Using Lesson Plans in Pixton

In the last part (Assignments and Students in Pixton) we learned how to create assignments and add students to our classroom.  In this section we will learn how to use Pixton’s built in lesson plans.

Using Lesson Plans

The library of lesson plans is one of the most exciting aspects of Pixton.  To see what options exist first click on Main Menu, and then select Lesson Plans.  You will be whisked away to a subject selection page.  From there you can either select an appropriate subject, or search by keywords.

If you want to see if there’s a lesson plan for the short story, The Lottery you could search for “The Lottery” in keywords.  Note that a number of lesson plans that use that keyword exist.  While not every short story will have a developed lesson plan, The Lottery does.

If you are a Math Teacher perhaps you’d want to click on the Math subject area.

Once you have selected a subject area, you can narrow the search by Elementary School, Middle School, and High School.

Find a lesson plan you think is useful, and click on it.

Part of a Lesson Plan

The lesson plans include multiple activities.  Specific props and characters can be associated with lesson plans.  They are also broken down into step by step instructions.

Note that each activity has a rubric.  By default you will view a condensed rubric, but by clicking  pixton-9 you will be able to view the fully expanded rubric for the assignment.

Note that you can add each individual activity to a group by pressing pixton-10.  This allows you to select all, or only part, of a lesson plan for your group.


Congratulations!  You are now ready to you Pixton with your class!


Next Steps

In the next part you can download the Student Handout and Teacher Handout for use in your classroom.


Part 1: Pixton Comic Creator for Teachers

Part 2: Pixton in the Classroom

Part 3: Assignments and Students in Pixton

Part 4: Using Lesson Plans in Pixton

Part 5: Pixton – Downloadable Resources



Assignments and Students in Pixton

In the last part (Pixton in the Classroom) we learned how to set up our Pixton account.  Now we will look at how we can customize our assignments and work with our digital classrooms.

Creating Your First Activity Pixton-5

From the Activity screen for your class, click on the +NEW ACTIVITY button.

From here you can choose to Import from Lesson Plan or Create from Scratch.  For our purposes we are going to Create from Scratch.  We will look at using lesson plans later in this assignment.

Creating an Assignment From Scratch

pixton-6Two of the fields are mandatory – the Activity Title, and the Due Date.

  1. Title your assignment “Your First Comic”
  2. In the instructions write the following:
    You will be creating your first comic in Pixton and submitting it to ensure you are familiar with the program. You can use the comic you created in the tutorial to fulfill this assignment.
  3. Create a suitable due date
  4. Determine if you want other educators to view your assignment – if so, make sure the Sharing box is checked.
  5. Select the Group you want to assign the task to. As you only have one group right now, assign it to that class.

There is the option to attaching a comic you have already created to the assignment.  This might serve as an exemplar demonstrating what the students need to complete.

Once you have finished creating your comic you can click SAVE & ASSIGN TO GROUP.

You now have a class set up, with their first assignment ready to go.  If only you had some students to complete the task!


Adding Students to Your Grouppixton-7

  1. Navigate back to the Group Page by clicking on the Main Menu / My People / Groups.
  2. Click on the House button for your group to view the group’s main page
  3. Click +ADD PEOPLE

You will be presented with two options, Let me do it, and Give them a link.

For your ease, and also as it fits the Pixton – Student Guide – select Give them a link.

You will then see weblinks for all the groups that you have created.  The link will be formatted as follows:

Record the ####-## on the Student Guide.  This will allow the students to join your class Group.

You will now have a fully set up Pixton account, with a class group, and students.  Feel free to create as many groups as you like.  I would recommend one group for each class you use Pixton with.

Before you are considered proficient Pixton Users, ready to embrace the graphic novel creation software, we will look at two more things: Changing Passwords when your students forget them, and Using Lesson Plans.


Changing Passwords

Click on Main Menu, then select Students.  This will take you to the students overview page.

There are three tabs at the top – Students, Students by Group, and Profile Gallery.  Ensure that the Students tab is selected.  You will see the following information, based on your individual students:


Note that there is a column titled Password.  By selecting the change option for the appropriate student, you will be able to change their password to something they can use to access their account.

You can also deactivate accounts here, if students do not enter their name, or username, to your specifications.  Check the box on the right for the users you want to deactivate, then select the —Action– drop down menu, and select deactivate.


Next Steps

In the next part we will learn how to use the built in Pixton lessons plans, reducing prep time while offering examples to help spurn your creativity.


Part 1: Pixton Comic Creator for Teachers

Part 2: Pixton in the Classroom

Part 3: Assignments and Students in Pixton

Part 4: Using Lesson Plans in Pixton

Part 5: Pixton – Downloadable Resources



Pixton in the Classroom

Pixton is a powerful tool, especially for educators.  You can set up individual classrooms, create assignments tailored to your classroom needs, or search through a multitude of premade lesson plans that suit your needs.

Getting to Know the Pixton Menus

Main Menu

Clicking on Main Menu opens up a number of different options.  There four submenus, My Creations, My People, Educator Community, and My Account.  These submenus will be detailed later.

You can also access Lesson Plans which is a searchable database of fully detailed lesson plans, complete with appropriate rubrics.  They are organized by grade level, and subject area.  These lessons can be distributed to your students.  (There will be further details on this later.)

My Creations

My Creations allows you to select from four options.

You can select Comics which will take you to a page showing all the comics you have created. If you press the plus symbol it will allow you to make a new comic.

If you select Characters you will see a number of the characters that you have used, or modified in your comics. Clicking the plus symbol will allow you to make a new character that can be used in comics.

Clicking on Avatar will allow you to create a picture of yourself! This can be used in your comics.  It is also the image that other people will see when they view your work.

By accessing Books you can see all the “comic books” you have created. A comic book is a collection of strips.  This is a great way to combine all the comics your students made for an assignment in one location.  It’s also possible to have pixton e-mail you a PDF of your created comic book.

My People

My People allows you to select from six options.  The most import two are Groups and Activities.

Groups allows you to create your various classrooms, within Pixton.  Activities allows you to create projects that you can assign to your various groups.  This will be detailed in the next section.

Educator community

Educator Community allows you to get in touch with other educators who are using Pixton in their classroom.

My Account

My Account allows you to modify your settings, and update your unique profile.


The Home button gives you a brief overview of your account.  From this screen you will see the assignments you have created, access your different classroom groups, and quickly access a number of important parts of the site.

My Comics

The My Comics button offers quick access to viewing and creating your own comics.

Student Gallery

In Student Gallery you can see the comics your students have created.  You can sort by those that are finished, or those that are still in progress.  You can also limit your search by group, or activity using the drop down menus at the top of the screen: Pixton-2


Setting up Your ClassPixton-3

Now that you know how to navigate the Pixton website, and create your own comics, you are ready to start setting up your classes.

To create your first class you will need to select the Main Menu, then click on My People, and finally select Groups.

From the Groups page click the +NEW GROUP button.

I recommend using the following Naming Convention for your group: [Last Name] – [Year] – [Course Code].
ex. Barltrop – 2017 – ENG2P1-02



Once you have created your group, you will see it in on the Group Page.  Notice the name you gave it makes it easy to identify what class it will be associated with.

Clicking the Pencil icon will let you change the settings.  Note that in the settings there is an advanced options section at the bottom.  You should take some time to familiarize yourself with those options, and tailor them to the needs of your classroom.

Clicking on the House icon will take you to the home screen for that specific group.

Finally, clicking the Eyeball button will take you to the Activities screen for that class.  Now that we have a class, we can create an activity for it!



Next Steps

Read the next part to learn how to create assignments, and work with classrooms in Pixton.


Part 1: Pixton Comic Creator for Teachers

Part 2: Pixton in the Classroom

Part 3: Assignments and Students in Pixton

Part 4: Using Lesson Plans in Pixton

Part 5: Pixton – Downloadable Resources



Pixton Comic Creator for Teachers

Pixton is an online comic creation website that you can use for a multitude of academic and personal projects.  It allows you to create characters, and set them in a variety of poses.  You can also add a number of different backgrounds, and props.  Finally, once you have set the stage, you can add text in speech or thought bubbles.

How do I access Pixton?

If you are an Ontario Teacher you can use Pixton for free!  It’s one of the many programs that is freely available through OSAPAC.

If you are from another board this guide will still be helpful, but you will need to change how you register for your account.

  1. The first thing you will need to do is direct your web browser to
  2. Click on “Try Pixton Now”
  3. Under the top dropdown list, select your school board.
  4. Enter your work email address
  5. Click “SUBMIT”
  6. You will be asked to enter your “real name”. This name will be visible to everyone, including your students.  You may wish to use Mr. ___________ or Ms. ___________.
  7. Create a password for your account.

Alternately you can select “log in through Google” if you have a work GMail account.

  1. You may be sent a confirmation message to confirm your e-mail address. Click on the link within the e-mail.

You will now have a registered Pixton account.  Time to see what you can do with it!


Getting Started with Pixton

I suggest that you start by going through the tutorial you will most likely send your students through, the first time they use Pixton.

To access the guided log into Pixton, then click the pink HELP button in the bottom right, and select Guided Tour which is under the Guides heading.

To help familiaize yourself with the Pixton platform, you should work through “student questions” below, ensuring that you are aware of the features and functions of Pixton.

These questions will also help familiarize you with the Help menu, and the various layouts (such as Graphic Novel.  You will also see the mind map option while changing layouts.)


Student Questions

  1. What is the suggested Title Pixton asks you to create?
  2. If you search for “super hero” in the character box, what does the top left image look like?
  3. How do you change clothing, skin, and hair colours?
  4. If you search for “video game” in the background box, what is the top right image?
  5. What does it mean to “attach” and “detach” a speech bubble?
  6. What is the difference between a “pose” and an “expression”?
  7. What happens if you click on a panel and click the “. . . ” icon?
  8. What happens if you click on a panel and click the RED garbage can icon?
  9. If you want to insert a panel before one you have already created, what do you do? (Hint: blue button)
  10. Why might you use the ZOOM slider at the right of the panel?
  11. Click on the help button in the bottom right, and search for “change layout”.  How do you change your comic to Graphic Novel layout?
  12. Click on the help button in the bottom right, and search for “change panel size”.   Describe how you would make a panel twice the width of the default settings.
  13. Click on the Save and Submit button.  What activity, or activities, are listed in the dropdown menu?
  14. What does clicking the “remix” button allow?
  15. After submitting your comic, scroll to the bottom right.  You will see a “Share Link”.  What is yours?
  16. What is one additional thing you have discovered from the “Help” menu?


Next Steps

Now that we’ve learned the basics of Pixton, and gone through the tutorial we are ready to see how Pixton can be used in our classroom!



Part 1: Pixton Comic Creator for Teachers

Part 2: Pixton in the Classroom

Part 3: Assignments and Students in Pixton

Part 4: Using Lesson Plans in Pixton

Part 5: Pixton – Downloadable Resources



Teaching with Inklewriter

Inklewriter is a piece of web-based software that allows you to write Choose Our Way tale (COWtale) stories.

What is a Choose Our Way tale?

It’s a story where you get to make choices that affect what happens.  You may have read some when you were younger.  They were along the lines of –  “If you want to poke the sleeping bear, turn to page 3. / If you want to run away and hide, turn to page 17.”  Remember those?  I hope so.  They were fun!

How can I access Inklewriter?

Great question!  You can find it here:


Using Inklewriter

Beginning at the Beginning

Inklewriter-1The first thing you want to do is direct your web browser to the Inklewriter webpage.  You will be greeted with the menu screen.

Next, select “Sign in” and “Create new account.”
You can use your school email address, or a personal e-mail address to create an account.  This will allow you to retrieve your password when you inevitably forget it, so you can regain access to your work.

Writing with Inkle

Inklewriter-2Once you have logged in, you will be greeted with the welcome screen.  This is a new story, ready to be written by you!

We are going to be writing a test story to familiarize ourselves with the software.  It’s not going to be a good story, but it will help us learn the tools.

Change Untitled Story to “The Girl in the Tree.”
Change Anonymous to your name, as the author.

We are now ready to begin!


Writing Our First Story: The Girl in the Tree

Getting Started

The first thing you need to do is write the opening text.  This will be the first thing the reader sees when they read your story.  You cannot link back to this page (more on linking later.  Just know that whatever you put here will only be seen this one time.

Out with the old, in with the new.

Highlight “Once upon a time…” and delete that.  We don’t need that anymore.  Instead, replace it with the following opening of the story:

Waking up from her nap, the girl looked out from her tree.  Not far away, she saw smoke rising through the forest.


Note: The red text that reads End. Is there because this is the last part of the story.  There is no more to read.  Isn’t that sad?  It is!  You need to click on “Add option”.  This will allow you to add choices for the girl to make.

Adding options

Inklewriter-4For the first option, write “She jumped from the tree to examine the smoke.
For the second option, write “She ignored the smoke and went back to bed.

Note: see how there is now red text reading 2 loose ends? That means that neither of the two options link to any other pages.  You can also tell by the fact that the circle around the arrows are dotted.

Linking options

Hover over the first dotted circle, for “She jumped from the tree…”
When you click it a new page will appear.  This is what the reader will see if they select that option.

Write the following in that box:
When she neared the smoke, she could see large flames.  The heat was unbearable.

We are going to add two more options for this, as well.

For the first new option write, “She jumped into the flames.
For the second option write, “She started running away from the flames.

By now, you should be an expert at creating new options, and linking them.  But now, we are going to create an ending.

Creating an ending

Inklewriter-5Select the “She jumped into the flames.” option and write the following in the new page:
She burned up and died.  So sad.

You have now written a story all the way to the end.  But this is a choose your own adventure story, after all.  One ending does not mean the only way a story ends.  There are lots of different possibilities, right?  At least one must make the girl survive!  She’s awesome.

But how do we do that?  Great question.

See those grey backwards arrows at the top right of each box?  If you click on one, you can go back to that page and see all the options that were available on that page.

Click on the backwards arrow of the top box.

Note: the circle around option one’s arrow is now solid, because it links to something.  Now click the dotted circle for “She ignored the smoke”

Linking to the same page as another option

Since she ignored the flames, she’s going to burn up again.  But it’s easy to do that, since we have already written that ending!  Click on the dotted circle.  Now click “Join to an existing paragraph.”


You will see the contents pane, which can be opened at any time using the “contents” button.  Now you just need to select the paragraph you want it to link to.  In this case, the ending. Click on “She burned up and died.  So sad.”

Now that you’ve linked to this ending, you have completed all the loose ends in your first pane.  If you accidentally “Unlink” a page, you can use this method to re-link it again.

Moving on

You can use the backwards arrow to navigate back to the first page, and find other pages you need to complete.  Or, you can click on the “Contents” button to open that pane again.

Navigating through the contents pane

Inklewriter-7The contents pane is an overview of your story.  It shows you what pages are endings, and what pages have links.  It also shows you what pages have loose ends.

Remember, loose ends are links that don’t go anywhere.  Let us fix that.

Click on “When she neared…” in the Contents pane, to automatically select that page.

You will now see another unlinked option.  Remember, this is depicted as a dotted circle around an arrow.  Click on that arrow to create the options for “She started running away…”

In that new page, write:
She was almost clear of the forest!  She was going to make it!

Then add the two options:
1. For some reason, she decided to go back to see the fire.
2. She burst out of the forest, into the safety of the field beyond.

Linking to a previous choice page

Now we are going to connect an option to a paragraph we have already written.  When the girl runs backwards, she will return to the fire.  To link to that paragraph, first click the dotted circle for “For some reason, she decided to go back to see the fire.”  Next, choose “join to an existing paragraph” once more. Finally, select “when she neared the smoke…”  This will warn you that you are creating a loop.  Click OK.  It’s fine, because there are options to get out of the loop.

In the contents pane, go back to “She was almost clear…”

You may need to click the backwards arrow in the top right of that box, selecting “rewind to here.”

Making another ending.

Inklewriter-8Click on the dotted circle for “She burst out of the forest…”

In the final box, write:
From the safety of the field, she watched the fire burn, and marveled at its destructive beauty.


Checking that your work is finished


Look through the Contents pane and confirm that there are no loose ends.  You can now click on the READ button on the top right to enjoy your story.



Reading the Story


You will now have a beautiful choose your own adventure story that you can read, and click through.  This “read” mode will allow you to click the little arrows to move backwards.  This is so you can test your story.

You may find that it does not start at the beginning.  Click the top back arrow to navigate to the first page.

Once you are happy with your story, you can create a link for other people to read your story.  They will not have the option to simply move backwards in time.


Sharing your Story


Inklewriter-12Once you have finished your story, and it is ready for other people to see (or for you to hand in as part of a class assignment) you will need to SHARE your story.

To do this, click on SHARE in the top left menu.

Note: You must have made an account and signed in to access this feature.  If you ignored that step, create your account now.

You will then be shown a web link.  You can copy that, and pass it to friends and family so they can enjoy your story.


What’s Next?

What’s next is you will write your own story.  You can use the attached sheet to help you create options, or think about non-linear narratives.  They can be chaotic at first.  You may also want to click the “tutorial option” to learn more.  Or, read the information page here:


An Introduction to Inklewrite [PDF]

This document contains the above tutorial, and images, in an easy to print format that is classroom ready, and perfect for distributing to students.  Feel free to distribute my sheets for non-commercial purposes.



The Best Portable Apps for Teachers

Portable Apps can be installed without admin  access.  They can be installed to any computer, USB, or network drive without having to gain administrative approval first.

If you find yourself using a computer that has restricted access to installing programs, yet you need a tool for a specific purpose, there’s no need to give up and move on.  All you need to do is find the Portable App that’s right for you.

The Top 10 Portable Apps for Teachers

Whether you’re trying to edit a picture, create a new drawing, or simply play a video file for your students, there are Portable Apps that will help you out.  You can view my list below, or add your own suggestions in the comments.


VLC Media Player Portable

VLC Media Player Portable is a robust media player.  It can play just about every type of audio and video file you’re likely to come across.  It has the ability to speed up the video (1.1x can shave enough time off of a movie to fit it into one period, without distorting the film enough for students to notice).  It also offers an audio boost mode which can be a lifesaver when students didn’t record their presentations loud enough, or the speakers you were given for your classroom just don’t cut it.


Inkscape Portable

If you’re looking to do some quick, on the fly vectoring – and let’s be honest, who isn’t? – then you’ll need Inkscape.  Few school computers come with Adobe Illustrator installed, and while there are a number of free pieces of software out there, few of them can be installed without approval.  Inkscape Portable will have you creating that much-needed image in no time.


Artha Portable

There are times when the internet fails, yet a strong thesaurus is still an important tool.  There may also be times when you want to limit a student’s access to the internet while still allowing them a few useful tools.  Artha is an offline thesaurus that will do the trick.


Renamer Portable

If you’ve ever had a directory full of files that could use the last few characters trimmed off, or a prefix added to every file, and you don’t feel like pressing [F2], [HOME], [CTRL+P] over and over again, Renamer Portable is the tool for you.  It’s a powerful renaming tool that allows for a large number of custom rules.  Proper file names are the cornerstone of any well-organized computer, but who has the time?  Now, through the power of automation, you do.


Stellarium Portable

If you’re about to teach mythology there are few better introductions than the night sky.  Stellarium offers a feature-rich platform that shows the positions of the stars in the night sky.  You can switch between “daylight” and “night” mode, while also rewinding time to view what things looked like in years gone by, or by fast forwarding to see what next month’s sky will look like.  With the click of a button you can add constellation lines, or pictures as well.


FotoSketcher Portable

If you’re looking for a quick way to turn pictures into artistic recreations this is the app for you.  There are a number of reasons you might want to try not – not least of all is for the simple joy of it.  But, if you’re creating abstract images which require students to infer this is a great place to start.  Maybe you just want to use some pre-existing, or royalty free images and change them up a little for your presentations or displays.  This is a great quick way to do it, without any prior experience required.


7-Zip Portable

There will always be times when that file you’ve downloaded can’t be opened by the default compression tool.  7-Zip will help you extract just about any file you need to.  No longer will those precious resources be blocked behind an extension that can’t be read.


Pencil2D Portable

If you’re looking to make some frame by frame animations, this is a great place to start.  With layer support and a simple interface students of all ages will be able to get started in the field of animation.  It’s only one small step from there to making frame-by-frame claymations.  This program will give all users a strong foundation in the fundamentals of animation.


GiMP Portable

With all the power of Photoshop, but the pricetag of free, GiMP is the perfect photo editing, collage making, touch up perfecting, software for all your needs.  Even access to programs such as Photoshop Elements can leave some essential features left out, but with GiMP there are few limitations, save for your own creativity.  It’s also a great program to use in class, because students can take it home with them, and use it for decades after their education licenses to other products has expired.


Portable Apps Platform

Portable Apps Platform offers a host of features, all of which can be seen through the link above.  I’ve targetted the link to one specific feature – fonts.  Portable Apps Platform is the most painless way to add custom fonts to a computer without administrative access.  Your handouts, image files, and custom creations will be looking personalized and unique in no time.  Plus, you’ll be the envy of your entire department when they can’t figure out how you were able to install that fabulous Star Trek Font for your stellar cartography handouts.


One More Thing…

While the applications listed above are great for educational purposes, lets not kid ourselves, there are those moments when we all want to destress a little, and don’t worry – Portable Apps has you covered there.  Just take a look and the huge directory of Games they offer!


Search Portable Apps by Category

Don’t forget to add your favourite Portable Apps in the comments below.

Digital Tools – Further Reading

The various drop-down menus offer a wealth of Digital Literacy knowledge.  Under “Teaching Strategies” you can find helpful tips for bringing coding, multimedia digital storytelling, and more to your classroom.  It also has a section on how to deal with digital distractions in our modern classrooms.

Uses: This website offers a plethora of different articles, videos, and tips.  It is relevant for any classroom.  Though it may be directed, partially, to elementary classes the information is still relevant.

Best Websites for Teaching & Learning 2017

There are a wealth of digital tools listed here.  If you find yourself still wanting, having already looked at the Top 10 Digital Tools, and More Digital Tools, you need look no farther than the AASL: Best Websites for Teaching & Learning.

This website is updated each year, and the archives can be just as useful as the present collection.

The Challenge of Staying Current

Keeping up with the changing digital landscape can seem like an impossible task.  But you don’t need to be aware of everything, all the time.  Find two or three tools you really like, consider how they can be used to enhance and explore key literacy skills, and introduce them to your students.

If you add one or two new tools every year, you’ll not only stay engaged and interested in your teaching, but also find your toolbox filling in no time.

And, if you’re one of those people who spend their time researching the latest and greatest tools, remember:

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
-Ferris Bueller

Part 1: Digital Literacy Tools – Introduction

Part 2: Top Ten Digital Tools for Classrooms

Part 3: More Digitial Tools for Classrooms

Part 4: Digital Tools – Further Reading

More Digitial Tools for Classrooms

Limiting digital tools to a top ten list leaves many great tools overlooked.  There are always more useful tools that have a place in the classroom.  Add your favourites to the comment section below.



Learn More: Mr. Barltrop’s Tutorial

Inklewriter is the most straightforward Choose Your Own Adventure writer that currently exists.  From the moment students open up the site they are invited to view a streamlined site that is as usable on a computer as it is a smartphone.

Uses: Students can create new versions of texts studied in class, or map out alternate paths that history could have taken were one small difference made.

The changing course of our world can be expressed, and different branching hypotheses can be made based on the various choices or results that might be encountered.  There is no limit to the choices one can make.



Lexipedia is a visual word web, where you can type in a word, and related words will pop out from it.  You can choose to view related Nouns, Verbs, Adverbs, Adjectives, Synonyms, Antonyms, and Fuzzynyms.

Users can click on any of the displayed words to make them the new centre of the web, which creates a new web for them to browse.

Uses: Aside from acting as a Thesaurus, this tool also allows students to understand and
forming relationships between different words and word types.



PowToon is an incredibly powerful piece of animation software that is entirely browser based.  At the basic level, users can choose from a selection of templates that are made available to them and simply add text and images through the integrated software.

However, those looking to unlock the full power of PowToon can change where and when images are added to an animation.  They can also select from a number of different animation styles.

Uses: Students familiar with audio and video editing software will have an easier time adapting to the PowToon suite.  However, due to the step-by-step process of creating a number of basic animations, this tool can be used to create professional looking animations for any subject area.



This is the final Word Bubble website we will look at.  However, there are many more.  And each have their own uses.  The benefit of Tagxedo is that you can either enter text, or a website.  You can also choose a number of unique shapes to use in the display of your word bubble.

Uses: Before studying the battle of New Orleans it might be interesting to turn the Wikipedia page for said battle into a Tagxedo image.  You can also choose a relevant shape, like the United States of America to display your creation.



Wordle allows you to create a word bubble created by any text you paste into the website.  The text will be sized according to use.  The more times a word is repeated, the larger the font size will be.

Uses: By showing students a wordle before they engage with a text, they are able to infer what they think it will be about.  It will also allow them to focus their reading on the relevant aspects.

Part 1: Digital Literacy Tools – Introduction

Part 2: Top Ten Digital Tools for Classrooms

Part 3: More Digitial Tools for Classrooms

Part 4: Digital Tools – Further Reading

Top Ten Digital Tools for Classrooms



Learn More: Mr. Barltrop’s Tutorial

Pixton is a graphic novel creation tool that allows students to choose from a library of characters, backgrounds, props, expressions, and poses.

Students can create endless permutations on the characters, allowing them to express themselves as they see fit.

Uses: By exploring the wide variety of lesson plans in the program’s database, teachers can sort by subject area to find an assignment that’s right for them.  Teachers also have the ability to create unique lessons tailored to the needs of their students.



Lingro is a website that converts a website’s text.  The converted text can be clicked on.  This will open a pop up that defines the clicked word.  Students can open up as many pop ups as they need, or close them when no longer required.

Uses: Using the lingro link to assign a short story can allow students to double check the meaning of unfamiliar words.  This gives them ownership over their learning.  It is also useful for historical, geographical, and technical texts where some language may be unfamiliar.



Vibby allows you to import video clips from major online sites such as YouTube.  Using this tool you can extract specific clips from the video to highlight for your students.  Not only that, but you can also add annotations, similar to how you would with Thinglink.  The main difference being, this allows you to add annotations to specific timestamps in the video, rather than positions on the image.

Uses: This is great for selecting relevant information, as well as annotating inferences, and connections, while creating questions that link to specific – relevant – sections of the media text.



Thinglink does require creating an account – although free accounts can be created with your, and students, e-mail accounts by selecting “Sign in with Google.”

This website allows you to upload images, or import them from a weblink.  Students can then click on parts of the image and add annotations.

Their final piece can be used as an interactive part of a presentation, or shared and submitted to the teacher as a weblink that can be assessed.

Uses: Students can annotate advertisements, or other visual texts.  History and geography students can use this site to annotate maps.  Various annotation icons can be used to specify a variety of different annotation types.



Similar to Wordle, WordSift will create a word bubble based on word use.  Students will have to paste the text in themselves, however.  Unlike Wordle, Wordsift creates an interactive bubble allowing students to hover over words and see how many times they are used.  They can also view what sentences the words are used in.  There is also an integrated word web thesaurus.

Uses: This website is incredibly useful, especially when searching for specific information.  However, it can be overwhelming, offering too many tools, rather than one useful one.



Newsela is a news aggregator that hosts a number of modern news articles.  While they often have an American focus, many are still applicable for our classrooms.  By clicking on the various numbers (1140L600L) you can change the Lexile score (the reading level) of the text.

Uses: When looking to address a text, students can choose a version that is appropriate for them.  While the reading level changes, most of the content remains the same.  By selecting from various categories, such as Geography, Science & Math, and World History you can quickly access relevant texts for your lessons.

Tween Tribune


Similar to Newsela TweenTribune offers a variety of high interest texts, which are presented in a variety of Lexile scores.  These texts are sorted by grade level, and subject area.  In only a few minutes teachers and students can find high interest, on topic texts in a reading level that suits their needs.

Uses: Aside from the uses listed above, TweenTribune is run by the Smithsonian.  They have provided a number of lesson plans that can be used to target a variety of grade levels using the presented resources.



Piktochart is an online resource for creating infographics, similar to those students would find on the OSSLT in the Graphic Text section.

There are a number of templates that allow students to jump right in and create their own resources.  However, should students be dealing with statistics, this site becomes even more useful through its integrated graphing.

Uses: Students can create visual “about me” infographics, or use the powerful embedded spreadsheet option to create beautiful representations of their collected data.

Adobe Spark


Spark is an interactive presentation tool.  Students can create simple graphical and text presentations that take advantage of the online infinite canvas.  Rather than being limited to one slide at a time, this program allows students to create a never-ending downward scrolling presentation.

Uses: Replacing Prezi and Power Point, this is a unique way to create engaging texts that interact with web browsers in a way students are accustomed to.  They can integrate images, text, video, and weblinks into their piece.

Today’s Meet


Today’s Meet is a back channel chat program.  You can create “rooms” that will be open for a set amount of time, from one hour to one month.  Students can join the room through the code you give them, and then participate in the discussion.

Uses: Using their personal devices students can ask a number of questions about the lesson you are teaching.  If you have a projector set to display the “chat messages” only, an ongoing dialogue can be observed.

This is useful as students can ask questions, which you can answer at an appropriate time.  The flow of the class will not be disrupted.

You can also “export” the chat log at the end of the class.

Part 1: Digital Literacy Tools – Introduction

Part 2: Top Ten Digital Tools for Classrooms

Part 3: More Digitial Tools for Classrooms

Part 4: Digital Tools – Further Reading

Digital Literacy Tools – Introduction

Teaching takes time.  Planning lessons takes time.  And now it’s expected that teachers integrate digital literacy into their classroom.  But what does that mean?  What does it look like?  And more importantly, what resources can be used to integrate those skills?

Digital Literacy skills are required to make effective use of digital devices like laptops, smartphones, tablets, or desktop computers.  These skills will allow students to engage, express, collaborate, and communicate with their peers in a quickly changing world.

There are a wealth of tools out there to help teachers, but the nearly endless expanse of resources can feel overwhelming.  In the face of endless choices, it becomes difficult to make any choice at all.

A Short Introduction

This guide will introduce you to a number of useful tools that can be immediately integrated into your current lesson plans.  The only requirement is that students have access to a computer lab, a chrome book station, or their own personal devices.

In a world that is rapidly incorporating digital devices into everyday experiences it is integral we ensure our students have the skills for success, lest they find themselves left behind.

Note: Due to the limitations of school computers, you may find some of these tools do not work with specific web browsers.  Try using Chrome, Firefox, or even Internet Explorer before abandoning hope.

Looking Forward

There are a number of great tools to choose from.  Browse the curated top ten digital tools for classrooms list to increase the digital tools in your toolbox.

Part 1: Digital Literacy Tools – Introduction

Part 2: Top Ten Digital Tools for Classrooms

Part 3: More Digitial Tools for Classrooms

Part 4: Digital Tools – Further Reading