Demonstrating Scientific Knowledge through Animation: A Year Three Unit

I had not used stop motion animation with students for many years, since the days of claymation with a digital camera. Having been given the opportunity to plan my own digital curriculum this year and excited to try something different, I was interested to see how we could use iPads to create animations with cross curricular links. Linking to their Science unit, the year three students were set the task of answering the inquiry question, ‘How can we teach others about living, once living and never living things through stop motion animation?’

A very small percentage of students had prior knowledge about stop motion animation, so our studies began with an introduction to the technology and its application in the real world. This was followed by a whole class project based on the popular YouTube videos, Invisible Go Karts. Before taking the photos for the animation, we storyboarded our ideas and discussed the key elements of a successful animation, such as small movements between frames to ensure a smooth flowing and realistic video. I captured the frames using the Lego Movie Maker app and modelled how to edit and complete the video. Seeing the finished product was enough to get students hooked on the concept of stop motion animation!

Excerpt from one of our Invisible Go Kart projects

In our following lesson students worked in pairs to experiment with the technology, creating a simple storyboard and animation of a plastic figurine. By this stage, many students had also played around with the app at home in their own time and were excited to share with me, their own creations.

Example animated figurine

The culminating project was for students to plan and create an animation to teach others about living, once living and never living things. Over several lessons students storyboarded, made characters, captured frames and edited their animations.

Working from a storyboard to capture frames

Working from a storyboard to capture frames

The finished product

Being the first time they had tried stop motion animation, the students were still developing the necessary skills to create a completely polished end product. What will help them achieve this in time is their new found enthusiasm for stop motion animation, and their ability to provide constructive feedback about the success of their own and others’ animations. While students’ work was not always perfect, our lessons often concluded with very insightful discussions as they evaluated their progress and planned steps forward in their technology learning journeys.

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Virtual Excursions: The World at your Fingertips

Recently I began exploring the idea of virtual excursions to excite my students (and myself!) about our new units of work, and connect our learning to the real world in ways we hadn’t yet explored. This term we are studying living things so when I discovered Houston and San Diego Zoo’s webcams and the Smithsonian’s virtual tour, I could instantly see ways to incorporate them into our learning and make links to the curriculum.

Before jumping into our first virtual excursion it was important to establish some ground rules as a class. I explained to students that today we would be taking a virtual excursion, meaning we would travel across the globe without leaving our classroom. We discussed the expectations on excursions we had previously taken as a class, and that some of these would also apply on our virtual excursions. For example, it is important that we stick together on our excursion, so that we don’t get lost and we are able to observe and learn about what we are there to see. For our virtual excursion this means using the given QR codes to ‘travel’ to our excursion location and gather information using the prompts provided. I told students that they could have some ‘free time’ to explore after gathering the required information, just as we do on other excursions.

We traveled to the Smithsonian for our first virtual excursion, where students were given a series of QR codes linked to different areas of the mammals exhibit. They were required to collect information by searching for clues, scavenger-hunt-style. Our second excursion saw us visiting San Diego and Houston zoos to observe elephants and gather information related to the animal’s appearance, diet, habitat and life cycle. Students would later use the information collected from these observations and further research to write an information report on elephants.

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Virtual Excursion to the Smithsonian

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Virtual Excursion to the Houston/ San Diego Zoos

This was by no means a quiet activity. I found that the students’ reactions to virtual excursions was not unlike their reactions when we take physical excursions. The room was filled with uncontrollable excitement as students were calling out to each other, amazed about what they were witnessing. As I’ve said before, I’m learning to relinquish control of the quiet classroom from time to time, to open up the possibility for opportunities like this, where students are engaged in meaningful, collaborative and stimulating learning experiences.

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Part 2: Year 4 Endangered Animals Apptivity

This week I continued my work with the year 4s to finish our endangered animals  Apptivity. We used the QR code from the previous lesson again to locate the information on the animal chosen in our last session. We had already saved an image of the animal so students only needed to copy their information. We started a new Explain Everything file and inserted our existing Pic Collage onto the first page, and the image and text of the selected animal onto the second page. We skipped the recording step of the Apptivity this time, due to lack of time and the amount of noise in the area of the library where we were working. This step could be completed later if students were able to take their iPad to a quiet place in the library. This step would be very valuable in allowing students to verbalise existing knowledge and knowledge gained. Being the first app smashing task for these students, they were still more focused on the steps involved in creating the end product, rather than learning more about endangered animals. However, with further practise, students’ iPad fluency would improve, allowing them to focus on learning through the use of this tool. I was really impressed by the year 4 teacher who I was working with when she expressed out of her own, plans to continue using the Apptivity. From here she could have students develop this Explain Everything file into a book of endangered animals, where students continue to add different animals from the website to their document.

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Part 1: Year 4 Endangered Animals Apptivity

This week as part of my ICT Pedagogical Support role I had the pleasure of working with two year 4 classes in their “flexible learning” rotations. I devised an Apptivity to fit in with their study of endangered animals, to allow students to demonstrate both existing and new knowledge. As the iPads are a relatively new addition to the classroom for the year 4’s, I also wanted to create a task that incidentally helped them develop fluency in the use of iPads. Students began by using their existing knowledge of endangered animals to create a Pic Collage. While a small handful of students had used Pic Collage prior to our lesson, others found it easy and straight forward to use, after initial problem solving with wifi issues when image searching within the app. Students then used a QR code I generated prior to the lesson, leading them to a website for kids on endangered animals. They had not used QR codes before but were quite tech-savvy and needed little direction in this step. Once at the site, students had to find out more information about one of the endangered animals from their Pic Collage and save an image of the animal for use later on in the Apptivity. As this was the students’ first app smashing task, it did take longer than expected and this is as far as we got so far. I will work with them again in two week’s time to finish off the Apptivity. After this first session I can say that students were genuinely engaged and excited while using the iPads as a tool for learning. I am thoroughly looking forward to our follow-up lesson and witnessing the students’ enthusiasm throughout the next stages of our app smashing project. To be continued…

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