Review

Back in November, Xtranormal unveiled their new platform for teachers and students. The idea was to create an interactive teaching tool that was easy to use and would be engrossing to the students that would use it. Xtranormal put front and center some of the characters that have made them popular with the viral video set; but are cute robotic teddy bears enough to keep the short attention spans of the K-12 set?

What it is

The main idea behind the platform is to find new forms of non-traditional teaching tools that can help engage students in a world that has long moved past static information on textbooks. The Education Platform offers teachers a chance to create very specific content tailored around the needs of their lesson plans and the needs of their students.

Xtranormal dug into their cast of memorable characters (like the guy in the video above) and created a slew of new ones just for their Education Platform. From historical figures like Napoleon and Aristotle to U.S. Presidents, Xtranormal has enough colorful characters to help teach everything from Math to Physics – not shabby in the least.

How it works

Xtranormal was shooting for simplicity when they made their “if you can type, you can make a movie” Movie Maker, and nothing’s changed. You go through 4 steps: selecting your “actors”, your backdrop, typing your “script”, and publishing. There’s really not much more to it than that. The video in the header took all of 8 minutes to make; I think I spent most of that time thinking up which character to choose. So teachers of Noisecast, do not fret over yet another piece of your lesson plan, it will probably take less time to create these videos than it would take to get a projector running in your classroom.

Xtranormal also provides many options for the teacher to share their videos. They can be redirected directly from the site, be uploaded to Facebook, YouTube, MySpace (no, really), email, or can be downloaded to a local computer for later viewing. Most importantly, the videos can be made private and shared only with the class.

The Education Platform allows you to create assignments for students and provides a simple, private means to sign up and communicate with their teacher. Each student is provided with a unique PIN number (Xtranormal refers to this as a Student Token) that gives them access to their class and their assignments. Assignments can then be used to assess if a student is truly grasping the concepts being taught in the classroom and/or identify any difficulties they may have. After all, the whole purpose of creating a movie is centered around the students’ ability to create a script based on the material they cover in class.

Unlike the teacher’s version of the platform, once a student has created their movie, they can’t publish the video or send it to anyone other than their teacher. It helps keep things honest but most importantly, helps create some privacy between student and teacher.

Downsides?

It’s hard to find any flaws in the platform; it’s simple, clean, fun, and doesn’t require any publishing knowledge. Unfortunately the only barrier of entry can be the price. Plans for the Education Platform start at $10 per month and each student that’s added to a class will run you an additional $.50. It’s not much but in a country that’s facing all kinds of budget cuts in education, the cost of entry may be restrictive for some schools or teachers. For some context, the average public school class size in New York City is around 30 students grades 9-12; if a teacher teaches an average of 4 classes per subject (I pulled this number for illustrative purposes only) they’re looking at an additional expense of $70 per month.

That said, Xtranormal provides various billing options and does not require a teacher to “enroll” students; they can simply pay the $10 per month and still have access to all of the Education Platform’s features. A representative for Xtranormal noted that the platform continues to show growth without any complaints about the platform’s pricing. In fact, Xtranormal recently partnered with an education company that puts Xtranormal’s Education Platform in the hands of Detroit public school teachers. According to Xtranormal, most of the feedback from teachers has been overwhelmingly positive; most support requests ask for more customization options (to Xtranormal’s credit, they are delivering).

The wrap up

Though the cost may be restrictive to some, that isn’t so much a reflection of their service as it is a reflection of the state of education in this country. Xtranormal’s Education Platform otherwise delivers: it provides a simple, professional looking teaching tool that doesn’t require much in the way of technical expertise to create need-specific content.

Check our gallery below to see the platform in action.

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About the Author

Alberto Lima
Technophile with an appreciation for beautifully designed gear. A writer of words, eater of hamburgers, maker of sandwiches who will not part with his Apple gear or his camera. Wrote for Philanthroper.com; Managing Editor at SmallCameraBigPicture.com. Resident of the Internet.