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Chaparral 2015-2016: 24.2 Animating Your Students

Animating Your Students (November 2015)

Animating Your Students

by  Sharyn Obsatz

Mass Communications and Journalism instructor


As we know, college teaching has mostly shifted from old-school “Sage on the Stage” lectures to “Guide by the Side” active-learning projects. I would like to share an active-learning project that I developed for my GCC mass communications classes -- a mostly successful small-group animated video exercise -- that could be useful for other subjects too. 

I learned about animated video projects during On-Course training at Santa Monica College, where I also teach media studies and journalism. The On-Course facilitator led us through the process of creating 1-2 minute videos in Royal Society of Animation (RSA) style. Here’s the professional example he showed us:

The idea is to have each small group of students research a topic (in my case, a media theory) and create a short, animated video about it to educate their classmates. The project encourages teamwork, critical thinking, visualizing information and working with technology. At the same time, discussion-shy students, artists, and tech-savvy students get a chance to shine. Nearly all of my students at Glendale and Santa Monica are bilingual (or trilingual), so I also gave extra credit for bilingual or second versions of the videos in another language. 

You can check out the student videos on my Youtube playlists:

The project worked great for most groups. The one semi-flop was a group with personality conflicts – they produced two different videos for the same theory. 

I give my students a three hours of class-time to work on the video. Here are the steps: 

  1. Divide the class into groups of 3-5 students each and assign each a theory.
  2. Let students use their phones, laptops or tablets to research the theory, agree on a definition and develop one real-world example their classmates will understand.
  3. They show me their group’s definition and example. If it’s correct, they start work on the video. If not, I guide their further research.
  4. Each group plans out/storyboards their video.
  5. On white paper with markers, on the chalkboard or on the white board, the group creates the video and films it, usually with their smart phone camera.
  6. The drawing takes longer than the end video, so they will speed up the visuals, either in iMovie or with an app such as Slow Fast Slow, before adding their audio.
  7. One member of the group uploads the video to a laptop or campus computer.
  8. They record the audio with a phone or laptop, timing it to the video.
  9. A student from each group finalizes the video using iMovie, Final Cut, Windows Moviemaker, etc… and uploads it to Youtube, makes it public and emails the link to me.
  10. We watch all the videos in class while looking at a worksheet or exam review sheet with all the media theories, so they can match each theory with its definition after watching the video. They can review the videos at any time or I can embed them in the class website. 

I am always amazed by their creativity. 

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