This Thing I Just Realized:

Teachers : Animoto :: Teenage Boys : Michael Bay

Animoto belongs in the classroom as much as Transformers does in an arthouse.

The masterminds behind both are clearly field-tested and combat-readyCheck out the Animoto intro video, which is a motion-graphic marvel, for proof., but as a storytelling device, as a medium for instruction, as a delivery device for anything but rockin’, noisy thrills, light on content, heavy on flash, their products flatly suck.

Again: if you want to strike an emotional chord with your audience or jazz up your Poughkeepsie vacation slideshow then Animoto’s got you covered.

But all y’all Classroom 2.0 Animoto-philesI only subscribe to their feed ’cause I’m running a heated bet with myself that Sir Ken Robinson’s state of the educational union will get 900 individual mentions (” … hey, has anyone seen this video … “) before school’s out. So far I’m winning.: when has any worthy learning moment come as cheaply and easily as an Animoto slideshow?

  • Upload your photos. [Great interface.]
  • Browse their archives for music. [It automatically embeds the citation.]
  • Uh.
  • Wait?
  • That’s it?

Yeah, I realize it slickly analyzes your music for tempo and adjusts visual rhythm to match but nowhere does it analyze your photos for content. Nowhere does it automate a narrative. Nowhere does AnimotoOr Michael Bay, while we’re here. do anything more than jab your frontal lobe with a sharp, happy stick.

*poke poke poke*

yeah! yeah! yeah!

Not saying there isn’t a place for this, but I am saying it isn’t the classroom. This is decidedly the one-size-fits-all visual essay and if I’ve gotta brainwash your kids when I get ’em from you and reteach ’em the form, it won’t be without posting this cranky missive first.

I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.


  1. *Hear hear*

    I do think Animoto has a place (how many boring vacations slideshows have you be forced to sit through?) but it’s not in the classroom.

    Thinking about it, using Animoto is perhaps worse than a simple “lecture.” While the lecturer customizes the pacing and presentation to the audience and the content, Animoto uses the same technique for every video it creates – cool music or not.

    And I thought classroom 2.0 was supposed to be about not just spraying the content at all students and hoping some of it seeps through?

  2. Boo technology! Only Final Cut Pro productions accepted around here!

    Teachers here have used Animoto as a way to, how’d you say it, “jab your frontal lobe with a sharp, happy stick”.

    They wanted to add a multi-media touch to Back To School Night; something playing through the overhead as parents walked into the room; rooms covered in standards-based demonstrations of student-learning and rap-inspired vocab posters.

    Someday, someone will take me by the hand, walk side by side, and justify Tupac-vocab posters while bashing a simple tool to make something overtly boring a little bit more than a flat-lined EKG.

    Where’s the difference?

    Bash away, good sir, you still have my unwavering educational heart.

    You cut me deep, Meyer, you cut me real deep.

  3. Michael Bay actually used Animoto to edit Transformers. His intent was that Transformers would grace the art house movie scene and then evolve into a strong national release. Unfortunately, Transformers was booed and hissed at the the art houses and went right to multi-screen national release.

    I hear Transformers 2: The Dharma of Optimus Prime, will woo the art house scene and become an indie success!

  4. Like I said, “if you want to strike an emotional chord with your audience or jazz up your Poughkeepsie vacation slideshow then Animoto’s got you covered.”

    There are places where Animoto can do no harm but given how misty-eyed educators get over the thing I worry it’s been used where it has no business.

    You want to do anything more significant than adrenalize some set of photos then, yeah, it’ll take more effort and thought than Animoto’s two-click system.

  5. Michael Bay sucks. Not going to argue that with you.

    Trasnformers rocks!…but not in the classroom, again, I’m with you.

    Animoto totally rocks! Sure, it takes as much brain power to use as my visualizer in iTunes (oooooOOOooooo, the colors), but it’s simplicity should not be overlooked. If I can remember back to my formal training days, there’s a little something called an anticipatory set, and Animoto could work wonders for providing that “all senses blasted” hook that many students enjoy before a project.

    Imagine doing a community fundraiser as part of your social studies unit, and showing a short high energy musical clip of participants from last year having fun and enjoying themselves. The prospect of being in the video this year (for elementary students at least) would be enough to get most of them motivated, but it would also t the project, seeing all of the duties and impact they’ll have.

  6. Look, I don’t feel particularly contradicted or challenged by Ben’s or anyone’s exceptions. I agree, in fact: if you want to strike an emotional chord with your audience, Animoto’s got you covered. (… echo echo echo …)

    What I’m seeing thought are teachers trying to wedge Animoto into the instructional box – using it for summative projects and the like when it asks students for precisely zero creative input.

    What kind of an assessment or document or project is that? Does anyone feel particularly proud of their Easy-Bake Animoto presentations?

  7. Side note: Still have an Easy-Bake oven. Full working condition.

    Ancillary note: Perhaps the choice of images one chooses to include, the verbal/written defense a student provides behind her visual understanding/analysis/pick your own Taxonomy, is where the learning and creativity occurs. Animoto is just digital choreography, but what takes places in a well-designed, carefully-scaffolded assignment will matter most, not Animoto’s whiz-bang simplicity.

    Tangential note: try Voice Thread

  8. Hm. Interesting seeing the different reactions to this around the web. I might have to try it out myself to see what’s the what. :-) Although since I’m used to frame-by-frame control of my video via Adobe Premiere, I might end up on the same side of the fence as you are…

  9. Ken, what would a verbal/written defense of image selection look like? “I chose this photo of Chicago’s skyline over this equally-well-appointed photo because I liked how the Fisher building stood out against the sunset.”

    I guess. But in that case, it’d still be better to assemble the slideshow with some utility that gave you even superficial control over form. Like iPhoto and iMovie and probably a dozen PC utilities which let you use the pan-and-zoom Ken Burns effect, which lacks Animoto’s amped-up muscular energy but which pay more than lip service to the idea that what the thing is should inform how a thing looks.

    Trina, if you’ve ever used anything that gives you any control over how images are positioned, sized, and set in motion, I’ll put your odds of enjoying the Animoto experience at [big number]:1.

  10. Dan, I’ve never been to Chicago. Dallas, yes. Portland, yes. And regarding Portland, I’ve tried and tried to sway my wife to pick up and move the fam to the Great Northwest.

    I’m thinking here of the word ‘rationale’. When students select photos, why? And to take your sentence about the building in Chicago, I’d demand that they connect it back to the content.

    “Sure, great picture, but how does it enhance / support the content?”

    In my case, English teacher by design, I’d want to know how it helps to enhance characterization, motif, or symbolism.

    So hopefully, no Chicago skyscrapers.