I came across a couple of interesting web discoveries this week. One looks very useful (Flowgram), the other is just for fun (BeFunky).
First up is Flowgram. I discovered this one via Wes Fryer’s Speed of Creativity blog, from which I get lots of new ideas. More specifically, it was in one of his Twitter updates rather than a blog post. Regardless, Flowgram is an online multimedia authoring tool similar to VoiceThread, but with some significant differences.
As with VoiceThread, users can add content from a variety of sources, including PowerPoint, photos (both online or uploaded), web pages, or other documents. You can also visually highlight areas on these pages and create voice commentary. What differentiates Flowgram from VoiceThread is that these items are meant to be interactive. For example, if a website is included as part of the presentation, the presentation can be paused so that users can actually click links, press buttons, etc. This makes Flowgram much more dynamic than VoiceThread for training purposes.
VoiceThread does seem to be better than Flowgram at incorporating video. You can upload your video clips directly into VoiceThread pages. With Flowgram there is not a video upload function. You can either add a YouTube video page as a web page, or you can embed a YouTube (or other site) video into HTML using the embed function. It’s not intuitive, and it has to already be online. In addition, you have to set the page to pause until the video finishes playing, or your page will advance before the video is done.
One other are area where VoiceThread excels over FlowGram is collaboration. Multiple users can leave audio comments on VoiceThread, so that the finished product is truly a collaborative work. Flowgrams allow users to leave comments, but these do not become part of the actual presentation. This is not a bad thing – it’s just a different philosophy on collaboration.
Flowgram provides several methods for sharing. The best method is to link directly to the Flowgram. Since this is designed to highlight websites, full-screen functionality is much more useful. However, there is an embeddable feature. For example, here is an introduction Flowgram…
It’s 400X300, which is OK for embedding into a website, but not great for seeing what’s on the screen.
Flowgram looks like it’s going to be a great tool, and I’m going to try creating some tutorials with it. Unlike Voicethread, it’s free with the ability to create an unlimited number of Flowgrams.
I had stumbled upon a collection of tutorials on creating cartoon renderings from photographs. Most of these involved Photoshop actions, but produced some cool results. Through another Twitter link I came across BeFunky.
Users can upload their photos and generate their own cartoon renderings online. The process is fairly simple, and there are limited controls when compared to the Photoshop methods. However, it’s still fun, and the results are passable.
One of the interesting tools on the site is the ability to create what they call a “Uvatar” – basically, a cartoon caricature of yourself that can be used as an avatar. The image at the top of this post is in example. You can upload a photo of yourself, find one online, or even snap one with a web cam. Then you select your head and paste it onto a body. You have your choice of clothing, backgrounds, or occupations, and even put a celebrity standing by your side.
I was just getting ready to send the link to BeFunky to my school contacts, commenting on how much fun this might be for kids, when I hesitated just a minute. I had checked out the male clothing options (which seemed OK) but I hadn’t checked out the female options. Granted, it was a bit disconcerting to see my head attached to a female body, but I had to see. What I found was even more disconcerting.
As much fun as BeFunky can be, the Uvatar section is very sexist. For the female characters there are some nice appropriate clothing options, but there are many more that are revealing, and not appropriate for school-aged kids. There choice of occupations also tends to be stereotypical. Oh well.
Still, it’s fun, and the cartoon rendering works well. I’ll have to see if there are other photos in my collection that will work as cartoon renderings.