Please share a tool that you currently use and find useful. Explain why you might use the tool. Outline the tool’s capacity and explain how you use the tool. Please also share (based upon your experiences NOT the product’s website) the strengths and weaknesses of the tool. Be sure to also address the following questions in your post:
As I posted in Blog #1 of Session 3, I currently use and find useful the web based tool Animoto. I use the tool to teach basic computer skills, digital literacy, as well as showcase my second grade student's stories in a non traditional format.
The strengths of the program are that second grade students are able to access it and create digital stories with it. Animoto allows for student choice because students get to select their own background music, their own background style, and they get to personally choose photos (from the internet) to enhance their story. In addition, their work is easily transferable to media outlets such as Youtube and Facebook. At this point, some of their work has been uploaded to Facebook (my school's Facebook page), but I have plans to have them upload their work to Youtube (as soon as I figure out how to do it). Another strength is that the end result is a slideshow video that is entertaining to the audience. The students enjoy watching their videos, sharing it with others, and they are proud of creating something digitally.
A weakness of Animoto is that it is difficult to do voiceovers. I would love to have the ability to easily upload or create a voiceover. I have figured out how to do a voiceover but not without disrupting the flow of the video and I had to use another application to accomplish the task. Another weakness is that the music and background are limited and there are no musical artists that are well known. Lastly, it doesn't have a device to record a video like Photo Booth.
How I use Animoto is by having it be an extension to what I am already teaching. In second grade, one of the main standards is to write a paragraph with a beginning sentence, detail, and a conclusion. I start by having students write a paragraph using pencil and paper that is based off of a reading we do as a Close Read. Students go through a rigorous editing and revising process with me individually and in whole group settings before writing and completing their final draft with pencil and paper. Once they have written their final draft, I give them the option to convert their written work into a digital story using Animoto (every student eagerly opts to convert it to a digital story). Below are the six steps for how a student completes an Animoto project:
1.) Students read a text (informational or narrative) and identify main ideas and key details via Close Read
2.) Students organize main ideas and key details using two column notes (teacher gives feedback before student moves onto step 3)
3.) Students transfer those notes to a paper that graphically organizes their beginning sentence, three main ideas, and concluding sentence (teacher gives feedback before student moves onto step 4)
4.) Students transfer their writing from step 3 onto a lined paper meant to complete the final draft. (teacher gives feedback before student moves onto step 5)
5.) Students transfer final draft from step 4 into Animoto's storyboard to complete a digital story. (teacher gives feedback before student publishes Animoto digital story)
6.) Students publish Animoto digital story, format it and upload it to School's Facebook page
I am not an Animoto expert, however compared to other programs I have tried this one took me very little time to understand how to use it and create videos. In about 5-6 hours I became proficient enough to create something and understand the basic operations of the program. It took me another 3-4 hours until I felt confident I could teach the program to my students.
One thing that didn't work well was how I first approached creating digital stories. I had students create a digital story (personal narrative) using photos from they brought to school from their house. Examples of photos were photos from a student's birthday party or vacation. I told students that they could bring real photographs, or digital photos saved on an external drive such as c.d. or usb. This turned into being a nightmare because many students didn't bring photos. Those that did bring photos, brought c.d.'s, some brought usb's, and some brought real photos. It was hard to keep track of all the external drives, upload their pictures and then transfer it to a source they could access to use for their Animoto videos. The real photos were even harder to digitalize. I realized what worked best is getting photos from the internet.
One thing that has worked extremely well is having students retrieve photos from the internet. Using photos from the internet is great for practicing the skill of searching online information, downloading it, and using it for a project. The internet is a click away from a million images that will connect to a student's story.
I strongly believe that Animoto is the right tool for the job that I am teaching. All my students are jazzed to write stories with pencil and paper because they know once they've finished they can convert it into a digital story. As soon as they hear from me "You're ready for Animoto!" their faces light up and almost all of them jubilantly shout out "Yes!". Animoto is a great extension for advanced level students because it is challenging for them. Also, it is stimulating enough that other students who are less advanced become inspired to write well so they can create digital videos too.
Another way I know that Animoto is working is because I can see that Animoto has improved the student's computer skills and digital video making abilities. I started teaching Animoto to my class three months ago. Some of my home room students are also in my Advanced SLD (Spanish Language Development) class that I teach for a half hour four days a week. I started teaching Animoto to my SLD class a month ago. My home room students who are also in my SLD class produce written work and digital stories quicker than the other SLD students that come from other second grade classes at my school. My home room students' stories are also written with greater accuracy and detail. It's not that my students are smarter. My home room students are more efficient and accurate at producing work because they've had more exposure to Animoto's digital process and the whole writing practice that leads up to creating a digital story.
I'm still becoming proficient on how to best utilize Animoto. I am not an expert, however, at this point I'm less interested in becoming an Animoto master and more interested in learning other digital programs such as MovieMaker and WeMovie. I'm interested in filming and doing voiceovers. At my school, we have a full time technical expert who uses MovieMaker and WeMovie to create school videos and who is willing to teach me the programs. I plan to learn filming skills from him for personal use and to teach my students.