Sunday, 12 July 2009

Custard Running

Most of life, in my experience, is spent charging along towards a variety of goals. We spend the week running towards the weekend, eyes open with anticipation. Our pace increases at the weekend as we sprint headlong into a new week. This manic hurtling cycle is only broken just prior to a really big event, A long holiday, a special occasion an important celebration. At those times the running track of life is mysteriously exchanged for a large bowl of custard, the bigger the event the deeper the dessert sauce. I am eagerly anticipating my new post in September, I am looking forward to family camping holiday, cannot wait to go to China to see my brother. Consequently I am currently thigh deep in custard slogging through the last week of term, I know I will get there, I know once the weekend comes the speed will increase through the holidays to an almost breakneck level. But that does not make the custard running any easier.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Cube Life

I have been using animation in the primary classroom for 4 years now (see earlier posts)and in my opinion have successfully got some effective results from the children using a medley of software. My established system, whilst ungainly, worked. stop frame in Digital Blue software, Audio mixing in Audacity and combining the two elements in Moviemaker. I was therefore intrigued, at the Kent ICT Conference and exhibition '09,to see a piece of animation software on show. I have seen a number of products in the past couple of years and they either had an unfriendly interface or did not do quite what I felt they should. So I was expecting more of the same. I stopped and talked to the man from ZU3D

He was helpful and informative as he whizzed through the features of the programme. He quickly and easily created a short stop-frame animation, added titles and sound files. I was nearly impressed - so to the interrogation - The worth of the programme was the receptive nature of the stall holder - he was able to answer my queries regarding Multi-track audio, explain how the other features on the software worked and then listened to and was positive about my development suggestions (what I would like a piecec of animation software to do). I took a trial disc and loaded it onto my laptop immediately (time on my stand spent productively)
The first thing I noticed was how child friendly the interface was:

A series of buttons clearly marked allow: frame capture, preview, live video and deletion of frames.
Titles and a multitude of audio tracks can be added with a simple drag and drop system.
The simplicity of the software is further enhanced by the fact that you can use any digital video camera, therefore a digital blue or a webcam work just fine.

So what made it special - For me there are 2 factors:

Firstly 'Onion Skinning' - The previous frame is cleverly superimposed on the new frame allowing you to see the extent of your move, this also allows for models/figures to be replaced in case they fall.

Secondly the multi-track audio - Whilst not as versatile as Audacity, it offers the abilty to add a variety of sound effects, drag them into position, crop and fade as required.

So I liked it - It has the simple stop-frame animation interface of the digital blue, it has the multi-tracking capability of Audacity and you can drag and drop items, Moviemaker style onto the timeline. I took it home and had a very quick play: Cube Life and I am hoping to get some children onto it in the last week of term.

The final selling point was the website. Showcasing children's work is a fantastic way of maintaining engagement and expanding the assessment opportunities. The ZU3D website provides a gallery onto which completed animations can be uploaded. Content is vetted prior to inclusion on the site and is searchable and comments (also moderated) can be added along with a 5 star rating system. I am looking forward to giving the children a chance to test the parameters of the software and it is on my list of purchases for 2009.

I believe that animation is an engaging way of stimulating children in a number of curricular areas and the ZU3D software offers the opportunities to access this exciting medium in a simple and fun way.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Kent ICT Conference '09

I was going to Blog about Kent ICT Conference '09 but there seemed little point considering Mark Warner , Tim Rylands and the the Kent ICT blogs appear to have covered all the bases with regards the myriad of links and ideas that were shared.
Will just reflect briefly on my short presentation, approached by Andy to showcase the animations I had done with my class, I agreed. The showcasing involved setting up a stand where two of our current year 6's demonstrated stop-frame animation which was the easy part. The harder part was standing on a stage in front of the conference, 'outside my comfort zone' sprang to mind. Nevertheless the quality of the children's work spoke for itself, my prezi:
took me through the process so the actual presentation bit became less of a chore. I hope it was well received, back on the stall a number of teachers came over to discuss how they could introduce animation into the classroom. And to see the students at work. I was happy with Prezi as a presentation tool, the one touch interface after set-up made it ideal for presentation and it was certainly 'whizzy' enough for the conference. Only one other Prezi in the show and that was Mark's 'Adventures with Myst' which can be viewed here, as part of a showcase of different schools' successes with Myst in the classroom.