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my thoughts

Powtoons: Buy or Bye?

Theoretically if Powtoons was really worth its effort, I could have just created a powtoon that described my first experience using this cloud-based animation video creation software. But, alas there is something so effortless about simply typing words out onto a page without all the extra gimmicks-- but that is self-serving and my purpose here isn’t to capture your attention-- I assume if you’ve found your way here I have your attention already (I hope). If however, you were my actual students and I responsible for your learning, I might make more of an effort to dazzle you and I think I can conclude that Powtoons as a tool for “dazzlement” might be worth the time and the tedious pain of learning that accompanies the first few attempts. If I had known about Powtoons in my earlier teaching days, I would have saved myself a lot of trouble and save my students some possible boredom. Following a flipped classroom model, I made my instructional videos using google slides and a screen capture app. I would do voice-overs to explain the content, but since I didn’t have a way to edit without investing some dollars, I had to do it right perfectly in one shot. I’m a bit of a perfectionist in that way. Needless to say this could get very frustrating. Powtoons makes it easy to edit scene by scene and to really change up the pace of the video itself rather than being limited to my voice droning on and on and allows for multiple modalities that I tried to experiment a lot with this first time around. Again, being a bit Type A, I felt a little restricted by the premade templates and ended up using mostly blank scenes from scratch and bringing in media from outside resource which ends up taking more time. However, I was able to figure out a lot of ways to manipulate and incorporate media that I hadn’t been familiar with before. Quicktime was useful for cutting and pasting clips from youtube videos together-- perhaps it’s too long for your Powtoon or just 5 seconds of the 2 minute video isn’t appropriate for your students. Want to make a gif from a video that you found? Try Are none of Powtoon’s free background music tracks fitting your vision? Check out all of the royalty free music at and Here's my finished product after three days (not the whole day, just a few hours here and there 😛)

Overall, I think the best thing about the site is that once you’ve created your video-- you’re done! If you’re someone who teaches the same material multiple times a year or even once every year you can always go back to that video without having to start from scratch and you can make edits as long as it’s saved in your account. Now, it’s not a perfect tool either; my biggest problem (as a perfectionist) is that the website itself was extremely buggy! Each time I tried to hit the playback button for a scene or the video the image would freeze and the sound would go. Sometimes the video clips would stop where I wanted them to, sometimes it’d add more or show less. Each time you export it, you get a slightly different product. I also wasn’t a fan of the fact that you either have to add background music to every slide or none at all-- I’m not sure if this is a side effect of using the free version but it does limit your options-- use video clips with no background music or have no music for your other slides. You’ll see that the audio gets kinds of messy in the middle for this reason. Despite these small glitches, I’d say Powtoons is still totally worth the work. The topic that I chose is part of my own research, and I teach this topic in almost all of my classes at some point-- so it’s useful to have in my media library. I don't know that I would want to pay for the full version. 3 minutes seemed like a long time at first; after I got to 2:45 though I felt like there wasn't enough time! In the end I think 3 minutes is probably a short enough time for students/viewers not to get bored plus not too much of a burden on you the creator/editor. Overall, I give the site 4/5 pows!

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