Well Hi There! Happy New Year!!
No, I didn’t fall off the face of the earth, in case you were wondering. I know, I know, I’ve been lagging on my blogs – but for a good reason, I promise! I’ll blog more about that in an upcoming post.
What I want to talk about today are three Tech Tools that you can have students use that are not slideshows. I’m not trying to knock any of my favorite slide show tools, such as Google Slides and PowerPoint, but sometimes, it’s nice to have a little variety in the mix… especially if you’re viewing over 100 student presentations.
Before I get into the nitty gritty, I want to draw your attention to a few things. First, please remember a while back, I did a Tech Tuesday over Digital Storytelling, where I highlighted the tools Animoto, WeVideo, and VoiceThread. These are really great tools for students to use on a presentation or project, but not what I’m presenting today. Also, I’ve presented Storify to my staff before as well, which definitely has its place for some projects and presentations. The final point I’d like to make today, is that my blog post today is all about the tools, but I have a disclaimer for you: Just using a fancy tool with a surface level project that’s not meaningful to students doesn’t mean that you’re using technology for the betterment of student learning. It won’t turn a bad assignment into a good assignment, just because you use one of these technology tools. Please continue to put pedagogy first, technology second.
You’ll also notice that for each of the tools that I present below, I’ve included a presentation about Genius Hour, using the tool at hand. Genius Hour has been a topic of conversation at my school, and several teachers have been wanting more information about it – so today’s Tech Tuesday was a 2 for 1 – come learn about some presentational tools, and if you want, here is some information about Genius Hour! I more or less have the same presentation three times, so you can see what the differences look like in each of the three tools. My main resources for putting together this presentation were: www.geniushour.com (and several links and videos that I gathered from that page), this Edutopia article, and this LiveBinder, put together by Joy Kirr.
Ok, without further adieu, here are the three tools that I presented today during Tech Tuesday!
Tool #1: Adobe Slate
Adobe recently released the web-based version of their presentational tool, Slate. Slate was previously only an iPad app, but has since made the transition to being completely web based. Here is a promo video for Slate, where you can get an idea of what some of the products have a potential of looking like.
The idea behind Slate is that you can get a great, professional looking product, without having to be a designer. If you like something with pre-made themes, this is for you. Since the themes are set for you, it allows students to spend more time on the content, not on the style. This has both pros and cons, depending on what you are going for – some people prefer something they can customize a little bit more. I, on the other hand, appreciate the fact that I don’t have to think about the design. One limitation is that you cannot embed videos in Slate, but you can put a link in for a video.
Here are some examples of what Adobe Slate looks like:
If you click on this link, it will take you to the Slate website, and if you scroll down just a bit, you can see quite a few of examples for you to click on and view.
Here is a brief tutorial on some of the features in Adobe Slate.
Here is my Genius Hour presentation in Slate.
Tool #2: Smore
Smore is a tool where you can build online newsletters and flyers. I use Smore to send out a Friday Focus newsletter highlighting the great things I see in classrooms each week. The version I use is not the free version, but rest assured, there is a free version, so don’t let the “pricing” page fool you.
What I really enjoy about Smore, is the ability to embed a YouTube video into the newsletter itself, and you can watch it without leaving the page. In this one aspect, I believe it is better than Slate, but I enjoy the options that Slate offers with photos more than what Smore offers.
In a similar way as Slate, Smore is another tool where you can choose backgrounds and themes and fonts, but most of the formatting is done for you.
Here is a brief tutorial on what Smore looks like.
Here is my Genius Hour presentation in Smore.
Tool #3: PowToon
Bring your slideshow to life with PowToon. Although the paid versions offer some really neat features, the free version is more than enough to add some pizzaz to a typical presentation. You can choose from ready-made templates where you fill in some information here and there, you can choose a theme that’s ready for you to add all the details, or you can start completely from scratch.
When you are making your presentation, you’ll have a choice to be in “movie mode” or “slideshow mode.” In movie mode, all you have to do is hit play, and the “movie” that you’ve created will play. In slideshow mode, it will be, well, a slideshow. You can still have all the same features as movie mode, but it’s more ideal for “presentations” so you can stop and go at your own pace. PowToon allows you to tell more of a story than a typical slide show. Also, If you want to embed video or hyperlinks to your presentation, you can only do so in slideshow mode.
You have the opportunity to add background music, and even some voiceovers for some really neat sound effects.
PowToon is much more complicated than the other two tools that I’ve shown today, but it has the potential to make a really great product that the students can have a lot of ownership over. Complicated doesn’t necessarily mean bad. It simply means more problem solving and working with the technology. Also, you don’t necessarily need to be an expert in PowToon to have your students make one. Have them be resourceful to troubleshoot some of the issues they come across. (But just in case, here is a link to some tutorials for PowToon.)
*These examples are made with premium accounts. You can’t have “people” in the free version.
Here is my Genius Hour presentation in PowToon – it is in “slideshow mode” for the sake of having hyperlinks and videos. You’ll notice that on sides where I have links and/or video, I have placed a “hold” at the end of each slide to allow myself to “pause” the presentation if needed, so we can visit those links. That is why there is a brief pause after each slide. I could take these holds out, but it is a neat feature for students when presenting. You’ll notice it does interrupt the flow of the music a bit. The holds are not necessary if you take your presentation off of “autoplay” and manually change the slides. I did not opt to have holds on slides without a link or video.
NOTE – THIS IS NOT LIKE GOOGLE DOCS – IT WILL NOT SAVE AUTOMATICALLY. PLEASE REMEMBER TO HIT SAVE MULTIPLE TIMES THROUGHOUT YOUR WORK!! OR ELSE YOU’LL LOSE IT!!! (Speaking from experience here.)
Those are the three tools for today! I hope you enjoyed the lesson, and learned something as well! Happy Tech-ing!!