Tool Review: PowToon, presentations with cartoons!

Have you ever sat down through a presentation where the author of said presentation would blankly switch from slides to slides, showing graphics and bullet point notes for countless painful minutes. Of course you have. Most of the time, you’re not even listening to whatever is shown and you drift away in a daydream. Well, what if the daydream could be present within the presentation itself. That’s right, how about a presentation with colourful graphics, themes and staging? Well, that is exactly what PowToon suggests to its’ users. This tool allows users to create eye-catching presentations with cartoon-like animations. So let’s get to it, roll the Merry Melodies theme song, we’re going on an adventure!

Starting with technicalities, PowToon (which is a combination of the first syllable of PowerPoint with a reference to its’ cartoony style) was created in July 2012 with the intent of being the new industry standard for evolved presentations. The tool is an online software for creating professional slideshows or animated presentations. There is about 9 different possible plans, one of which is the free version. There are premium plans, plans paid by number of exports and, most relevant to our interest here, some educational plans. Theses plans are divided into 3 distinct ones, namely : a teacher plan, a student plan and a classroom plan. Instead of explaining all of this with words, why not use PowToon’s concept and use images! The plans may also be consulted on PowToon’s pricing page Another version of  the PowToon Edu web app is downloadable on Google Chrome’s Web Store for free.

Here is an example of the plans, using the educational plans as reference:

Powtoons

Once registered, users can start creating presentations in the blink of an eye, thanks to PowToon’s highly intuitive interface. First, simply choose a theme, whether it be the conventional corporate style or a more creative picto style. You can also upload visual content from your personal device. Then, simply drag and drop items and props from a tool-bar to the right of the screen onto the slides in the middle of the interface, animate them with guided pre-set animations, add text, create a next slide on the left side of the screen and so on and so forth. Moreover, you can record your voice and use it as voice over that can be added to your PowToon. There is also a wide variety of royalty-free music available that can be added to play as background during the presentation. At the bottom of the interface is a timeframe that can be used for quick editing, placing cues and more. Using PowToon is as simple as it sounds, honnestly, the interface is so easy to use and gives countless possibilities. No need for any technical skills here, anybody can create a fine-looking PowToon in a matter of minutes. When they are done, projects can then be saved online or downloaded onto a device with the right plans.

Writer and speaker Cathy Moore praises PowToon’s humoristic input as well it’s easy usability and intuitiveness. She explains that the timeline feature is simple to use and allows the user to control the entrances and exists of each slides. She mentions that the stock characters and props inspire to use humor and that the different themes offer a great choice of images. Mrs. Moore is an advocate of humor’s presence in education as she says:

humor in teaching can increase retention, motivation, and comprehension.

For her, PowToon is a great tool to better ways of spreading ideas in a fashion that is likely to be better retained by audiences, namely students. In her article about PowToons, she expresses her deep advocacy for humor’s beneficial relationship with learning and retaining information. Humor has a way of lowering anxiety, one of the key antagonist to second language learning and humor can also help bring memorable moments. Therefore, her theory about humor speaks of a direct positive influence on learning and I believe that she explains well how PowToons can help teachers make their students remember lessons better.

Moving on to the ESL applications of PowToon. As reference, Eric mentions quite a few school usage for the tool in a classroom. Students could be asked to re-enact a specific part from a story they read or an alternate storyline using PowToon’s creative characters to play as characters and by recording their voice. They could use it to make a short cartoon-clip explaining a vocabulary word or give a grammar lesson to the rest of the class. Or simply use it as an alternative to PowerPoint since it is a presentation tool after all. Students could use it to create an original storyboard or as part of a greater project, say a video project, to act as a draft.

Personally, I would use the tool for projects involving creative creations in groups. I think it is a great tool that would motivate students to work because it gives a nice looking result to anybody who puts at least a bit of effort into it. I find it is a very motivating tool to work with, especially for younger audiences, because of it’s cartoonesque format. I would use the tool to illustrate grammar lessons in a funny, imaged way, because I believe in what Cathy Moore said about humor’s relationship with learning.

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