Popcorn Maker

Popcorn Maker is a free web tool that allows you to edit, remix, and create mashups of online videos, images, and audios.


Features and how it works

Popcorn Maker was created by Mozilla. The interface is fairly simple to use, after having watched a short tutorial on Youtube. There is also a lot of support provided on the Mozilla website. To create your video, the first step is to copy and paste the URLs of different multimedia content you want to add in your video, on the menu at the right hand side of your screen. Then, you simply need to drag the chosen multimedia content, and drop it in your project timeline. You can add layers over layers of content. For instance, on one layer, you insert a Youtube video, then you add some comments on a second layer, and you add background music on the third layer, and you add an online file or your recorded voiceover in a fourth layer. The layers each work separately. This means that you can choose to have some comments appear at a certain time in your video, and you can easily move the appearance as you wish, without having to change all the other layers at the same time.

All the content that can be added to the video projects have to be online. For instance, you can’t use one of your own pictures, unless you find a way to publish it online and then obtain a URL for this image. Same goes for voice recordings and homemade films: They all need to be put online before being able to add them in the Popcorn Maker project. For instance, private videos can be uploaded to Youtube and inserted afterwards, as long as you have the URL.

Many features are available for your video projects. You can drag and drop videos, audios, and images into your video. You can add popups in shape of speech bubbles or thought bubbles with your annotations into your videos. You can change the icons of these popups for thumbs ups, thumbs downs, hearts, earths, eyes, and many more, in order to code the type of annotation you are making.   Moreover, and unlike most of the other video editor softwares, you can insert Wikipedia articles in which you can scroll down at the same time you are watching the video. These articles will also update whenever the website updates. You can also add clickable links for the viewer to click and go elsewhere on the web, you can add real-time social media feeds, and google maps. Viewers can explore these maps in Streeview mode as they wish, during the viewing of the video.

Here is a short video that I have created with Popcorn Maker, to experience the kinds of features available.

Unlike most of the other video editor softwares, Mozilla Popcorn Maker allows you to save your project directly on the website, instead of saving it on your own computer. Therefore, you save a lot of time, because you do not need to upload your projects, and you also save great Disk space.

All of the sources used to create the videos are available to everyone, by clicking the “view source” button. For this reason, the videos created with this website remain copyrights free, and the concept of fair use is respected. According to Wikipedia, “Fair use is a doctrine that permits limited use of copyrighted material without acquiring permission from the rights holders.” This is an interesting concepts that could also be taught to the students by the teacher, before using Popcorn Maker. The teacher can take a few minutes to explain the importance of fair use, copyrights and plagiarism. The teacher can therefore explain how they are not plagiarising when they create their videos with this tool, but they always have to be careful with plagiarism and citing their sources when they do varied tasks and projects.

Videos created in Popcorn Maker can be shared online. As stated in this graphite blog article,

“Kids can publish their videos and make them available for others to remix as well.”

Indeed, students can remix each other’s work, building on each other’s ideas. In Popcorn Maker’s search gallery, you can also find projects created by people using the tool all around the world. Every videos are “remixable”. Indeed, by clicking on the “remix” button of a project, you can get starter ideas and remix these existing ideas and add your own details. As a matter of fact, every video you create with this tool does not remain private. Everything is published on the website, and is available for anyone who wishes to remix your work. Therefore, you need to be careful with personal details you put into your videos. Your personal pictures might end up being used by different strangers all around the world.

How to use it in ESL classrooms

Popcorn Maker is used by a lot of teachers in many different school subjects and in many different school degrees such as high school levels, college and university. Indeed here is a 33 minutes video about how two teachers of different levels and different subjects actually use the tool with their students. One of the teacher in Hawaii teaches at high school levels and she has her students create all sorts of videos such as a back to school video with pictures and videos about what they did during the summer. The other teacher teaches journalism and screen studies at the University of Michigan. She also uses Popcorn maker in a different way suited for university students. She has her students analyze details and nuances of a work of media (for instance “Vertigo” by Alfred Hitchcock) and describe the physical language from the clip by adding comment bubbles that pop up at the right instances.

There are so many ways and ideas on how to use Popcorn Maker in an ESL classroom context. This free tool is great for individual work, but it can also be used in teams. For instance, the teacher could ask students in teams of 2, 3 or 4 (maximum) to create a video. The students get to cooperate, share ideas, help each other with the technicalities of the website and collaborate to come up with a project which they are proud of. This is a great way to include the use of ICTs, as recommended in the MELS program. Also, the students will find the experience engaging and interactive.

Here are some ideas of types of activities to do with students:

  • The students could take a video of a music performance such as an American Idol clip and add their comments and critique of the performance. They could record their voices as if they were the actual judges of the show.
  • Students can be asked to demonstrate certain concepts they have learned, like the Water Cycle (as suggested in Graphite). Therefore, they need to find images or videos and they have to explain the concept either by adding their voice or by adding comment bubbles.
  • The students could be asked to create a news broadcast, in which they include a video of a news and they add a voice over with their own narration, they do a weather broadcast and they interview a movie star. They can easily cut and paste parts of an interview with the star of their choice. Therefore, they can record themselves asking questions, and they paste the actual star’s answers from the real interview. This can be a very fun activity for them, and it also allows them to practise their oral competency, as well as their writing skills, since they have to write scripts beforehand.
  • The students could be asked to put visuals over a song they like. The students choose a song they like and that has interesting lyrics to reflect on. By doing a personal reflection on the song’s lyrics, they have to create a video related to the content or the subject. They can find images or video parts that fit the story of the song. This is a great activity for ESL classes, because there are tons of English songs that carry meaningful messages. This type of activity is good for vocabulary skills and understanding, but also for critical thinking and serious reflections.
  • The students could also be asked to do a research on a certain subject (which is often the case in ESL classes, as it allows students to learn about varied new subjects of interest.) They could be asked to present a Popcorn Maker video of their research. For instance, if they do a research on China, they could provide a Google map link in which the viewers can explore in “Street view” mode. They could add pictures and describing comments, they could put a typical Chinese music in the background, and they could present various videos related to the topic. They could also add the Wikipedia window too.
  • Students can share their projects with each other and remix each other’s work. It allows them to build on each other’s’ ideas and do personal reflections on how they would change the video, what they will add, how they will comment, etc.
  • Finally, Popcorn Maker can be a wonderful and different way of introducing oneself. This can be an interesting way to present pictures of things representing you, to present videos of personal talents, to add comments on background infos, to add your favourite song in the back, etc. Really, this can be a very nice activity to break the ice at the beginning of the year, both for the teacher to introduce himself/herself, or for the students as well, to present themselves to the teacher and to other students which have never been in the same classroom before. This way of presenting oneself removes the stress, and it allows shy students to express themselves via their video creation about themselves. For instance, a student could show a video of himself/herself skillfully playing a musical instrument or performing a choreography or a sport. They can show valuable aspects of themselves and have other students discover unknown facts about themselves. This can help build their self-confidence. Moreover, being able to record a voiceover in English in stress-free circumstances will certainly help some students to develop higher self-esteem. By being able to show to others that they are capable of speaking in the target language they can present to the classmates an image of themselves as English speakers as they would like to be seen.

My personal opinion

Overall, I believe that Popcorn Maker is a great tool to use in a classroom context. It is fairly simple to use, and very nice projects can be created. I also like the fact that unlike most of the other video editing tools out there, Popcorn Maker allows you to insert hyperlinks that pop up into your video remix, on which viewers can click and visit in real time, while they are watching the presentation. I am sure the students will love it, in a few years, when I will be using it in my own classrooms. Notwithstanding, in my opinion, I think I would rather use this tool with higher levels of student, namely, high school students and higher. Although it would maybe be feasible with grade 6 students (elementary level), it would be too long and too complicated for some.

However, a downside of this tool was pointed out in a blog article for teachers. I find myself completely agreeing with this: Because the students have access to any videos, images or websites from the web to include in their Popcorn Maker project, the teacher must be very mindful of what kids choose to include in their videos. It is important to remind the students that the content has to be appropriate for school.

Another point which I think complicates how to create your videos, is that everything you put in your video has to be online (have a URL address). I understand that this is to respect copyrights principles, but it sometimes complicates the process. For instance, if I would like to use a picture collage that I created with a tool like “PhotoFiltre,” it would not be possible to include it in the montage, unless I published it online somewhere beforehand. This second downside is also mentioned by a teacher using Popcorn Maker in an Ed Social Media Blog article:

“Video must come from YouTube and audio must come from Soundcloud. Vimeo and other sources offer some wonderful content, and the added step of getting that content to YouTube is a deterrent to many students. Work-arounds certainly exist, but it creates a hassle that doesn’t really need to be there.”

Despite these two downsides, I will certainly use Popcorn Maker in my future career, and I might even use it for my next practicum, as a video profile to present myself to the students.


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