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Classes can collaborate on Pixton comics

December 4, 2013

German comicI have written about the comic-creation tool Pixton a few times, but had not tried their educational account setup until this week. I was asked to provide a tutorial for language instructors and decided to dig deeper into Pixton. The more I use this tool, the more I like it!

Pixton does a great job of providing useful features with free “Fun” accounts, but a “Schools” account unlocks advanced possibilities. To begin with, you can upload images, increase text size in a bubble, and print or download finished comics. The educational pricing is reasonable, too — around $1 per student for two months’ access.

It’s easy to set up a class:

  1. Create a teacher account.
  2. Set up a classroom.
  3. Post an assignment — make a new one or modify something another instructor shared.
  4. Add students — have them create accounts using the activation code Pixton provides.

When students log in, they see the assignment you posted. After they complete and submit, you are able to see their work under “Student Gallery.”

Collaboration

Pixton is beta-testing a feature called Team Comics.

  1. Share a Comic. Under a comic’s title, click “Make this a Team Comic.” Under the Teammates tab in the window that appears, start typing a screen name and choose from the drop-down list.
  2. Accept the Invitation. Shared comics appear under “My Comics / In Progress.” Click to edit one, and accept the offer to “Join this Team.”
  3. Edit the Comic. One person at a time can edit an individual panel; others see a “lock” icon. Teammates can edit different panels at one time, but will not see another person’s changes until they save.
  4. Submit the Comic. Any member of the team can do this.

I tried this successfully, using separate accounts and different browsers, and I like the way it works. If students are in different places while collaborating, though, they will want to communicate through the chat box to avoid stepping on each other’s toes.

The downside

I love this site, but it’s not perfect. I have a couple of complaints.

  • Pricing – options need to be transparent (you have to dig to find them) and there should be a free account in the “Schools” section.
  • Help – the materials are all but hidden. The help should be accessible from any page, not just tucked under a dropdown menu on a few screens. And Pixton needs more detailed help, with illustrations and videos.

Finally, I have a few minor suggestions for improving the user experience.

  • Storage – comics created under a “Fun” account should be available after upgrading to a “Schools” account. I have two logins that share an avatar, but not comics.
  • Settings – these should be accessible while editing a comic. If you want to allow remixes, for example, you have to exit to “My Comics” and click “Edit Settings”.
  • Embed – it would be great if Pixton integrated with WordPress.com. As an alternative to an iframe, offer code for a linked thumbnail.

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