Thursday, June 25, 2009

Digital Storytelling and Animoto are Mutually Exclusive.

I have commented here and there about my opinions of Animoto. It is time that I post an official statement on here. This is a response to a blog I recently wrote. I welcome your comments.

While Animoto is a very slick, flashy tool that creates eye-popping results, it really isn't a suitable tool for Digital Storytelling, in my opinion. I guess the first thing is to define "Digital Storytelling." For many, it has morphed into virtually any movie making, visual and sound project. However, ther term coined by Joe Lambert and the late Dana Atchley refers to a personal sharing experience rooted in narrative. What animoto creates is what Lambert refers to as "Digital Spectacle." The emphasis in animoto is visual effects...not story.

The second thing I question is exactly what kids learn by dumping pictures and music into animoto? Even the intro says, "No two movies WE make are the same." Wouldn't we be better off having kids do the creation?

Here's the thing: I guess it has to do with expectations. If the teacher's goal is to create dazzling visual spectacle, then, yes, animoto is a great choice. However, if the focus is on developing a story with a point, dramatic question, containing emotional content through the fusion of story, carefully-chosen images, voice, and soundtrack, then perhaps another platform might serve better. I use Photostory 3, I have seen great stories done in iMovie, Movie maker, Adobe Premier, Pinnacle Studio, and even Voice thread. The difference is the control of the student.

14 comments:

K. Shelton said...

Your points are very well made and so on the money. I use animoto and love it for the visual spectacle of a "story" but for digital storytelling it is not the best or wisest option.

Joe B said...

I'm with you there, Jon (and Ken).

eplybon said...

I agree - I do use Animoto in my classroom, but for very different purposes than digital storytelling. It is one of the tools that I always tell teachers they need to really watch how much they are using it because it has little value in the digital storytelling world.

jorech said...

Thanks, Ken. Glad you made the distinction. Glad you also use the term "Spectacle."

Joe, We are kindred spirits.

jorech said...

To eplybon: Right on...a little knowledge can be dangerous.

Amor8 said...

Hola Jon!
I'm leaving a link for you from José Picardo's Spanish class. http://www.asisehace.net/blog/?tag=animoto
His students used audacity to do a voice over in Animoto. Granted this is more like research project rather than DST, but they used the target language and images to put together presentations that lasted 1:30-2:30 minutes in length. For a language class, that is enough speaking time. I think that they are pretty good examples. I still prefer Voicethread for the same purpose, but I think his student projects were well executed and met several standards. Let me know what you think.

jorech said...

Hola Sherry,

I wish my Spanish were better. My question is how closely does the narrative line coincide with each image. Second, how much control do you have over the order, and duration of images? Seems like they are all on about the same amount of time. There are some great images in the first one, it is a shame there are so many wild transitions that draw attention away from either story or the images themselves.

Let's talk more next week.

Amor8 said...

You are right about the images and the oral component. The images are thematic and don't specifically correspond to what the boys are saying. In my opinion, Voicethread works better because the kids can record directly on the application. The Animoto projects would require production of the visual separate from the audio. Voicethread also allows for control of the images and narration. I think the author in Animoto has some say as to which images should be emphasized, but the transitions and fade ins & outs are random.

Gareth Morlais said...

Daniel Meadows stresses the importance of the _considered_ narrative. I feel the storyteller needs to be in control of their own visual narrative as well as the audio narrative. The randomness of some of these automatic slideshow generators can lead to serendipitous sequences but a DS based entirely on this lacks personal consideration.

Craig said...

You nailed it. We've been looking for something as simple as PhotoStory. I thought Animoto would do it, but it's too much uncontrolled flash, and not enough of the thoughtful elements and assets that make digital story telling great.

Randy Rodgers said...

Jon,

I found your post searching for examples of digital storytelling using Animoto. I am going to play the role of devil's advocate here. I think your definition of a digital story is too narrow, if you indeed don't think Animoto is a suitable tool. There are many ways to tell a story, and they don't all require text or speech. Art, music, and dance are powerful examples. When a user uses Animoto to combine poignant images and music that reinforces the theme, I feel it is a fantastic tool for telling digital stories, and, in fact, requires greater creativity on the part of the storyteller. As an example, I recently made a show using images from my daughter's infancy through the present day to celebrate her 10th birthday. The music I selected was Dancing with Cinderella by Steven Curtis Chapman, available from Animoto. The show moved many who viewed it to tears, as the music and images did a beautiful job of communicating my feelings of love and pride in my daughter and the bittersweet realization that her childhood is fleeting.

I'd add that good examples of text-free or text-minimal stories are seen in truly high-quality PowerPoint presentations. When a creator takes the time to find the most powerful and memorable images, the effects are actually greater than when they rely upon text.

I don't see Animoto as the end-all-be-all digital storytelling tool, but it certainly isn't "mutually exclusive." Such a view limits the possibilities for creative expression, in my opinion

jorech said...

Hi Randy,

Sorry to take so long to respond. Thank you for your thoughtful post. Lately, many people have expanded the term "Digital Storytelling" to encompass a wide range of movies. I guess we need to define it then, right? According to Joe Lambert (the inventer of the genre) DST has 7 essential elements: Point, Dramatic Question, Emotional Content, Pacing, Gift of your Voice, Soundtrack, adn Economy. Can animoto have some of these qualities? Yes. All 7? not usually. There is no doubt that the presentation you made for your daughter was quite moving for your family, and will be treasured, and for something like that, animoto is ideal...a montogage of pictures and music brought together artfully. The problem I have is that most of the creation is out of the hands of the "creator" and placed on the program, (panning, zooming, transitions, slide duration, pausing) also, the emphasis seems to be on flash rather than story, or what Lambert calls "Digital Spectacle." I do agree with you that "story" can be told in many ways, I just want to make sure the focus is on story. and not on flash. Thanks for your comments.

James Gubbins said...

Plain and simple and right on target (as always)! Not only does an application like Animoto not lend itself to Digital Storytelling. It also does not seem to adhere to any of the NETS standards without an extreme blurring of the boundaries. It does all the work for you and does not allow for thought process. Animoto is more of a "Toy" than a "Tool". I may have to "borrow" this post as a clear example for my session on Wednesday! Thanks as always for a great post.

justsoyouknow said...

I think Animoto is great for school presentation too, especially long ones, can help student visualize more rather than describing it in words great for the academic advantage.