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Pros: Presentations look clean and professional and add an element of fun.
Cons: Presentations can be slow to load, and the ability to add images from Flickr and other online platforms may result in student access to inappropriate content.
Bottom Line: With guidance and oversight, students will have fun making creative video presentations, but more collaborative features and classroom support would help.
PowToon has the potential to be a powerful animated presentation tool. Whether teacher- or student-created presentations are the plan, the slide-based format allows presenters some control over how they present their information. Turn writing instruction on its head by teaching students to create expository or persuasive videos. Bring science to life by creating animations of famous scientific discoveries. Ditch the health textbook and let students create infographic-style videos to show the benefits of healthy eating and exercise. Show the power of word economy by having students create public service announcements or 100-word presentations that pack a punch. Liven up your own instruction and grab students' attention by creating animations on an unlimited number of topics -- perhaps including some fun stickers, backgrounds, and borders to keep viewers engaged.
PowToon blogs feature inspirational articles on the merits of using animated presentations -- mostly marketing hype with some useful hints included, so you may find it helpful to browse through them. Teachers should be prepared to spend a class period or two letting students figure out how to use PowToon and its many features, and it will help if teachers know something about the tool in order to guide students. Beware that since PowToon uses images and video from Flickr and Storyblocks, students may inadvertently access inappropriate content. Teachers should remind their students of the school policy regarding such incidents as they create their slides.
PowToon gives users tools to create animated slideshow presentations that present like videos. Anyone can sign up for free with an email address; teachers can buy a classroom account for up to 90 students, which gives them access to additional templates, features, and export options. Once signed in on the website or Chrome app, users can design presentations using ready-made templates or start from scratch. Both options allow users to add text, images, simple animations, short videos, stickers, transition effects, borders, and more. Users can search for images and videos on PowToon, or they can upload or import their own. Free, Basic, and Elite versions come with different customization options and time limits. Beware that there are sometimes lags in loading projects, and getting the timing right on slide elements can be tricky and at times, frustrating.
When finished, users have several sharing options: download presentations as PowerPoint, PDF, or MP4 (Basic and Elite) files; upload or share to a variety of social media platforms; email or embed presentations; send to the teacher account for review; or keep them in their personal PowToon dashboard. Other features, such as professional voice-over narration, are available for a fee.
While many of PowToon's resources and tutorials focus on business and marketing presentations, the ability to spice up the traditional slideshow presentation enhances its potential as a classroom tool. Students can become teachers, and teachers can increase their tech cred with students by moving beyond the slideshow. There are real opportunities to create problem-based learning assignments and passion projects, and to teach design thinking concepts by having students research issues and create short PSAs or solution-based informational videos. Teachers will want to spend some time teaching students about the balance between text and pictures -- as well as how to plan slide length -- so that viewers don't get bored by too much text or are rushed to read the text that's there. There isn't much worse than being stuck watching video after video filled with paragraphs that overwhelm without teaching much.
Despite its education plans, PowToon's support, examples, and the general feel are geared more toward use in the business world. Social media pages such as Twitter and Facebook are becoming more useful resources for teachers looking to use PowToon as a learning tool, but classroom use feels like an afterthought. Students can share presentations with their peers and collaborate on ideas in class, but real-time collaborative editing capability would be a nice addition. More education-related examples and blogs for inspiration would make this tool an even more valuable classroom resource.