kids movies in between lessons.

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