Over the past 10 years of Pixie and Wixie, we have built a lot of templates and activities for students. Here are some things that we have learned over the years that you will hopefully find helpful in your own templates and activities.
Landscape vs. portrait orientation. It is almost always better to create templates and activities using the default landscape orientation. This layout works best on a variety of devices. Portrait layouts become hard to work with in the workspace of a tablet, so try to use this orientation only when designing templates that will need to be portrait when they are printed.
Protect and turn off scaling for objects to be dragged. If you are creating a sorting activity with text object or stickers on the page that are to be dragged around, click the Edit button on the toolbar and turn on Protect and turn off Scaling. This will make the objects easier to drag around without inadvertently deleting or scaling them. This is especially useful if students are doing the activity on a touch device.
Clone objects you need more than one of. If you are making a counting activity, or an activity where students are working with money, instead of adding multiple copies of a sticker to the page, add one copy and go to the Edit button and choose Clone. This way each time students click and drag the sticker it will create a new copy giving them an endless supply.
Lock labels and headers. If you have labels and headers, turn off scaling and lock these items (again, under the Edit button on the toolbar). This way they won’t get inadvertently edited, but if another teacher wants to customize your activity, they can easily unlock the labels and edit them.
Use Arial or Comic Sans fonts. Arial and Comic Sans are boring, but they are also on almost every device. And if they aren’t we are good at trying to match them to other fonts. Other fonts are less likely to give you the desired results and page layout, especially if your activities are being used across mixed devices. I know some people do not like comic sans, but it is ubiquitous.
Instructions vs descriptions. If you are providing instructions to students, go to the Edit button on the toolbar and choose Edit Instructions. What you enter in this dialog will display at the bottom of the Options panel telling students what to do. If you want to provide detailed instructions to teachers on how to use or possibly customize your activity, go to the Wixie button on the toolbar and choose Project Information. What you enter in the Description field will display to teachers in when they are looking for activities in the Teacher Tools.
Set a default sticker category. If there is a specific category of stickers that works best with an activity, such as the Numbers category in Math, you can have this category open when the activity is opened. This makes it easier for students to get started without having to navigate the library.
To set the default library that appears when an activity opens, edit the activity, go to the Wixie button, choose Project Information and select the Options tab.
Use device neutral terms in the instructions. Try to use terms that are understood on both tablets using a touch interface and PCs using a mouse interface. For example, instead of saying “Click and drag”, use “Drag” as it is a more device neutral term that is easily understood on both a PC and a tablet. Instead of saying “Click” when describing an action, such as “Click the Paint tool”, use “Choose” or “Select”.
Even more to think about!
A few other ideas include not placing text objects in columns since they grow across the page and might make it harder to use for students. Also, if your page looks cramped with a lot of stuff, can you break it up onto multiple pages?
Not all of the Tech4Learning activities follow these guidelines. We add activities over time so some of the older ones still serve as examples of how we learned these lessons. Hopefully these tips will hep you make better activities right from the start.
If you make some great activities that you want to share, you can export them and post them on the Trading Post.