Learning about the tool
I love Animoto! It is a simple, yet powerful tool to create visual presentations with a punch. Animoto is a free sign up (you are limited to 30 second videos on the free account). You can also apply for an educator account, which allows you and your students to create and share unlimited videos. The educator account can take some time to process, so it’s best to apply for it well before you want to use Animoto in your classroom. As soon as you create your account, click on ‘Create video’ and you can start building your video. They have set up the process to be simple to follow. This allows you and your students to focus on the content, rather than on the creation tool. You begin by selecting your presentation style from the list available (not too many, so students won’t be overwhelmed). Then you upload images and video clips from your computer, Animoto’s collection, or another site. You then can arrange the images on the storyboard, add text in between images, and highlight, rotate and shuffle images. You cannot add text to images, just to a slide in between images. (If you wish to add text to an image, you must do so before you upload it to Animoto.) There is no choice of font style or colour, so once again, the focus is on the content. Text is limited to 22 characters for the title (in bold) and 30 characters for the subtext, so you need to be concise. Once you are comfortable with your storyboard, you then move on to select your music. (At any time, you can click on the back arrow and return to the previous step.) You can choose music from Animoto’s library or upload your own MP3 file. Animoto’s music library is organized by genre. Once you choose a genre, you are given a list of songs that you can preview before deciding which one to choose. The next step is to finalize your video. Here you can choose presentation speed and you have an opportunity to change your presentation style as well. You then give your presentation a title and description. When you have finalized your presentation, click on Create Video and Animoto does the rest. It takes a few minutes, but you are able to start another video, or you can wait for it to finish. Animoto also sends you an email to the address they have on file with a link to the video that can be shared. Once your video is done, you can share it via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or email. At any time, you can edit, remix or delete your video.
As I explored Animoto, I felt it was a tool best suited to a short, concise presentation. This is a sit-and-get presentation style, not like a Prezi or PowerPoint, where you can stop and lecture or talk about a slide. The videos you create are short, focusing on images and music, and to a lesser extent, text. I chose to create an Animoto book trailer for a book I am reviewing for Edmonton Public’s Best of the Best. We Want You to Know by Deborah Ellis is a powerful book of true stories of students who are systematically bullied at school. I searched for images of bullying on the web, and chose those that most represented the stories from the book. As I considered what I wanted to say (in 22 and 30 characters respectively per slide), I knew I wanted to have short, punchy text that made viewers question their assumptions. The music had to be hard-edged to get the feel of what I wanted viewers to feel. I was very pleased with the result. The process made me think of the higher order thinking I needed to do in order to create this project. I needed to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate. I needed to consider my audience and the best way to evoke the emotions I wanted them to feel. I needed to consider how I was going to persuade my audience to read this book.
Personal use of the tool
This would be a great way to showcase pictures from events such as grads, weddings, picnics or family get-togethers. It’s like being able to create your very own MuchMusic videos! (I’m dating myself here, aren’t I?) I love the way Animoto does all the hard work for me, and leaves me to focus simply on the content, yet I felt like I had enough control over the process to feel like the video I created was truly mine. It is best suited to shorter presentations without a great deal of text that appeal to the emotions.
Professional use of the tool
What a great way to make a short, powerful presentation…especially one to get people thinking about a question. Why not start a staff meeting with one focusing on differentiating student learning, or assessment, or other key issue for your staff? What about creating an Animoto as a hook to introduce a new unit? For our digital learners, fresh from watching music videos on YouTube, an Animoto would be an engaging way for them to get engaged in a topic. Animoto’s education page has some examples of Animotos that have been created by teachers and by students; a slideshow of a field trip, a presentation on bullying, the alphabet, and more. I am going to use Animoto with one of my 6th grade classrooms for Language Arts. Students are going to create their own Animoto book trailer, showcasing their favourite book. Having said that, I found a rubric on Kathy Schrock’s Guide for Educators site. As I looked at her rubric, I see that she combined Animoto with narration. Hey, I can use my newfound podcasting skills!! We can create a narration using Audacity or Audioboo, download it as an MP3, and upload it to Animoto. Andrew Marcinek, on his Classroom20 post Hello Animoto has a list of ways to use Animoto, including movie trailers for books (hey, that was my idea!), introducing new vocabulary words, creating history presentations, and developing life skills for special needs kids. I think Animoto would be a terrific way to engage students in persuasive writing. How about an Animoto trailer about why the school should have uniforms (or not), why kids should stay up late (or not). Why not have Animoto debates?