Claymation Collaborations, part one

Some of our collaborative claymation groups finished up with their mini-movies this week (see movie down below) and five more groups are still working. This is the first year we have tried true animation (as opposed to still images) and it has been tricky. Not because of the software but because we just can’t seem to scrap together long enough blocks of time. We have tried to juggle the schedule of second graders with my sixth graders, and it isn’t easy. But, as in the past, except for some mini-lessons, I place the onus of the entire script writing, clay creation, recording/video, and editing on the students and only help when needed. I really want them to “own” the final product for themselves.

So here are the first four movies:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=-8605309725608707121" width="400" height="326" wmode="transparent" /]

The episodes here are:

  • The Lost Diamond
  • The Paper Shredder of DOOM
  • Island Gone Bad
  • The Walking Fish

As we finish up (next week is our last full week, so we are under the gun), I am trying to reflect a bit on what has worked and what has not worked, as my wife and I are running a claymation animation camp for middle school students next month.

Here are some thoughts:

  • Some kids have the patience, and some don’t. It takes patience to do animation and the more patience they demonstrate, the better the animation. It seems like a simple equation to me, but not always to 8 and 12 year olds.
  • The software and webcams have worked fine (although one seemed to have gone out of focus – even though the students didn’t tell me and I could have easily fixed it), although we should have done more to ensure they were all speaking loudly into the microphones. The audio is up and down.
  • We needed more mini-lessons about how to take a photo of a video image, and use that as a still image to stretch the movie to keep in sync with dialogue. This has been the greatest challenge for the kids — having the movie work with the audio.
  • The students have loved using the tech for this project, even when frustrated (which happens). They have been so engaged every step of the way and are always asking, “Are we doing claymation today?” (And to which I reply, “We also have other things we need to be doing, you know,” and then a sigh from their direction)
  • I wish I could have discovered the Pivot Stickman Animation program before this began because it is such a great intro to stop-motion animation. Oh well.
  • We need more than 45-minute blocks of time — at least an hour, or more, would have been helpful as momentum always seemed to be stalled at the end of a session. This project began in April (yes, April!) and we aren’t done yet. Phew.

Peace (with animation),
Kevin

Student Reflections: Digital Story Project

Most of my students (64 of of the 72 I have as writing teacher) took a final reflective survey the other day as the end of our Digital Science Picture Book Project. This gives me some feedback on how things went, but also will provide some data for a chapter that I am writing about the project for a future book.

I asked a range of questions and you can view the collected responses through this Google Docs document.

But here are some things that stood out for me:

  • 97 percent enjoyed the assignment (a nice little boost for a teacher at the end of the year)
  • 97 percent also said that using technology to create the books made the project more enjoyable
  • 87 percent said that their books would have been different if we had not used the technology (and other written responses earlier detailed the ways in which they saw their books as very different from paper versions)
  • 75 percent said they would rather use technology to publish a book than the traditional methods (which I am not sure is such a good thing, but I haven’t thought too deep yet on that)

Peace (in reflection),
Kevin

Karen’s Educational Mash-Ups

I found this site the other day — Karen’s Mashups — in which she goes out and collects cool stuff in the world of technology and education, and then mashes and merges them together into one big, informative show.

Here is a great mashup she did about kids and podcasting, with many elementary student voices coming through the mix. (I wish our Youth Radio had been included — maybe next year)

Peace (in sharing),
Kevin

OnPoEvMo: Worms, June 2007

It must be the hectic end of the year mindset but my brain has not been working on much poetry lately. This morning, however, this short little one popped up at 4:30 a.m. as my cat woke me up and I was smiling at a phrase our two-year-old son has been saying, completely out of the blue.

 

Worms
(June 2007)

Listen to the Poem

“I like worms,”
he says so matter-of-factly that to doubt the words
would be to doubt his very person,
even though the words come out of nowhere and
roll off his two-year-old tongue like a song
once lost and now found.
Last month, his word was “yesterday.”
Yesterday, his word was “tomorrow.”
Today, it is “worms.”
Who knows what the real tomorrow will hold for him
and he’s not waiting, either, as he dances
on his toes across the room, humming a melody
in an ode to his newfound love of
worms.

Peace (with slippery crawling things),
Kevin

 

Podcasting and Speech Class

Some friends, Troy and Dawn, from the Red Cedar Writing Project, have been working to integrate podcasting into speech class, and then researching the impact such Web 2.0 tools may have on student learning. They are doing this for a variety of reasons, but one of them is that they are writing a chapter for a book I am co-editing on emerging technology and learning (yeah!).

Troy and Dawn recently guest-hosted Teachers Teaching Teachers and I wanted to share the podcast of their show, since it was very informative on many levels.

Listen in on the discussion

Peace (in a pod),
Kevin

Women in Art

This is an amazing morphing video of women in art (although one person commenting at YouTube noted that as an American Indian woman, she felt left out — a valid point). This kind of animation is very cool but way beyond me.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/nUDIoN-_Hxs" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Peace (by moving together),
Kevin

Incredibly Crazy Clocks

The other day, one of my sixth graders asked me if I had ever used Pivot for animation, which led to an interesting discussion about how this freeware software could be used with MovieMaker to create a little animated film.

So I figured I would try it out and now I am hoping to let my students try their hand before the school year runs out (soon!) and also to use this very simple, yet cool, software as an introduction to the Claymation Animation Camp that my wife and I are running this summer for the very first time (gulp).

Here, then, is the premiere of The Incredibly Crazy Clocks, using Pivot to create the animation (it comes out as an animated .gif file), then I imported the file into MovieMaker where I added some original music of mine, and a title, an I got a mini-movie.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=6106772181624048098" width="400" height="326" wmode="transparent" /]

Peace (frame by frame by frame),
Kevin

Back in the Studio

My band (The Sofa Kings) goes back into the recording studio today and probably tomorrow as we work to get down in digital form (it used to be tape, but no longer) the energy of our live shows and the textures of our original songs. We’re planning to record six originals today and we did five songs a few months ago, so we will have a CD in the fall of 11 songs (if all goes well).

Of the six, four are songs that I either wrote or co-wrote, and I am always amazed at how much the songs take on a new shape with The Sofa Kings. Some songs become unrecognizable from their original incarnation and others just get enhanced on so many levels. It’s such an interesting process to bring a song to the band and see what happens. Many songs end up getting tossed (I have this imaginary dumpster in my head where lyrics and chords go, although they are never really gone — like a good Earth-friendly citizen, I recycle my own thoughts into new thoughts, and the melodies I like come bubbling back every now and then).

Last time, I brought the video camera, but I am not going to do that this time. Today, I will just be “in the moment” and not worry about the right shot, or creative angle, or how that will look on video.

Here is the little movie from last time:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=89177096634365723" width="400" height="326" wmode="transparent" /]

Peace (in sound),
Kevin

Baseball Dreams

This video is part of my Collaborative ABC Movie Project and it deals with baseball and kids, and the connections between my own baseball memories and the experiences of my sons this year.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=-8891800749316318329" width="400" height="326" wmode="transparent" /]

Peace (with innings and outs),
Kevin

Delicious Networking

This is a pretty cool site called Delicious Network Explorer that allows you to visually “see” the connections in the delicious social bookmarking network. You can type in a username and then it draws connections between the people who are in your network.

Here is what my network looks like, with the 33 people who are connected to me via Delicious (unfortunately, there was no easy way to share the picture so I had to do it manually):

 

 The colors have meaning, too, including who has included you as a friend, and a fan, etc.

 

Peace (in the network),
Kevin