Thursday, September 13, 2007

Animoto: Looks OK, Less Filling

OK, once again I'll be the skunk at the garden party.

Lots of people, including David Warlick and Wes Fryer, are all sorts of excited about the latest web-based tool, Animoto. Animoto takes a pile of digital images, runs them through a seizure-inducing random sequence of transitions and cheesy late-night television infomercial video effects and places a generic "techno" soundtrack underneath. With the click of the mouse you have created an incredibly annoying piece of content-free eye-candy. Voila!

Animoto is undoubtedly a cool piece of programming, but my head will explode if someone tells me that it has educational value (you know because it has everything - 1) It's easy 2) It's free and 3) It's on the Web.) Neil Postman (author of Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business) must be rolling over in his grave.

The power of digital video is in democratizing publishing and providing a potentially infinite audience for your thoughts. It's a medium newly available to layfolks. Eliminating the learner and learning from the creative process, just because you can, worries me.

David Warlick's post about Animoto offers some caution about the tool's appropriate use, but then he goes on to suggest that his daughter use it "to get attention — generate some curriosity (sic)." Will 30 seconds of video really help? Why must we be entertained at all times? How much time should a teacher spend setting up the classroom hardware so that the "lesson" may be opened up with an Animoto video?

Animoto lets you create meaningless PowerPoint-like slideshows without all of that pesky, editing, creativity or thinking. I won't even mention the discipline, knowledge and sense of history required of artistic expression. Did I mention that Animoto is easy, free and on the web?

Hey, maybe I'm wrong. The Animoto web site tells me that Steven Seagal is a user.

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  • I'm with you on this one. I would say that the use of these tools reminds me a bit of the use of templates in PPT and such where we leave it to others to do much of our storytelling. My presentation on Extreme PPT makeover gets at this a bit. It's critical for kids to build from scratch and move through the design process to carefully choose the elements that support the story.

    Although it may be useful for quick slideshows of photos. But as a tool for telling meaningful stories, not likely.

    By Anonymous Shareski, At September 13, 2007 8:12 AM  

  • From My Blog -

    ANIMOTO - interesting, nice, eye candy but......

    What's ANIMOTO well its a site that allows you to create a 30 second movie (free) from a series of photos you upload or link to and from music you upload or select from their library.
    It waves it virtual magic wand and spits out a randomly arranged video clip.

    Its nice, its neat, its web 2 and its limited

    Its eye candy (Nice to see Gary Stager agrees), nice to look at but lacks substance. I note that its in beta, so there is some hope that it will allow more user interaction and control - currently you have none as it orders your images (in the free version) arranges your transitions, animations and effects and fires out its product. I don't want my students to use a tool that randonly assembles images - I want them to sequence their presentation - to think about flow, about timing - to change the length of the images duration to enhance and emphasies the meaning, purpose and communication.

    The two key questions I ask students and have them ask with any presentation or publication are:
    Is it suitable for the audience
    Is it suitable for the purpose
    This tool is suitable for the audience - it has potential in the style that it has suits our students. Is it suitable for the purpose - at the moment NO!

    It is fun though!

    By Anonymous Andrew Churches, At September 13, 2007 2:56 PM  

  • It's fun. What more do you want? It doesn't have to be the thing that changes the world to merit a look.

    Also, it's only free for 30 seconds. It costs $3 for a "full length" video, $30 for a full year. 'Full length' is probably 3:00, going with the theme...

    By Anonymous Downes, At September 13, 2007 4:50 PM  

  • Gary Stager, do you suck on lemons for breakfast? I'm not aware of anyone claiming that Animoto has educational value. Yes, it's easy, it's free, and it's on the Web. So what? Chill.

    By Anonymous John Kain, At September 13, 2007 7:34 PM  

  • Thanks for the laugh, Gary. A brief, frivolous reply at:

    Whether you will laugh, well, that's another matter altogether. My wife always tells me I have a warped sense of humor.

    Let me know, ok?

    With appreciation,
    Miguel Guhlin
    Around the

    By Anonymous Miguel, At September 13, 2007 9:10 PM  

  • Hi, I'm Brad, one of the Animoto guys (and the CEO), and I'm loving the conversation that Animoto has provoked in this educational setting! These debates are invigorating to our team - so thank you. This is also, to my knowledge, the first blog to 'hate' on Animoto so my interest is particularly piqued. Truth be told, our inspiration for Animoto was simply to create a cool tool to help people easily share an experience through photos and music leveraging post-production techniques made familiar through television and film. We want Animoto videos to evoke an emotion from the viewer (and in this setting it sure seems like we've done that - but not necessarily as we intended! :)). We always thought students would use Animoto at home for fun but we never really thought about Animoto entering the classroom as an educational tool - an intriguing idea, indeed! We've begun to scratch the surface of what's possible with Animoto videos but we're inspired by the ways in which we plan to improve the offering over the next several years. You can be sure that a consideration for the K-12 classroom will be in our minds as we work on improvements.

    Quickly, in response to feedback on current functionality, I did want to mention that users CAN arrange their photos (just drag and drop the photo thumbnails) and can also 'spotlight' certain photos that deserve particular emphasis. We intend for people to tell stories through Animoto videos so those were very important features that we knew we had to have for our beta launch.

    Lastly, we love the creative process that goes into manually creating videos and we have a deep respect for how difficult it is (after all, that's the industry we came from!). Our hope is that Animoto will actually inspire more students to pursue motion graphics art. But, for those times when you just want to create a cool video in a hurry, we think Animoto is a perfect solution for sharing!


    By Anonymous bradleycj, At September 13, 2007 9:24 PM  

  • Algona81,

    I did not say that Animoto was bad or miseducative. I did however predict that it's only a matter of time before people start touting its classroom use. I bet there will be EdTech conference presentations about Animoto before long.

    I said that it was a cool piece of programming. That's high enough praise.

    By Anonymous Gary, At September 14, 2007 1:04 AM  

  • Comment from a student after showing Animoto to him: "It makes a Noob look like a Leet" Basically translated as, "A new user can quickly look like a power user."

    As I see it, all that does it dramatically raise the bar of what is considered a baseline skill. What once would have taken hours to create, is done in seconds. Not a bad thing, probably not a useful thing either, but if those effects are commonplace, it's up to us to help our students find out, what is out there that sets them apart.

    More at

    By Anonymous Kern Kelley, At September 16, 2007 10:35 AM  

  • More than a decade ago our school banned the use of clip art and we certainly don't use PP templates (don't use PP actually). However, animoto has created some interest because of its 'eye candy' features making it possible for very young children to produce quick photo stories with voiceovers.
    Our students are experimenting with creating a voiceover to accompany their photos.
    Take a look at this 5 year old,338,7,9891
    and this 10 year old
    Still experimenting at this stage, but we will see where they take it as they get more technically accurate.
    And thanks for the tips Brad!
    Dorothy Burt

    By Anonymous Korero Pt England, At October 9, 2007 5:41 PM  

  • Any tool can be used for good or for bad. Yes -- 30 seconds can be deep learning but it depends upon the use.

    When I had my students do their Invention Project - a lot of time and effort went into the project and the ease of use let me focus on my objectives.

    I am wary of discounting any tool because in the hands of a good teacher -- any tool just about can be used as a teaching tool.

    Also, animoto can be a stage of the process -- it can be screencaptured for a longer video.

    Like paper -- paper can be used for mindless worksheets or an incredibly meaningful project. It is not about the paper -- it is about the content.

    I think discounting a tool offhand is usually a mistake. I've found animoto very useful for appropriate lessons. (I also had my 9th graders as an introductory lesson with youth voices photograph 10 inanimate objects that represent them and make an animoto - -they had to post it on their youth voices blog (sorry its private) and explain why the 10 items represented them. I saw a lot of deep thinking and introspection in that project.

    Just a thought.

    By Anonymous Vicki A. Davis, At October 10, 2007 7:05 PM  

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