Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Aesop's Fables: Making Moovs

I've been busy with home stuff lately and have neglected this blog . More, the context for my teaching has been somewhat erm... problematic.

It would, of course, be deeply unprofessional of me to say more than this; suffice it to say I've been drawing on existing resources most of this term and very few new ideas have been crossing my classroom threshold. Perfectly legitimate to re-visit the tried and tested but not much to blog home about.
I've been working with my Year 8 on a unit of work on the Black Hole I wrote about a couple of years ago. I've freshened it up a bit technologically speaking but the basic ideas are unchanged. It's an introduction to some basic concepts of film literacy. The film features a protagonist seriously undone by greed.
It was my intention to continue using The Gamer unit (also created a while ago) but for technical/financial reasons it was looking erm... problematic. Creativity was called for.

For some time I've been thinking about using Aesop's fables as the basis for making short films. Fables are complete, easily mined, stories; sufficiently diverse and skeletal to allow choice and interpretation and... very short. Potentially extremely useful especially given the limited time we have to write original, good quality scripts. The fact that they're still around after a couple of thousand years suggest they still have something to say. The Goose that laid the Golden Egg seemed a perfect link from The Black Hole.

 Live action filming takes a considerable amount of time and resources. It's virtually impossible to manage more than four or five at a time in any one classroom. That was the joy of The Gamer scenario. So how to make our fable-based movies?

Whilst it would be untrue to say I've given up on Twitter, it requires energy to maintain the ducks-and-drakes approach Twitter demands if you're using it as a personal learning network. Increasingly I find myself reading a restricted range of tweeps. Increasingly I use the excellent Scoop-it which suggests posts on my topics of interest and new posts on the accounts of people who share my interests. So it was through Nik Peachy's Tools for Learners topic that I found Moovly were offering a Plus account for free (too late, the offer runs out today).

I liked the look of the app and signed up. Moovly uses animations in the PowerPoint sense of the word, but allows the construction of a sequence using a time line like a proper movie editor. Multiple animations and 'sprites' can be combined. There are only two style libraries of sprites in the free version, though you can upload up to twenty images of your own for a project to supplement those. In the movie below the motor bike and feathers were edited offline and uploaded to my Personal Library as transparent PNGs. All the rest were in the doodle Style Library, accessible from the free version. The complete absence of poultry forced me to find a creative way round the problem - it was only later I discovered how to create your own sprites. I especially liked the 'Move and Zoom' animation which also allows you to rotate images. It would be possible to make a Photo Story-like rostrum camera movie. Moovly has a built-in voice over recording function, though I haven't tried this yet. The finished movie can be published on YouTube or facebook or shared via email. Alternatively you can download a copy as an mp4 or Flash. I converted the banner at the head of this post using Free Video to Gif Converter.
I'll let you know what my students make of it...