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Powtoon: introducing cartoon videos in the classroom
Powtoon is a free, easy and intuitive digital tool with incredible possibilities. I use it frequently with my trainee English teachers at University. I find it is beneficial for developing their digital skills and, at the same time, for discovering new tools that they can use in their classes.
With Powtoon you can create short videos about specific subjects in a short space of time and without any previous knowledge about the tool. More importantly, as I have said before with regards to using digital tools, the main objective is that students are able to create their own material.
In my case, I do exactly that. Firstly, I show my students some interesting Powtoon videos created by me or by my previous students. Then, I ask them to produce their own creations because that is the best way to understand a tool: hands-on experience. Specifically, I ask them to create videos about the subject, in this case Language Didactics.
My students tell me that they really like the tool and that they find it quite easy to use. Apart from that, they point out that they learn more about the subject when producing the video, because they go through the information they want to present over and over again, and therefore, they have no choice but to learn it.
In other words, when students use the tool by themselves, it achieves the double aim of developing their digital competence and learning the content they have to study.
Using the Tool
There are many templates available which you can use when starting out. Additionally, in the video, you can include, among other possibilities: images, music, text, cartoons, symbols, your own audio or your own music (be careful with copyright). Some content is not free, but it can simply be removed.
Once you have prepared a video, it can be uploaded directly to Youtube. That is what I normally ask my students to do, that way they can share it with the other students.
If you read my previous article you’ll remember that I shared my FlipGrid video tutorial with you. I have done the same with Powtoon, as before it is originally recorded in Spanish, but I have added English subtitles, just for you! You can see the video here.
Ideas for the classroom
You can create Powtoons related to the English Language and develop many different activities. For example, you can:
- produce a video to reinforce some aspect of grammar, or you can ask your students to do so.
- present vocabulary to the students, using cartoon characters or images. Again, they can produce those videos themselves.
- create a game with images so that they have to guess the word, phrase or expression.
- prepare a dictation with voice and images. Students could go through the material in the classroom or at home. It could also include text for self-correction.
- create a silent video for which the students will have to write an accompanying story.
- give them a story and ask them to produce a video for it.
- if you work on a CLIL context, you can produce videos in English for other subjects, and the students can create their own ones.
- if you use the Flipped Classroom methodology, this could be used as a way of presenting information to the students.
- create grids, or you can create them along with the students, in order to reflect on the learning process, using self-assessment and peer assessment as part of your evaluation.
The possibilities are endless. They can produce videos alone or in groups. Their videos could also be the final product of a project.
Developing competences and improving the English language
Taking into account all the features of the tool, there are many competences and skills that you can develop:
- Digital literacy. Every time students find out about and start using a new digital tool, they are developing their own digital literacy skills.
- Skills related to working in groups. When your students work together, they will develop their social competences, including their emotional intelligence too.
- Critical thinking development. When looking for information for their Powtoon or when assessing other students´ work, or their own.
- Metacognition awareness. Your students can reflect on their own learning and knowledge while creating their own video and when assessing videos, be it their own or others’.
- Linguistic competence. In relation to different skills:
- Writing. When preparing the text for the video.
- Speaking. If they record their own voice.
- Pronunciation and intonation. When they correct themselves once and again in order to improve the audio.
- Listening. When your students listen to other students´ Powtoons with their own voices recorded on it.
- Reading. When they read the text on other Powtoons.
- Vocabulary. Depending on the theme of the Powtoon: each new theme opens up the opportunity for the acquisition of new vocabulary.
Finally, I want to share some of the videos from my University students with you. Although some of them have some English errors, I gave priority to their management of the tool. All of them are available in Youtube:
I would strongly recommend that you try Powtoon. The options are infinite and, as I always say, it depends on your creativity and, most of all, on your students’ imagination. Give them the opportunity of using it by themselves. They will undoubtedly surprise you as they have already surprised me. They always do, don´t they?
Ingrid Mosquera, PhD.