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Digital Art and Animation


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Digital Art and Animation

  1. 1. DIGITAL ART AND ANIMATION IN PRIMARY AND EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION Lyn Hawkins Finn Cragg PO Box 622 North Perth WA 6906 Ph: (61 8) 9228 2018 Fax: (61 8) 9228 2443 Abstract Animation engages young audiences with visions of fantasy that offer marvellous avenues to explore. When Finn Cragg Animation Studio worked with WA schools during 2005 and 2006 many progressive outcomes were achieved. As a result of these trials new methods to inspire inquiry, interpretation and creative thinking were generated using short dialogue-free animations and tailored multimedia resources. Introducing digital art and storytelling processes to young students enables them to understand the role of new media in laying the foundations for multi-modal literacy whilst achieving cross curriculum learning outcomes. This paper explores some easy ways to introduce digital art and develop visual literacy in the early years. Background Animations are highly engaging for young viewers and most students, even in the early years show a high level of media literacy and knowledge about animation. However, young viewers often need to explore the notion of fantasy versus reality with the assistance of their teacher, as many have trouble discerning what is created by the digital artist and what is factual and real. By being exposed to some digital art techniques using computers, this understanding is greatly increased as the young student gets hands-on experience manipulating images and re-purposing visual texts. The Animated Story – The Starting Block The animated stories “Caravan” and “Emu and the Flying Doctor” which were created by digital author/animator Martin Davidson, were used as the focal point of lessons. Setting the animations to a soundtrack (with no character speaking) created interpretative possibilities for the students. This enabled them to immediately understand how variations exist within audiences where viewers respond different to the same production. The early classes were able to experience viewing, speaking and writing, digital painting and mark making, while the progressive developmental stages engaged in deeper text analysis, challenging stereotypes, repurposing the resources with computers and constructing their own oral, written and
  2. 2. visual texts whilst exploring the physical and textual aspects of introductory media production and analysis. The resources developed after the trials were produced on DVD and include a short animation, storyboards and stills as well as a DVD- ROM with stills and video footage for repurposing. CARAVAN is the first title of Finn Cragg’s multimedia resources packs. Teachers used the animated stories for achieving a variety of outcomes, generally focused on literacy, and in particular viewing outcomes and to generate discussion on themes such as space, seniors, life, death, trust, personalities and relationships (Caravan animation) and the outback, the flying doctor service, animation technique, fantasy, flight and friendship (Emu animation). There were numerous opportunities for developing listening skills and audio analysis exercises listening to the soundtrack e.g. Emu has two different soundtracks to compare and contrast, contemplating audience and purpose. In add classroom talk generated about the animations, the oral presentations and drama productions of scripts also developed art-related outcomes and critical skills. For reluctant learners the animations were an effective way to engage students and hold their interest, generating new areas of discussion. The storyboards were an engaging approach to facilitate writing, with or without the use of computers. Some teachers utilised the stills and video footage from the as a motivation for creative and descriptive writing, editing and media production and for an introduction to digital art.
  3. 3. Making Marks in Primary Digital Arts: Modifying and Adapting Images. Using basic level programmes such as Paint and Power Point that are available in most computer systems, students as young as pre-primary level can make their digital marks and create digital pictures. Further to creating pictures on blank pages, the use of existing images to be modified and re-purposed provides the student with the opportunity to manipulate an image for their storytelling purposed. Students with access to the Caravan stills can modify the pictures in ways that are limited only by their imagination. This is an excellent early introduction to tools that will be of diverse value. The following pictures are examples of the ways students from different class levels have made their marks on Caravan stills. Utilising Microsoft Paint, the picture on the left shows how a student has painted themselves into the picture, the image on the right is where the young artist has modified the still to narrate the next chapter in the Caravan story “they came across a space butterfly”. Challenging Stereotypes and Developing Narrative Structure. With a class of eight-and-nine-year-olds, views about seniors and grandparents were discussed within in the class to introduce the term’s theme. Typical stereotypes were generally put forward, indicating usual paradigms held about the elderly. Using a scaffolding approach throughout the term, a range of texts explored the theme of grandparents. The teacher challenged stereotypes by exposing students to a range of written and visual texts. They were asked to identify and discuss their own experiences with seniors and use their imagination in a number of creative writing exercises. The Caravan animation was shown and discussed at various levels, with the teacher guiding the process. One student enquired about the use of classical piano music in the animation. The
  4. 4. response from another young critic showed an insight into use of sound in communicating narrative. “The reason the piano was used is to show soft and loud, according to the emotions of the grandparents”. The Caravan animation was also used to initiate work on narrative structure and story sequencing, focusing on opening and closing of stories. Students used storyboards to develop their own creative conclusions, planning their sequenced endings to create a new narrative or new chapter in the lives of this elderly couple. These stories depicted new images of seniors, engaging in adventure, conquering challenges and defeating enemies. Clearly the stereotypes held at the beginning of term had been eroded and new visions of the elderly were emerging. Storyboards were used by students to interpret ”Caravan.” The storyboard files could be imported into Power Point and text boxes used to write in the speech and text. Developing new conclusions and prequels using storyboards: Year 3/4 class Later in the term, students created portraits of the seniors/ grandparent characters they had been developing. The resulting artworks clearly demonstrated the change in views about seniors.
  5. 5. Engaging Remote Students: An animated approach A class of six-to-seven-year-olds from a remote government school with a significant Aboriginal student population found the ‘Caravan’ animation challenging and thought provoking. The teacher asked the children what they believed was happening in the animation. Many of their responses indicated confusion about the content (set in space) and the characters (are they real?). The opportunity for these young students to explore fact and fantasy enabled them to learn about the role of moving images, particularly animations, in presenting stories and ideas that are not necessarily real nor based in fact. This highlights the importance of challenging student’s held beliefs about reality and building their awareness and critical understanding about the use of images in the media, particularly in the advertising of products. The “Emu” animation was used to determine the effectiveness of an Australian/familiar setting – a context that students relate more intimately with. This 3 minute animation tells a story about an emu in the outback that falls and breaks a leg, is healed by a flying doctor and is treated to experience flight. This animation is also set to a soundtrack and has no dialogue. It required interpretative work and generated rich classroom talk, oral expression and new vocabulary. Exposing students to these animations improved understanding of the nature of these texts, and prepared them for exploring these avenues for their own storytelling while developing their emerging critical skills.
  6. 6. The Emu and the Flying Doctor presented a familiar setting for Aboriginal students to engage with. Case Study 4: The Impact of Animation on Young Viewers A class of eight year olds at a government primary school were given the task of reviewing the prototype of the animation “Caravan.” After viewing the 3 minute animation on a DVD player attached to a television as a whole class exercise, they were instructed to list up to three things they liked about the movie, up to three things they disliked and what they would improve. They were then asked to write up to three questions they would like to ask the animator prior to a class incursion where the animator visited the school. They shared and discussed their responses, facilitated by the teacher, and were interested to see how different they all felt about various aspects of the animation and what thoughts they each had about how to improve the text. The empowerment felt by this class when the animator returned to show them the final version of the animation was evident in their delight that many of their suggestions and improvements had been incorporated. For a full copy of these student reviews email ICT, digital resources and art in early childhood stories A class of six year olds at a government primary school were given the task of creating a digital story using Photo Story 3 for Windows (a free download from the Microsoft Download Center for XP users). The students were shown fifteen still images taken from the Caravan DVD-ROM 70 random still files (without first seeing the animation). They were then required to import 6 carefully selected images and to sequence them in the programme to make a digital storybook. Working in pairs enabled a stronger computer user to be paired with a weaker user. Over a number of lessons, narrative sequences were developed, text written against each visual, background music and voiceovers added and short digital stories created. With this introduction to Photo Story 3, students were happy to plan and storyboard their next challenge - the creation of their own illustrated photo story, where their painted illustrations will be
  7. 7. photographed (jpeg format) to import into Photo Story to create a six page self-illustrated digital storybook. See in the student movies section for some samples. Below is an example of a front cover illustration where the Caravan stills have been modified using the programme Paint. Conclusion These case studies indicate some of the potential and diverstiy of animation and multimedia in early childhood education. Utilising Finn Cragg’s digital resources, teachers were able to develop new approaches to inspire student inquiry, interpretation, critical skills, creative thinking and new methods of creative engagement. The case studies indicate the wide role and value of the digital arts and multimedia in laying the foundations for young story tellers whilst achieving multiple learning outcomes. It is hoped that Finn Cragg’s experiences will prompt more research in this area and inspire teachers to incorporate similar approaches to engage their students and equip them with the knowledge that will help them become powerful visual storytellers. About Finn Cragg Finn Cragg is a small Perth animation studio partnered by Martin Davidson and Lyn Hawkins. Finn Cragg produces specifically tailored 3D animations and multimedia resources for K-12 and adult learners. They continue to generate feedback and direction from teachers, literacy consultants, curriculum resource developers, teacher associations, school principals, and the students themselves. Lyn and Martin are experienced
  8. 8. presenters and workshop facilitators who have a pragmatic and fun approach to their sessions. For more information about Finn Cragg multimedia resources, a preview of Finn Cragg animations, student samples and further details see References Freebody, P., & Luke, A. (1990). Literacies programs: Debates and demands in cultural context. Prospect: Australian Journal of TESOL, 5(7), 7-16. Note: The images contained in this article are copyright protected and cannot be used in any way nor separately copied without the written permission of Martin Davidson, Finn Cragg, Perth, WA.