Assistant Professor Matt Koschmann in the department of Communication has recently added a new tool to his teaching repertoire: animation. On April 13th, 2012, Koschmann presented to the Teaching with Technology participants the benefits of utilizing animation in the classroom. Before delving into his presentation, however, Koschmann highlighted a critical question related to teaching with technology: “Is this actually going to help accomplish things in the classroom?” Koschmann argued that using a technology for teaching without considering its benefits is counterproductive to the learning process.
Notably pragmatic in his approach of utilizing technology in the classroom, Koschmann began his presentation by describing animation as “… a means to an end, not an end itself.” For Koschmann, animation holds a multitude of benefits and was the answer to a standing question: how to make the screen more engaging.
What are the benefits of Animation?
Throughout his Teaching with Technology presentation, Koschmann argued that animation can be utilized efficiently to introduce courses. Koschmann explained that he will use it in his upcoming fall and spring semester courses in order to “introduce the course and get students excited about the material. The animation video covers all of the major topics of the course, so during the semester we can go back and look at different sections as a point of departure for more in-depth analysis.” In other words, course introduction animations can act as both a course synopsis and a visual syllabus.
Koschmann further explained that he sees animation as a way to push thinking to the next level by appealing to several learning styles including both audio and visual. By having the animation readily available, students can reference content for an increased understanding as well as have access to the text file of the lecture content to allow people to follow along and re-read specific sections. This will allow students to explore the content at their own pace and reiterate the key topics of the course.
Animation, however, has the potential to be utilized beyond the traditional classroom. Koschmann indicated that he had utilized animation during an online summer session in order to engage his students without “in-person context to connect with.”
With all great ideas come obstacles. Currently in production of his second commissioned animation, Koschmann stated that the biggest obstacle in regards to integrating animations into the classroom is that of production and costs. For Koschmann’s first completed animation, he commissioned local art school students by utilizing departmental funding and a grant from ASSETT. He explained that his process for both animations have included writing out the introductory lecture, recording the audio, and sending it to student animators who then produce the animation via whiteboards and later speed up the illustrative process. Koschmann further explained that this process was inspired by a series of videos produced by RSA Animate. However, Koschmann noted that this approach is not entirely reasonable for most classroom purposes. For common use, Koschmann suggested several resources for educators, including prezi.com and xtranormal.com.
While animation has yet to be fully evaluated for its effectiveness in the classroom, Koschmann expounds that the novelty of animation at least has the potential to keep students more engaged. Koschmann also plans on conducting a brief survey on D2L for students to give feedback on the effectiveness of animation.