Over the past 15 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 work-space 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 objects or stickers on the page that are to be dragged around, select the Edit menu, choose Properties, and turn on Protect and turn off Scale. 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 for easy duplication
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 menu, choose Properties, and select 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 menu). 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.
Wixie uses web safe fonts. This means you don't have to worry that fonts will change depending on the device or platform of the end user. If you are designing for young users, you may want to choose a font that uses a D'Nealian style letter A.
You can add instructions to help students use a Wixie template. Instructions show below the tools in the Wixie authoring application. To add instructions, select the Instructions (clipboard) button on the tools.
As a teacher user, you can simply type to add your directions. Change the switch to on, to have the instructions show when students open this template. They can always use the Instructions button to read them. You can also use the Record button to capture verbal directions.
Take advantage of the background layer
One of the more subtle features in Wixie is the difference between the background, paint, and objects layer. Since the background layer in Wixie exists behind everything, students can quickly and easily add text, stickers, and even painted artwork above it without “damaging” the image.
To add a picture to the background layer, use the Page Picture button beneath the tools. To send the paint layer to the background after you have designed it, go to the Edit menu and choose Send to Background.
Using backgrounds that can't be damaged, takes the pressure off perfectionists who feel the need to get it exactly right the first time. It also sets the tone that students can experiment and make more than one attempt before achieving understanding.
Like the Templates in Language Arts > Writing > Story Starters, you can use backgrounds to to support emerging writers and spark ideas. Use the backgrounds for projects that ask students to capture their image or illustrate themselves as narrators or tour guides at famous locations around the world or in different periods in history.
Set a default sticker category
If there is a specific category of stickers that works best with a template, such as the Numbers category in Math, you can have this category open when the Image button is used. 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, go to the File menu and choose Project Settings.
Adjust additional project settings
At the Project Settings dialog you can also adjust what Wixie displays for students. This works especially well when you are designing formative assessments that are simply click and drag (Hide all tools) or require matching (Pencil only).
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”.
Adding keywords and grade levels to a project makes it easier for teachers and students to find the template, especially using the Search bar from their Wixie home page. To add these details, go to the File menu and choose Project Information.
Add keywords you think teachers and students might use to find the template. Student accounts automatically filter out templates that are not checked for their grade level, so be sure to check boxes for grade levels where this template can be used.
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 help you make better activities right from the start.
If you make some great activities that you want to share, simply post the URL to social media or share via email. Colleagues can then open the URL, log in to their Wixie account, and choose Make a Copy from the File menu to add to their accounts.