Move over, Disney. Step aside, Pixar! It’s now easier than ever for casual users to create fun, engaging animations. With the slew of information available online, even young storytellers can learn the basics of visual storytelling. There are even several free tools that are easy to learn.
Teachers can use these tools with students to create all sorts of creative projects. Learners can create re-enactments of civil war battles, or even simulations of what might have happened, if history had gone differently. Animation can drive imaginative exploration by students, as well as enhancing their writing and storytelling skills. Creating stories teaches visual literacy, as well as plain, old fashioned literacy, and can help students experience learning in a very different way. There are a variety of free tools available, and each one offers a slightly different experience.
Kerpoof Studio is an easy to use animation site, great for younger kids. There are backgrounds and characters available that you can add to your projects, and they’re easily edited with simple click and drag. The tools are easy to learn and new users can get up and running very quickly. There’s no option to upload your own images though, which can be limiting for older students, but there is enough variety and functionality to keep younger students creating for a long time.
Blabberize is a fun site where users can upload a picture, upload audio, and then combine them so the mouth in the photo is animated and synchronized with the audio. It’s not for full fledged animations, it only does talking heads, but it does them very well. Blabberize is an entertaining site for kids, and is used often by teachers in class projects.
ABCYA has an animation tool that allows users to create a series of drawings and animate them into a flip book. Students can create animations containing up to 40 frames and then export them as a .gif animation that will play in any web browser. Easy, and fun, but it does require the user to be comfortable with drawing because there are no images provided and no upload functionality.
Fluxtime is an interesting tool that allows the user to record actions as they move things around the screen, manually creating the animation. In addition to providing backgrounds and images Fluxtime has an upload option so you can include any images you create or find elsewhere.
Unlike the others, Scratch is a downloadable program that you install on a computer, instead of using it through a web browser. Scratch is hands down my favorite animation tool to use with kids. Unlike traditional animation tools, Scratch uses drag and drop commands to make things happen. In addition to having a fairly low learning curve, Scratch comes with a nice variety of backgrounds, characters, and props plus users can import any images they want. Having such a large library of images allows young animators to focus on the story they’re creating instead of worrying about how to draw what they’re thinking. Since Scratch has some interactive commands, you can also create Choose Your Own Adventure type movies.
Do you have a favorite animation tool y0u use with students? What kind of animation projects would you do with your class? Share your ideas in the comments!