OK, once again I’ll be the skunk at the garden party.
Lots of people, including David Warlick and Wes Fryer, are all sorts of excited about the latest web-based tool, Animoto. Animoto takes a pile of digital images, runs them through a seizure-inducing random sequence of transitions and cheesy late-night television infomercial video effects and places a generic “techno” soundtrack underneath. With the click of the mouse you have created an incredibly annoying piece of content-free eye-candy. Voila!
Animoto is undoubtedly a cool piece of programming, but my head will explode if someone tells me that it has educational value (you know because it has everything – 1) It’s easy 2) It’s free and 3) It’s on the Web.) Neil Postman (author of Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business) must be rolling over in his grave.
The power of digital video is in democratizing publishing and providing a potentially infinite audience for your thoughts. It’s a medium newly available to layfolks. Eliminating the learner and learning from the creative process, just because you can, worries me.
David Warlick’s post about Animoto offers some caution about the tool’s appropriate use, but then he goes on to suggest that his daughter use it “to get attention — generate some curriosity (sic).” Will 30 seconds of video really help? Why must we be entertained at all times? How much time should a teacher spend setting up the classroom hardware so that the “lesson” may be opened up with an Animoto video?
Animoto lets you create meaningless PowerPoint-like slideshows without all of that pesky, editing, creativity or thinking. I won’t even mention the discipline, knowledge and sense of history required of artistic expression. Did I mention that Animoto is easy, free and on the web?
Veteran educator Gary Stager, Ph.D. is the author of Twenty Things to Do with a Computer – Forward 50, co-author of Invent To Learn — Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom, publisher at Constructing Modern Knowledge Press, and the founder of the Constructing Modern Knowledge summer institute. He led professional development in the world’s first 1:1 laptop schools thirty years ago and designed one of the oldest online graduate school programs. Gary is also the curator of The Seymour Papert archives at DailyPapert.com. Learn more about Gary here.