Boy, there sure are a lot of web applications that let you make free slideshows. Because of this glut, I thought it would be helpful to my students, readers of this blog, and me to do a quick review of many of them, and identify my picks for the best ones. So, here’s another “The Best…” list.
In order to make it on this list (there is one exception), a site had to…
* be free.
* be simple. There are a number of web tools that just have too many “bells and whistles” for me, and they certainly don’t improve accessibility for English Language Learners.
* allow you to grab images off the Web, and not just from your computer.
* not have content inappropriate for classroom use readily available, at least not during the multiple times I visited the site.
* allow for the creation of captions and other writing.
I’ve come up with nine web tools that I think are worthy of being on this list. They all have some unique qualities, though, that make them ideal for different projects. So they are not ranked first-to-ninth. Instead, I’ve put them into different categories.
You can also find tools that let you create video-like slideshows at The Best Ways For Students To Create Online Videos (Using Someone Else’s Content).
Having said that I wasn’t going to rank the sites, however, it’s clear that one site is clearly the best, especially for English Language Learners. The ability to combine audio narration (and comments) with the written word at VoiceThread , along with its ease-of-use, make this a great application. Combine that with the special free educator membership and its benefits and you have the best site out there, period, for English Language Learners.
Little Bird Tales lets you easily make slideshows where you can add text and, more importantly for English Language Learners, provide an audio narration. On nice touch is that you can virtually paint/draw artwork in addition to uploading images (unfortunately, the site doesn’t have the ability to grab photos off the web by url addresses). It’s free to use, but I’m unclear on if there will be an eventual cost to use the site. It appears to have an upper limit on the number of shows you can produce.
Here’s my post on Fotobabble’s new slideshow option.
Shadow Puppet is a great iPhone/iPad app.
John Yan has unveiled his new tool for education, UTellStory, and it’s a good one. It’s sort of a streamlined VoiceThread that I think is easier for both teachers and students to use.
You can make slideshows with your own images or grab ones off the web and easily add a audio you record, as well as text, to it. You can make them private or public, and they’re embeddable. You can also let your slideshows be re-used and mixed by others.
It’s free to use, though it costs $50 each year if you want to be able to manage student accounts (Disclosure: I was given one of those free accounts so I could try out those features, but it in no way influenced my decision to review the site or to say these positive comments about it).
The only advantage I see, and it’s a big one, that VoiceThread has over it is you can’t leave audio comments at UTellStory.
I also like Screencast-o-matic.
Here’s a video explaining a few of the ways to use UTellStory:
SITES THAT DON’T REQUIRE REGISTRATION
There are several slideshow creation sites that don’t require you to register and still meet all my criteria. I think for most classes, if you don’t need the audio narration feature and you’re okay just posting a link instead of embedding the show in a blog or website, these should work fine.
Big Huge Labs is a site that lets you grab any image off the web — not just Flickr. The interface is not as easy as Bookr’s, but you do have access to far more images.
Qwikslides is a super-easy tool for creating slideshows.
A SITE WITH A FEW BELLS & WHISTLES
Biteslide looks like a fairly easy tool to create slideshow-like presentations. It’s worth a look.
SITES WITH A FEW BELLS & WHISTLES — PLUS THEY LET YOU COLLABORATE
There are two sites in particular that have a few easily usable bells and whistles, can be embedded, and let you create slideshows with others over the Internet (not in real-time, though). I was attracted to them because of the collaboration feature and the possibilities of using them with our international sister classes, but they are also excellent sites to use without taking advantage of that aspect of the site.
One is Mixbook, which I think is very accessible (though I wish their tool to write text was a little bit better).
A SITE WITH A HISTORY FOCUS
Digital Vaults from the National Archives has an incredibly easy-to-use tool to create online slideshows related to history. You can access images from historical time periods and easily drag-and-drop them into your show, along with writing captions. It’s just one feature of this extraordinary site.
I am going to add a new one to this list that does not let you grab images off the web, but seems very, very easy to use for simple slideshow creation with your own images. It’s called PhotoPeach, and it’s worth a look. (They’ve since added the ability to both grab images off the Web and create quizzes within your slideshow)
Projeqt is a very new application — you still need an invite to use it (I requested one in December and just received it) that lets you create what you could call interactive slideshows. In some ways, I might describe it as a more sophisticated Prezi that’s easier to create and less confusing to watch.
It’s not as simple to use as the other apps on this list, but English Language Learners and non-tech savvy users could pick it up pretty quickly (and I’m adding it to that list). If you or your students wanted to create something with a little more pizazz, Projeqt might be the ticket once it gets out of beta.
Knovio might end up being one of the best Web 2.0 applications of the year. You upload a PowerPoint presentation, record a presentation with your microphone and webcam, and then it’s done! It’s free, and it is not open to the public yet, but I received an invitation about five seconds after I requested it.
I’ve mentioned Storify on this blog in passing as an easy way to display “tweets.” In fact, I did just that in my post, Using Storify For “Poverty Matters When…”, when I displayed multiple tweets that began with that phrase. I had thought its use was pretty limited.
Recently, though, Storify announced some major changes, and its now one of the easiest tools to use to create a multimedia digital story. You can search the web for just about anything, including images, tweets, webpages, photos and videos, and use their “drag-and-drop” interface to add your own text and create a story (or a collection of labeled images, or just about anything). It’s really become quite versatile, and it would be difficult to find a tool that’s easier to use. You can also read this post from Read Write Web other uses for the tool.
I just my invitation to try-out Powtoon, a new site (still requires you to request an invite) that lets you create very dynamic-looking presentations. In just a few minutes of playing around with it, it seems to me that it makes it easy for someone to make the kind of PowerPoint-like presentation that only someone very, very experienced with PowerPoint would be able to do. I could see myself using it for presentations I make for my blog or for when I do public-speaking. My concern with a tool like this for students is that they could get so focused using all the cool tools that they would spend more time on the presentation than the content, but I might be wrong.
I’ve never been a big fan of Prezi — I think my eyes and brain work worker with a more linear presentation. However, I’ve got to say that the new interface they unveiled recently makes it much more accessible for students, and everybody else, to use. You can read about it at TechCrunch at PowerPoint Killer Prezi Launches New Interface.
Photolist is a new tool that seems like a very easy way to make a slideshow (that’s also embeddable) and that lets you also add expanded captions.
Here’s a video describing the service:
Haiku Deck has been an excellent slideshow creating tool for the iPad, and is on The Best Resources For Beginning iPad Users list. They recently unveiled a web version (you can read about it at Richard Byrne’s blog), though you still have to sign-up for an invitation to try it out. Now Richard Byrne has made a tutorial explaining how to use the web version.
slidebean is a new free tool for creating online slideshows.
It provides multiple formats and the ability to search the Web, within the application, for images.
Thanks to TechCrunch for the tip.
Sway is Microsoft’s new online slideshow tool. It seems easy to use. Here’s their idyllic video about it:
Hstry is an online tool that has been on The Best Tools For Making Online Timelines list. They’ve rebranded themselves as Sutori and turned themselves into more of a presentation tool. It seems nice, and I’m adding it to this list but, unless I’m missing something, it appears that they lost the ability to easily create timelines in the process. I might just be missing something, though.
I’ve previously posted about Chalkmotion, a presentation tool that lets you add or draw simple stick figure like drawings onto slides.
All feedback on this list is welcome.
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