Friday, April 5, 2013

Picture Perfect – Creating Animoto Videos to Illustrate Life During the Great Depression


Today I came across one of the numerous lists of top 10 technology tools for teachers.  As I scrolled through the list I saw several resources I was familiar with, a few new tools, and a couple of resources that I have used in the past, but had forgotten about.  While scanning this list I began thinking about some of the web-based technologies that I have had success with.
 
One of my favorite technology tools for the classroom is Animoto.  Animoto is a web-based tool that allows users to create high quality videos that incorporate pictures, videos, and text all set to music.  One of the reasons I really enjoy Animoto is because of the simplicity of creating a professional looking video.  Students get very excited to create these videos and it does not take an extended amount of class time.  Anyone who is unfamiliar with Animoto should view the sample of videos created for educational purposes.  
 
Animoto allows users to create a free 30 second video, or teachers can apply for a free Education Account which will give you a promo code that allows you to create 50 Animoto Plus accounts. Animoto provides some helpful hints about setting up these accounts, including a method to create multiple accounts associated with the same email address.
 
As with other technology tools, it is important that Animoto is used to achieve an academic objective rather than simply being a toy to play on the computer.  To this end, Animoto’s blog includes a post discussing 6 ways to use Animoto in the classroom.  I have used Animoto for several different U.S. History projects, including an I Love the . . . project where students focus on a particular decade to create a video that highlights significant events from the era.  I think the most successful Animoto project I have utilized relates to the Great Depression.  There are so many powerful photos from this era that it helps to reinforce the suffering experienced by many Americans in the 1930s.
 
To ensure the achievement of academic goals, I begin this project by assigning students an essential question to research.  I use the following questions:
  1. How did the Great Depression affect the lives of American workers?
  2. What hardships did urban residents face during the Great Depression?
  3. How did the Dust Bowl affect rural residents during the Great Depression?
  4. How did popular culture offer an escape from the Great Depression?
  5. How did the Great Depression affect family life and the attitudes of Americans?
  6. How did the Roosevelt administration address the concerns of African Americans?
  7. How were women affected by the Great Depression?
  8. How were children affected by the Great Depression?
  9. How was Franklin Roosevelt viewed by American citizens?
  10. How did the New Deal affect American citizens?
After completing their research, students must submit an essay that provides an answer to their essential question.  This ensures that students understand the historical significance of their topic.
  
Upon completion of the essay, students may begin gathering images that help support their response to an essential question.  To ensure that students are gathering pictures related to their topic, I require them to write a brief explanation of how each picture helps to support their essay. 
 
Students are now ready to create their videos.  Animoto has made this an extremely simple process.  Students simply have to upload pictures and/or videos, choose their music and add text to their video.  Although text is limited to 90 characters per slide, it is possible to add more text by using PowerPoint to create an image file of the text.  This offers a method of increasing text, however, I usually encourage my students to try to limit their text to the 90 characters allowed by Animoto.  This allows them to add some explanation, but it ensures that the images are still the focus of the video.
 
I have had excellent experiences with Animoto.  Student comments on Animoto have been overwhelmingly positive.  Many students talk about showing their projects to their parents and friends.  This verifies my hopes that Animoto can be a tool that piques student interest while allowing for the achievement of academic standards.  

Below are a few examples of Animoto videos created by my students.
   
    
    

     

 
   

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    1. Thanks Debi! I'm glad you found this post helpful.

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