Real-World Experiences: Animoto

Co-authored by Beth & Chris


We love videos. Whether we’re watching an inspiring TED Talk, enjoying the latest Redbox release, or getting hypnotized by those darn YouTube kittens who are at it again, video permeates our culture. And because the digital natives in our classes are fluent in video, Chris & I decided to brush up on their language and meet them where they are.

But first, some background. The professional practice goal that Chris and I share is to foster a love of reading in the classroom. (Sadly, many high schoolers have mastered “fake reading” by the time they get to us.) In order to create a baseline, we have our students “calibrate” with each other where they are with their relationship with reading. This year, our objective remained the same: Share your reading journey. However, our medium did not.  In the past, we used journal entries, class discussions, and conferring to gauge where our students were on their journeys.

This year, we asked our students to write their narratives using Animoto, an online movie-making site.*

Animoto allows us to take this conversation to the next level. It’s easy to use. Drag and drop. Write a caption. That’s it. It’s 1990’s PowerPoint–on (legal) Steroids. Animoto provides hundreds of beautiful themes, enabling students to personalize their narrative.  Students can upload pictures, video, and music, or use the stock ones provided; after, they write a quick caption for each image and then click PRODUCE.  Within minutes, students can create a high-quality video that is easily shared with a link. Within minutes! (And yes, we are just a teensy bit bitter, as we remember schlepping those clunky camcorders around–Adam Goldberg-style– to get the perfect shot and then spending hours mashing it into something that resembled a finished product for our teachers.)

Students are still accomplishing the same objective–the sharing of their reading journeys–while demonstrating their mastery of even more standards: Speaking & Listening (i.e., strategically using digital media, collaborating with their peers in civil discussions), Writing (i.e., creating narratives), and Language (i.e., demonstrating command of conventions).  

But beyond the standards, when students take advantage of digital learning tools, they are activating a set of 21st century skills that are vital to their success.

The best part? They are fully engaged in the learning process! This is because in our teaching, we are speaking the language of our digital natives.

Before we assigned this, both of us created our own exemplar. (Click HERE for Beth’s.) Then we let the students have some class time to play in the digital sandbox.

When the projects were finished, we collected our students’ easily-shareable project links. (Chris uses the new “Question” feature in Classroom to garner the links; Beth uses a Google doc.)

Animoto has a slew of uses–regardless of what you teach. Teachers could:  provide a glimpse into the 1930s before teaching To Kill a Mockingbird;  create an engaging assessment that provides samples of classical music, writing, or real-world math scenarios that students must then associate with a musical genre, a writing style, or a mathematical strategy. Students could create a presentation that answers the age-old “When will I ever need to use this?” question. Or they could share their research on an assigned topic or  include–and correct–images of real-world typos they noticed in their travels. They could also complete a book talk, review, or pitch, which could then be saved in one place for future students looking for something to read. Animoto could  even be a way for teachers to share classroom practices, teaching philosophies, and content updates with parents.  Or Beth’s favorite? Ask students to demonstrate that they’ve met standard X, and see what amazing genius results!

The technology world is your students’ oyster. Now ask them to animate it!

*Note: We do not work for–nor receive any kickbacks from–Animoto. The online software has several educator plans available, ranging from a free 6-month subscription to for-pay options.


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