Kizoa…means “sweep” in Swahili(?)

Name: Kizoa
Cost: Free
Type: Internet tool
Rating: 3/5

Kizoa logoAlthough I’m an novice photographer, I’m not really big on using slide shows to share my photos, even though I’m quite proud of some of them. I guess I’m not sure who my audience for a digital media slide show might be since I print/frame my photos that I like, and torture friends/family by posting them individually to Facebook (I also force students to view my photos by including them in PPT slides or as my screensaver). Nonetheless, there are many many Internet tools to create these types of slide shows. Kizoa is one option, and judging from its templates, the tool is meant for those who want to share photos from a holiday or special event via a photo video. While this option is obviously better than inviting everyone to your house to watch a slide projector version (which you have to get on Ebay because they have been discontinued), I am still thinking about how educators might use this tool effectively. Perhaps it can be used for digital storytelling assignments as long as students are warned about distracting the audience with too many effects, animations, stickers, or blocks of text.

Kizoa workspace 1

This is what the workspace looks like after selecting a template and adding your photos.

Goal: find a digital media tool to create text + graphic videos with professional looking templates and transitions

Benefits:

  • It’s really easy to select the order you want to show the photos in. You just start clicking the uploaded photos one after another, in the order they should appear in the video.
  • When in “collage edit” mode, you can add clipart, animations, and the like to each slide, along with your photos.
  • You can see the website in a variety of languages.

Drawbacks:

  • It takes a minute or so to upload your photos, depending on how many you choose from your computer and the file sizes. (But, there is a progress page so you can see how things are going as you wait.)
  • Without taking the time to personalize the video, the tool will center the photos in the template’s layout, which may not be exactly what you want.
  • The edit mode isn’t always intuitive. I had to click around to figure things out. (If you’re paying attention, unlike me, then you may catch the prompts that suggest next steps.)
  • Every time you modify a collage (slide), it takes several seconds to save before you can move ahead. You have to click “validate” for every change, which adds more seconds to the process.
  • The template transitions are not always good options. The first template I worked with overlapped photos before fully revealing the first photo for the slide (so it was obscured immediately). When editing the collage, look at the timeline under the slide, click and drag the colored line that coordinates with the photo that is coming in too soon; dragging the line to the right will delay its transition.
  • The free version has some limitations: cannot remove Kizoa logo; cannot hide sharing options; cannot set the number of loops (times the video repeats); cannot download finished project. The only one that bugs me is the sharing option, but Prezi and other free tools have the same restriction.
  • The “guide” is all in the form of YouTube videos…I prefer a text version for the simple tasks.
  • The editing features are quirky in Firefox, where the audio catches and lags when reviewing one frame/slide, or the screens flashes and freezes.
  • An embed code is provided, but when I embed it in my blog, clicking on the video will take you to the Kizoa home page, not my video. I have tried editing the code to no avail.

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Voki….voicing a sad looking pink bunny

Name: Voki
Cost: Free
Type: Internet tool
Rating: 4/5

voki logo I’m not really an avatar type of person, which might be more personal information about me than you care about. But, this insight is relevant to the digital media tool I’m reviewing–Voki. With Voki, I can create an avatar to speak for me or with my own voice. Granted, we aren’t talking about super model quality avatars, though there are a few “realistic” options to choose from. Since I’m not an avatar type of person, I didn’t think I’d like this tool, but I quickly took to the humor that could be created through these characters. Voki kind of reminds me of Fotobabble, where it’s one image with audio, except that Voki’s images pretend to talk (kind of like Mr. Ed sort of mouth moving) and the graphics are already provided in Voki.

Goal: Try something different….create an avatar

Voki workspace 1

This is the workspace (with sad bunny already selected from the character list). Play around with the “Customize Your Character” options….pink bunny doesn’t have many variations, but other avatars can be modified.

Benefits:

  • There are multiple ways to create audio for the avatar, and not all require a microphone. You can phone in the audio recording or type text that is read by a “computer” voice (….think Speak-and-Spell if you’re as old as I am). If you type up text, you can change the language, though I have no idea if it’s accurate since I tortured the Spanish language enough in college that I’m banned from speaking it ever again.
  • I think it might be addictive to match up goofy characters with oddball voices or effects. My students may not think I’m funny, but I will.
  • You can adjust the avatar; not just hair, color, and accessories, but also body proportions and location on the screen can be adjusted.
  • There is a blog and help section for those who need insights on using the tool. Also included are classroom guides for teachers.
  • While I didn’t try it out, supposedly you can embed Voki in a PowerPoint. After finishing a project, there is an embed code provided (which is what I used at the end of this post).
  • I didn’t keep track of all the avatar options, but there seems to be a variety to try and represent different people, cultures, and situations. That said, there is a pay version that provides more options, but I opted for the goofy avatars to bypass any question of whether I’m represented by the graphic. (Note: sometimes I think of myself as a unicorn, but in fact, I’m not.)

Drawbacks:

  • There are some ads on the site, so you have to be careful where you click. The sidebars are generally ads that will take you to a different site.
  • The title of the Voki you create is limited to 20 characters.
  • Not all the voice options for typed text work. For example, Dave seems to play, but I don’t hear anything. Perhaps, though, Dave is speaking in a voice audible to dogs or the like.
  • Unless you have a paid subscription account, the audio recording limit is 60 seconds (and 600 character limit for text to voice).
  • Playing the recorded Voki relies on Shockwave Flash, which can be quirky at times.

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Fotobabble….for 60 seconds of babbling

Name: Fotobabble
Cost: Free
Type: Internet Tool (or iOS app)
Rating: 3/5

Fotobabble logoI have an addiction, which I torture my students with. I like to make supplemental video content for my online courses. Students have access to text versions of instructions and rubrics, but I like to make videos that detail the requirements. As with any addictive substance, the problem is that I overdo it. What should take 5 minutes to explain, I will continue to layer on information until I run out of things to say 10 minutes later. I don’t even willingly sit through 10 – 15 minute YouTube videos, so I’m pushing my luck expecting my students to have more time/patience/interest. Thus, my desire to find a tool that compels me to keep it simple, yet engaging.

Fotobable is one option I’ve explored. It’s a single graphic with audio narration. With only one graphic, I know that I need to be brief since there isn’t extensive visual interest to keep the audience from straying to Facebook or the like. Personally, I like to use this opportunity to show off my amateur photos, which may not be relevant to the topic, but I think they’re interesting to look at for a few seconds. As noted in the Drawbacks below, I only use this tool for non-vital information so that I don’t get dozens of emails when the site goes down for maintenance at night.

Goal: Add audio to single graphic and embed the graphic in my classroom

Benefits:

Fotobabble workspace 1

This is the initial screen as you begin the process. You need to first upload a photo.

  • Very easy to click to record after uploading graphic
  • Embed codes available, either with or without Flash.
  • FREE, online tool that allows you to upload your own photos and record or upload audio.
  • Free themes are provided, which essentially serve as frames for your photo.
  • Pretty extensive collection of tutorials and guides to help get you started.

Drawbacks:

  • The site seems to go down nightly, so students accessing the graphic at night receive an error message.
  • There is a 5MB limit on the photos you can use, which is reasonable, but it’s not unlimited.
  • I’m pretty sure the “view” counter is off, since I highly doubt I’ve had over 3000 views since the post is marked Private and I haven’t had even 100 students to view the photo I recorded.
  • There is a 60 second time limit on audio recordings.

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Canva…a mostly free canvas

Name: Canva
Cost: Free (mostly)
Type: Internet tool (iPad app)
Rating: 4/5

canva logoI was recently in a faculty meeting with my amazing peers, and one professor shared how much she liked the “Minute Memo,” an infographic-style newsletter I created for students. At first I was going to admit that the Piktograph tool did much of the design work for me, but I just kept my mouth shut and let the praise give me a bit of a buzz. But, with that positive feedback, I got to thinking about whether there were other tools that might further up my credibility, either with peers or students. After a Google search, I came upon an option listed second in the search results: Canva. Canva can do more than infographics, and has many similar graphic design options as BeFunky. I didn’t want to like this tool when I first started because of the limited free graphics, but the ability to save the finished product as JPG, PNG, or PDF and not make the finished products public won me over. This review is a little longer than previous posts because I couldn’t help but really play around with it.

Canva workspace 1

These are the options you have, though some have similar templates. Clicking the + More… and you’ll find more unique options not seen in other tools, such as book covers, gift certificate, magazine, and resume. I choose the template based on the final size I want the graphic to be, rather than the use. I sometimes end up choosing a template that is way too big, so I will resize (reduce pixels) in Windows Photo Manager.

Goal: evaluate other design tools to see if it’s worth paying for Piktograph

Benefits:

  • iPad app available
  • It’s free….well, nothing is entirely free in this world, but they don’t require subscriptions. Premium images with watermarks cost $1, which is paid when you Publish.
  • Their blog and tutorials are called “Design School”….given how much I invest in graduate school tuition, I like the idea of going to school for free
  • There are many free templates to choose from.
  • Finished documents can be saved as PDFs or graphics. The quality is clear (as compared to little bit of blur that Piktograph has).
  • You can choose to not make the graphic public, which is generally a feature reserved for pay versions.
  • The documents/graphics you create can be copied. This is helpful for me since I make weekly infographics in newsletter form; I want the same style, but need to change the content.

Drawbacks:

  • It crashes (or freezes) Firefox. If your work was not automatically saved recently, it’s gone. Ouch!! If you want to save as you go, click on file and select Save.
  • There are hidden fees. If you choose a $1 template, then there are often other graphics in the template that you need to swap out or pay $1 each. Choose wisely. If it isn’t marked “free” then it isn’t free.
  • Search doesn’t provide filters to limit the results. Also, the free and pay versions are combined so you have to scroll all the way through when choosing a free graphic.
  • You can’t select and move multiple objects. When I wanted to move a graphic and its associated text, I had to select an move each individually, which is cumbersome if you have a graphic, heading, and two sections of text to be moved
  • When editing template text or free font styles, the tool was a bit quirky….if text is overlapping, you have to move the textboxes around in order to edit the template text.
  • Adding shapes and lines is not intuitive. You have to click “search” and then choose a category. Other tools like this one instead have an icon in the standard menu (along with text, layout, background).
  • Resizing provided shapes, lines, template text, and graphics can be limited; sometimes you can only resize horizontally or vertically, which makes it a challenge to fit the object into well-defined areas

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infogr.am….a few more features than a telegram

Name: infogr.am
Cost: Free (pay version provides many more options)
Type: Internet tool
Rating: 1/5

Infogr.am logoMy Piktochart post already revealed my hidden desire to be a graphic designer in my next life. While I like Piktochart, I still am on the hunt for other infographic tools that provide different templates that are easy to modify for my needs. I’m also trying to figure out if Piktochart is my favorite, thus worth investing in a yearly subscription. I don’t know what it is about infographics that really engage my interest beyond the combination of text, color, and graphics (as compared a black/white text document). Perhaps it is a love for movie and concert posters, which draw me in emotionally as I follow the sort of story being told visually and textually. Maybe it’s because infographics allow me to cram a lot of information into one graphic without experiencing the guilt I feel with 10 PowerPoint slides with the same information.

Infogram workspace view 1

This is where you start….the templates look pretty much the same except for font and colors since you can swap out the information for your own.

Goal: Find an infographic tool with more (free) options to create how-to and brief concept overviews for students.

Benefits:

  • After logging in, an Infogram support chatbox pops up. So, if you don’t like to feel alone, you can chat with their support right away. (A quick browse of the website didn’t reveal tutorials, so perhaps the chat is needed.)
  • The various chart options are pretty good looking. Some allow color and size modifications to the content you add/edit.
  • Embed code is provided for final version.

Drawbacks:

Infogram share options

These are the “share” options for the free version.

  • Cannot use “rich text editing” without upgrading, which means you are stuck with the font style provided in the template. This is a big deal for me….I don’t like being constrained this much, especially since some of the template options don’t have enough contrast for the visually impaired (or those who just don’t want to put their reading glasses on).
  • No graphic or shape library to choose from. You need use your own graphics or use the pay version to add that type of visual interest.
  • Need to upgrade to download the completed file. The only option is to share the completed file with everyone on the web.

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