All of my students aren’t just naturally interested in science? I have to actively engage them in some way? They don’t want to sit quietly, listen, and write down all of the details scientists have already discovered? According to constructivist ideals, learners need to develop their own knowledge, and any time they encounter something new, they build upon pre-existing knowledge. First however, they must be interested in what they are learning.
Engage is the first stage of the 5E lesson format from BSCS- often used in science classrooms. It is similar to the “anticipatory set” put forth in the Madeline Hunter model. In both designs, these represent the portion of the lesson when the teacher tries to show his/her students why their upcoming lesson is interesting and relevant. The instructor attempts to evoke the curiosity of students by stimulating them with some captivating topic. For example, teachers may tell an interesting story. In science, we often stage demos or incorporate a “discrepant event.”
Enter Animoto for education. Animoto is an application that allows its users to upload music and pictures, and it does the actual work of customizing the video. Registration for Animoto has always been “free.” However – this free-ness limits the user to the creation of a 30 second short video. When making a free video, one could upload anywhere from 10-15 images– less if text is included. Constructing a short video is great for certain projects, but what I have found is that once I begin my creation, I tend to want to make it longer than 30 seconds. When I started experimenting with Animoto, this was a small problem. Either I would end up paying three dollars to make a full-length video or fork over thirty dollars for a full year account.
However, if you are an educator, not only are you eligible for a free full-access account, but your students can also make videos for projects in your classroom using the same link. Easy, huh?
Animoto is Engaging
To this point, I have mostly seen both teachers and students use Animoto as more of a culminating project. “Here is a video of what we did.” However, Stacy Baker, a colleague on The Synapse and a fellow “Tweeter,” uses Animoto within the classroom to illustrate what her students will encounter. She uses Animoto to create movie trailers for upcoming units. Why is this idea educationally sound? Because you can use a short video to engage your students over what is coming up in your classroom.
Below is a movie trailer I created for my Zoology students for our upcoming unit on Mollusks. The creation of the movie was fun, relatively easy, and I felt like I really constructed something that I was proud of.
I also have a hunch that students will find this interesting in the classroom. Too often in secondary science, teachers find they are trying to illustrate abstract concepts to students with precious little schema. This is difficult when students can’t physically encounter the object to explore and investigate. This is also exactly why engaging them with a three-minute movie trailer to start off the unit is such a solid approach. The students are confronted with the “big picture” of the upcoming unit of study… and are allowed to connect it to their own framework of knowledge. The only challenge remaining? Be certain to create such an engaging overview that it really does provide something to connect to.