Hold on just one second. I’m explaining the unexplainable!

Hold on just one second. I’m explaining the unexplainable!

(by Anne McTighe)

After trying SAM Animation, I am completely hooked. I started learning about iCreate to Educate and SAM Animation about a year and a half ago. As I played with the program, I was blown away by how much fun I could have making a silly little Happy Birthday animation for a friend. Then I helped out by photographing a teacher workshop for Melissa, and I couldn’t believe the energy and excitement in the room. Everyone was laughing and having fun! But at the end of the day as I compiled the animations, I was amazed by the quality and breadth of concepts covered. Animation topics ranged from geography to algebra to circuits to book reports, and they were astounding. Fun to watch and educational, the animations taught abstract concepts in an easy-to-follow way – something that can challenge even the best teacher.

At the beginning of this summer, I had no idea where my journey as a kit designer with iCreate to Educate would take me, but I was definitely excited about the challenge. Throughout the process of designing kits and props, I found myself thinking, I really wish my high school had used this. It really would have helped students understand this concept.

Obviously it’s extremely hands-on and lots of fun, but more importantly stop-motion animation challenges students to learn in many different ways. It’s really a complete learning process from start to finish – one I find very similar to the scientific method.

In order to create an animation, students must first struggle with the concepts themselves. This challenges them to dig deeply into concepts, internalizing every step of the process. General and partial ideas really don’t work when animating because you can’t skip from walking to sitting. You first have to stop, bend your knees, and lower your torso, etc. until you are finally sitting. Animation pushes students to understand concepts from the most basic level ultimately driving high-level learning. Here two plus two really does equal more than four.

Animation becomes all about how students can put concepts and ideas into motion. This requires students to think about how they can convey and explain what they know to others. It’s all about communication; How can I use different materials to create an ecosystem so that anyone can look at it and know exactly what it is? How do I move the objects to make it look as realistic as possible? How do I balance visuals, text, and audio? And so on. This part of the animation process uses creativity and challenges students to think outside of the box. It’s exciting to see them use common items to create unusual props. It also requires them to think critically about their decisions and whether they are representing the necessary items well.

After struggling through the challenges of putting concepts into motion and actually creating the animation, the learning is far from over. Evaluating, rethinking, revising, and retesting is the final challenge. Viewing animations is lots of fun, but it’s also important because it gives students the chance to evaluate their own choices and compare them to those of their peers. It’s fun to watch students refine their own animations and learn even more about the concepts they’re trying to convey. Discussions about the videos and the challenges encountered during the process can be one of the most important parts in learning and understanding concepts through animation.

As my high school math teacher always use to tell me, the true measure of a student’s mastery of a concept was whether he can teach it to someone else. This is exactly why iCreate and SAM Animation are so valuable. Using animation pushes students to teach the concepts they are learning. And in the words of Lloyd Alexander, We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself.

Work with Melissa and my fellow intern, Laura, this summer has been a fantastic experience that not only gave me the chance to use my creativity, but also allowed me to gain a much deeper appreciation of just how powerful a teaching tool SAM can be. We worked hard to create classroom kits and activity guides for teachers that would captivate and engage their students. It has been a very fun and challenging job, and I hope everyone finds them (and animation) as fun, creative, and educational as I have!

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