Sunday, September 15, 2013

Starting off the School Year with a Pow

Last year, right before I started my new position, I discovered PowToon, which was in it's start up form.  PowToon is an online service that allows you to create animated presentations and videos.  I was pretty impressed with the service at the time and wrote about it in one of my first blog entries here.  Since I tried it the first time, the service has changed quite a bit.  Currently, for a free subscription, you can create as many PowToons as you would like, but you can only upload 30 PowToons to YouTube.  Right now, for me, that seems like a pretty good number.

PowToons would be a great way for you to create short, instructional videos about difficult concepts.  It's also a great way to engage students in some of those more traditionally "boring" topics.  Even though creating PowToon can be time consuming, it could be an excellent way to create flipped class lessons.  

The first PowToon I created was to introduce myself to my new students.

While the process took me some time to get through, I was extremely happy with the overall product, and looked for a way to use it for something with more substance.

Introducing the Nonfiction Section

The next PowToon I created was to help introduce students quickly to the nonfiction section of the library.  My students loved it!  They were totally engaged and the information really stuck with them.

I didn't touch PowToons again for the rest of the school year, mostly because I didn't have time to dedicate to making a good video.

 Starting a second year off right

To start off this school year, I decided to revisit PowToons.  I noticed that since last year they have added a number of new characters, some animated characters and some new formats.  The changes, I think, give the free users a lot more options.  I was very happy with the result, and the kids got a good giggle out of it.

 Using PowToon to teach students Digital Citizenship & Responsibility

For my back to school video, I used the traditional characters that I had used in the past, but I wanted an opportunity to try some new characters, to see what I could come up with.  I found the opportunity when I realized that our students needed a little more direction when it comes to being responsible in our computer labs.  As a result, I made a video for teachers to share with their students prior to going to the lab.  I had hoped that the video would generate discussion about how students should treat the equipment in our lab.  Last year we had a lot of trouble with things getting broken in the lab, and computer stations being left a mess.  This year, after developing a campaign to help keep things neater, I am happy to report that we haven't had one mishap since school started, and the lab is left in excellent condition every day.

The Students Ask for More

After watching the introductory videos this year, I started to overhear students saying things like "That penguin is hilarious!"  and "can we watch more of these?"  I realized pretty quickly that (1) the kids had no idea it was me who had made the videos and (2) I am seriously on to something and need to use to engage students in those tough topics I struggle with telling the kids about myself.

My most recent PowToon is one on Dictionary Skills. I used this with my second graders this year, and so far have found that the kids are retaining the terminology much better this year.  Last year I had a difficult time helping the kids see the difference between entry words and guide words, and this year after one class, they seem to understand things much more clearly.
Now, the kids begin each class asking if we're going to watch a PowToon.  I love that they are so interested in the videos and they are gaining real understanding from the content presented. 

As the year goes on, I hope to find more opportunity to create PowToons as a way to engage my students in learning.
In a future post, I'll explain my process for creating the PowToons.


  1. Such a tool has been looking for students with disabilities and learning difficulties. Stimulating, imaginative and original solutions possibility! thanks

  2. Great post. It inspired me to share my own Back to School PowToon on my blog. I've linked back to your post, too.

    1. I'm so glad you shared! It's such a fun tool to make those important topics a little more entertaining:)

  3. Hi, we try to use PowToon for a sample project in our little primary school; we actually use PowToon to learn italian, but there are some problems with the sound. Here the link

  4. I am also a librarian and I love your PowToons. Does it take every long to make?