This week I explored creativity tools that can be used in the classroom. Creativity tools allow students to create or produce something based on their knowledge. With the use of the internet or tablets there are several options of creativity tools for students of all ages. The tools that I explored were Toontastic, PhotoPeach, and Tagxedo.
Toontastic is a creative learning app for the iPad that enables students to create and share their own cartoon creations. With this tool students are empowered to draw, animate and narrate their own cartoons. This app is very self explanatory because it walks students through the process step by step as they customize. When you open the app and select New Cartoon it verbally explains that the cartoon is made up of different scenes (setup, conflict, challenge, climax, and resolution) which together form the story arc, which provides a measure of the story’s emotional energy. Students get to choose the settings where their story will takes place. The full version of Toontastic offers a very wide variety of scenes to choose from, such as Dracula’s castle, the Lincoln memorial, an elementary classroom, the Savanna, Bay City, the North Pole, etc. There’s an option to use a toy camera to capture a realistic scene for a story and students have the option to draw a scene as well. Next, characters are chosen. Then you bring the scene to life through animation and narration as Toontastic records your voice and your characters movements as you play. Finally background music is chosen based on what feelings are to be conveyed to give the scene emotional energy. You go through all four steps for each scene until your story is complete. Then you give your movie a title and put your name as the director and select a genre that your story falls under. Once everything is complete you have the option to share the cartoon on ToonTube where you can see cartoons created by kids around the world. When the cartoon is played credits roll like a real movie. I really like everything about this app and I believe that students of all ages, even high school students, would enjoy using it because it’s unique and entertaining.
Another creativity tool that I explored was PhotoPeach. This is a free online service that allows users to create media rich slideshows of anything at all, making it ideal for the classroom. Students (or teachers) upload photos, add text and background music, integrate audio, and customize the transition effects to their liking. After they have created their slideshow and have it ready for presentation they can share projects with parents or the public by publishing the slideshow online as public pages. Other sharing options include uploading to Facebook or Twitter, embedding them in blogs or websites, or you can download unlimited shows in burnable DVD (.iso) Format and High Quality Digital Video (.mpeg) format for sharing online. Photopeach is free but it also has a premium edition with more features. I really like that this can be a replacement for PowerPoint which seems like something that everyone has seen and done. This is something more new and exciting for students to play with and create presentations on. There really wasn’t anything about this tool that I didn’t like. It is very user friendly and gets the job done efficiently.
I spent most of my time exploring Tagxedo because I appreciate the visual that it provides students. This is a great creativity tool that turns words into eye-catching word clouds. I think of myself as a visual learner so perhaps that is what drew me to it. When you input words into the generator they are individually sized appropriately to highlight the frequencies of occurrence within the body of text. After uploading either a document from your computer, a website, or simply pasting your text into the generator you can customize the shape, theme, color, orientation and font of your word cloud. When you are satisfied with your personalized word cloud you can save the image for printing and sharing. This tool is so versatile. There are many different things students could use Tagxedo for, such as taking and tracking polls, creating a visual of any of their written work (summaries, poems, biographies, journal entries, essays, etc.), studying vocabulary words, presenting statistics visually, and so much more. This tool can be used for any subject because you can input things other than words such as punctuation, equations, and math signs. Students and teachers have easy access to it and can easily share it, print it, or even make a t-shirt out of it. I really like that you can customize the word clouds in so many ways because that’s what this generation enjoys doing as a means of expressing themselves and sharing a part of themselves with the world. I chose to create a word cloud out of this blog post and I really like the way it turned out. The only thing that I didn’t like is that it wasn’t quite as self explanatory as the other tools that I explored but I think the good outweighs the bad in this case.
This creativity tool would fall into the TPK section of the TPACK model. Students are using technology, which is almost always a good thing in the classroom when used correctly. They would be exploring a new tool to create a visual related to content they have recently learned. As far as pedagogy, it would be important for the teacher to walk students through an example to create a word cloud and demonstrate the many customizable features it provides. If I were demonstrating it to my students I would make it a class effort and have students give their input to make a product that we could all be happy with. I don’t think this tool provides a content aspect because it’s simply creating a supplementary visual.
I think it’s so important to use creativity tools like the ones that I explored because they allow students to have fun and be creative with their school work. It is important to use such tools to get children excited about education. They quickly and easily lose interest in their work and it’s important that we, as educators, do what we can to make it fun for them. There are so many different creativity tools out there that teachers should be exploring and integrating into their lessons to keep their students engaged. Even for those teachers who don’t have access to iPads, there are many tools that can be used on the internet. I don’t think a lack of new technology is a very good excuse for not trying some of these tools. These creativity tools offer students the chance to have creative freedom in expressing what they have learned. This is something that other, more traditional tools, do not offer. Creative freedom is something that students today crave. There’s something about having that freedom that is comforting in a classroom. It gives students a chance to open their minds and use the given tool however they wish. They seem to be so turned off by written work and wish to use technology as much as possible. I, for one, don’t blame them.