How I Use It
I used it for my students as an extension activity for those that finished early with an assignment. Since I was still helping others, I merely handed them a sheet of instructions, and they were able to pick it up with very little help. They used several pictures they had downloaded from the previous project and put them into an animoto slideshow, and wrote informative captions for each. They loved being able to pick from cool music and beautiful themes. And since the free educator account limits each video to 30 seconds, they couldn't spend ages getting caught up in the details of transitions, fonts, etc.
I've even used it as a sub activity, in which students just followed the steps on the board. It's user-friendly enough, that most can pick it up on their own.
Other great uses for Animoto might be images demonstrating the growth process of a plant or a class pet, visual summary of a field trip, a visual lab report of a science experiment, putting several pictures in an Animoto video that other students then have to guess what they have in common, brief visual biographies of historical figures, etc.
Overall, this is a very simple "video" creation tool (videos are actually a collection of images set to music and animation/transitions). I found it to be very simple, and a great way to display several general images on a topic, with a bit of basic information for each. The most frustrating thing for my middle schoolers was the very limited amount of space for text/captions (30 characters for title, and a bit more for an explanation, but not much). It was doable, but not if you want students to expand upon their thinking.