Evolution of Animation / Presentation Tools

After watching many videos created using animation tools, I think they offer a valuable creative medium of expression in the ESL classroom. Let’s face it, not only do teachers need to keep students motivated to learn but teachers also need to remain motivated to teach. How many times have we been asked to stand up and make a presentation on a subject in front of the class? Even been asked to make it using PowerPoint…boring! PowerPoint is a great tool but it also gets misused. We find slides with way too much information or, more often than not, presenters who end up reading the information word-for-word off the slides. Then came Prezi, which I happen to find to be a useful tool because students are better able to concentrate on the subject matter while still producing an aesthetically pleasing product. Then I found PowToon. I can already imagine how I can use it and I can envision how students can use it too. Or perhaps, how I can learn how to use it from my students.

PowToon is an online web tool that is used to create presentation and animation videos. First things first, it’s FREE. Although, there is a catch: there is a limit of five videos. However, in comparison to other animation web tools, it is the most economical I found. I discovered GoAnimate and Video Scribe which also look amazing but have subscription fees. PowToon definitely has a learning curve and time commitment but once familiar with it’s user front and capabilities, it is undoubtedly a new, fun and fresh way to present information.

Dave, who has been teaching ESL for twenty years, has used PowToon to create a grammar series for his students. His grammar series videos can be seen on his blog, PowToons for ESL. He has used this web tool as a way to present grammar points in small segments which are amusing to watch. I especially enjoyed his video on the pronunciation of regular -ED verb endings, which can be a challenge to native French speakers learning English as a second language. I envision myself using PowToons to create short videos on grammar points as a way of saving time in the classroom. For example, I would make short presentations on material or grammar points that students are having trouble with i.e. difference between DO and MAKE as supplementary material to be watched before/after a class. I would also use it as a model for an assignment. For example, giving instructions for a recipe using imperatives. I would then have students create their own based on the model they have seen for various recipes. Or as a way for students to tackle explaining grammar to their classmates. I think this is a great way to reinforce learning, by having to explain something to someone else.

In his blog, Role of Animation in Student’s Learning, Bhaskar Kuchimanchi highlights how the learning process is benefited by animation:

One of the reasons animations are now found so widely is that many people believe that animations can help learners come to understand complex ideas more easily. The process of teaching and learning gets a whole new experience when animations are used during the process. Both the teacher and the student as well find it more comfortable to explain or understand a topic. . .

As with any internet-based technology, it does come with some downfalls (as I have quickly discovered). I had no problems getting a free account as an educator but as I started to create my own animation video, I had frequent interruptions with error messages that froze everything.

After further investigation and trial, I discovered that used with Google Chrome, it works seamlessly. But user beware: it seems to have negative reactions with other web browsers such as Internet Explorer and Firefox even though many reviews say it works with all browsers. When I used it on my MacAir with the Safari browser, I tried to save the work I had done but it didn’t seem to work. Shortly after I found this article published by m62 (a presentation development company) overviewing PowToon, PowToon: Review,  that discusses some of these pitfalls of PowToon which, unfortunately, includes bugs when trying to resize text boxes and not saving animations. It is noted though, that they expect to have these issues resolved within the next phases of development.

Everything considered, I still think it is a great tool that has great potential in the ESL classroom. I will continue to test it out and give it a go! Below, I have embedded a video (my first attempt at creating a short animation video).

Frustrated with English?!!


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