Over the past few weeks, I have been working on some animation in my coding project. It was the next logical step in manipulating graphics for a specific purpose. In this case the process was a little more involved and required 2 sets of code. I decided to try to create a working model of the solar system since it is one of the required units of study in the Saskatchewan Grade 6 Science Curriculum. For this project, I required the use of html to call up certain web images to represent the planets and the sun. This was relatively simple as url’s could be used once the suitable image was found. The second batch of code was slightly more complicated as the animations for the orbits had to be adjusted to represent the speeds at which the planets orbit the sun. Below is a video explaining what the different parts of the code represent on the screen.
The application of these types of animations are especially usefully when certain scientific principles can not be concretely tested or viewed. Several examples from the middle years or high school curriculum would be units on the Solar System or cell structures. As we have seen from Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory, it is widely accepted practice to allow students to demonstrate their learning in various ways so as to promote deeper understanding. If a student is a visual learner, they will perhaps have a better understanding of the inner workings of a cell through the use of pictures/animations or videos than they would through text.
The ability to animate structures, at the microscopic level in this case, allows students an inside look at something that they would not otherwise have access to. Teachers could potentially even use flipped classroom strategies to allow students to view the animations at home and then go through group activities in class the next day. This technology also comes in handy when learning the workings of things like the Solar System. Animation of the macro level of science is also extremely useful for student understanding. Here is one example of an animation of cell structure for a high school Science class.
Amjad Desai, a computer animation professor and technology blogger, has outlined the benefits of animation as a learning tool for both elementary and high school students.
Benefits of Animation as an Affective Learning tool
- Emphasizes development of students’ skills and understanding of creating and responding.
- Enables students to apply Imagination & Rational Thinking.
- Enables students to invent and explore multiple solutions to a problem.
- Enables students to understand the value of reflection and critical judgment in creative work.
- Facilitates positive peer interaction, including receiving and using feedback.
- Encourages self-motivation to create and problem solve.
- Uses artistic literacy as a natural enhancement to learning in other content areas.
- Fosters positive attitudes toward Art & Animation.
- Introduces career possibilities.
Advantages for Primary Students
- Ignite the creative potential of your students at a young age.
- Perfect introductory tools to learn animation.
- Can be used for presentations/ assignments in science,history,geography classes as well as in after school programs.
- Contribute to increase focus and concentration in class while having fun
Advantages for Secondary Students
- Strengthen your students talent and skill set
- Strong tools to teach foundation of animation
- Promote creativity and motivate students
- Incorporate animation into different subjects to create more engaging presentations
- Develop story telling skills
There are also many instances in which animation can be used for teaching history/geography as well. Again, this becomes useful when students who are primarily visual learners are studying events that happened well before photography or television. The following is an example of an animation of the disappearance of Pompei. These types of animations of historical events can be powerful starting points for reflective writing pieces/journals or even blogs. Historical events can be presented with a mix of authentic source documents and animations of how the events transpired. Therefore, it becomes a powerful teaching tool for educators to add to their toolkits.
As I continue to reflect on the use of animation and coding in education, it strikes me as a great way for students to demonstrate their learning or to create something new. Animations also have numerous advantages when it comes to student engagement. This is especially true in an age when students are used to being engaged by technology at all times. As mentioned in previous blog posts, the time it takes to finish a coding project is substantial and this has caused me to reevaluate the final product for my learning project. As I explore possible ideas for an end product to demonstrate my learning, I will have to decide what will be beneficial and also useable in my teaching practice. I will also be working with a few students and speaking with them about the benefits of coding for their learning.