digital story

Tech Tuesday: Apps for Animation

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Tech Tuesday:  GoAnimate and Sock Puppets

A few weeks ago, Jennifer Morgan, French teacher extraordinarie, came to me with an idea.  “How,” she asked, “could I take advantage of one of these animation apps that I’ve found to engage my students in tasks that require them to use their conversation skills?”
Jennifer already had the free app, Sock Puppets in mind, as one tool, but she also wanted an option for students who did not have smart phones or tablets that they could bring to class.  We determined that the best way to bridge the technology gap would be to find a web-based animation application, similar to Sock Puppets that allows students to create characters, establish a setting, and record their voices for the dialogue. provided several free templates to create animated scenes.
I’ve asked Madame Morgan to be my guest on the blog this week, and she graciously accepted. 
Here is our conversation as we reflected on her use of apps to support students in reaching their learning objectives:
What were your instructional goals for this project?
 My students needed to take a spoken test to show they could carry on a basic conversation in French.  By creating a video, they actually were able to show more of their knowledge, because they performed both sides of the conversation.  These videos were able to show me their ability with the language and the pronunciation of French.

Why did you choose GoAnimate and Sock Puppets?

Sock Puppets is the Apple app – both programs allowed students to record their voices onto pre-made characters to create short videos.  Both programs had different parameters, and I really liked both of them.  Sock Puppets will actually change the student’s voice (they can set it to go higher or lower) and that was really fun for them.  Also, Sock Puppets allows 30 seconds of recording time in the free version.  GoAnimate, on the other hand, didn’t have a time limit, but instead limits students to only 10 lines of dialogue.  In order to include all the required parts of conversation, my students definitely had to get a little creative!  GoAnimate does not alter voices, but it has a wide variety of settings for the videos, and you can change the emotions of the characters.
Can you tell us a little about how you prepared your students to use the apps?
 I had created a few samples on each program that I showed my students before they got started.  Then during class I also projected the program and showed them how to get started, up to how to record their voices.  After that, I pretty much let them work on their own – and most of them didn’t need any additional support.  Those that did I was easily able to help.

What obstacles, limitations, or surprises did you encounter?

I had booked the COWs [computers on wheels] for two days, “just in case” and boy did we need BOTH days!!  Neither of the programs we used allow you to save your work and edit/add to it later, so most of my kids spent the first day choosing their characters and settings, and testing out the program they were using.  Then on the second day they were able to come into class, get their device and start recording their final project right away.
Overall, how do you feel the use of these tools impacted student engagement and learning?  Will you use them again
 I think doing the conversations digitally was really fun for the students, and therefore they were definitely engaged in the process.  The videos also made the process much less stressful for my shy kids, as they tend to get intimidated by spoken tests where they have to approach me one-on-one.  Those type of tests still have their place, but this was a great alternative.  As a teacher, I personally really enjoyed many of the videos my students produced – they were really funny, so it was also more enjoyable for me to grade than having them come up to my desk one-on-one.  Although it took two class periods to complete, it would have taken that long for me to do spoken tests, and it was much easier to grade since I could re-play the videos at will.

What are the benefits to using applications and web 2.0 tools for animation?

  • engages students in the learning process as they synthesize content into a digital story
  • supports collaboration between students through the writing process:  brainstorming, story-boarding, drafting, revising, publishing
  • a task with an identified audience of their peers, other students, YouTube, etc. provides relevance along with rigor

We’d love to hear your thoughts regarding possible extensions and adaptations of this project in your content area!  Feel free to leave any questions or thoughts for Mme. Morgan as well.

VoiceThread: Online Collaborative Presentation Tool

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Tech Tuesday #4:  VoiceThread

We’ve all been there.  Sitting in a meeting, our eyes start to cross, ears start tuning out as another PowerPoint presentation clicks, clicks, clicks through various slides.  Not that PowerPoint isn’t a terrific tool to present information, but with all of the options for today’s students to synthesize and publish information in unique ways, perhaps we should begin to consider it as an option rather than the default.

Today we’re exploring a free, web-based tool that allows students to create video presentations by mixing images, videos, documents, presentations, and comments (voice and text).  VoiceThread ( allows the user to create a project and share it with collaborators.  They can then create a project together but remotely, solving the problem of when and how they will find the time and resources to create a presentation in a single file. 

To demonstrate the various tools and uses for Voice Thread, Here’s a VoiceThread on VoiceThread! 

What possibilities do you see for VoiceThread with your students?  Leave us your comments 🙂

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?