Animation is nothing new. Our screens have been filled with animated images for decades, often with the same awe and wonder reserved for new experiences. But how often have our learners taken the opportunity to really explore the how-to behind the scenes. Never before has there been such a wealth of tools available to learners today. Everyday objects take on a new purpose: the lego man that has sat on the window sill, the toys in the junior class’ wet break box, the containers of plastic animals and matchbox cars. The conversations erupted as learners started thinking of toys from home that would be perfect to help bring the story, evolving in their mind, to life.
The journey taken by some students in Northland was simply ‘have a play’ with animation with the understanding that we couldn’t possibly expect our students to sit back and plan carefully when the shiny tool is at their fingertips? The instant ability to experiment and redo, re-record and edit in the digital domain has made learning instantly engaging. From a student perspective, learning has become doing, using technology and characters to tell simple stories. From a teaching perspective, it allowed the teacher to tackle substantive issues and challenges through an engaging and exciting vehicle. Simple things like building understanding of the importance of sharing sports equipment could be addressed on both a teaching and learning level. Students had to instantly think about their message alongside their authentic audience.
Once upon a time…
A storyboard was created. Three simple elements — a beginning, a middle and an end — differentiated within classrooms, with some teachers taking the opportunity to scaffold the learning around a literacy concept, whereas others saw it as an opportunity to foster independence and allow individualised creativity. Some students chose to use their digital device as their storyboarding platform, whereas others simply used pencil and paper.
Setting the scene…
Like any good movie, location remains important. The students were encouraged to collaboratively develop their backdrop, define their roles, and take ownership of the physical aspects of the task. Working in small groups meant the students had to have a shared understanding of each person’s role as well as a simple agreement for behaviour and process.
The process wasn’t seamless. It evolved. Students were encouraged to make improvements and unpack their work, often choosing to take their animation to their peers, using critical thinking skills and clear feedback and feedforward. Perfectionists emerged, and the room was filled with the sound of shutter clicks as the students completed take upon take to get the perfect shot. Students utilised the Chrome app, Stop Motion Animator, which automatically collates their shots and gives them the ability to either speed up or slow down how their shots play. The learning conversations continued as students discovered how many shots were needed to create just 1 second of animation, 10 seconds of animation, and then from there, how many shots would be needed to create 1 minute. These calculations gave our learners a true sense of what goes into the production of the animated films that they enjoyed watching. This naturally led to continued dialogue around the ‘jobs’ that were available in this industry, from the creative dreamer, to the cameraman, to the sound guy.
Post Production and Editing…
Once students felt their ‘shooting’ was complete, the next steps were explored: how do we add sound effects, background music and/or our own voices? WeVideo remains the leading video editing tool for Chromebooks. From saving the finished animated clip to their Google Drive, students could seamlessly upload this into WeVideo and take advantage of the inbuilt sound effects, music, and text overlay features. Again, the ease of trialing different effects and sounds with the simplicity of clicking ‘undo’ meant the students could explore a range of concepts. Seemingly simple decisions around background music stretched the students’ collaborative skills as they began to understand the importance of using ambience to bring their images to life. The level of dedication meant that small choices around sound effects took longer than the creation of the scene!
The playtime was over. It was time to develop the concept further, and really embed the new skills into the ongoing learning. After some collaborative talk, the students took their initial concept and wrapped it around a literacy focus. Further storyboarding, discussion, and planning meant that what started as students exploring new technology led to newly developed skills being applied to learning, in a matter of days. Another class utilised their animation skills to put together ‘how to’ videos explaining math concepts. It seemed the choices were endless, the opportunity to present their work and share their learning in a creative way was a real winner on the day. Imagine my excitement (as Facilitator) and that of the teachers when the students took this learning home and worked alongside their whanau to create animations, building a community of creative users of digital devices!".
The power of playdough… it cannot be left unsaid that good old-fashioned playdough was an integral ingredient in this process. The ‘hands on’ experience of moulding and creating characters and props could definitely be described as therapeutic, and was enjoyed by all learners. The memories shared of early-childhood experiences with playdough and clay let us, as teachers, know that playdough has been seriously missed!
As we said at the beginning, animation is nothing new, however, the engagement and collaboration we saw between our learners proved to us that we needed to let our students continually learn in creative ways. Animation provides the perfect vehicle for practicing dispositions of being confident, connected, actively involved, lifelong learners.
- Involve learners in the whole process from imagining and planning to exploring animation to making playdough.
- Stand back and let it happen — let the mistakes happen (eg hands in the photos), see it all as a learning process.
- Embrace the noise and messiness — creativity at it’s best!
- Let the learning come from the creating — this whole experience has definitely opened our eyes to the power of creating to learn.
- Listen to the learning conversations, and take time to observe as learners work.
- Look for further opportunities to utilise the power of animation across the curriculum.
Chrome apps needed
(Anyone using chrome as a web browser can utilise these chrome apps, you do not need to use a chromebook):
- Google Slides – An introduction to Animation — utilised by students
- Google Doc – An example of students brainstorm
- Google Docs – A ‘How to’ for the whole process of stop motion animation created by students @ Paihia School
Examples using chromebooks and iPads from various Northland Schools
- Slam Dunk – Jordan @ Tautoro School — followed by his reflections and building on his initial concept into an advert here.
- The ITM Fishing Show – Saskia, Will and Tom @ Maunu School
- Alien Kid Shake Out – Will, Zoe and Mia @ Paihia School
Self directed learners — taking the learning home and creating with whanau
- Anihera’s Home Animation – Anihera @ Paihia School
- Lego Friends Episode 1 – Wynter-Rose @ Paihia School
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