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Pros: It's got an intuitive design with great getting-started support, as well as plenty of options for creation.
Cons: Limited potential for uploading artwork, mostly human characters, and avatar creation forces a binary gender choice.
Bottom Line: This is a platform with the potential to motivate students, getting them to share subject knowledge in a way that blends art and literacy.
Pixton's use of comics and the graphic arts can 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 leave feedback. Use the Favorites feature to mark stellar examples to show the class. As compared to the previous versions of Pixton, this one is more bare-bones, with fewer community sharing options and teacher tools. This streamlined version focuses on creation and leaves much of the administrative work for teachers to do offline.
Pixton is a comic creation site for classrooms where teachers and students can both make and share their comic strips. There's a short free trial with full access. 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 organize and add to these options by grade level and theme. For example, the American Revolution pack includes period dress, key historical figures, and relevant backgrounds. 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. Or, teachers can let students create freely. Visual icons help guide students through the possibilities. Note that students don't draw their own stuff here, though. 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.
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 easily 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's an incredible abundance of options to tweak things, from facial expressions to subtle body movements. Some of these are also refreshingly inclusive, such as visual options for hearing aids or wheelchairs.
With Pixton, students have a tool they 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 much better than its predecessor, and the design and onboarding process is especially good for teachers. It's very thoughtfully laid out, clean, and lacking distractions, allowing students to focus on their comics. So even though there are some potential pitfalls, they should be easily mitigated by thoughtful teaching and lesson design. And with that work in place, Pixton can offer students a creative outlet for blending art and literacy no matter the subject matter.