Jason, one of the Animoto guys, responds to my criticism, admitting his utility's limitations as a storytelling medium1 but then noting its "great pedagogical usages," the most interesting of which is:
… the Animoto presentation is in a style that many students are familiar with (MTV-style videos), I think it adds a great juxtaposition of using an aesthetic with which kids are already familiar, along with learning material than [sic] they are being exposed to for the first time.
Animoto is a staggeringly cool tool which almost everyone — even its creators, off Jason's comment — appreciates for the wrong reason.
Specifically, Animoto creates photo montages better and faster than any other Internet utility but, over the long run, the fact that the montages jitter and bob with the music — its most celebrated and distinctive feature — does nothing for me as a media consumer and less than nothing for me as a educator2.
This isn't because I like taking shots at the high-flying School 2.0 balloon or even because this is a matter of opinion. It isn't. Nor do I take some old-fashioned exception to the MTV aesthetic.
But the MTV aesthetic, even at its most arresting, spasmodic, and hypnotizingly awful, gives content some consideration3. Animoto has no such capability. It will adjust the speed of your video to match your song but it does not care even a little about your photographic content.
Its z-axis transitions look great but they are selected wholly apart from your content and, several times per slideshow, they obscure it — cropping out your Auntie's face and strobing several shots over the rest of your family — simply because Animoto doesn't know any better4.
"No two videos are the same," claims Animoto's main page but each slideshow shares in common a complete, 100%, de facto disregard for the relationship between form and content. Maybe it's unfair of me to suggest that educators oughtta know better but I'm astonished that this same crowd which dumped all over MTV in the '90s has missed this, that it has endorsed a tool good only for spackling enthusiasm across a crowd as meaningful learning, as meaningful assessment, as meaningful self-expression.
If you're going to teach this at all, you owe your kids to teach it right. Yet my colleagues' enthusiasm for visual expression has outpaced their understanding of it by several orders of magnitude.
What efforts are you making to get this right?
- which, of course, is the box most K-12 educators are forcing Animoto into, even though it makes VoiceThread look awesome.
- watch a dozen in a row and let me know how quickly your returns diminish.
- eg. the lyrics of a dark, dreary song inform the visuals at least a little.
- cf. the Ken Burns effect, which, stale and tired as it is, zooms, pans, and crops photos all to enhance content.