Sunday, October 25, 2015

Animated Student Portraits Using Biteable

Sometimes things just line up. About a month ago I got an email from one of my 5th grade teachers asking for help. Her students had been learning how to ask good questions and interviewing each other.  She wanted a quick way to present this information. We all know that time is at a premium, some projects have to be quick. It just so happened that I read about Biteable that weekend. Kismet.

Biteable is a site that provides a library of quick animated slides. Users decide on the slides that best communicate their message and pair them with short strings of text. The slides are well designed and the brevity of the text (50 characters per slide) reinforces the “show, don’t tell” philosophy of design. Students also choose music to accompany the movie. The end result is something students can be proud of.

We created a single account using the teacher’s email and a generic password. Each student used this username and password to sign into the account and create a Biteable for their interview. The shared account did a few things:
  • The teacher had access to all the biteable movies
  • The account was connected to the teacher’s YouTube account, something that isn’t turned on in our student sub-organization
  • When a movie is ready, each student sends an email via Biteable to the teacher, giving the teacher control over when the movies are “published”
  • The shared account meant students had to respect each other’s work. This reinforced digital citizenship and our class rose to the occasion.

Students started by referencing the slide library and planning their movie with a storyboard graphic organizer. The graphic organizer was created in a Google Drawing and can be printed or used digitally.  The storyboards helped students think purposefully about their slide choices and the logical flow of the movie.

The text constraint of 50 characters per slide also presented an interesting teaching point. Students had to synthesize their notes into the most important ideas. Even then, ideas often needed to be stretched across slides. Students were taught to do this smoothly by using sentence connectors. Another lesson developed from the students’ sentence starters which tended to use a pronoun or the name of the child.  Students revised their work by placing the adverb phrase or predicate first.

The finished products are beautiful animated portraits of the interviewed students. Because the process was so easy, the focus of instruction was on craft and not the tool. It was also efficient; students typically finished the first draft of their movie in two days and took another two days to revise. I’m looking forward to using Bitable again, let me know how it goes if you try it with your class!