Sunday, September 21, 2014

These Web Tools Are Brought To You By the Letter P and the Number 3

Padlet, Powtoon and Physion

Hunting through directories of web tools for the classroom like and can be both eye-opening and overwhelming. I find myself drawn to fun icons or names. This is not the best way to find useful tools. Using search parameters can help limit selections to items that are more related to the planned use. Even so, I am sure I missed some good tools. For me, the ideal tool is one that is free, protects student identity, web-based, intuitive to use and has more than one possible application in the class.

I chose to try Padlet, a web-based pin board, Powtoon, a web based presentation creator, and Physion, a physics simulation creation tool. At first glance, all three are free to use and look engaging. Padlet and Powtoon are web-based and require an account to create items, but not use or view. Physion requires software be downloaded to try the tool and has a web-based library to share created items. All three can be used by teachers to create lessons or by students to create products.
Padlet is a web-based pin board creator. After creating an account, the most difficult step is deciding what you want on a wall that would be worth sharing. I decided to create an overview for an upcoming unit. The tool is clear and in a few minutes I could create, edit and share a wall. Privacy can be set in a variety of ways. You can allow anyone with the link to add comments, pictures or links and move items around or just allow viewing, or keep it completely private. Posts can be moderated by the owner to protect students and the wall. Padlet also provided embed codes. I was able to embed the wall in our district learning management system (LMS). Students will be able to add pins either by going straight to the link or within an LMS assignment. Like many other tools, as you use them, you get more ideas of how to use them. I see this as a way to brainstorm as a class to identify main ideas, big questions and sharing what was learned in class. I also see it as tool for curating information for students on specific topics and student created videos and blogs. If students choose to set up accounts, they can create their own walls to collect information and show their learning. I will definitely be sharing this tool with my students.

Another tool worth sharing with students and teachers is Powtoon. With Powtoon, users can create short presentations in the form of simply animated videos. The videos can be shared in a variety of ways. This web tool is free with an inexpensive educational upgrade available. The free version did not feel limited. The educators account allows for longer videos and video downloads.  After logging in, the user screen is uncluttered. Creating an animated presentation is intuitive. Editing and changing the video is simple and there are a lot of options for the free account. There are templates for lessons and a way to upload images. I chose to create a personal video for my daughter’s upcoming wedding. I spent about one hour working on getting everything just right. It was easy to upload to After one use, I am confident I could create a new presentation in half of the time.

One of the biggest challenges I had with this site was more of a personal problem. I am so accustomed to web-based sites saving work automatically I did not save frequently. Flash player kept crashing and I was forced to restart from scratch. This is easily overcome by using the save button often. Powtoon has a forum for adding ideas for improvement to the site. I requested they consider auto save or recovery. It will be interesting to see their response. Over all I enjoyed this tool the most and will use this for creating some video lessons, profession development videos and encourage students to use this for the projects where video reports are a choice.

            In order to even being to understand Physion, software had to be down loaded to my laptop. I always hesitate to do this without some research. There are also added complications when downloading software to district computers. The demonstration videos on the website were more of a showcase than information. I downloaded the software and started trying to create something. The vocabulary and controls on the screen are specific to programmers and not intuitive. Even creating a shape requires left and right clicking with a mouse. I had hoped the process would be friendlier for a novice. There are tutorials and practice exercises. Unfortunately I do not already know how to code in Java. I will have to learn, then create, then share. It will be a while before I have anything to use in a lesson. Since programming is not part of the curriculum, this will not be a site for a student who does not already know how to code.

            Two successes out of three trials is not bad. Powtoon and Padlet have immediate applications in my classroom. Physion will have to wait even though it has possibilities in the right situation. 

1 comment:

  1. Katie,
    Great write up! I love the title! :) Powtoon is great and yes, you need to save frequently on a lot of these sites, something that we are not used to as much anymore. Sorry that your Physion exploration didn't go as planned -- it seemed like a great concept but like a lot of technology became too involved and complicated. But like you said -- 2 out of 3 is not bad! :)