Slidely: Your Pictures Steal the Show
Slidely was very simple to use. I signed in using my Facebook account, so I had very quick access to all the media there. I appreciated that capability because it’s very obnoxious when you want to use a Facebook photo, but you don’t have it saved on your computer. You have to sign into your account, download it, locate it, etc. With this creation tool you can access your albums from the website interface, and just select the photos you want, you can also add an entire album at a time (up to 90 photos). However, this feature wouldn’t be of much use to my students (they are blocked from social media at school), but it could come in handy for the Library’s Facebook page, or a teacher’s Facebook page.
Collages in Slidely
In Slidely you can create shows, galleries, collages, and promotional designs. I decided to try the gallery and the collage tools. The collage tool was very fun. I used it to create a postcard style collage from my trip to Budapest, Hungary in 2015. Using the collage interface, you could select how many photos would go on your collage using the templates on the sides. You could also add artwork which basically consisted of little drawings or words like “shine”, “love”, etc. (i.e. not really my thing). You could also add stock images from Slidely, and music. I decided to let my photos speak for themselves, but arrange them in an artful way. I used symmetry by using two faces as the central focus of the postcard. Instead of adding text, I thought it would be cool to use the text from a photo I took to identify the city represented by my postcard. I wanted to show a little bit of everything from Budapest including the food, architecture, and landscapes, and in that I think the postcard was pretty successful. Students could use collage to gather items that represent a character, time period, or event from history or literature. Students could also research foreign countries, and create collages to represent them.
Here is my collage:
Galleries in Slidely
In keeping with my travel theme, I decided to create an “interactive” gallery documenting the road trip I took with my partner, Randy back in 2013. I uploaded the gallery straight from my facebook page, and then selected the photos I wanted to use. At first, I was a little disappointed in this tool, because it just didn’t turn out how I expected. I ordered the picture to tell a story. I also used the caption tool to add text. I wanted my text and photos to tell the digital story of our trip. The next step allowed me to access youtube videos to select music (students would need to be reminded to site their videos), this part I thought was pretty cool. I added some music to my gallery and pushed “next”. What was produced was basically a slideshow/collage that slowly moved through all the picture I had collected. They did appear to be in order, but because it was collage style there was no “left to right” reading of the photographs. You also could not see my captions! But then, lo and behold, I discovered that you could also view the gallery as a show! When you do that, Slidely creates a video that plays your photos in order along with your music, and including any captions. So in creating the gallery, I actually created two functional products in one. The gallery could be played at a showcase of student work, a ceremony, or another event, as the audience is walking in and taking their seats. When everyone is seated, the presenter could play the video with the captions to tell a more specific story. This would work well embedded into a website as well. Your moving gallery will draw people in, and then you can provide a specific message by prompting them to view the gallery as a show for more information. The addition of music requires students and other presenters to consider the mood and tone of their presentation, as well the expectations of their audience.
Here is the Gallery I created:
The Road Trippers by Slidely Photo Gallery
Overall, I really enjoyed working in Slidely. It was very easy, and I like how both of my products turned out. It was simple to go back and edit things, and there were a ton of easy ways to share your products (including email, social networking, download, and embedding). My only complaint is the “pop up” messages. For example, there was an advertisement for printing your collage on a mug, and they would also pop up and ask if they could share your collage on Facebook. I don’t really like when websites do this. It’s an annoyance to figure out how to click out of the pop up in the middle of working on something.
One for the Kiddos: Pixton
The next presentation tool I decided to look at was one that I thought my middle school students would enjoy creating, and also enjoy seeing as instructional material. Pixton is a tool for creating comic strips. There is a free version of this tool that allows you to make unlimited comic strips. Unfortunately without upgrading to the $8/per month version, you are very limited to what you can do. You cannot upload your own photos or content, and you cannot download or print your cartoons.
The first thing you do in Pixton is choose a layout. You can choose a classic comic strip, a storyboard, or a graphic novel layout. I really like the story board because students could use it to explain a sequence of events, map out narrative plot, or storyboard shots for a video. The graphic novel version also looks very cool, and because my students love this genre, I think they would like this format for longer stories. I chose to go with the storyboard layout.
Next, you choose a background for your scene. It could be cool to teach narrative elements by having students create comics, and you could start here, with “setting”. Gaming up for the finale of Game of Thrones (no pun intended), I chose a medieval setting for my strip.
Next you move onto characters (another good opportunity to discuss narrative elements). You have a choice between one, two, or three characters, so this does limit your story somewhat. I chose two. With the free subscription, there are only a few characters to choose from, which is a little disappointing.
Within your first panel you have a few different options: you can change the expression, position, and skin tone of your characters, as well as give your panel a title, and flip characters so that they face in a different direction. I was pleased with the number of expressions and positions available, but didn’t like that you couldn’t manipulate the background. So for example, my background was a table and chairs with a meal on it, within a castle. But I couldn’t make the characters look like they were sitting in the chairs, because there was no “send to back” type of function.
Once you choose to add a new panel, your original panel is simply duplicated, which I like because it makes creating the next moment in the scene easier. But, you can still change the background and add another character. However, when I decided to kill one of the characters in my scene, I did grow frustrated because I could not delete the text box for that character. A character who is dead does not need to talk. There might also be times when only one character in the scene is speaking, so it was very inconvenient not to be able to delete the speech bubble.
When you are done your strip, you can either save it for later, or choose to publish it (in free mode). I became very frustrated at this point in the process because I was asked to update my account setting. They required my age, email, state, and a few other pieces of information. Then, I selected save changes. No matter how many times I hit this, it kept returning me to the account settings screens. I had no idea how to get back to my comic, and I feared that my work might have even been lost. Eventually, I just went back to the home screen, hoping my work had been saved. Fortunately it was, so I tried a second time to publish it. This time the publish button worked, and I was pleased by all the options to share. You could embed your comic, share a link, or use a number of social media buttons to share. This could be a really fun way to share library information via Twitter or Facebook. Especially if you upgraded and created your own avatar within the system.
Here is my sample Pixton (and yes, it is Game of Thrones themed; character names and situations belong to George R.R. Martin):
Overall, I liked Pixton. It was easy to build my cartoon and I think my students would really enjoy using it. The free version is a bit limited, but could still be used for a lot of different things, like teaching narrative plot, sharing library news, and telling short stories visually.
Music Credit (music playing in Slidely Gallery):
Edward Sharpe and Magnetic Zeros (2009). Home. On Up From Below. Los Angeles, California: Community Records.