Sometimes, things go wrong. (Like trying to dictate this blog post using Dragon Naturally Speaking 12, and discovering the new “enhanced” Bluetooth headset doesn’t work. But that’s a different story.)

No, today’s story is about, Aviary.

Aviary was a nice collection of free online image and multimedia editing tools. Not as powerful as Photoshop, of course, but if your classroom lab is a set of underpowered netbooks (or Google chromebooks) which you can’t install Photoshop onto, then Aviary’s Phoenix was great because you have layers, masks, etc and it integrated tightly with Google apps for education.

From a teacher’s perspective, this is powerful because students could create Aviary documents from within their school Google Docs account.

  • You didn’t have to worry about creating and managing third-party accounts.
  • You didn’t have to worry about minors under 12 creating user accounts.
  • Everything could be done from within Google Docs.
  • Plus, they had a lot of great tutorials, so Aviary could become a great way for you to integrate art and media literacy into your language program.

I was looking forward to using their effects editor to make cool images like this one.

I was also looking forward to using their swatch editor to talk about color. It was a very cool interactive tool to play with the color wheel and talk about choosing colors in graphic design.


Unfortunately, Aviary is shutting down their multimedia online suite in September 2012.

I get it. The company has made a difficult decision for head towards their successful photo editor app. The aviary (advance) suite runs on flash and fewer and fewer computers use that platform. Plus, there’s a lack of time, resource, and money to maintain the product.

Now what?

My students and I were playing in the chrome Web store at the end of last year, looking for some viable cloud-based Photoshop alternatives. Aviary was the one that really caught our eye.

  • Photoshop express editor lets you tweak some digital photos, but it’s not really for creating new art.
  • Pixlr is a very good possibility. Pixlr editor is also available in the chrome Web store. (You could push this app onto all of your student chromebooks and then students can quickly create Pixlr files from the create menu. Students could also install the app themselves by clicking on “get more apps”.)

But I’m still looking for an online vector drawing program that plays well with Google chromebooks.

What cloud-based graphic design programs do you use in the classroom?

This blog post was dictated using Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 premium, the Calisto Plantronics BT300 I wireless headset that shipped with Dragon 11 and Microsoft Word.

  • There were 421 words in the first draft of this post.
  • Dragon Naturally Speaking made 9 word errors which mean that it transcribed 97.9% of the words correctly.
  • The voice recognition software also made an additional 5 punctuation errors meaning the total accuracy rate was 96.7%.

Click here to find out more about the Dragon NaturallySpeaking Student / Teacher version.


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