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Blog Highlights: Animoto

“The final project feels a bit like a movie trailer. . . . Perhaps that doesn’t really matter. If the purpose of these projects is to facilitate learning among video makers, then it is a great tool. If the purpose of Animoto is to make videos that facilitate deep learning among viewers, then I’m a convincible skeptic.” [bergman]

“At first I was really hampered by the text limitations, it impeded my ability to annotate the posters. I felt like I was writing a volume of propaganda haiku. In the end, though, I embraced the idea and grew to like the speed at which the images zoomed by.” [fachner]

I was originally going to make a digital story in response to Wesch’s “An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube” but I have not mastered the art of telling a complex story in a simple way. I am glad I decided not to because after doing the Animoto story I realized it would not have worked well. First lesson, know your technology before deciding to use it to write your story. . . Another lesson that I learned from this exercise is the power of the written word when accompanied by a photograph. It is really hard to tell a compelling story with just photographs. It is possible but it takes a lot of time and planning. I think this fits in with our readings in that, even though education is moving towards the digital, writing skills are still extremely important. Perhaps some traditional forms of education are important to integrate in new teaching methods. [hubai]

“Since it [Animoto] is limiting in ways, it proves that authors have to bend their strategies to certain mediums. The videos that Animoto produces are very meditative. McLuhan didn’t just say the medium is the message, he also said the medium is the massage.” [odiorone]

“Animoto creates an opportunity to engage the student- at any level. It can help an educator “redesign” the “learning environment ” as Wesch states.” [goodwin]

“I think I could probably improve on the quality of my future movies now that I understand the limitations of the program. I would rely less on the need for text, and more on the need for strong, linear imagery. This exercise helped me to refocus my expectations for my final project, and think more about the visual components that will be necessary.” [cook]

“At first I was angry that you couldn’t enter very much text, but it challenged me to put very few words in and is probably best as there are limitations as to how much one person can read. This bothers me about many Powerpoints–they put way too much information on one slide than is necessary. So more than anything, Animoto’s limitations helped drive creativity.” [warburton]

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Digital Storytelling and Learning

If stories and storytelling has the kind of deep, emotional impact we all seem to think it does, it should be obvious that stories and learning have a critically intertwined relationship. Yet academia is built around the lecture, that venerable means of delivering scarce information from a knowledgeable source to open minds. With all of the scholarship and research around how humans learn, one would think universities would embrace new pedagogical methods that have the potential to make learning both more efficient  and more effective.

Digital storytelling is one of those pedagogical methods. It extends the learning beyond the classroom; connects students to the material in novel and distinct ways; promotes student thought; and provides immediate meaningfulness of the material. It combines words and images in ways our brains are hardwired to respond, utilizing multiple channels to get into neural pathways. Stories activate mental models, prompt activation of long-term memory, ease recall, and encourage modifications of mental models. Stories even improve transfer of the memories and modified mental models back to long-term memory.

Watch the short and compare the old way with the new way. Which one would you prefer to use to learn about economics?

Technical Notes:
I used Avidemux, open source video editing software, made it easy to pull clips from large videos. Instead of duplicating large videos throughout the Animoto title, I used specific and smaller cuts. Rendering still took close to 30 minutes. The most painful part of Animoto is not being able to preview the video!

I used the Flash Video Downloader plug-in for Firefox to capture .flv video from YouTube, which I then could upload to Animoto. Stock.xchng provided free stock photos to add to several that I had previously purchased from istockphoto. The Econ Stories.tv site provided the most excellent demonstration about how we all should learn economics. How we should not is courtesy of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and a young, skinny Ben Stein.

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Propaganda, the ‘art’ of politics

The subject that I wanted to create a story about was propaganda, using visual images for political means.  I thought this would be a great topic to explore in a short video because the pictures largely speak for themselves, which is the entire point of propaganda.   As an educational tool, this would be invaluable in teaching about propaganda, the pictures simply speak for themselves.  You can read extensively about propaganda pieces such as these, but it isn’t really possible to grasp their impact until you can experience the visual image yourself.  It is true that pictures are worth a thousand words, and in this case you almost don’t need any words.  I deliberately selected several images and didn’t provide a translation because the power of the image makes the translation almost irrelevant.

Animoto proved relatively easy to use, I didn’t experience any major technical difficulties with it.  At first I was really hampered by the text limitations, it impeded my ability to annotate the posters.  I felt like I was writing a volume of propaganda haiku.  In the end, though, I embraced the idea and grew to like the speed at which the images zoomed by.  If you were seeing one of these images on the street or in a magazine ad, you probably wouldn’t have a lot of time to stare and process the image.  These posters are meant to convey their message as quickly as possible to the viewer, and so the quick format actually enhanced the educational value of the video, I felt.  It also taught me that there is value in moderating my commentary and when working in a digital medium sometimes its best to let the images do the ‘talking.’

Video can be found here
One small warning, I used some anti-American, Soviet and Nazi posters in this, which might be something to keep in mind if you want to view in a public place.

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Realizing Dreams

I was originally going to make a digital story in response to Wesch’s “An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube” but I have not mastered the art of telling a complex story in a simple way. I am glad I decided not to because after doing the Animoto story I realized it would not have worked well. First lesson, know your technology before deciding to use it to write your story. I also wanted to try to weave my personal story with a bit of information about speedskating, as I will try to weave my personal story into the final project. I agree with others posting that they found Animoto limiting but I think it was a great lesson in composition, storytelling and technology. It gives an appreciation for storyboarding.

Our readings this week discussed much about the personal on the internet. It can create a place for positive efforts. But it worries me that more people spend time with s computer and video camera and not with actual people. Communication is difficult as it is and I wonder how all this internet stuff will affect people’s ability to communicate.

Another lesson that I learned from this exercise is the power of the written word when accompanied by a photograph. It is really hard to tell a compelling story with just photographs. It is possible but it takes a lot of time and planning. I think this fits in with our readings in that, even though education is moving towards the digital, writing skills are still extremely important. Perhaps some traditional forms of education are important to integrate in new teaching methods.

The most interesting thing to me about this project (not necessarily the most important thing) was how I made sure to include all my speedskating FB friends so I could share my video with them. Facebook had an effect on my art! I would have liked to teach more about speedskating but given the limitations of Animoto and my personal story background, it just did not fit in. I wanted to show people that dreams matter, it is not too late to achieve them and even if you do not get exactly your dream (being in the Olympics) you can have your dream in a different way (skating and coaching at the local level).

One other thing, I experiemented with repeating an image in my story. I had commented on the use of repeated images in the digital story I posted about Palestine. I think it can work but I wasn’t sure about it. In this weeks readings, cognition vs. recongnition was discussed. Since most people have no clue who my speedskating idol is, I thought repeating his picture at the end would remind people why he was important and complete the story nicely.

http://animoto.com/play/LbPWyD3dGpJvP9j56X10JQ

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Teaching and Learning

Animoto is a very easy way to produce a pretty slick video.  I was surprised at many of the results.  Since it is limiting in ways, it proves that authors have to bend their strategies to certain mediums.  The videos that Animoto produces are very meditative.  McLuhan didn’t just say the medium is the message, he also said the medium is the massage.  This was my attempt at massaging in a few simple points.

It’s not a breakthrough or anything and might seem a little disjointed.  That’s my attempt at trying to get at the magic of animoto.  I am hesitant to say what the video is about, because I hoped being vague would make it seem more deep.  I wanted to show that, despite early attempts to ‘train minds’, the old media encouraged passivity.  Movies are a teacher that needs to be replaced, by a medium that can respond better to its audience.  The ‘found’ narrator is James Burke, and I think this video is from the late 80s or early 90s.  Now, his argument seems pretty obvious, but I am not sure if his prediction has quite come true.  Oh, and teachers shouldn’t have their students close their laptops or shut off their phones.  Also, a classroom can and should be democratic.  I tried to edit this one to make it a little better, but it just ended up worse.  I really didn’t mean to infer that Jack Black was the future of teaching and the ending is both more repetitive and abrupt that I would like, but here it is.

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Animoto and Learning in New Media environments

Michael Wesch states ” To understand the true potentials of this “information revolution” on higher education, we need to look beyond the framework  of “information”.1

Using a tool such as this makes teaching and learning more fun, exciting and engaging.  There is a huge opportunity to develop lessons that engage Visual learning, Auditory learning, and Kinesthetic learning.  Engaging the three learning styles creates an opportunity to be more effective, and most importantly more fun! When I was in elementary school learning about Thanksgiving usually included coloring worksheets and creating an Indian headband with construction paper.  The advancement of technology and digital storytelling allows for creativity and learning to move beyond the usual status quo of Thanksgiving worksheets and crayons.  I chose to develop a video about Thanksgiving.  I wanted to juxtapose how we currently experience Thanksgiving with the past understanding of this holiday.  This is a “broad strokes” approach and I could have kept going on and on. For example, I could have just focused on the more complex issues such as the native American viewpoint of this event in history.  Animoto creates an opportunity to engage the student- at any level.  It can help an educator “redesign” the “learning environment ” as Wesch states.

Enjoy!

Thanksgiving

Wesch, Michael. “From Knowledgable to Knowledge-able: Learning in New Media Environments.” Academic Commons (January 7, 2009).

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Learning About Slavery at Mount Vernon

As one of the historic interpreters at Mount Vernon, I constantly come into contact with students (usually middle schoolers) who find the history they are learning in their classrooms incredibly boring.  These same students can’t seem to get enough of some of the features of the estate, particularly the first person interpreters who often staff the reconstructed slave cabin.  Here, students can see and hear first-hand what life would have been like for one of George Washington’s slaves.  Students find these interactions much more rewarding than lessons from dry textbooks.  Now, the rise of digital media  and digital storytelling is making these first person interpretations available to an increasing number of Fairfax County students.

This first time, amateur attempt at Animoto was chance to highlight these learning styles and chart the change from textbooks to digital media in the classroom.  I definitely found the text limits frustrating, but the program’s user-friendly approach clearly shows that it does have potential for educational use.

Here it is

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Cultivate Curiosity

I really enjoyed this process.  I’ve spent a few days experimenting with the different options and  found it to be a useful tool for exploring the early stages of digital storytelling.  At this point, I am eager to find out how to change the pacing/images, etc to create an even more personalized story. 

I did a piece on the cultivation of curiosity.  I feel this to be the strongest component of teaching and learning.  If we are taught to experience life through a lens of curiosity and carry this into the classroom, we could create an atmosphere of continuous exploration and learning.

Cultivate Curiosity

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The Colosseum

Using Animoto is a great lesson in simplifying one’s filmmaking aspirations. I started by making a ‘test’ movie just so I understood how Animoto worked and what the end product would look like. Using the photos from my Story In 5 Photos, I created a surprisingly comical movie of my dogs eating. It was mostly comical because I wasn’t expecting the ‘polishing’ results of Animoto. With this first movie under my belt, I was excited to create my two minute short.

I thought it would be fun to do an educational movie on a piece of art or architecture. While making my test movie, I noticed a short video clip of the Colosseum, and wanted to try experimenting with the addition of video within my images. After gathering all my images and educational facts on the Colosseum, I sat down to begin creating my two minute movie. Immediately I was hit with the limitations of Animoto, particularly the text limitation. I had to modify my original ideas of the text I wanted to include to meet the restricted character limits. I also quickly realized the length of the movie and the speed of the images are dependent on the music choice. As for transitions, it seems to be randomly generated, and not a creative choice the movie maker can impart.

Overall, Animoto is a fun program for making basic movies. I think I could probably improve on the quality of my future movies now that I understand the limitations of the program. I would rely less on the need for text, and more on the need for strong, linear imagery. This exercise helped me to refocus my expectations for my final project, and think more about the visual components that will be necessary.

Please enjoy my movie on the Colosseum by clicking here.

<script type=”text/javascript” src=”http://wanimoto.clearspring.com/o/46928cc51133af17/4b7b4cb5f7dec863/46928cc51133af17/9422b377/-cpid/a0b83bfda9e07cb3/-EMH/240/-EMW/432/widget.js”></script>
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Women’s Work at Hopewell Furnace

During the summer of 2008, I interned with the National Park Service at Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site.  Hopewell Furnace is the site of an 18th/19th century iron plantation, which means that they produced the pig iron that would later be sent off to forges.  I lived on site with another intern, and really got to experience the beauty of a quiet historic site.  Although we were curatorial and research interns, on weekends the staff let us interpret some of the things that women might have done…which meant full out costumes and intense hard labor (starting a fire is hard work!).  I used photos from my summer at Hopewell Furnace to show some of the things that women did in a seemingly male dominated place.

Click here to watch, and enjoy!

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