Finding new and interesting ways to connect with and engage your students is a constant challenge. Every classroom has kids with different attention spans as well as learning styles. Education Technologies (EdTech) can provide at least a partial solution to this dilemma.
As a teacher you know there are lots of EdTech options, but who has the time to learn them all.
You have so many responsibilities it’s not even a little bit funny.
Between grading, lesson planning, parent-teacher calls and conferences, and actually teaching, it’s not even fair to ask you to wrap your head around the vast ocean that is EdTech tools and tactics.
If any of the above sounds like you, keep reading. By the time you reach the end of the article, you should be up to date and knowledgeable about this type of EdTech. I’m going to introduce you to next generation presentation technology. The example we’ll discuss is called PowToon. I’m not trying to convince you to use Powtoons, but my hope is that you’ll look beyond Google Slides and PowerPoint for reasons I’ll discuss here.
For those who have already started using next Gen. presentation software for the classroom like Prezi, but haven’t heard about PowToon, it’s worth taking a look and adding it to your tool belt.
Old School Presentations Don’t Quite Cut it
We’ve all sat through boring lessons and presentations at some point. We’ve all suffered through someone’s monotone voice as they drone through slide after slide. The monotony of endless bulleted list, and boring slide figures send even the most dedicated students to zone-out land.
I’m not a teacher by trade, but as someone who often gives presentations and does public speaking, giving a boring presentation can put us over the edge, and have us praying for the end more than the people watching it.
To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with PowerPoint. You could give a PowerPoint presentation that inspires your kids to action better than Braveheart with a bullhorn. But that’s the rub.
You have to be the magic in a PowerPoint or a Google slides presentation.
You could do voiceover and music to a PowerPoint-style presentation, or make your own YouTube video, but then you need to redo the entire thing if you want to make any changes. The upside to using PowerPoint by itself is that once you’ve created it, you can use it over and over again making small changes as needed.
We’ve all seen a powerpoint presentation on Youtube where a less than excited voice talks and talks and talks, and all you can see are the slides. This is probably the hardest kind of lesson to get through, and it’s reasonable to assume that if your lesson isn’t about MineCraft or Star Wars, no student is going to watch a voice-over slide show.
The reason a PowerPoint-style slideshow with a voiceover simply doesn’t work unless your students are hyper-motivated, can be summed up in one statement. It wouldn’t be Dynamic. You know as a teacher you have to be dynamic. Maybe you ask the class questions, tell jokes, or use goofy voices during your lesson, but you know you have to do something to keep things fresh and moving.
I often hear that that the average attention span for a child is around 10 to 15 mins. It turns out that the research tells a more pessimistic story. In a great article about the Science of Attention written by Saga Briggs, research is discussed in which within a 10min span there are spikes in lapses of attention 4 times. The biggest span of unbroken attention being after the first 30 seconds. This reminds me of the dogs from the movie UP.
Needless to say keeping the delivery of your lesson fresh and dynamic is as important as the information you’re trying to convey.
This is why software like PowToon is so powerful. Take a look at this video template for a teacher introduction.
I bet many of you actually watched most of the video. Now consider if you sent this home or through an email to students. In addition to being impressed and entertained, I’m betting many of them would have watched the entire thing as well.
The very nature of EdTech like this is that it stands on its own without you (the teacher) needing to be the magic. It is inherently dynamic with everything from animated cartoon emotions, to a catchy soundtrack you can choose. It is also flexible like PowerPoint or Google slides, allowing you to change the content easily.
One of the things I found most engaging about Powtoons was the ease of which you can add and change the slideshow soundtrack. It turns out that using music does more than just make us smile when we listen to it.
Research shows that when we hear music we find pleasing, our bodies go through the same physical reaction we experience when we are doing something that actually makes us happy.
I think it safe to assume that material that makes a student happy is also extremely engaging.
A Few Things about PowToon
So where does all this discussion leave us? The example I’m bringing to your attention here is PowToon. I picked it because out of the tools mentioned by teachers during my interviews and in my surveys, it was mentioned the least out of the most common ones. For the reasons mentioned above, it has a very high potential for impressing students, administrators, and parents while also decreasing your long-term workload.
Powtoon has a free and paid version.
You can create a very nice presentation with characters text and music with just the free version. It’s pretty easy to use.
I was able to effectively make my own Powtoon without needing to look up too much information and tutorials.
There are a few different ways you can share your PowToon after it’s made. Most of the popular social media avenues are available along with email and YouTube. Unfortunately, you can’t download your PowToon to your computer if you’re using the free version. You’ll have to play it from their website or YouTube.
The thing I disliked the most was that all the objects and pictures aside from the characters are locked, so there ends up being a large amount of material (animated hearts, flowers, clipart kind of pictures) that are not available. It would have been nice if they would have made a small set of objects available so you could try them out.
You do get unlimited access for the first 48hrs of your free sign up, so use it wisely.
I’d like to here what you think. Leave me a comment below or sign up for my newsletter and drop me an email.
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