The hunger for more uses of technology in language instruction has certainly not decreased since Dallas. If anything, we teachers seemed to be even more eager in 2014. There were a good number of sessions focusing on technology every day of the convention, and the number of teachers in attendance was always high. Only on the final day when people were not heading to airports (or out in the sun that finally shone after several days of downpours) did I attend a CALL or VDMIS session where participants were not standing along the walls or sitting on the floor.
Scott Duarte and Julie Lopez of the English Language Institute at the University of Delaware attracted many teachers who were curious to learn about stop animation. The presenters started out by talking about equipment and software. From experience, Scott and Julie know that the iPad is an option, but the picture is not as sharp compared to images taken with an iPhone. For those on a budget, a tripod could be substituted with stationary furniture. If you do own a tripod, know that two rubber bands could be used to secure your phone in place if you don’t want to go out and purchase a special phone holder that attaches to the tripod. They noted different apps on the market, both free and for purchase. Free apps include iMotion HD, Lego Movie Maker, and Stop Motion Studio. Apps like Stop Motion Studio Pro and Osnap! Time will run you $3-5, but you get additional features, such as sound effects.
As for what you can film with, if students are not able or willing to appear in front of the camera, a variety of common, inexpensive objects can be used. Scott demonstrated one film he made using his children’s toys and voices. Julie, who can only borrow items from a niece, headed to a local toy store and purchased a small set of magnets. She also proved to be resourceful, using ripped up tissues for clouds. Scott later explained how even markers and paper can be used for simple drawings.
What have Scott and Julie done with stop animation? Their students have created short stories or demonstrations contextualizing target vocabulary. They’ve also used stop animation videos to illustrate or elicit grammar. Julie’s clever video with recently purchased and found items around town showed a simple set of actions that would prompt students to describe each event with irregular past verbs: fell, drove, hit, rode, etc. The wonderful thing about all of these videos is that they can be saved, repurposed, and recycled. Finished works are saved as mp4s. Scott has his videos archived on his website and YouTube channel.
Participants were interested in logistics and tech details. The presenters explained how storyboarding can take place in class, but filming should be done outside of class. A short clip of 30 seconds can require 1,000+ images, and the key is to move objects only a little between shots. Scott recommends filming first and then adding audio. Also, a standard video has 24 frames per second, but the stop animation clips have 10. Scott noted that 3 frames per second results in a choppy playback. If you happen to have editing software on your computer, additional editing is possible once you have the mp4 file.
Kind thanks to Julie and Scott for sharing their creative approaches and allowing me to repost their ideas here! Incidentally, I have already started playing around with the free apps (much to my children’s delight).