Monday, May 29, 2006

More Cool Stuff from eLive

I think two more posts should just about get eLive 2006 out of my system...

I've already blogged about the sessions I attended, but here are a few of the things that caught my eye elsewhere at eLive.

A rolling demo of some animated lego caught my attention at the Kudlian Soft stand. (Try saying the name out loud if you can't see straight away what a good name Kudlian Soft is!) The software used to produce it is called I Can Animate. (It is Mac only, so sorry to all you Windoze users. They have an animation package for PCs too although I don't know if it is as cool.) The chap at the stand showed me how easy it was to put things together. He took a picture of the Lego aeroplane against a green screen. This single picture was replicated over twenty-five frames. A picture file of a grassy hillside with sky at the top was then brought in to replace the green background. Then he zoomed in on the background picture and panned across on the first frame so that it looked like the plane was in the sky at the top left of the image. Flipping over to the last frame he panned the zoomed background picture and made it look like the plane had landed on the grass at the bottom right of the image. The package then filled in the bits in between and he had a sequence which showed the plane flying across the sky and landing on the grass - all from one image capture against a green background and moving another still image behind it. Brilliant and stunningly easy. Just a few nights previously I had been watching the extras on the Animatrix DVD {Sad geek credentials well and truly established I think!} where it was explained that sliding two still images past each other, or zoom and pan across a still image are standard tricks used in anime films. Professional animation techniques from a £30 piece of software! It had other tricks up its sleeve all of which made it easy to produce high quality stop motion animation in next to no time. I hope I can talk someone into getting this for me before I teach my next digital video class.

I also liked what I saw at the Promethean Interactive Whiteboard stand. (And that's not asentencee I thought I'd write!) I remain unconvinced by Interactive Whiteboards. One of the things that annoys me about them is that almost inevitably you stand in the way of the projector when you try to interact with them. The Promethean people however were using a pointer instead of a pen. It was a fairly short pointer (about 60cm long) but it was long enough for the user to get out of the way while pushing things about on the screen. Long enough for shorter pupils to reach the top of the board without having to stand on a box. I can't see it on their website, so maybe it is not on sale yet, but if you have a Promethean board, I'd say it was worth investigating further.

A couple of the best things though was stuff I saw pupils doing. On the first day I saw some pupils using Comic Life. I'd seen that already and was well impressed, but one boy was using something different. It looked like an animation package so I sat down and asked him what he was doing.
originally uploaded by DavidDMuir.
It turned out not to be an animation package, but a free programming environment called Squeak which is available for Windows, Macintosh, various flovours of Unix and even RiscOS! There are not many programming environments I'd recommend for primary schools. Up until now, my favourite has been Stagecast but Squeak has real potential to at least challenge Stagecast... and Squeak is free! The pupil drew a car on the screen with basic paint tools and clicked on it to bring up a range of options. He then dragged stuff over onto the car's area to start it moving up the screen. He then painted a steering wheel on the screen and, again just using drag and drop, connected it to the car's direction. This meant he could turn the steering wheel he'd just painted and it would change the direction of the car he'd just painted. Fantastic! And the package is free! See also Squeakland for all sorts of goodies to help you get the best out of Squeak (tutorials, background reading, community of users, etc.). And did I mention that the package is free?

I also liked some remote control Duplo I saw pupils playing with. It looked like great fun and the teacher said that while some pupils werecontrollingg the vehicles, others were buildingstufff to go on top of the motor and wheels for when it was their turn to get the radio controller. It looked great for early years classes.

Finally, did anyone else get asked by a couple of pupils what they would buy if they had all the money in the world. The two girls were asking everyone that passed and writing the answers on a whiteboard. By the time I got there, they had answers like a sweet shop, a pink Ferrari and a yacht (although I thought it said yoghurt!). I'm afraid that I failed to say, world peace and an end to hunger, but opted for the more predictable, "Lots of technology". What did you answer?

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Gordon McKinlay said...

We have done a fair amount of animation using I Can Animate. It's great fun but takes a fair amount of time to do anything substantial. Our Masterclass group spent a day with Oscar Stringer larning how to use it in the classroom. The resources Oscar was able to share with us were brilliant for using in the classroom.

There is free PC software that you can dowload from It is called Stop Motion Animator. It is fairly basic but does the business. One weekend I set it up with a simple digital camera on a tripod with some lumps of plasticine. My ten year old daughther then spent the rest of the day completely absorbed in creating her own story.

David said...

By it's very nature, stop motion animation is going to be a slow and painful process. However I liked the way that I Can Animate gives you various short-cuts to speed up the process as much as possible. For example, I liked it that if you have a number of frames of an arm going up, you can get the arm coming back down just with a paste in reverse order instead of having to re-pose and re-take a whole bundle of pictures. I thought that was really smart. :-)