Common Sense Review
Updated November 2012

Xtranormal

This product is no longer available.
Enchant with animated videos from kids' own scripts
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Common Sense Rating 3
  • Themed sets, such as Historical Figurz, guide kids through the experience, turning what could be a complicated process into a fairly simple one.
  • Easy-to-use interface guides kids as they choose the set, actors, and sounds for their animation.
  • Kids type their script into a text box affiliated with a particular character.
  • Teacher can create classes, add students, create assignments, and monitor students from the dashboard.
  • Teachers can also keep track of student assignments from the dashboard.
Pros
Easily lets kids transform assignments into engaging animated movies or embark on purely creative projects.
Cons
Kids may be so captivated by the site’s technology that they rely more on it than on their own creativity or knowledge.
Bottom Line
A fun and engaging site where kids can digitally animate their educational and creative projects.
Victoria Gannon
Common Sense Reviewer
Common Sense Rating 3
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 5
It's easy for kids to create animated movies that are humorous or serious, imaginative or truth-based. Characters are fun to look at, and kids finish with a satisfying final product that can bring class assignments to life.
Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 3
Though potentially useful for classroom projects, themes like Historical Figurz lack diversity and limit kids' ability to explore topics in depth. It's up to users to bring learning context to this fun creation tool.
Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 3
Steps are easy to follow, though some elements in scroll-down menus are obscured and could be overlooked. Teachers can share videos online to reach a wider audience beyond the classroom.
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How Can Teachers Use It?

The educator version of Xtranormal grants access to the teacher dashboard, where you can set up class assignments, deliver them to students, receive finished movies, and respond with comments. You'll receive a log-in token for each class, and students can then use it to log in to the site, create accounts, access assignments, make movies and turn them in.

After previewing their movies, kids can either continue working on them or save and turn them in to the teacher dashboard. Note: It can take up to an hour for the site to register that an assignment has been turned in.

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What's It Like?

Editor's Note: Xtranormal closed in late 2013; however, the site has been purchased by a different developer and has been relaunched as nawmalEDU.

Xtranormal is a website that allows users to make animated movies. Kids get to enter their own dialogue and choose settings, actors, voices, mannerisms, and even camera angles from multiple themed sets. The result? A video in which they can see the results of their many choices. Themed sets guide students through the experience, and customizable elements allow kids to be creative. Sets include Historical Figurz (characters include Napoleon, Einstein, and Queen Elizabeth), Pawz (animated bears), and Suitz (a generic office environment), among several others.

To create a movie, kids choose from themes you've selected and then determine how many actors they wish to include. They navigate through several tabs labeled with the movie’s other elements and then enter their script into a text box for a particular character. By dragging and dropping icons for motion, faces, and pauses into the text, kids can program the characters to perform actions at certain moments in the text. Bonus: Kids can choose characters that speak in languages ranging from French and Spanish to Czech and Arabic. Additionally, the site itself offers lessons in following sequences of directions, movie making, and the process of digital content creation.

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Is It Good For Learning?

Xtranormal’s movie-making capabilities are particularly suited to creative writing. Kids can dramatize scripts and make imaginative choices in sets and movements: For example, social studies debates –- they can direct actors’ oration and delivery of their arguments; or historical reenactments –- using the Historical Figurz template, kids can animate famous characters from the past.

The site runs the risk of being too entertaining at times, and kids could get distracted; putting silly scripts or swear words into the mouths of animated animals will be tempting to even the best-behaved kids. To make sure they draw on their knowledge and imaginations, you should provide structured support for kids when using Xtranormal to explore and extend classroom learning. Be aware that some elements of the sets could be constraining. For example, the characters in the Historical Figurz set are mostly white and male, presenting kids with a reduced perspective on historical events and limited options for enacting them.

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