Review by Megan Leppla, Common Sense Education | Updated September 2014
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Pixlr Express

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Easy photo-editing tool sparks creativity, teaches basic art techniques

Subjects & skills
  • Creativity

  • Arts
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (6 Reviews)

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Pros: Easy-to-use tools spark kids' creativity as they learn basic art techniques.

Cons: The lack of tutorials, informational guides, or prompts may make this app challenging for some kids.

Bottom Line: Experimenting with the tool's open-ended features involves kids in the creative process.

Teachers can use Pixlr (formerly Pixlr Express) in the classroom for various learning experiences. They can introduce students to basic digital-art concepts, discuss principles of design, and ask students to create works that represent those principles. Some art vocabulary is used within the app, but teachers may want to enhance that by calling attention to student work that demonstrates specific techniques. Students can easily share images via email (among other platforms), while in-app galleries remain private.

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Pixlr is a photography app with all the basic tools a budding photographer could want. Kids can capture new images or pull images from their camera roll to start manipulating them. Photo creations are stored in a gallery, saved to the camera roll, or easily shared across a variety of platforms.

As kids experiment with the tools in Pixlr, they can see the effects of their actions through their digital portfolios. Various creative tools help kids connect their work to other areas of study. As they experiment with the app's tools, kids learn about such art and design techniques as line, color, and composition.

Although the tools do allow kids to be creative, the app would benefit from tutorials or prompts to help kids get started. 

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Kids begin by choosing to capture a photo from within the app, pull an image from their camera roll, or assemble a collage of their photos -- with various creative options within each choice. Teachers might need to create their own prompts to keep kids focused, although motivated kids won’t struggle to keep themselves busy. The open-ended nature of the app lets kids set their own pace and discover new techniques to be creative with.

Although the focus is on photography techniques, Pixlr's best asset is its ability to empower kids to make personal connections to understanding basic art techniques. Projects can range from basic filters to complex layered works. No matter how kids use the app, they’ll get experience using digital-art skills.

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Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Choices are distilled to three basic features -- camera, photos, and collage. Within each feature, kids can mix photos, make edits, and add various effects.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Pixlr helps kids learn through self-directed inquiry as they experiment with the app's tools to create their own art.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Tools are relatively straightforward, but the lack of tutorials may make it challenging for some kids to get started.

Teacher Reviews

(See all 6 reviews) (6 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Matthew K. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Patuxent Valley Middle School
Jessup, MD
Excellent, full featured, easy to use tool for basic photo editing.

This application is an excellent tool for teaching basic photo editing concepts. The controls are simple and intuitive and students can quickly apply their learning to additional photos and editing needs. In addition to the teaching of photo editing, it's quick simple features allow for rapid updating of photos (e.g. crop, lighting, color) for use with general instruction or media. The software has a full range of tools from simple filters and preset effects, to the more advanced custom controls for exposure control, contrast, color correction and more. The app's simple layout and intuitive interface make it ideal for use with all students and the range of features mean that it can accommodate the introductory learner. However, for students with more significant learning or support needs, additional assistance will be required. Advanced students will appreciate the wealth of tools and options and provides the flexibility for exploration of features and more creative expression. There have been some ongoing issues with the editor loading properly. A banner advertisement on the right side of the page will often load in such a way that the upper controls do not appear. We've corrected this by loading the browser's "inspect element" tool which seems to correct the page's format, but this does cause some disruption to the workflow. Otherwise, this app has been excellent for all ranges of students.

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