Powtoons — DIY animated short films

As an instructor, I tend to rely heavily on reading the room as I teach. Of course, there are certain set pieces and tried & true ‘scripts’ I fall back upon, but for the most part I react to student needs and improvise answers to questions. Thus, the white board and other mutable teaching tools are among my best friends.

Screenshot from a Powtoon animated short: "SMART goals, a work in progress", by Jason Kurylo.

Screenshot from the Powtoon animated short: “SMART goals, a work in progress”, by Jason Kurylo.

To build flipped classes, which in theory will support this style of teaching quite nicely, I will endeavour to prepare digital materials that learners can access at home. My first foray into animated short video is taking shape via Powtoon — it’s an overview of SMART goal setting, something that I often introduce to classes and strongly suggest for academic success, but rarely have time to implement or monitor in a meaningful way. I hope that by using a series of videos, I can spend class time actually writing goal statements and discussing progress. Note that at the time of this posting, only about half of the slides are ‘active’. The second half just has place holder slides to show intended breaks in the animation.

I think this mode is best used for short tidbits of information. Even the seven minutes explored here is probably beyond an ideal length for keeping one’s attention. Khan Academy varies its video lectures in length, with most of the ones I’ve watched coming in at around nine minutes. Powtoons, however, seems optimal for much shorter presentations. It will be interesting to explore this medium and get feedback from students as to what works and what doesn’t.


Lesson Planning — Motivational Techniques

Whoops. Photo from Chicago's Worldly Tastes.

Whoops. Photo from Chicago’s Worldly Tastes.

Motivational Techniques

Judy Pollak and Paul Freda discuss some of the effects — good and bad — that humour can have in education. They write about middle school students, but there are elements that apply to just about any classroom. Many of these rapport and self-esteem suggestions already see regular employ in my lessons; I plan to add a formalized demonstration of the powers harnessed by “trial and error, [and] stumble and recovery”. As the title of this blog suggests, I strongly advise learning from one’s mistakes. In order to learn from them, we must feel free to make them!


Pollak, Judy P., and Paul D. Freda. “Humor, Learning, And Socialization In Middle Level Classrooms.”Clearing House 70.4 (1997): 176. Academic Search Premier. Web. 7 Feb. 2014.

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