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Pros: Intuitive design with great getting-started support and plenty of options for creation.
Cons: Can't communicate directly with students or leave feedback on their work.
Bottom Line: Platform can motivate students to share subject knowledge in a way that blends art and literacy.
Pixton uses comics and graphic arts to help build students' art skills, stretch their creative muscles, and help them think critically about sequencing, context, and story structure. For inspiration, browse through the content packs, which address subjects ranging from math to history, science, and beyond. Each pack includes a brief intro to the theme and a short sample comic. Or, just get students going with a prompt attached to your curriculum, like "Create a comic that shows one reason why Europeans came into contact with other cultures during the Middle Ages." Review students' comics and use the Favorites feature to mark standout examples to show the class. Students can use the interactive rubric to critique their own work. Teachers can use the same rubric as a guide for assessment.
One of the standout features is a huge searchable library of lesson ideas sorted by grade level, objective, and subject. It includes a broad range of topics, from following a routine to practicing empathy and keeping a clean digital footprint. Each lesson idea comes with a brief description, a blurb about what students should know before they start, a scaffolded list of activities, and the accompanying standards. There's also a variety of templates and graphic organizers for related offline activities, like a character map and main idea web.
Compared to previous versions of Pixton, this one has more robust creation tools and learning prompts. This streamlined version focuses squarely on creation, with an impressive array of options and easy-in templates to get students going on meaningful projects. Still, much of the administrative work is left for teachers to do offline.
Since some of the templates can lack nuance, be sure to supplement the content packs or premade lessons with classroom instruction that adds missing content. For example, in the history section of the lesson ideas, there are two templates called "Push / Pull Factors" and the "Incan Defeat" that we felt contained insensitive representations of historical events and situations that could lead to misconceptions.
Pixton is a comic creation site for classrooms where teachers and students can both make and share their comic strips. There's a free 7-day full-access trial. Then teachers need a subscription either for themselves only or for themselves and a classroom of students. After teachers sign in, create their avatar, and establish a classroom, they enter the names of their students. Students can then access Pixton by signing in with a Google, Facebook, or Microsoft account, or teachers can generate a unique code and usernames for sign-in without such accounts.
Once in, students create their own comic avatars, and then are free to begin their graphic stories panel by panel. Within each panel, users choose backgrounds and characters and write speech bubbles or thoughts. Many of these elements, like characters, then have layers of details that can be tweaked (e.g., hair and skin color, clothing, etc.). There's a wide variety of content packs that add to these options by grade level and theme. For example, the American Revolution pack includes period dress, key historical figures, and relevant backgrounds. Note that the content packs and premade lessons should be accompanied by additive classroom instruction, since some of the templates lack nuance. Specifically, there are two templates called "Push / Pull Factors" and the "Incan Defeat" that we felt contained insensitive representations of historical events.
Teachers can give students a specific assignment that uses a particular content pack -- though they'll have to do this outside the tool, as there's no internal assignments option. Teachers can also tap into the extensive lesson library for new ideas and premade lesson plans. Of course, students create freely using visual cues as a guide.
Note that students don't draw their own original content here, though they can upload images from their computer. Students can search for content by keyword or use hashtags to bring up whole content packs. Students can also choose the number of panels in a comic and the layout of a page. Once students save their comic, they can generate a link to share with others and show off their work. When teachers first sign up, they can select filters for the type of content they'd like students to have access to -- for example, whether or not they'd like the comics to include religious or violent visuals.
Pixton has a lot going for it: simple setup for teachers, easy-to-use interface, lots of options for customizing graphics, and the ability to quickly share comics. While the visual style is crisp, it can feel limited (characters start to look the same after a while). That style, though, plays into Pixton's ease of use, allowing many elements to blend together. There are many features to tweak, from facial expressions to subtle body movements. There are also visual options to create character with hearing aids or wheelchairs, and there's a nonbinary gender option.
Pixton is a tool students can use to develop their literacy skills across grades and subjects. Creating comics can feel empowering, although some students might also feel overwhelmed when digging into the menus. The content pack organizational scheme provides some structure. But without a way for teachers to limit what students see, it's still relatively easy for students -- especially younger ones -- to get lost. Since there's not a lot of scaffolding, teachers will want to do that for students to mitigate these frustrations.
That said, there's a clear effort to simplify Pixton, and the design and onboarding process is especially good for teachers. Even though there are some potential pitfalls, they should be easily mitigated by thoughtful teaching and lesson design. With that work in place, Pixton can offer students a creative outlet for blending art and literacy across subjects.