Monday, May 5, 2008

Break-dancing in the Computer Lab!

Today's class was very exciting. Special thanks to the IS and IT departments of Coquitlam for making today's lesson possible. We have Pivot- the stick figure annimation program installed on nearly every machine in our lab. Kids use it to make a "flip-book" style animation. Our learning intention was to use a simple animation program to create figures that move in the same way computer generated images in movies and video games move. This is a big field in BC, as we are known as Hollywood North, and we are also home to Electronic Arts, the computer game giant! This really caught the kids attention.

When I started to teach this program to the students I let them be completely silly, as long as they were not inappropriate. There are some examples of pivot on YouTube, but many are not appropriate for school, what with all the beheadings, and shooting, and blood.

One of my students created a stickfigure animation doing a perfect "robot" breakdance sequence. We then saved the file in pivot as an animated GIF file. I helped him find some royalty free music, and showed him how to put it all together using Windows Movie Maker. I had to do this for two reasons:

1.) I knew how, and he was just learning.

2.) All our machines have Windows 2000. Windows 2000 does not come with Windows Movie Maker. This is too bad, as it is an easy to use program that kids can use to click and drag stuff in to make movies. This is what kids want to do.

My evidence that kids want to do this is that there were zero behaviour problems in the class. None. All kids were working on task. All students asked to be partnered together, and were working within the parameters of the lesson. The students had to:

Create a stick figure that can dance.

Use only physically achieveable moves.

Make it long enough to last the song.

Students saw the breakdancing stick figure, and heard the music, and they were hooked! Students began asking me how to inject sound effects, or to change music so that they can change the kind of dancing style they were using. I said yes, they could mix and add to their music if they used Audacity, the sound/music editing program we have installed on all computers. Perhaps that will have to be the next step in the lesson. Stay tuned for more updates on our animation projects. I will embed the breakdance video after I have uploaded it.

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