Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Getting out of the PowerPoint Rut with PowToon

Sometimes we, as teachers, get caught in the "comfort" of a tool that is there for us... Perhaps we like it because it is "reliable," or we are "experts" with the given tool. One of the best pieces of advice I have gotten in the past year is to never get too comfortable in any aspect of life. Comfort can often breed complacency. I think our teaching methodologies can take the same advice to heart.

Powerpoint is reliable. Everyone knows how to make a Powerpoint. Powerpoint accomplishes a task - it presents material. Students might need to give a Powerpoint or two after they leave a K-12 education. However, comfort does not mean beneficial or conducive to creativity and engagement. PowToon can challenge students to create innovative messages for a variety of purposes.

1. PowToon is a living PowerPoint. All of the objects - characters, props, text, etc - can pop onto the stage at a given time. Each item can be manipulated through flipping, moving to the front or back of other objects, or the duration of its stay on the "slide"stage.

2. Customizations like adding voice and user images allows for extra creativity and engagement. Every single model PowToon I create for students to view has my voice added. I use this as a challenge - all students should rise to the moment and record themselves speaking as an authority on their topic. It is a valuable skill, and it adds a level of professionalism to their work as a result.

3. PowToons are perfect for teacher-created mini-lessons. I have been placing a large focus on flipping the classroom using engaging videos related to course content. I live by three rules for my PowToon video lessons: 1) Start with a hook 2) Keep your content focused and brief, and 3) End with a challenge. This video (a little over a minute) clearly explains a thesis and challenges students to create their own on a specific topic, allowing the in-class teacher to go back and check it later for comprehension:

4. The Basic level of PowToon is FREE, and the district edition is reasonable. There is no fee to hop on an account and start playing. The basic version also gives you 20 video uploads to YouTube, which means simply pulling the link and posting it to a class website, wiki, or throwing it up on the board for students to visit for a quick mini-lesson.