Picle – Free iApp for Multimedia Presentation or Digital Storytelling

My 6 year old granddaughter recently created a multimedia presentation on an iPad with Pictello. The grade 1 school project was a delightful story written, illustrated, and read aloud by Annika. I know that Annika finds my iPad engaging on many levels, so I was pleased that she’d had a chance to use an iPad at school.

It was wonderful that her teacher informed Annika’s parents that they could view Annika’s work online. On the other hand, it was extremely frustrating that Annika’s parents were unable to access it–because they do not have an iPad. I think it’s unacceptable that Pictello, an app that costs almost $20, does not offer export options for convenient universal online access. (Pictello productions can be exported as PDF files, but all audio is lost.) It is also wrong for schools to assume that all parents have easy access to iPads!

So, I was pleased by the recent release of a free app that facilitates the creation of multimedia projects that can be exported as videos, and easily shared with anyone online.

Picle is a free app for iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch that works well for putting images and audio together to create digital stories or multimedia projects. It’s hard to imagine an app that’s easier to use.

Images can be imported from the camera roll. Or, pictures can be taken directly by the app with the iDevice’s built-in camera. Then it’s just a matter of clicking a record-button to attach audio narration or other desired sounds to the image. Alternatively, you can record while taking a picture to capture whatever sound is present when the picture is taken.

Each image, with attached audio, is known as a ‘picle’. Individual picles can be woven together into movies that tell a story. These movies can be uploaded and shared on Picle’s site. Or, movies can be saved to the camera roll and sent from there directly to Youtube. Of course, individual picles can also be shared.

This video was created from 7 picles that I made with images to which I had added text, so it combines visual information with both spoken and written text. For teachers, it is important to present information to learners in multiple ways.  Likewise, it is essential to give learners alternative options for sharing what they know and as for creative expression.

Note: For adding text to images, an a free (ad-supported) app that I have found to work well is Fotolr Photo Studio.

Slidestory (Downloadable Program & Online Resource)

ALL learners benefit when encouraged to choose from engaging alternatives when expected to show what they’ve learned. There are learners in every classroom, however, for whom alternative options are essential.  Numerous learners are simply unable to show what they know when restricted to the traditional media of pen on paper, or even keyboard on digital paper.  Digital multimedia presentation tools are powerful alternatives for individuals with writing challenges.

Many educators are beginning to teach “digital storytelling”, and I believe this is an extremely valuable skill that ought to be taught. I think it is important to encourage the use of multimedia tools for more than digital storytelling.  Multimedia presentation tools may offer the only effective means for some learners to show what they know.  These tools offer the added motivational benefit of being easily shared with a global audience.  This can be especially important for the learner who for one reason or another can’t write effectively.

Slidestory is a multimedia presentation tool for Windows that is especially easy to use.  You must first download the “Publisher Client” and install it on your computer.  Once installed, the application has a straightforward user interface.  You drag and drop photos and arrange them in the desired order.  Then, if you wish, you can use a microphone to record a narrative for each slide.  Your project can be saved to your computer for further editing.

When you “publish” your slidestory, it is uploaded to the Slidestory website and housed in its gallery.  Once uploaded, you can edit your presentation online if you decide to make changes. You are given an embed code that enables you to put your slidestory wherever you wish. You also have the option of sharing a link to your slidestory via email.

I’ve embedded a short sample slidestory below.  I chose to use Picasa 3 to add text to each slide.  Then I used my mic for voice narration.  I used a set of family photos that I’ve used previously, so you may recognize my little presentation.

Many thanks to Patricia Donaghy for sharing this resource!

xtranormal (Online Resource)

Although I don’t spend a great deal of time on Twitter, I’ve been tweeting for about a year now.  One of many things I appreciate about Twitter is the sharing that happens.  A couple of weeks ago, Alex Britez (@abritez) used Twitter to share an interesting potential learning resource.  I immediately took it for a test drive, and I think there are many learners who could use it effectively to show what they know as well as for creative expression.  Teachers may want to try using it to engage their learners.

xtranormal bills itself as a ‘Text-to-Movie’ application.  Their tag line says, “If you can type, you can make movies.”  You also need to be able to choose from a range of available characters, facial expressions,  animations, settings, sound effects, etc.  The possibilities are unlimited.

There is a helpful set of Quick Tips to guide the novice movie maker through the process.  The quality of the text-to-speech is remarkably good, as is the range of available creative options.  Movies can be shared and easily embedded elsewhere on the net.  You even have the option of re-mixing movies that have been made by other film makers.

I hope there will always be a free version of this application.  There are indications that once the product is out of beta, there will be a paid premium service available.  I did a random check of movies on the site for inappropriate content, and apart from some foul language on one movie, nothing jumped out at me as totally inappropriate.  Still, I can’t vouch for the school-suitability of all content on the site.

I’ve held off on posting about Xtranormal because I was unable to embed a sample video here on Edublogs.  I’ve exchanged email with Xtranormal‘s developers, but we haven’t yet worked out what the problem is.  There seems to be no problem using the embed code elsewhere, so I’m giving up here for now.

So Click Here to see a 30-second movie that took me about 30 minutes to create.  That included working through the Quick Tips to figure out how it all worked.

EMPRESSR (Online Resource)

This weekend, I’ve had fun “playing” with another option for creating and sharing digital stories or multimedia presentations.

EMPRESSR is an effective online alternative for creating and/or sharing slide shows and multi-media presentations.  You can either upload images from your computer or import them from other online sources such as flickr, photobucket, Google Images, or Yahoo!EMPRESSR also allows you to import and include audio and video clips in your presentation.  Altogether, EMPRESSR is impressive for the versatility that it offers.

Slides can easily be edited and manipulated right with the application.  There is a good selection of transitions to choose from, and these can be adjusted and set very easily, either for the entire presentation or for individual slides.

The user interface of EMPRESSR is relatively intuitive and easy to learn for someone with experience creating multimedia presentations.  For the novice, however, it would be useful if the site developers would provide more by way of instruction and step-by-step tutorials.

EMPRESSR is not really a tool for collaboration, but it is typical of Web 2.0 applications that facilitate easy sharing and embedding elsewhere on the net.

I’ve embedded a slideshow that I put together with photos I took last Wednesday when my wife and I spent an afternoon in Victoria, BC.  I’m reasonably pleased with the finished product.  I didn’t attempt to add audio or video clips, but I did try out a variety of transitions and other features.

If you take the time to watch my empressr show, I welcome your comments.  I mention time because I used full size images, and the presentation takes a while to load.  It isn’t worth pressing the “Start  Presentation” button until most of the slides have loaded.

Mixbook (online resource)

Several of the edubloggers I follow have written posts about the resource I’m writing about today. I liked Mixbook when I first discovered it, but I delayed my post because one of its primary services was initially available only within the US. Now that they’ve gone international, I’ll write about it from my vantage point in Canada. Unfortunately, frustration caused when online opportunities are not available to those of us outside the US is not unusual.



Mixbook is one of a growing number of online applications that facilitate the creative sharing of digital images. Mixbook is different than most because of its book-like format, and because of its convenient options for including text. With this application, you can create books of up to at least 100 pages. Mixbooks can be created and shared online for free, but with Mixbook you also have the option of purchasing a hard copy of your book. Paper Mixbooks can now be shipped anywhere in the world.

I believe there are many occasions in the “classroom” when it would be powerfully motivating to be working toward the creation of an actual book. I think this might be especially appropriate for collaborative projects involving either entire classes or small groups. For example, a class might like to work together to create a “year in review” book, a special report on a class field trip, or even an anthology of student poetry.

For classroom use, I think it is especially helpful that any Mixbook page may contain images and/or text. Pages may contain only text, only images, or almost any imaginable combination of text and images. This allows for tremendous flexibility in presenting projects of all kinds. The screenshots below show only the first 48 possible page layouts from the nearly 200 that are available.

mixbook-ss-01.jpg mixbook-ss-02.jpg

mixbook-ss-03.jpg mixbook-ss-04.jpg

I have not yet ordered a paper Mixbook, but I have worked on a couple of online Mixbooks. It is a snap to use sets of photos from Flickr to create a Mixbook. Although I was unable to conveniently embed a published Mixbook here on my Edublogs blog, I had no difficulty embedding it on a pbwiki page. [See below for new info on embedding in Edublogs.]

The screenshot below shows the cover of a Mixbook I put together with a set pictures of the Comox Glacier, a defining landmark of the community where I live. If you wish to see the original in Mixbook, click here. If you’d like to see how it came out when embedded on a pbwiki page, click here.


[After I wrote this post, Andrew Laffoon of Mixbook, has posted instructions for embedding Mixbooks on Edublogs. He plans to add the instructions to the Mixbook site.  Hopefully, he'll also be able to streamline the process. For now, click here if you want to know how. It may also be helpful to know that Andrew blogs about Mixbook blogs here.]