Review by Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Education | Updated November 2016

Pixton

Popular comic creation tool well-tuned to classrooms

Common Sense Says:
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Grades
2-12 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: Intuitive design with plenty of options for sharing work and adding multimedia.

Cons: Limited potential for creating original artwork, and available art depicts mostly human characters.

Bottom Line: Students will be motivated to share subject knowledge using the fun language of comics.

Pixton for Schools brings students together in an online classroom to learn about comics and the graphic arts; which, as mediums, build students' art skills, stretch their creative muscles, and help students think critically about sequencing, context, and story structure. Check out the suggested lesson plans which address subjects ranging from Math to History to Science, or just get students going with a prompt like: "Create a comic that shows one reason why Europeans came into contact with other cultures during the Middle Ages." The ability to add project assignments with rubrics or scoring guides attached is a great feature, and you can send classwide messages and alerts to students. There are also lots of options for moderating content, which may put you at ease if you're using Pixton as a first foray into an online writing community with a social networking aspect. Students can share comics, collaborate on projects with other students, and comment on each other's work. Teachers with younger students may want to set the "beginner" mode, which limits the ways students can play around with graphics and may help them from feeling overwhelmed. 

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Pixton is a comic creation site (as well as Android and iOS app) where creators can both make and share their comic strips. It's simple to navigate. After teachers establish a classroom site, they receive codes to distribute to students. Students can join by entering the code or teachers can manually add students to their class page. After students create an avatar (in comic form, of course!), they follow the step-by-step comic creator to begin their graphic stories. Teachers can make a specific assignment, or let students create freely. Options include the number of panels and the layout of a page. Visual icons help students add artwork, backgrounds, and text bubbles to comics (students don't draw their own stuff here but pick from a bank of fun images). A handy link to video tutorials is located right in the workspace, and the videos open up above a comic-in-progress, allowing students to toggle between how-tos and their own comic. Once students save, there are options for sharing the work (depending on the moderation settings established by the teacher).

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Pixton has a lot going for it: simple setup for teachers, easy-to-use interfaces, ability to share comics in a classroom community or beyond, and even multimedia elements like layering audio into a comic. While artwork options can feel limited (characters start to look the same after a while), Pixton is relatively easy to use and offers literacy opportunities for students across a wide range of grades. There's an incredible abundance of options to adjust graphics, from facial expression to subtle body movements. This can feel empowering or overwhelming depending on the user. Teachers, however, can select an option that limits the graphic possibilities if they feel it'll be beneficial. Overall, students are creatively guided to make subject-based comics; art and learning are nicely blended here.

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Overall Rating
4

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
4

For creative, artsy students, this site could transform how they view literacy and even spark more engagement in school. It's easy to use for basic projects but also includes advanced features for those looking for more.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
4

Pixton is a useful, flexible platform for demonstrating learning, and the comic format lends itself to building students' thinking skills. Samples from the public gallery show a wide variety of comics for building great lessons.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
5

The video tutorials, project community, lesson plans, and other features (including a promptly responsive help desk) indicate strong thinking on the part of Pixton to make the experience as stress-free for kid users as possible.


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