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Pros: Eye-catching final projects are fun to make and simple to share.
Cons: Lack of features means presentations won't have much depth.
Bottom Line: Slick music videos and slideshows are easy to make, but students need more controls to personalize them.
Your best bet for Animoto is to draw on its strengths and recognize its limitations. For an art project or maybe a book report, it could be useful and engaging. It's certainly fun to create slideshows and satisfying to watch the finished presentations. Also, it's a bit of a primer on video-editing software. Choices are limited, which makes the site easy to use, but it also means the teaching potential is limited.
If you're using a lot of video in the classroom, you might be interested in our teaching tips and resources here: Get Students Thinking Critically About Video.
Making flashy video slideshow presentations with Animoto is simple. First, select Create a Project, and the site walks you through each step. Choose a theme, and then upload short video clips and your own images or images from a Creative Commons site such as Flickr. Then, upload your own songs or songs from the site, and add text if you'd like. Like magic, the site creates a video and publishes it to your Animoto account. The finished product is a modern and engaging presentation that's appealing for kids and adults.
Once a video is published, users can share the link, grab an embed code, export it to other video sites including YouTube, or download a version to the desktop. New themes for projects and new music tracks, sorted by genre, are added regularly, so there's always something new.
While Animoto is cool, it won't let teachers or students express their ideas in a complex way. For teachers trying to engage students in digital storytelling, Animoto might not be the best tool; creating a slideshow is simple and straightforward, but the ease of use means that you automate a lot of the creative process and don't have much editorial control. The main problem is that you can't adjust transitions; the site syncs them to the rhythm of the song, which is fine for a vacation slideshow but has limited potential in the classroom. Also, you can't add your own voice narration, so the emotional resonance of digital storytelling gets lost.
It takes a little doing to get free access to Animoto. Educators have to apply to request a free account, and then they have to set up special Gmail addresses for their students to grant them access. While that's a great way to get access to an otherwise paid tool, some teachers may not feel that jumping through these hoops is worth it. Still, if you're willing to take these steps, Animoto is an awfully fun way to make a professional-looking slideshow.