A Rationale for Teaching Technical Animation Fundamentals

By Thornton, Michael G.; Thornton, Timothy R. et al. | Technology and Engineering Teacher, December 2013 | Go to article overview

A Rationale for Teaching Technical Animation Fundamentals


Thornton, Michael G., Thornton, Timothy R., Ernst, Jeremy V., Clark, Aaron C., Technology and Engineering Teacher


INTRODUCTION

Technological advances continue to reshape the skill sets necessary for students to succeed both in the classroom and in the workforce. The ability to communicate information verbally and graphically can be viewed as a necessary skill that should be developed in a secondary technology education curriculum (Silva, 2008). This article outlines a potential method for instructing secondary technology education students on how to become effective communicators using 3-D modeling and animation tools. "3-D modeling tools can be used to create representations of systems, which can then be manipulated to represent processes" (Clark, Wiebe & Shown, 1996). Effective communicators should be competent at conveying concepts and ideas that are difficult to comprehend in such a manner that the information is presented clearly and without confusion. To accommodate the further development of these communication competencies and practices, designated curricular study has been proposed and adopted at both the secondary and postsecondary levels.

Technical animation curricula development and adoption, targeting individuals at the postsecondary level, relies on a preparatory base at the secondary level where prerequisite knowledge and skills are attained. Without this preparation, many graphics students enter postsecondary education ill prepared for the depth of study and associated applications encountered at a postsecondary introductory level. Aside from content and process preparation, the elimination of misconceptions associated with technical animation is another critical role that secondary education courses play. Technical animation courses at the high school level provide an entry point to differentiate between technical and entertainment animation.

Most learners associate an animation course with the type of animation that has traditionally been used on television and in motion pictures. Those types of animation are classified as "entertainment animation." Technical animation refers to the use of 2-D and 3-D animation as a tool to communicate information in a technical environment. These courses focus on teaching the basics to become an effective communicator using 3-D animation in a technical environment (Clark, 2005). This common misconception leads to a large proportion of students gaining admittance, entering into technical graphics programs, and then transferring into an alternate postsecondary major in their first semester. However, once students have experienced an adequate preparatory and are able to distinguish between technical animation and entertainment animation, they are then ready to engage in study in one of the most rapidly growing areas within graphics education.

The use of technical animation to visually illustrate concepts and ideas has increased for a number of reasons. A primary reason for the growth of technical animation is the availability of the software used to create it. Industry-exclusive applications are now available and affordable for all academic and professional levels. Secondly, the growth in the popularity of informative and educational television programs has increased the use of technical animation to educate the viewer, specifically pertaining to the explanation or demonstration of sophisticated processes and devices. These processes would be extremely challenging to explain to an audience without the assistance of technical animation. For example, a technical animation may be used to illustrate how a combustion engine operates, the manner in which a windmill conveys energy, the process associated with satellite radio transmittance from sender to receiver, or how a natural disaster could lead to a nuclear reactor overheating.

The inclusion of historical events and figures that helped to shape the world of animation has been important for generating learner interest and the development of a strong knowledge base. Providing background information only when needed helps the learner retain key technological advances and contributions to the field (Williams, 2000). …

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