Thursday, March 25, 2010

Instructional Videos With Storytelling Alice

I had a more successful time using Storytelling Alice with my 7th grade students this year. Last year I constrained the content of the animations to their current biology topic, genetic inheritance. Understandably, this didn't excite them, though a few came up with some good animations. Instead, I decided to let them choose any topic for their animation as long as it was something students learn in our school in Kindergarten through 7th grade with the intention of making the good ones available to teachers to teach with. I thought they would be more invested in their topics if they could choose them and knew that they might be used in the future. Here below is one of the best examples:

Some observations:
  • I required them to use at least two scenes and they did for the most part. One interesting thing is some of them simply scripted only one scene, fading the camera to black and back up in the middle of it to transition to the second scene, avoiding the somewhat confusing process of creating a new scene and that business of moving the camera tripod.
  • Many of them manipulated the camera angles a lot more, such as following a character, resulting in much more dynamic animations.
  • Looking at them as pedagogical resources, many of them ended up looking more like lectures rather than showing their topic with some kind of illustrative narrative. The above example follows the latter approach, but many of them simply depicted a teacher in a classroom talking to the students about the topic! I think this is a result of the dominant paradigm in my school. Students are so familiar with the lecture format so that's how they imagine their animation being used.
  • Widening the availability of topics appeared to work well. The topics they chose ranged from teaching math strategies and topics to history topics to French vocabulary to social development, which they learn about in their "life skills" class. This last topic was quite popular, as it allowed them to focus on issues of friendship, social status, and bullying.
  • Students this year discovered a couple new things about Alice. One is the ability to drag methods and drop them onto characters even in "adding objects" mode to move them around, which surprised me. They also became very interested in recording their own audio to make the characters speak and matching the audio with the say content using do together. In some cases this resulted in file sizes above 10 MB that became hard to save to network folders and I had to make them keep their audio clips really short.

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