Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

'Animation Creates Life!' A Virginia Educator Explains How the Use of Computer Animation Has the Power to Engage Students in a Way That Is Unique among Classroom Technologies

Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

'Animation Creates Life!' A Virginia Educator Explains How the Use of Computer Animation Has the Power to Engage Students in a Way That Is Unique among Classroom Technologies

Article excerpt

ROBB PONTON NEVER GUESSED that a routine stopover at a local bookstore would start him down a path to the widespread use of animation in his 10,000-student school district. Yet that's just what it did, and now animation technology is an integral part of teaching and learning in Virginia's Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools, where Ponton serves as an instructional technology resource teacher.

During the bookstore visit, which he still recalls some 15 years later, Ponton spotted Fun With Architecture. Published by New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art, the book came with several rubber stamps of different shapes and sizes that kids could use to create pictures of castles and buildings. A middle school computer lab teacher at the time, Ponton thought he could translate this activity to the computer for use in his classroom. He accomplished that by creating a collection of shapes in digital form for use within ClarisWorks, an early Apple (www.apple.com) drawing program then employed by his district.

Students could use the program to duplicate the shapes or manipulate them to make structures such as buildings and castles. Those who finished assignments early began creating rockets, cars, and other images. "The kids really excelled at that," recalls Ponton. "Everybody could do it, not just the students who were good artists."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

By showing his students how to break down objects into their component shapes--ovals, triangles, etc.--Ponton helped them move beyond a dislike or fear of drawing to create their own images. But having learned how to create images, the students wanted next to animate them, a capability that ClarisWorks didn't have. "They were saying, 'This would be fun if we could get this to move,'" recalls Ponton.

So he began looking for animation programs. At about the same time, the district moved from Macs to PCs, which forced Ponton to search for an alternative to the Mac-based ClarisWorks. He knew he'd have to start out modestly, since the district couldn't afford the triple-digit price tags of some of the higher-end products on the market.

During his extensive research, Ponton came across Serif DrawPlus (www.serif.com), which contained drawing and animation software in the same box. Even better, the company, which is based in the UK, offers free, downloadable older versions of its software on its website (www.freeserif software.com). Ponton called the company's US headquarters in New Hampshire, which agreed to license Serif's last-generation version of DrawPlus for $9.95 per license.

"For $250 I had my whole lab outfitted," says Ponton. "Right away, I knew this was it. Once the kids had the power, almost like a god, to bring life to these figures, then they really bloomed."

In 1998, Ponton left the classroom to become one of Williamsburg-James City's instructional technology resource teachers and began to share his animation know-how with other teachers and students. Ponton's job now requires him to help teachers incorporate a variety of technologies, but he says that animation is unique among them in the powerful, instant engagement it provides for both teachers and students.

"Animation creates life!" he enthuses. "Most students and teachers enjoy creating something using the draw or paint tools, but when you show them how to animate what they have just drawn, you have really grabbed their attention. They are the creator of that movement."

Often, Ponton says, a first response from teachers about the use of animation in the classroom will be, "But I could never do that." So he shows them the animation process using three simple pictures: a monkey's face, the same monkey's face but this time with a tongue showing, and a third image that shows the monkey's face again without the tongue. If the images are run in quick sequence, the monkey appears to be sticking out its tongue. After seeing that, teachers' fears subside. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.