As I was perusing some educational technology sites, I chanced upon a blog called Ed Tech Swami that had a tutorial that I thought may be of use to me. One post I read on his site struck chord and I wanted to discuss it. It was a post about Animoto, a nifty multimedia resource that can be fun to integrate into a classroom to add variety. Patrick and I discussed the merits of Animoto and agreed that it was a novelty more than anything else. It was yet another way of creating a slideshow, albeit making the process simple and the output unique from most standard slideshows.
However, the author talks about Animoto with respect to Digital Storytelling…that is all well and good. But the 2 examples he presented were in my opinion very bland. Aside from the Animoto powered animations, the presentations were nothing more than a series of photos culled off the internet and put to music. The one I have linked to below actually had some awful pictures that simply kept repeating. Literally, a project like the ones presented can be completed in 15 minutes. Granted the focus here was on Plot and Theme as the guy seems to be an English teacher, but it seems too gimmicky.
In the words of one of the users who commented on the post:
Animoto can be very motivational as the end product always looks pretty slick. There’s nothing new here pedagogically though. All these things can be done using old-school tech:magazine images, pictograms, acetates, scissors… Another downside to Animoto is how much it automates the process. I’ve been using Movie Maker, Première and iMovie for digital storytelling lately as there is so much more decision making involved in the preparation. As a language teacher, I believe the language that emerges through the production process is more likely to be internalized as it is highly contextual. Animoto is a seductive, easy-to-use tool but (like word clouds) will soon start to look gimmicky if overused.
If you have a class of 30 students, the monotony of a piece of music playing in the background as somewhat random images float across the screen will quickly become painful! Furthermore, introducing new technology will take the focus off the content and learning goals and make the technology the main goal. The same would go for an elementary teacher who had used Photoshop when teaching the US Constitution. Photoshop is a terribly complex software used by professional graphic designers. The observer said the social studies content was simply an excuse to use Photoshop.
This brings me to a point I will elaborate on in a future post. Some resources are great to introduce as simply another medium for students to use, but the novelty will quickly wear off if you have dozens of students. The students too will quickly figure out the “formula” and you will be stuck with dozens of run of the mill presentations. Why keep introducing new ways of creating slideshows as opposed to focussing on one of the most widely used ones like PowerPoint and teaching them the skills to make visually pleasing presentations? *
Teachers should not be encouraged to use technology (tech tools) simply to say they are integrating technology. Some teachers will do it just to be able to say they are in with the times, while others will not be receptive to these ideas unless you can show them how this new tech resource can ENHANCE their learning goals.
(*) You run the risk of having dozens of similar projects unless of course you do a quick unit on how to present with Animoto stylistically and practically. If you teach them how to look for quality images, use Photo editing tools to crop, adjust and manipulate said images, then your projects will start to look a little more polished and not as kitschy.