Accidental Animation: Using Keynote to Enhance Digital Storytelling

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Five years ago, in English and Media classes, we investigated the meaningful integration of technology into lessons and assessments that posed challenging and differentiated outcomes. When a student accidentally exported a keynote slide as an image, we had a thought: we could use this to create digital stories.


Keynote allows us to duplicate slides, and it also allows us to alpha key (eliminate) backgrounds of images which often sparks creativity in the minds of students.  From there, we create the first slide.  What we place on the first slide could be duplicated to the second, and with the subtle movement of the image, we could then create an entire animation sequence (click on the model below).

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When exporting the slides as images into a folder, the images will export in the same order in which they were created and easily transfer to iMovie (or other movie making software program).  Then, iMovie allows for the alteration of time for each image; when the student changes the duration of each image to .1 seconds, they witness the animation (tip:  vary the time; it does not have to be .1 s).

I teach students this technique to develop digital stories for many reasons.  The skill itself allows students to design, provides them with a tool to showcase their strengths in visual perception, and, most importantly, gives them the capability to use technology meaningfully to transform learning.  Recognizing the potential to use Keynote (or other forms of technology) for something other than simply presenting also promotes invention, and in education I believe it is important to provide a setting where inventing visionaries is a primary objective.

The example given below is from an 11th grade English class.  The student took the first six chapters of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and connected his interpretations of the intentions through a stop-motion digital story.

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How can you do this in your class?

Step 1:  Assign the students a reading and allow them to archive, asking them to list the main intentions and ideas.

Step 2:  Ask the students to write a story about the chapters, including both summary, ideas and  intentions.  Tell them to focus on how the plot, characters, and themes develop the ideas and intentions.  I model how to do this, but essentially you want them to tell you a story back; again, summary is fine, but you want to encourage them to transform their notes into an actual story.

Step 3:  Ask the students to highlight key words from the story.  The highlighted words act as markers for them; I tell them that the markers are the slides they want to create, what they want to animate or make come to life.

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Step 4:  Open Keynote (or Powerpoint), and begin creating a stop motion animation sequence by developing the first slide, then duplicating and adding or moving items slightly, then duplicating and repeating.  The focus of this assignment is to develop images that go along with the highlighted words.

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Step 5:  Create a new folder on your desktop.  Export the slides as jpeg images to that folder.

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Step 6:  Open iMovie and import the images (if you are unfamiliar with iMovie, this also works with many other programs. Import images into a new movie).

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Step 7:  Alter the duration of the images (this varies for software programs.  In the new version of iMovie it is the speedometer or third tool from the right located in the upper right of your screen)

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Step 8:  Voiceover. We used Garageband to record our voiceovers, but some students simply use the voiceover feature in iMovie.  In Garageband, just open new project, vocal, and hit the record button (tip:  turn off the metronome).  In iMovie, find where you want to begin telling the story, and just hit the microphone located beneath the preview window.  The student will adjust the duration of the images while reading the story he/she developed in step 2.

Step 9:  Export the movie.

Tip:  Limit how much control you have over the products; this is their time to take risks with the process. Always show models (use the one on this page to assist) of past student work. Encourage storytelling which can vary from summary to more pure storytelling techniques (adding dialogue for example). Use Google Drive to promote collaboration and to collect the products (movies take up a lot of memory so let Google take care of that for you).  Use Google Classroom assign the presentation and to collect videos as they will all be placed nicely into a folder for you. Develop a rubric that rewards creativity and vision while also assessing core concepts (I have plenty of models).  Have fun and good luck.

Submitted by Kelly Wetherhold, English and Media Teacher at SHS, March 24, 2016

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