Posted in Analog Girl vs. The Technology Monster

Analog Girl vs. Powtoon

My first post was a Powtoon video that I made several years ago for class. This video was made for a class I took on technology and education. As a general rule, the teacher was very excited about all of the technology he introduced us to (and I suppose if he hadn’t liked it, he wouldn’t have shown us in the first place.) But I had a problem with the class: I am not a very technological person. In fact, I like to compare myself with Good Omens’ Newton Pulsifer. To put this in perspective, let me tell you a little story about my first year in college…

My first year in college, I had a class at 7:30 in the morning. I didn’t want to wake my roommate, so I set the alarm on my watch, until after 4 months, it stopped going off. I double checked that the time was set correctly and the alarm was on, and they were, but the alarm nevertheless, did not go off. So I started using the alarm on my phone, until 2 months later, the same thing happened. So I used my big annoying and very loud alarm clock, until 1 month later, the same thing happened. My (at the time) boyfriend offered to call, but I told him he shouldn’t, or he might be in a coma in two weeks. I still have not figured out what went wrong that year other than to say technology and I are not friends.

Ever since then, I have been Analog Girl! Able to lift 50 pounds of notebooks with a single bag. Able to navigate a new city with only a bus map. Able to write an entire novel by hand. Able to… you get the idea. But Analog Girl comes up against the technology monster every day. And my Technology and Education class was just the beginning of it. So let’s get started…

What is Powtoon?

Powtoon is an online program that allows you to create short, animated videos. It’s often used for promotional videos and advertising campaigns.

Pros:

  • Powtoon is pretty intuitive. It did not take me long to figure out how to use it. It’s a lot of click and drag, and there’s a little ruler at the bottom which helps you put animations in at just the right time.
  • The videos look nice. Seriously, all of the messy bits are done for you, so you don’t have to know a lot about animation or videos, and you can still put together something of good quality.
  • If you add music on top of your video, it automatically fades in and out at the beginning and end.
  • There is a free version. The free version has limited features, but you don’t have to pay money.
  • You can upload your videos to Youtube from the site. This was really convenient for me because I was quite proud of my video, and I wanted to show it off to my friends, not just submit it for my class.
  • If you are an amateur, and you make a video that’s more than thirty seconds long, chances are, you will feel like a god. Like I said, I was quite proud of my video. I spent hours on it, nitpicking to make sure everything was just the way I wanted. Even my friends were impressed that I’d done the thing on Powtoon.

Cons:

  • Powtoon is time-consuming. Okay, I don’t know a lot about video creation, so maybe anything like this is time-consuming. But I found that Powtoon had a lot of lag time. When things on the screen change, like opening new slide or opening your picture folder, there is a loading screen, which probably lasts for 10 seconds or more. It took me five hours to make my video, and I feel like a quarter of that was just waiting for pages to load.
  • Powtoon has a voice recorder, but the audio quality is terrible. I think it’s telling that the Powtoon website actually tells you to use Audacity (review coming) instead of their voice recorder. Okay, I get it. Powtoon is about animating videos, it’s not a sound-mixing software. But personally, I think that if you charge money for a service, your recorder should at least sound better than someone kissing a microphone that is turned up too high.
  • And on the note of sound mixing, you kind of only get one chance to record. Sure, you can record over it, but you can’t record in pieces and stitch them together. So if you’re making a longer video (like mine), you’re going to have to figure out how to not get tongue-tied reading five minutes of script.
  • If you use the free version, it’s automatically stamped with their advertisement. This isn’t a big deal to me because that’s their prerogative.

Classroom Uses:

Honestly, I don’t see a lot of classroom uses for this program. That’s not to say it’s worthless. I’ve made one other video using Powtoon to teach pronouns, and I may make a few more. I like the software enough that I would be interested in teaching it to my students–maybe a project in which students make a presentation and they can choose which method they want to present through. I think it’s intuitive enough that my students would understand it, but I think they might also get frustrated by how much lag time there is.

Final Verdict: Tie

I’ll admit, I like Powtoon. But there’s something meditative about the nitpicking that goes into getting everything for a video right. I get the feeling my kids would mostly be frustrated by the lag time. They would say things like, “ugh, Ms. Molly, it takes too long. I’ve been working all period, and I’ve only got 30 seconds!” And I live in a rural area, where lots of kids don’t have internet at home, or don’t even have computers. If the only time they have to work on it is in my class, it is going to take too long. Sure, the video I was asked to make had to be long. If I asked them to make a 1 minute video, or a 30 second video, it might not be so bad. But I also get the feeling my students would be bothered by the audio issues as much as I am.

So, I recommend this software if you’ve got the right class for it. Maybe you’re doing a unit where your students are learning some basic aspects of film-making. Or maybe you just have a group of students who want to do something a little different for their final project. I do think it might be worth showing it to students and letting them tinker, so they are aware of it and have the option to use it on and assignment if they so lose. Or if you’re interested, check it out yourself.

I haven’t used it in my classroom yet, but in the past, I considered having students make commercials with Powtoon. We tried to video commercials this year, and it was difficult. If students were only using pictures, perhaps it would be easier for them. Of course, I’d have to find a way for them to share their videos with each other, seeing as Youtube is blocked at our school. If it happens, I’ll be sure to update you about my new verdict here. In the meantime, here’s the other Powtoon video I made:

Have you ever used Powtoon? What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Author:

I am a poet, linguist, and ESL teacher who loves to play games.

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