Facilitating Learner-Generated Animations with Slowmation

Facilitating Learner-Generated Animations with Slowmation

Garry Hoban (University of Wollongong, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-861-1.ch015
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Digital animations are complex to create and are usually made by experts for novices to download from Web sites or copy from DVDs and CDs to use as learning objects. A new teaching approach, “Slowmation” (abbreviated from “Slow Motion Animation”), simplifies the complex process of making animations so that learners can create their own comprehensive animations of science concepts. This chapter presents the learning design that underpins this new teaching approach to facilitate the responsibility for creating animations to be shifted from experts to learners. The learning design has four phases which guides instructors and learners in creating animations of science concepts: (i) planning; (ii) storyboarding; (iii) construction; and (iv) reconstruction. This learning design will be illustrated with two examples created by preservice primary teachers in science education as well as providing a discussion about possible future directions for further research.
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Over the last 100 years, developments in the techniques of animation have been related to advancements in technology. As computers and software have become more sophisticated, the use of animation to tell stories has become more comprehensive as evident in the recent commercial success of films such as Harvey Crumpet, Wallace and Gromit, and Chicken Run, which use clay animation, and Happy Feet, Shrek, and Finding Nemo, which use computer-generated animation. Both of these forms of animation are very complex and labour intensive to create, and so educational resources that use animation for teaching concepts in schools and universities are mostly made by experts. Rarely do learners design and make animations of educational concepts.

There are three main forms of animation with various subtypes that are categorised according to how the images are created, the materials involved, and technology used (Taylor, 1997). The first form is called traditional or hand-drawn animation. This includes the many cartoons and feature length films that were made in the past 70 years which is sometimes called “cel animation.” This term refers to the transparent acetate sheets that the diagrams are drawn or traced on and photographed onto film so they can be shown quickly to create an illusion of movement. A second form, stop-motion animation, involves taking digital still photographs of objects or pictures after they have been moved manually to simulate movement. This form includes clay animation which was first introduced in the early 1900s and was made famous by “Gumby” and Will Vinton’s use of the term “claymation” in 1978 (Wells, 1998). A third form and the most popular, computer-based animation, has images that are created digitally on a computer using a wide variety of new techniques and software programs. Table 1 summarises these three forms of animation.

Table 1.
Forms of animation
Form of animationFeatureTypesExamples
1. Hand-drawn animation
(cel animation)
Images are hand-drawn and copied or scanned onto a computerCartoon animation
Character animation
Limited animation
The Lion King
Disney Cartoons
2. Stop-motion animationObjects, models, or images are created and small movements are made by hand and the models individually photographedClay animation
Cut out animation
Model animation
Object animation
Puppet animation
Silhouette animation
Wallace and Gromit
Chicken Run
The Muppets
Harvey Crumpet
Monty Python (dada animation)
3. Computer-generated animationImages are created digitally and manipulated on a computer2-D and 3-D animation
Skeletal animation
Motion capture animation
Morph target animation
Flash animation
PowerPoint animation
Happy Feet
Finding Nemo

Key Terms in this Chapter

Storyboarding: The second phase of the learning design underpinning slowmation that encourages the learner to break a concept into smaller “chunks” and to plan the sequence of movements in each chunk.

Planning: The first phase of the learning design underpinning slowmation involving the conceptualising and researching about a science concept.

Reconstruction: The fourth phase of the learning design that involves the learners uploading the digital photos into an animation program, editing it and providing a narration to explain the science content.

Construction: The third phase of the learning design underpinning slowmation that involves the learners making the models and photographing their small movements with a digital camera.

Slowmation: A new teaching approach that simplifies the normally complex process of animation to enables learners or novices to be the designers and makers of animations about science concepts.

Learning Object: A digital, reusable product such as a a text document, movie, mp3, picture, or Web site.

Learning Design: A framework for designing student learning experiences that explains a sequence of activities, procedures, or interactions.

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