Sunday, April 5, 2020

Passion Projects and Basic Animation

Last school year I was amazed by my students as we learned together using passion projects. Here is what I wrote reflecting on the power of learning this way:

One of the reasons I love passion projects is because my students love them. There is real purpose behind reading, freedom for creativity, and students have the opportunity to publish their work for a large audience. They have so much to offer the world, not just later as adults but right now. Passion projects show students what they are capable of, and sometimes the greatest change we can make is inside of ourselves.

This year we began our first passion project together in November (long before Coronavirus was a concern). My students chose the topic: what causes people to get sick? Like last year, we used the LAUNCH design process to guide our research and project planning. 

Once our research was done, my students decided they wanted to make an informational video for others focused around health and sickness. Specifically, they wanted to create an animated video using their own artwork. 

I had never tried this type of project before, so I touched base with Manuel Herrera (@manuelherrera33), innovation coordinator and all-around great educator. He shared so many great ideas about transferring sketches to digital formats and creating basic animations. 

Here is how we accomplished our task:

We made a storyboard to map out our video. Students worked in pairs to draw, animate, and write a script for their part of our video. Student groups presented their plans to the class and received feedback to make our message clear. 

Creating digital art:
Students started with a sketch of the basic elements they wanted in their part of the video. I took a picture of each sketch and uploaded it to a Google folder. Student groups accessed their photo, inserted it into Google Drawings, and then used the tools there to trace over the objects. My students had not used Google Drawings before, so I created a couple of screencast videos (shape tool, polyline tool) they could refer back to. I've found supporting my students this way helps them build confidence in working independently.  

Animating art
Once students had their digital art, they followed this process:
  • Save the image as a PNG
  • Move the art a tiny bit
  • Save the image as a PNG
  • Move the art a tiny bit
  • Repeat
  • Upload all the screenshots to a shared Google folder

The general idea is similar to a paper flip book, so when all the screenshots are put together it creates a type of basic animation. I also created a screencast example for this part of our project for students to refer back to. 

Creating our video
I used Adobe Spark to compile all student screenshots into one project. Unfortunately, Adobe Spark only allows you to narrate slide by slide and each slide was only a second long. We needed another way to record our narration, so we used Screencast-o-Matic to create one fluid reading.

Reflecting on our project
Overall, this passion project left my students excited about the project they had created. They shared the video with their parents, and some students even began making paper flip books at home. 

After each round of passion projects, I like to debrief with my class. We talk about what we learned, what we would do differently next time, and what we feel proud of. One student made a comment that sums up my excitement behind this type of work. He said, “I didn’t know I could do that!” I love helping students realize their potential and greatness! 

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