Powtoon: A Review

EXPLORING TECH TOOLS for the classroom

Thanks to Jessica for doing a great job reviewing Explain Everything – my review format was inspired by her post!

Why Powtoon?

  • I decided to explore Powtoon because a classmate, Altan, recommended for it’s user-friendly features for making a whiteboard video creator. In class, Powtoon was introduced as an easy-to-use animator which really caught my attention.
  • I have always wanted to encourage my students to make their own animated science related videos to help explain abstract concepts. I often say, “If any of you ever become graphic designers or animators, you could likely make a career by making high quality science videos and posting them on YouTube.”
  • I wish that I could help facilitate their learner in making these videos, but the idea seems so daunting, that up until this week, I didn’t know where to begin. My hope was that Powtoon would be a first step in that direction.

Website Features

In terms of animation, Powtoon is a website that provides a similar layout to Microsoft PowerPoint. The platform has a variety of animations, transitions and also includes the following:

  • Backgrounds
  • Texts
  • Characters (animated with the ability to portray different emotions)
  • Props (icons)
  • Shapes
  • Images
  • Videos
  • Sounds
  • Specials (icons that move)

The platform is easy to use. I used a template to get started, and I was able to understand how timing of the video and animations worked by watching the sample slides play.

A snapshot of what the editor looks like when beginning with a template.


  • User accounts can be created in a variety of ways (Email, Google, Office 365, Facebook and Linkedin)
  • A variety of video templates are available (explainer, marketing, infographic, presentation, and video ads to name a few)
  • When creating your account for the first time, users are granted full access to all of Powtoon’s premium features
  • When entering the editor for the first time, the website walks you through different features that can help users get started quickly
  • There are many tutorial videos found that can be found on Powtoon’s website and YouTube to help support users
  • Allows for voice over during slides
  • Many exporting options were included


  • The free version of the website is quite limited
  • Even with the premium options available, my patience was tested when I settled for mediocre props as what I had in mind wasn’t available (foxes, wolves, specific trees, porcupines, rabbits, owls, etc)
  • Premium trial ends after 4 days – afterwards pricing ranges between $79-$165 USD/month if subscription is monthly, and between $16-$49 USD/month if subscription in annual
  • The premium version is required to download videos as a simple MP4 video

Educational/Instructional Use

  • This website would be a good starting point for students interested in animation
  • Students would be able to use this platform as an alternative to Adobe Spark or before advancing to more complicated animating websites
  • Although the graphics related to science-specific content is limited, this could be used as a summative assessment for any unit and a different way of documenting learning
  • Creativity and imagination will definitely come into play when props and images students have in mind are not available or easily found in the Powtoon’s search engine

Personal Use

  • Due to the limited options, even with the premium version, I likely wouldn’t use this to make animated videos for my class
  • I would still be interested in exploring the whiteboard video options because the program is quite easy to navigate, however, if a competing program was more cost-effective, I would likely go with an alternative option
  • Let me know if you have success stories using Powtoon! If you have an exemplars to share, I’d love to see what you or your students have created!

A First Attempt at Animation

Italian 101 – Week 2

Major Learning project

This week, I immersed myself in Duolingo. One of the features I appreciate most from the app is the convenience of having it on my phone. The app has many small motivating features that encourage you to practice their lessons daily. For instance, it monitors your activity by tracking and encouraging users to reach or maintain a 7-day streak. The app also connects its community of learners and encourages you to keep your ranking as you ‘compete’ against each other. It isn’t actually a competition, but the more lessons you complete, the higher your ranking – for those with a competitive edge, this feature could prove to be beneficial.

I am either of these on different days of the week!

I’ve been trying to decide how to document my learning progress. I am convinced that I should keep notes in order to help me remember newly acquired words. When attempting to learn Italian 10 years ago, I continuously added new vocabulary to lists in my notebook. Looking back on this method of note taking, it was unorganized and ineffective in helping me remember the words. This list of notes is not something I was ever motivated to review, and as a result, this notebook has been stored in my basement for years.

Over the summer, I attempted making my first sketchnote for our connected ed book club Twitter chat – the book we were assigned was “Learner Centered Innovation” by Katie Martin (great, thought-provoking read!), I thought I could best summarize my learning by drawing out the key points I found most memorable. Although very time consuming – this first sketch took me approximately 6 hours – I loved making it. It turned my limited artistic abilities into something really neat that I would never be able to make by hand. So this successful attempt at a sketchnote is what inspired me to change my note taking method for my learning project.

This time around, I was familiar with the Sketchpad program, and I was off to a running start. I chose to only include the words and verbs that I now know really well. These are words I rarely get incorrect when practicing on Duolingo – except those in the top, right corner.

  • There are many ways to say the word ‘the’, and I think it depends on the sentence’s subject (be it feminine, masculine, or plural).
  • ‘To be’ is an irregular verb that I need to learn quickly, because it keeps coming up, and I keep getting different conjugations confused!

I hope to clarify this for next week.

Made using Sketchpad 5.1

This week, I checked in with classmates that have also chosen to do the learning project – both Catherine and Amanda are learning to play the piano and they are both documenting their learning by vlogging. I love watching their videos, and although that is out of my comfort zone, I thought I’d give a try. I also really like the layout of their blog posts in that they have both clearly outlined their progress and challenges, so I will also try formatting my posts in a similar way!

What I learned:

  • Basic Italian vocabulary
  • Sketchnotes help me organize my learning
  • Filming a video without making mistakes is much easier than editing it later
  • How to edit a video using different features on WeVideo (For example – changing the speed of a video clip! That’s my favourite part of the video!)
  • How to screen record on my phone! I used AZ Screen Recorder – a recommended program from class. This was the easiest part! Really user-friendly app.
  • I am often connecting prior knowledge related to Spanish and French

Where I can improve:

  • I could use more succinct sentences when explaining my thoughts
  • I need to stop beginning every sentence with ‘so’ and ‘umm’ in my videos because they are very difficult to edit out!
  • Thinking of new ways to demonstrate my learning to avoid repeating the same format next week

Italian 101

Back to the basics

I began my Italian learning with a proficiency test online. The test was composed of questions relating to grammar, vocabulary, and reading comprehension. For the questions relating to grammar and vocabulary, although there were some words I recognized, I really didn’t recognize the vast majority of the vocabulary. As I was taking the test, I thought to myself, “It would be so helpful if I could just recognize I few articles in these sentences!”

It took me approximately an hour answer the 50 question test, and I was exhausted by the end of it. I recognize that I am just at the beginning of my learning journey, so as my vocabulary increases, the time it takes me translate from Italian to Spanish/French will decrease. This has already proven to be an interesting experience because as I read the reading comprehension portion, I found myself recognizing familiar words in Spanish or French, but I was making sense of the text in English. My test results are below, and although I know I only wanted this as a reference point, I was still quite disappointed with my results!

Shortly after writing the test, I downloaded the Duolingo app. The following are interesting thoughts I had while I was creating my account along with accompanying snapshots.

I was surprised to see that the daily goals only went to a maximum of 20 minutes per day, and that was considered ‘insane’! I recently read a study in which Swedish military participants learned a foreign language to fluency within 10 months . The participants acquired 300-500 new words each week and they studied from 8.00 until bedtime (Mårtensson et al., 2012). After having completed my first 20 minutes of studying, I empathized with those participants. I felt like I should stop and take a break as to not forget the few words I had learned, and I realized that my learning process will likely be much slower than anticipated. I cannot imagine how intense those 10 months would have been for the participants in the study; however, the rewarding outcome was likely worth the effort.

When choosing a path, I choose ‘New to Italian?’ as I had already taken the proficiency test. Had I not began with an alternative proficiency test, I may have chosen ‘Already know some Italian?’ as my path. There are a few words that I am able to recognize, however, the proficiency test was a good reality check and served me well as a reminder that I don’t know as much as I thought I did. This proved to be a humbling experience for me as I begin this project as a beginner.

The app immediately proceeded with questions to begin introducing new vocabulary. When I saw the app match new vocabulary with pictures, I thought, “That’s cheating! These pictures make it so much easier to get the correct answer!” After realizing that images were beneficial and used sparingly, I thought back to a chapter from the textbook we are using in EC&I 858: Theories and Research in Second Language Acquisition, Bilingualism & Multilingualism. Chapter 3 focuses on vocabulary and notes: “words that are easy to imagine seem to be more readily learnable than words that are less easy to ‘see’ mentally” (Cook & Singleton, 2014, p. 44). This is a teaching method the app has already proven to follow. I began learning basic words that are easy to imagine (woman, man, boy, girl, bread, sugar, water) in addition to articles (an, a, she, he), as oppose to words that are hard to imagine (generalize, effort, pride).

My goal for next week will be to begin a list of words that I have learned. I am also considering making sketchnotes to help document my learning. Sketchnotes is something I’ve wanted to encourage and implement in my classes, so I am hoping I can become efficient in making them to then help support students summarize their own learning.

For any readers that are tech savvy in making videos: I am imagining making a summarizing video that looks something like a screen recording of me drawing my sketchnotes. Have any idea what that type of video is called? Have any favourite programs? I’m all ears!


Cook, V. & Singleton, D. (2014). Chapter 3 of Key Topics in Second Language Acquisition. Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.

Mårtensson, J., Eriksson, J., Bodammer, N. C., Lindgren, M., Johansson, M., Nyberg, L., & Lövdén, M. (2012). Growth of language-related brain areas after foreign language learning. Neuroimage63(1), 240-244.

Shifting our Role as Educators

Coming to terms with change

This is my second year being a connected educator with RCSD. The program requires teachers to engage in professional development learning opportunities, contribute to a division-wide lesson plan search engine that incorporates technology in a meaningful way, and connect with other educators via Twitter (#RCSDConnect). The goal of the program is to deepen, empower, and adapt student learning to ensure students are well-equipped to succeed in life outside the four walls of our classroom.

This week’s readings reminded me why the connected educator program exists in our school division. In Pavan Arora’s Ted Talk , “Knowledge is obsolete, so now what?” Arora discusses what learning should look like in a world where there is an unlimited access to an increasing amount of knowledge. He suggests we should be fostering creativity and teaching students how to apply knowledge, rather than simply memorizing information that is readily available. This is exactly what the connected educator program tries to emulate: using knowledge in ways that will develop student’s abilities to succeed in future jobs that do not yet exist today.

So where do teachers fit as the world of education shifts to accommodate student learning in the 21st century? Michael Wesch’s Ted Talk, “From Knowledgeable to Knowledge-Able” beautifully outlines that educators should be allowing space for critical thought and collaboration, as well as opportunity for connecting, organizing, sharing and publishing their knowledge and ideas. Creating this kind of environment also removes the idea that teachers are the knowledge keepers in the room. Although this is no longer true for knowledge that is widely accessible, this does still hold true as students have much to learn regarding digital literacy and digital citizenship.

Curtis Bourassa’s Learning, and Unlearning post brilliantly illustrates the reluctant attitude many teachers have at the thought of changing teaching methods in the classroom. Shifts in pedagogy require an ‘unlearning’ period in which teachers need to let go of old habits in order to adopt an improved, more effective teaching style. Our responsibility as educators is changing in that, we should no longer ‘teach as we were taught’, rather we need to teach our students how to navigate the growing amount of information available and teach them how to use what they know in a purposeful way.

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” – Maya Angelou

Holly Clark’s Ted Talk “Are You Ready to Disrupt Learning?” provides examples of two classrooms. One classroom uses technology as a #1000 pencil – to deliver the curriculum in a compliant-based, content-rich classroom. The second classroom uses technology to connect students with authors and other students around the globe via Twitter and blogging to help deepen their learning. In this second classroom, these students are becoming transliterate. These students are developing fluency in all mediums of information in order to understand “narratives, bias, videos, social media, and images.” Clark provides great examples of why social networks are imperative to the classroom. She explains that learning is happening online, and it is to our student’s advantage to responsibly enter that community. Personally, I am starting to see Twitter’s professional advantages for networking and learning, so I am beginning to understand the significant impact it could have to deepen student learning.

As we enter an era global networking, it will be imperative for students to learn and understand the ISTE Standards for Students. Our role as educators will be to inform students of the rights, responsibilities, and opportunities that the digital world has to offer, as well as ways in which they can leverage technology for innovating and problem solving.

When in Rome

Major (learning) project

Here we go. Over 10 years ago, I began taking Italian classes. I was enrolled in a beginner class as a teen, and although I loved learning the language, I never registered for a second session, nor did I continue learning on my own. I speak both French and Spanish so that definitely helped, however Italian vocabulary is still quite different that I remember it being challenging. I have always said – if given the chance to move anywhere for an extended period of time, I would pick Italy, in order to learn Italian. So here I am, years later, and finally making the time to see how much I can learn. Here’s my plan:

To begin my project, I’ll complete a few online proficiency tests (such as Transparent Language and Test your Language). Although I may not understand what the questions mean, it will at the very least provide me with a reference point for comparison at the end of my project.

Next, I’ll sign up for Duolingo. I’ve heard of many people really liking this app as means of practicing new languages, so I’ll sign up and see how it goes. Apparently this program adapts to your learning style and provides learners with exercises that are tailored to help them learn. I am hoping the convenience of having this app on my phone will help me stay motivated, throughout the semesters.

In addition to Duolingo, I have an Italian Verb Workbook from 10 years ago that I will work through. If Italian is anything like French, which I have a feeling it is . . . verbs will be crucial to my success in learning the language. I think by focusing on verbs and vocabulary, I’ll be able well-equipped to begin writing and reading sentences.

I am undecided as to whether or not I would also want to also sign up for an online class via Udemy or another similar platform. Has anyone had any success with another app or website for acquiring an additional language?

Towards the end of my semester, I will retake the same proficiency tests and see where I stand. My goal is to find an Italian-speaker and converse with them towards the end of the project. I don’t know anyone who speaks Italian, so this may not go according to plan. Another option would be to make a digital story using Adobe Spark with English subtitles.

If you have any fun ideas for tracking my progress or showcasing what I’ve learned – send those ideas my way!

Perhaps learning enough Italian to converse with someone is a bit too ambitious of a goal, but here’s to dreaming big and seeing where it goes!

Balancing Learning and Being Present

My Relationship with social media

Growing up, I was just as caught up in social media as the next person. My family was always so busy, running on different work/school/activity schedules that we would rarely even sit down and eat dinner together. It wasn’t until my younger sister’s boyfriend (now husband) slowly encouraged us to have family dinners together – without our phones. I remember he would get so upset (and still does) if someone would check their phone or take a call in the middle of our dinner conversations. Eventually, under his strict supervision, our family dinners became quality family time.

This is something I have considered doing for myself while working to increase productivity!

I have noticed that if my phone is beside my while I’m working on anything that needs to get done at my desk (school work, correcting, or lesson planning), I am far less productive than I would be without my phone in sight. I often find myself procrastinating on Instagram, Facebook, or Netflix if I feel like I need a break or I’m just not motivated to continue working. Not only that, if my phone is beside me, screen facing up, my thoughts are continuously interrupted with all kinds of incoming notifications. I don’t feel like I need to have it beside me at all times, but I do like to be available if someone is looking for me or needs help. For these reasons, I have been trying to reduce my habit of simple scrolling through feeds, if I don’t have anything to share or if I’m not looking for something in particular.

I work with a colleague at school that is always checking his phone at any given moment of the day. His second job is largely based on interactions with his Instagram followers on social media, which is partly why he checks his phone every five minutes. Even still, we’re always asking him to put it away during lunch and to be present in our conversation. We find it quite frustrating, when we try to include him in the conversation, only to notice that he has tuned us out as he scrolls through messages. I have already noticed that I am repeating his behavior when I choose to look at Twitter at the wrong time of the day. Just last night, I was trying to catch up on what’s been going on with our #eci831 hashtag, except I chose to do it while over at my parents for dinner. It was the most silent dinner we’ve had in a long time, and although I knew it felt wrong. That was the only down time in my day that I had to check in with our Twitter conversation. Unfortunately, my brother-in-law wasn’t present to set me straight!

Part of me loves the networking and connections that can be made through Twitter, but it has never been a platform that I have fully committed to using. I feel overwhelmed with the amount of notifications I receive which makes it hard to keep up with. I suppose the major difference between Twitter and Instagram/Facebook is the people I follow. With Facebook, I only add my friends and close acquaintances. Even now, my Facebook friend list is much longer than I would like it to be, so every now and again, I will go through my list and unfriend a number of contacts. I like to keep my contacts small and manageable in numbers, so I am only sharing personal information with a select few people. For Instagram, it began with only following friends, but I am slowing expanding the number of people I follow based on personal interest. If ever I see a random post about something that doesn’t interest me, I will likely unfollow that account to filter the posts that come through my feed.

Twitter on the other hand is a whole different world. I was introduced to Twitter when I was accepted into the Connected Educator program with my school division. I immediately followed the 100+ educators in the program and began feeling overwhelmed with the number of posts I wasn’t able to filter through. Rather than feeling like I should know the people in my Twitter community, maybe I should focus on their posts and what they have to offer.

As part of our Connected Educator program, I made my first sketchnote this summer based on a reading requirement for our professional development. I was shocked to see how many people it reached including the author of the book in question: Katie Martin. It even reached George Couros, author of “The Innovators Mindset” which was my required reading last summer. This post really made me aware of the power of networking and something special that Twitter has to offer.

I am hoping that this semester, I can approach Twitter in a more balanced way. Right now, I’m imagining scheduling Twitter into my day, just as I would schedule doing school work. That way, I can hopefully manage my school work and separate that from invaluable family time that I have worked so hard to prioritize over the last ten years. I am sure it’s possible, and I am really excited to make my social media experience (Twitter in particular) a positive learning experience this semester.

Welcome to the World of Blogging

For a variety of reasons, I have wanted to begin blogging for years! I find blogs so useful when looking up cooking recipes, zero waste alternatives, science classrooms activities, and quilting tips. Most of my questions can be answered through blogging posts attached to Pinterest or linked in Instagram.

I suppose I never started blogging, because I assumed that my blog should be about one specific topic. For example, if I were to search for a quilting blog, I wouldn’t be interested in also reading about that person’s parenting advice or gardening tips. I now realize that when looking at a blog, rarely am I looking at more than one page on the site. My search leads me to exactly what I’m looking for, and then I don’t return to that site unless my next search leads me to the same place.

On more than one occasion, I’ve done something “Pinterest-worthy,” and I really want to post more than just an image online to help inspire others, just as that community has inspired me more times than I can count. Blogging has never made it’s way to the top of my priority list in the past, but today’s the day! I’m thankful that my EC&I 831 is pushing me out of my comfort zone and into this blogging world. One of my goals this year was to make my learning public and this is a step in that direction.

This is my first time working with WordPress, so my site will likely change formats continuously until I get the hang of it. I hope I continue with this site even after my class, but even if I don’t, I’m glad I’m giving it a try!