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Techno-Tools for the Classroom | PowToon Beta learning with cartoons

Published:Sunday | October 1, 2017 | 12:00 AMGen Clacken
Powtoon Beta

The phrase life is a cartoon has never had greater meaning than it has today. Our fascination with cartoons can be dated, far back as 1843 when an Englishman John Leech, shared his comic-like satire, Etchings and Sketchings.

By the 1960s, the cartoon was labelled as the perfect teaching tool, representing with simplicity the complexities of human life.

Cartoons have remained popular for many reasons, including their ability to engage readers, manage large amount of information, and effectively facilitate learning.

But the greatest attribute of the cartoon has been its ability to adapt with the times and keep pace with modern technology. This has not been demonstrated better than with the mid-September release of Powtoon Beta.

 

Living in Toon Times

 

Frequent users of the Internet encounter, from time to time, teaching videos primarily illustrated by cartoon figures and supported by animated icons and objects. The recent release of Powtoon Beta has added a whole new set of dimensions to the creation and use of the cartoon, both inside and outside the classroom.

Since its inception in 2012, the software has become a huge hit with users from all walks of life. Students use Powtoon to support school-based presentations and to share animated video content on various social-media platforms. Teachers create Powtoon videos to engage their students, share content, and teach specific skills. To date, over 43 million videos have been created with the Powtoon software, and it is said that a new video is created every three seconds.

 

The Cartoon Rekindled

 

The new version of this tool, gives teachers and students a larger gallery of animated characters, images, and icons from which to build their own cartoons. The improved features are of great help in creating animated stories or for presenting information in a way that is appealing yet succinct.

The software itself is much more user-friendly and can support even young learners as they use the tool to share their own ideas. User-created images and sound files can be added to the Powtoon to give it a personal touch and make the content presented more authentic. Most important, however, is that this new Powtoon gives users the ability to include live-action videos in the cartoon and further animate them to create added effects. For example, users can upload video clips of themselves into the cartoon and add animated images and icons that fuse the real world with the cartoon, making life more like a cartoon!

With this improved version of the software, students can create their own content and share it with each other. Teachers can create their own teaching videos and host them for their students and the wider public or browse the Powtoon gallery for useful videos created by others. The gallery also carries templates that can be easily modified and incorporated into lessons, and the traditional cartoons can be substituted for more interactive versions. Teachers today use Powtoons to introduce themselves, introduce and summarise lessons, teach specific topics, share classroom rules, and assess students.

The basic features in Powtoon Beta are free to the public and can be found at http://www.powtoon.com. Naturally, more advanced features attract a cost, but what one can do with Powtoon cartoons is truly invaluable.

- Gen Clacken is an educational technologist with 15 years' experience in online education. She can be found at genclacken.com.