Today’s learners simply must create. Whether the product is more traditional, such as an essay, a diorama, or a skit, or something created using one of a plethora of free web tools, they must create.
Creating a product as an assignment isn’t new, but as we move toward more rigor in education and strive to help students develop those higher-level thinking skills, CREATING is becoming a more essential part of learning. Why? Because creating is both the ends and the means of that higher-level thinking. In order to create high quality, useful products that serve an authentic purpose, students must think at high levels. Meanwhile, during the process of creating, teachers can assess and support higher-level thinking in the content area. In the end, the product serves as an integral part of the learning, as evidence that learning took place, and as an authentic assessment of that learning.
Tools like Dipity, Prezi, and Powtoon are great alternatives to traditional project based learning assignments. Dipity is an easy to use timeline tool that allows learners to upload one of their own images, embed an online image or embed a video for each entry on the timeline. A title and a date are required and there is room for a small paragraph and a link to more information. Dipity has numerous educational uses. For example, it could be used to document a project in development, as a biographical piece, or as a study a particular theme or concept over time in social studies or another content areas. In the dipity below, I documented the migration and reproduction cycle that monarch butterflies go through every year.
Prezi has been around awhile but the interface is much improved. They also have so many well designed themes to choose from now that it is hard not to go that route, but students can still upload background images and create the presentation from scratch as well. Prezi will let learners embed their own images and youtube videos and include links to other resources. Voiceovers are an option in a Prezi as is autoplay.
What makes Prezi different, and better, than a simple slideshow is that the information and resources are structured in a way that helps the viewer better understand the relationships of the parts to the whole. Creating a particularly good Prezi requires serious planning and a firm understanding of the message. Of course, learners can also use one of the themes that already fits the concept they are exploring and adapt it to their own needs. This prezi is a very simple one that I used to make sure the teachers in one of my workshops understood the goal of their project and the steps needed to reach it. For a more complex Prezi, check out this one from the Prezi gallery.
Powtoon is a quick and easy animation tool with many potential educational uses. The free version has three different large collections of objects and people that can be included in the animation as well as conversation bubbles and text. Learners can also upload their own images to be included as objects or as a background image and include their own audio or choose one of the music tracks provided by Powtoon. Finally, there are also some awesome templates that teachers and learners can use and adapt to their needs.
Below is a great example of authentic use. Heidi Neltner of Johnson Elementary School in Fort Thomas, KY created this Powtoon to introduce digital citizenship and computer lab rules to her students.