Student made movies in one period – Part I

X-tranormal has been buzzed about quite a bit in the blogosphere for the last year or so.  I’d checked it out several times, but hadn’t considered using it until I saw a student produced x-tranormal movie a few weeks ago.  It inspired me to give it a whirl with students in my geography class this week.

X-tranormal is an animated video editing environment that is very easy to use.  Recently, they’ve added a desktop version called “State” that is a free download.  The online version works very well, but the desktop version is supposed to be faster and doesn’t require a login.  In the online version, click “Make Movies,” choose your character and setting, and you are ready to go.  All you have to do at this point is write or copy and paste some text into the text box and hit the action button.   A few minutes later and you’ll have your own animated movie.   You can easily add motion, hand movements, and expression to your characters with some drag and drop buttons.
Student movie on Bolivia

For their assignments, my students had to write a news report about a country in South America.  They did most of their research on CIA Factbook, a site about etiquette in countries around the world, and New York Times  search.  In x-tranormal, I started a movie template for each student and logged them into my account once I approved their script.  From there, they could paste in their script and change the movie however they liked.

The students were able to figure out how to do things on their own and almost everyone completed their movie by the time class let out (though a few didn’t want to leave the lab).   As I suspected might happen however, many of the students lost their movies because they were all logged into my account at one time.   It wasn’t a terrible loss because everyone had already saved their written report on google docs so it was easy to fix.  Despite most of the movies not saving, a few survived and I’ve posted one of them above.

If you use x-tranormal with a class, keep these things in mind.

1. Make sure students have their script written beforehand.  It will be handy in case something goes wrong and they can get to the editing faster.

2. It’s probably best to have students create their own accounts (if they are over 13) or have multiple accounts for yourself.  This eliminates the problem of lost movies, but makes them more difficult to access and monitor.  Also, you could just download the desktop version and students could use it without accounts.

3. Beware that the homepage may have some questionable content on it.  There was a Tiger Woods parody on the main page that caught some students’ attention and was a distraction.

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