Animoto: An Academic Use


I despise Animoto‘s use as evidence of learning in the classroom. It produces a veneer that implies intent but requires none. It allows people to put on the facade that their students are doing intelligent work. They seem to trick even themselves.

That being said, I finally came up with a use that would require some thought. Pretend Animoto is an author with intent and intelligence. Analyze the choices in image juxtaposition, camera angles etc. Really break it down as if the director had some control and thought behind all the choices. You could do this with random videos from the showcase, have students contribute their own images etc. It’d also be fun to make comparisons between two auto generated versions of the same images. Which film was produced later in the artist’s career? What experiences caused the change in filming techniques.

A simple idea but it does require some thought in a process otherwise devoid of intellect.

Comments on this post

  1. Alan Levine said on May 21, 2010 at 10:59 am

    Hmm, sounds like something we might have said about TV “a veneer that implies intent but requires none.”

    I like your activity idea, run with it?

    • Tom said on May 21, 2010 at 11:25 am

      I might be able to get Jim to do it in his digital storytelling course. I’m struggling to find a way to justify it in the technology integration course I teach. I think it’s too time intensive to justify actually doing it. The course is pretty packed as it is. I definitely mention it.

  2. dasaunders said on May 21, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    I agree that Animoto’s automation is a mind-numbing, simple, process. However, I think this is a great tool to use in order to communicate with the school, community, and to possibly showcase already created student artifacts. At my school, teachers have “created” an Animoto teaser to elicit buy in for a field trip that students will need sign up for and fork out big bucks to go on. Consequently, this process will hopefully lead to more students signing up for the trip hereby promoting them to acquire new learning. Just recently, a social studies class created podcasts in garage band and due to limited time, used Animoto’s quick and easy interface to add visuals to the uploaded podcasts. Animoto is definitely a good public relations piece that takes simple ken burns effects to a whole new level. Overall, Animoto by itself is a great gimmick, but can be useful in the school if utilized correctly.

  3. Sean Sweeney said on May 21, 2010 at 9:48 pm

    While it is true that Animoto can be used as a mindless autoproject, I disagree that its use is always devoid of intellect. A sixth grade team at my school is currently using it just to piece together the final pieces of a project that involved analyzing scenes from Beowulf, composing illustrations and music in GarageBand that reflect the mood of a passage, cropping their own scanned images to emphasize different pieces of the whole, and putting elements of the text in their own words-all placed into an Animoto. True, the video piece could have been done in iMovie (adding several more days to the scope), but the project had already involved creativity at every step, and sometimes enough is enough…

    • Tom said on May 21, 2010 at 10:26 pm

      Sean – It sounds like a good project. My comment would be that the students are actually losing out by having Animoto trash up their stories with needless transitions and effects. It’d be like if I made several really nice photographs and some guy came along and chopped them to bits, sprinkled them with glitter, and “jazzed” them up for me.

      Based on my experience, students would be able to pull the same images into iMovie without any extra work and the students would see their stories without the detrimental effects of Animoto. I’m certainly not encouraging students to try to duplicate the effects of Animoto in iMovie. That would take several days and it’d be a very poor use of time. If the project is just still images, text and music you could do it in garageband or ppt.

      If we have students making digital stories I feel we ought to be talking to them about what makes this kind of media good. It’s certainly not effects and sparkles. I really dislike the message that Animoto sends- it’s not about content it’s about gloss. I feel that’s the exact opposite of what we ought to teach our students.

  4. Tom said on May 21, 2010 at 10:45 pm

    Dave- I did go to the trouble of saying “as evidence of learning in the classroom.” That’s a kinder, gentler approach to Animoto for me.

    I still wouldn’t come close to calling it a “great tool” but I’ve been accused of being somewhat stingy with compliments before. I’ll agree it makes flashy looking stuff very quickly and requires little or no intelligence to operate.

    In my opinion if the students made a podcast and didn’t have time to drop images into garageband with some intent, then I’d just stick with audio. Adding images there wouldn’t have taken any more time than adding them to Animoto. What takes time are the effects. Animoto is the video version of the ppt where every word flies in to the sound of screeching tires, where every transition is different, and every font a new color and size. This is the exact opposite of what we ought to be teaching our students (or teachers) about video.

    See, I ended up all harsh again.

  5. Max Bellasys said on June 7, 2010 at 5:44 am

    It’s a teacher’s job to teach, and it’s a creator’s job to work with what is present to make something outstanding; that’s the case in spite of limitations whether real, or perceived.

    A great class- aligned with the spirit of the article’s defamation- would be HOW to create interest beyond the glitz and the glam of plasticy nonsense. CAN it be done?

    When I think of most college professors I don’t exactly raze them when I notice that most of their products – even their protoges – are challenged as to how to think, instead being filled with what to think.

    A creator will spin flax into gold. A teacher needs to help others learn to perceive qualities of gold in flax, the sky, or even gravel if necessary. A teacher at times needs to remember the inspiration of learning, and once learning is achieved it can be taught. Until then there is only and rote and repetition, a mockery of intelligence and creativity everywhere.

    • Tom said on June 7, 2010 at 11:06 am

      I think I agree with you. Although part of this equation ought to be choosing to spend time and energy making gold from gold ore as opposed to choosing to try to make gold out of fish guts. If fish guts is all you have fine, but if you have better options it certainly makes sense to use them.

  6. Scott said on June 8, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    What once took talent imagination and an endless amount of tedious time and dedication has now been normalized. With all the flash and glitz becoming standard and accessible to everyone the true talent will hopefully revert back to the slower art of plot development, storytelling as well as true character development.
    It is like flash websites – the look great but are pointlessly overdone. If you students could illustrate a fully developed character in a 30 sec Animoto piece then you have something.
    For example, assign an Animoto piece that once watched any student can communicate a deep plot or deep character development.
    These “trailer type” tools can be great if applied in a great way. Personally I am tired of all the bam! bam! bam! communication tools – when we will get back to “content”.

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