When I was in Elementary School, there were minimal opportunities to incorporate art and creativity into my academic work. The extent to which creativity was involved in my elementary academics was drawing pictures, making a painting or poster, or using Paint, a Windows computer program that could create digital drawings. These few techniques were the only creative options that were available to me at the time. Whether you had, or didn’t have, the same experience, either way, wouldn’t it be great to expand your knowledge base of cool and creative ways of learning?
One of the tools that can be added to your knowledge base is ABCya! Animate, an animated GIF creator that is hosted through the website ABCya.com. ABCya.com is a site with educational games and activities for kids who are grades K-5. All of the games and activities on this website are approved by teachers and modeled after lessons in each of the elementary-level subjects.
I first became aware of ABCya! Animate through a blog written by Richard Byrne, Free Technology for Teachers. He publishes blog posts that provide information about different types of technology tools that are meant to enhance teachers’ teaching methods and, thus, students’ learning. In the post entitled Create 100 Frame Animations on ABCya Animate, Byrne briefly touches upon some of the neat features that this tool has to offer.
An animation is a type of presentation that uses a sequence of still images to create the appearance of motion. The way in which animations are created is through many frames that slightly change from one frame to another. Have you ever done this with a sticky-note pad? When I was younger, I used to take a pad of sticky-notes and draw a stick figure person at the bottom of the first note and then slightly change its position on each of the following notes in order to make him look like it was walking. Each sticky note looked like a the stick figure was frozen in time, mid stride. Once I finished drawing, I would flip the pages at a high speed to make it look like the stick figure was actually moving. This is an example of a flipbook animation. ABCya! Animate creates an animation, like the flipbook, but in a digital form.
To start making animations on ABCya! Animate, you click the “Go” button which redirects you to the creation studio. You are faced with a blank white frame with different digital art tools at the bottom of the frame, buttons that perform actions on the right-hand side of the frame, and a reel of uncreated slides above the frame.
The first step you should take in order to create an animation is to make a background upon which the animation will develop. ABCya! Animate provides you with many different options. You could either choose from one of the default themed backgrounds or even choose to create an original one. The background will become the part that remains consistent throughout the entire animation. If you choose to create your own, you will be able to use all of the art tools that the program has to offer so that your background can be fun, colorful, and personalized to the topic of your animation!
The default themed backgrounds are a nice feature for the students who find art to be a little bit challenging. Default settings can relieve some of the pressure of artistic performance that students put on themselves; yet, they are still able to exert creativity in choosing a default background because there are so many options. Having the student be able to make artistic decisions, such as this, could make even the most artistically challenged students feel creative. This will also make them satisfied with their final product when, if they had created an original background, might not have been the case.
No matter with which background you choose to proceed, the next step is using the art tools. To the left is a picture of the background that I created for my animation. I used the pencil tool to draw the sun’s rays and the clouds because the pencil creates the thinnest lines. To draw the water and the circular body of the sun, I used the paintbrush tool because it creates thicker lines which are useful when drawing large pictures or when filling white areas. These tools are located at the bottom left-hand of the screen, underneath the frame. To the right of the tools there are a selection of many different colors which can be used to change the color of the pencil or paintbrush lines. If you want to change the tool that you are using, or the color of the line, simply click on the icon and this will change.
The toolbar at the bottom of the page provides many different tools which can be used to create your frames. The pencil and paintbrush are the tools that allow you to draw. This is the most important feature because elementary school students mainly art and illustration as a means of idea and thought expression. At such young ages, students are still learning to master the English language in speaking, reading, and writing. It is natural that art is the best way in which they are able to communicate because it is visual instead of technical.
You can also use the “Images” icon to add to your picture because it offers dozens of animated images that can be inserted into the frame. These can be adjusted in size and changed in direction which provides you with the liberty that you would have if you were drawing these images from scratch. These adjustment features are another example of how this program is an excellent tool for students of ranging artistic ability because they are able to make creative decisions in ways that make them feel comfortable with the creation process.
In order to create a sequence of frames, you must continually click the “Copy Frame” button. Each change made in the frames is what creates the impression of movement once they are scrolled through in sequence. This concept of sequence in the project will help students understand how there is sequence and change in parts of life. For example, ABCya! Animate could help introduce the concept of evolution and the growth of live organisms.
Once you are finished with your animation, click on the “Save” button so that you can save your animation project to your own computer! It will save as a GIF file which can then be uploaded to and shared by the Internet. Underneath the save button is a button that allows you to play your animation at any time during its creation so that you can view your progress or final product. Being able to play your entire animation before saving could be helpful for students to see the connection between their frames. This will help them to understand the importance of revision.
To show you my final product, I inserted my saved GIF into this post. So, check it out below!
Another cool feature that is available for ABCya! Animate users is the Tutorial video that you can watch before you start creating your animation. If you, or your students, are still a little confused by all of the features, this is a great way to teach yourself and others about how to use the program!
ABCya! Animate is an awesome tool that teachers can incorporate into their instruction. Teachers can use it to help teach a lesson about the seasons, for example. ABCya! Animate would allow the students to see the progression between seasons and how it affects the environment. If the teacher made an animation of a tree and how the scenery behind it changed, as well as the tree itself, this would be a good visual for students to understand how changing seasons also change elements of nature.
More importantly, students can use ABCya! Animate to create their own projects. They could use this program to make short stories that apply to the topics that they are learning in the classroom. When students are able to create something of their own, it helps reinforce the information being taught, leading to a longer retention rate.
ABCya! Animate could also be a beneficial learning tool for children who are not as proficient with expression. It could be used as a modification for students who have learning and/or developmental disabilities. This is a program that could hold students’ attention and is fairly simple to use, making it a tool that could be used to enhance the learning experience of a student who might lack in some of these areas.
If you like ABCya! Animate, you can also check out another one of Byrne’s blog posts entitled 5 Free Apps and Sites for Creating Short Animations. Below is a list of his recommended tools as well as a few others:
- Draw Island is a program that allows users to create drawings and GIF animations.
- Wideo is another animation tool that allows users to create videos like those of Common Craft.
- If you create an account with Culture Street, you can access Stop Frame Animator, a tool that it offers which enables you to create animated stop motion videos.
- The iPad app, Animation Desk, also creates animated videos.
- JellyCam from Tickly Pictures makes stop-motion films with a web-cam or photos.
- Another app for an iPad is called myCreate by iCreate to Educate.
With so many features that ABCya! Animate offers, this program can be used in so many different ways! What are some of your ideas for how it could be used in a classroom? Do you see yourself using it? What are some of your favorite features? I would love to hear some of your thoughts about ABCya! Animate!