One of the great advantages of having readily available technology in the classroom is the opportunity it provides for students to teach each other. As teachers, we become accustomed to seeing the process and outcome for every student's efforts in the classroom. But when students are given the opportunity to share their work in an engaging way with their peers, learning reaches new heights.
In the past year, my students have presented research projects, book reports, lessons, speeches...you name it, and we've probably done it. Besides the obvious benefits of learning how to create a presentation and talk in front of a crowd, the simple fact is that kids know how to reach each other.
I recently asked my students to tell me the benefits and drawbacks of some of the apps we have utilized when we wanted to create a traditional slide show presentation. These apps aren’t perfect—but they have been used and reviewed by students to give you an idea of what might be worth a download. Pixntell
This app allows the user to create a video out of photos, and then add their own voice to narrate. The free version is limited to five photos per presentation. A full version can be purchased for $0.99, which allows up to 70 photos to be used per project. Another upgrade allows the user to enter text-only slides, similar to a PowerPoint presentation. Pixntell EDU
offers both of these upgrades for $1.99, and qualifies for Apple's education discount. All versions are available for both iPhone and iPad; an Android version is due out this year.
My students were excited to use this app. They thought it looked fun, and that they could create a unique presentation. Due to the type of presentation they were working on, the five-picture limit was a little too restrictive, but it would certainly work for shorter projects or book reports.
Unfortunately, the biggest difficulty wasn't the photo limit, but that they couldn't record their narration—the app crashed repeatedly when trying to save the recording. And while we loved that users can edit a project, my students found that when they tried to do so, the app would instead delete
On the positive side, they found Pixntell very easy to operate, outside of the operational glitches. The students were able to create a simple slideshow, but there are probably better apps for that task. We were unable to try out the EDU version, so we cannot report on whether or not the same problems exist within that app.
Pixntell has a lot of potential. It clearly has some bugs that need to be worked out, but once those are resolved it would be an excellent option for short presentations. The concept is great—I'll be keeping an eye out for future updates. Deck Slideshow Presentations
My students were able to make very nice presentations with this (free!) app. They were pleased with the option to use their own photos, especially since the built-in image search is limited. They mentioned their appreciation of the ability to caption photos, and that the app was not at all difficult to use. But what really roped my students in with this app were the animated themes and transitions—these options made for a very professional-looking presentation, and they loved the final results.
A 60-character limit per slide forces the user to be brief, and while my kids struggled with this, in the end it was a beneficial struggle. They encountered some trouble with being able to select desired photos, and reported that the app did crash on occasion. It also took them a while to figure out that they had to choose the number of slides when they started a project, and couldn't add more on later—this was very frustrating at times. Another drawback was the lack of sharing options; currently, no web-based sharing is supported. Presentations can be emailed, but the recipient must have the app in order to view them.
The app seems to have a lot of “limits,” so it may not be appropriate for all classrooms or projects. But overall, my students were able to make it work and were quite pleased with the results. The app, formerly $2.99, is available for free for iPhone/iPad and Android
as well. Haiku Deck
This is perhaps one of our favorite apps for creating presentations. The user enters the desired text, and then can use the app to search for related photos to use as slide backgrounds. All of the resulting photos are Creative Commons offerings, so there are no copyright issues. The user can also select their own photos stored on the device to use as backgrounds.
Perhaps what makes this app so incredible is that despite being free, it offers an astounding number of options and tools. Users can choose from a variety of templates when creating a project, photos can be cropped, filters can be applied, bulleted lists and graphs can be created...and the list goes on. It is a well-designed, highly adaptable tool for the classroom, and contains a plethora of options for sharing finished presentations.
Once again, my students found this app to be easy to use, and it must be noted that these particular slideshows were incredibly beautiful. Since the presentations can be as simple or elaborate as the individual user chooses, it might be a good option for younger students or those with limited technology skills. Teachers should monitor closely, though; the app is not designed specifically for schools, and any term could be put into the search engine. It is only available for iPad currently.
Few apps are perfect, and this is especially true for those that come free. While all of these apps have their drawbacks, we also found each had a useful place in our classroom—and we hope you will find the same to be true in yours. Lindsey Fuller is a sixth grade teacher in Decatur, Illinois. Her interests are classroom technology integration, literacy instruction, and Common Core curriculum development and implementation. You can read more from Lindsey on these topics at her blog, Tales of a 6th Grade Classroom.
© 2013 Lindsey Fuller. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.