BitStrips Review

Recently, the Curriculum and Instruction Coordinator for my District mentioned a new website to me via Twitter.  First, I want to say how thrilled I am to see so many of our District level people entering the discussions about education there.  Shout out to @mrslauer @kbashor @val6dan (and anyone else I’m missing up there!).  The website she shared was BitStrips.  (Now, I’ve gotta say that the name of that website could have been chosen better!  Reminds me of a “Gentleman’s Club”… so much so that I checked websites close in name to make sure kids wouldn’t get an eyeful if they mis-spelled the URL at home without an internet filter.)

BitStrips for Schools is a comic strip creation tool that enhances creative thinking and gives students an alternate way to express their thoughts beyond traditional paper.  There are minimal directions, but in the classroom I created, my 1st, 2nd, and 4th grade children quickly found their way around.  Students create their own comic person, which is available for others in the same classroom to use in their strips.  It’s amazing how detailed you can get with the avatars- the choices are close to limitless.  There is a large stock set of people, props and backgrounds.  Students can share comics with each other, and the class.  Teachers have the opportunity to moderate comics and send a note to the student before approving them. 

Although my own children had a wonderful time learning to use this site and building comic strips, I see one major drawback for the elementary age crowd.  These take a LONG time to create.  It took about 2-3 hours for my very tech savvy kids to build their avatar, and crank out a comic or two.  There are so many options- which is great- that younger students will struggle to create meaningful content first, and spice it more later.  I have elementary students of all learning levels combined in my classes, and I can guarantee frustration for some children. I also see that this could be a wonderful enrichment activity for those who complete assignments early.  Given the amount of computerized testing taking place in the computer lab currently, I don’t see much time to devote to this- as cool as it is!  My students have been playing with a similar website, ZimmerTwins, that takes a fraction of the time and creates a ‘movie’ of the comic strip.  There are fewer choices on the whole, less teacher moderation options, and less educational value…. but ZimmerTwins takes about 1/8 of the time to create a single comic.  I’m sure there is a learning curve, and that students will get quicker, but I wouldn’t volunteer 4-6 weeks of computer time for this at present.  The idea is wonderful- really wonderful, I’m a huge fan!, the product is exceptional, but unfortunately implementation time negates both of those for me.

Are you using Bitstrips for Schools with your students?  How are you handling the time issue?

5 thoughts on “BitStrips Review”

  1. wow! thanks so much for taking the time to look into the product, I really, really appreciate it! With time being a critical issue, I can see that it would be a major drawback. I like how this tool has the collaborative feature. I think that really adds another element for learning. If you think you’d like to work with this more next year – let me know. I’d be willing to buy your school a license so we could collect more data. If not – no problemo!

    Speaking of testing…did your school get a set of clickers? We are looking for schools next fall to start implementing clickers for the Acuity testing if they like. It was piloted at Erwin, this would make it easier to do in the gen classroom, not the computer classroom.

    thanks again!

    1. Diane-
      I’m getting my initial planning survey back from teachers this week on distribution of computer lab time, and I’ll have a better idea of which grade levels we might be able to try it with…. I’m planning to get our school-wide blogging up and running next year…. never enough time, is there? I do think these would make for some fun blog posts, though. Thanks for the offer! I’ll let you know soon.

      I can’t imagine Acuity w/ the clickers….. seriously? Everyone would have to stay together for each question, right? That seems like it would breed a lot of boredom and result in some skewed results due to complacency. (I can also imagine the discussion among teachers about them proctoring in the classroom…. I highly doubt there will be positive reception from schools who don’t require teachers to be in with their classes during Acuity/plan time. Not that I agree- I think it’s best for kids if their teachers do the proctoring.)

  2. Thanks for reviewing this! I was planning to sign up for the trial and use these last few days to test it out with my 4th graders, but after reading this, I don’t think I’ll need to do that.

    I was concerned about the amount of customization that the program provides, and I know some of my students will sit and look at every single combination before settling on something.

    Also, @Diane, I’d be interested in learning how to administer the Acuity test with our ActivExpressions. We just got them about a week ago, so I’m still figuring out how they work.

  3. Right now, eInstruction clockers work with acuity, next fall the promethean clickers should work. acuity is writing the software.

    Students don’t have to be on the same question at the same time. They use the student managed function ofnthe clickers. Like, each student has a printed copy of the test. Each has a clicker. He see the prompt, Q1 and he makes his selection, “A”. Each student moving at his own pace. They can even go back and change an answer. Pretty cool!

    1. Ooooh- that is amazing! Wow. Lots of potential there for things beyond Acuity as well- no more multiple guess testing, period. I’ve enjoyed using the Promethean ‘egg’ clickers a few times this year. 😀

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