I am setting this blog up into two parts: First, I will give my ramblings (complete with links and images) of what I think of the site after looking it over. I will explain its features as well as look at them critically in regards to what is good/bad for edtech.
Second, I will look at 3 or more blog posts, and will take ideas from what others have focused on (looking at similar features, reviewing according to similar standards, and so on) and apply them to this Powtoon site. As we have talked about in class our greatest resources online are other people, and so I am counting on my classmates to not only show me a world of awesome resources, but also help me in tailoring my assignment so I can also do a good review.
It is set up in the same style as I expect the actual resource to be set up: Lots of visuals (images, videos) and very few words explaining the site. The main page is very clean (plain black and white) with lots of white space. After watching this video, I believe that Powtoon is a resource for people (educators, business people, students) who want to get a point across with sound and visuals as the main medium. It seems to be an “in” thing right now, as the live counter keeps going up about one “Powtoon” (user-created video) per second.
They start off with a hook which I think is fascinating: That 1.8 million words equates to a 1-minute video. They showed a video of a fireman spraying a hose. If you think of explaining that really in-depth through writing (the visuals, audio, meaning behind the story, etc.) it would take far longer than just showing the audience so they can experience it firsthand. It seems efficient to cover your 5 senses at once, instead of using one form of media (writing) to understand the whole picture.
However I felt uneasy when they explained that only their captivating Powtoons will make a person “sit up and listen”… I can be extremely engaged in long, written articles, and so was a bit put off by this. It is like patience isn’t valued anymore – we don’t want to take ten minutes to read, we want two minutes to hear, and it seems like in cutting down time on the medium, we actually interact less with the material at hand. Still, I can’t argue that this is a great alternative, because it is extremely important that we develop all of our ways of learning (written, aural, visual, so on) and I am stumped when it comes to teaching students visual/video skills online. I am stumped no more!
Also, I know that although I am a quick reader, I lose attention extremely quickly. However, when I am watching and listening to a video, usually at least one of my senses is tuned in (eyes or ears) and so I catch more than if I am floating my eyes over text but not actually comprehending it.
Okay, personal reflection and rambling aside… I am going to put to rest the philosophical reasoning behind using videos and focus on the functionality and user-friendliness of the interface.
At the top is a menu which directs you to creating an account and your first Powtoon. I took a different direction and clicked on 4EDU (which I assumed was “for education”). This video hints to other presentation resources being too confusing or useless, and the user review below says Prezi (a Powerpoint-Plus kind of presentation resource) is frustrating. I did not find Prezi frustrating, but I am curious to see if I get frustrated when operating this site. The thing I find most frustrating so far is how the language mimics a middle-grader (“super cool”, “a zillion more options”, “200% less frustrating”). The voice on the videos sounds overly-happy and like he is trying too hard to be “hip”. It doesn’t seem formal and professional to me, so it seems great for teaching elementary school students, but it seems strange that it is marketed to businesses as well.
I realized I had no idea what I was doing and needed some inspiration (see the photo-question below), so I looked at a “Meet the Teacher” template that you only filled in a few things on. It didn’t seem personal enough to me. I could only fill in a couple of points of info to personalize it so the template was about me – most of it was music and animations and fluffy filler words. I then realized there were only about 8 pre-made templates I could use. There weren’t a lot of options for educational pre-done templates, which means that – if you want to use this site – you need to do most of the work.
The “Storyboard” and Intro/Problem/Solution/Call to Action got me thinking of how these could be used either by me to show students examples of stories, or get students to create their own stories, to demonstrate the different parts of a story.
It also works for doing social studies presentations (ie. taking a controversial social issue and looking at problems, solutions and so on).
The site seemed to go extremely slow (never experienced that with Prezi) and would glitch – I would type my first name and start my last but it would put my last name before my first name. There just seems to be so much going on with animations (so much moving data on the screen) that my computer (which has a good memory and graphics card) doesn’t like it. I found a whiteboard layout and so was extremely excited to see whiteboard animations. I came up with a quick “point” of doing my Powtoon (I would introduce myself like I would to new students for the school year).
It is also a huge money-grab: Most of the templates, layouts, etc. (every add-on option) have locks on them and you need to have an upgraded account to access them. When I look for classroom resources I just want something straightforward, free and helpful for education.
A plus side is that, from the editing screen (after you choose your Storyboard structure) you can click Export to send your Powtoon out to several different places. It is very up to date with social media and keeping everything connected and shared.
I gave up on using my computer and went to my phone, where I was told my device cannot enable Flash and so I need to use another device. That is another red flag for me – I don’t want to invest a lot of time and planning into an app that I cannot access by phone. To me, this is as useful as something made for iPhone (as I have an LG G4).
My final verdict here is that, even if this site has more potential for exciting graphics and animations than Prezi, that allure is lost in how much time it takes for the computer mouse to even register a click. It is too slow to be of any use in the classroom. To me, presentation templates/objects/animations should be something you can pop on and off in seconds, because it is all about experimentation. With this app you pretty well have to already know exactly what you want your template to look like, to get through it without it being excruciatingly slow. I know that the specific interface is the issue because, as soon as it takes me to the Publishing screen where I title my Powtoon etc. the speed picks up and I can go as fast as I normally do on my PC.
So here is my final product… It took me five minutes to get the woman onto the front page (the closest cartoon representation they had to me… I could only choose from about 6 female characters) and after that I gave up.
I looked at Emily Grace’s blog post about Animoto and realized that, without knowing it, I had done a review similar to hers. The only difference was that everything worked out for her! She could see all of the options for music and lay out her pages in a quick, organized way. She could also access the app from her mobile device. This restored my faith in finding options besides Prezi and PowerPoint that can be used by myself and my students as a way to do presentations.
When I looked at Dwight Snowshoe’s blog post about Poll Everywhere, he got me thinking about how my students could practically access this resource when he said that, for Poll Everywhere, you would need mobile devices. For this Powtoon you would only need to have basic Internet and a computer – so if we had access to tablets or a computer room, we could make Powtoons with those.