Digital storytelling, book trailers, and more on Animoto

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Tech Tuesday #3:  Animoto

Several years ago as a young (cough, cough), enthusiastic English teacher, I threw myself on the digital storytelling bandwagon.  With all the patienice we could muster, my students and I muddled our way through learning Microsoft PhotoStory and Movie Maker.  Although rather intuitive and simple, PhotoStory lacked the dynamic movie feel whereas MovieMaker’s constant bugs and importing and rendering headaches often left us short of a final project.

(Enter Animoto.)  In the summer of 2007, my husband, Phil, and I went to Europe.  When we returned, Phil surprised me one day with a really cool video of our pictures set to music with animation and design incorporated.  (See our European Vacation below:)

It didn’t dawn on me then that I could use this fun little tool as a vehicle for digital stories and multi-media presentations.  As a FREE web-based tool, Animoto allows you to import photos and video, add text, and music, to create a visually dynamic video.  Today, we see examples of Animoto videos all over the web.  Students, teachers, and librarians are utilizing this free and intuitive tool to create book trailers, present information, and produce engaging multi-media projects over a number of different topics.  Those of us trying out VESTED can create quick “Views” using animoto as we introduce new concepts and units.  Students could then use it to “Extend” their learning by creating a video of their own.

Additional pros include::

  • WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get)–all features, options, and tools are present on one screen–no hunting involved
  • Quick rendering speed–Since it is web-based, you don’t have to worry about student projects rendering on a computer from last period that you need right away.  Animoto will send the creator a message when the video is available.
  • Publishing options:  you can share through social media sites (Twitter, Facebook, etc.), email the link, copy and paste the link, or download the video as an mp4
  • Built-in music library–Animoto provides copyright-free music that you can search for by genre.
  • Free version for educators–with an educator account you can share up to 50 licenses with your students.  Free versions are still available but the educator account includes the “Pro” designs and features.
A few cons:
  • Thirty-second limit:  in the free version (not the educator license), you are only allowed 30 seconds for your video.  The educator license, however, does not have a time limit.
  • Limited animation:  The WYSIWYG aspect to Animoto is also a pitfall for those tech savvy creative types who want to make their own customized animation.  The designs come pre-set with animation and motion.
  • Upgrade for better video quality:  The educator license allows you to download the video as an mp4.  For better quality and HD, you have to upgrade to the Pro version. I find, however, that the video quality is just fine for my use.

Here’s how to get started: 

1.   Go to animoto.comCreate an educator account (hint–use your school email so that it can recognize you as a teacher)
“Apply” for an educator license by providing your organization’s information. 
2.  Create new video
3.  Choose a design
3.  Select your photos, videos, and music.
4.  Publish and share!
P.S.– If you want to be really crazy, try inserting your Animoto into a Prezi!
My Sample Animotos:

Additional tutorials, videos, and blogs about using Animoto in education:
Animoto for Education TeacherTube Tutorial
Blog about using Creative Commons and copyright-free images.
How do you use digital story tools in your classroom? 
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