What is an animation?

  • "An animation is a changing graphic display that changes continuously in time and can show the operation of a system from start to finish" (Tyversky, Heiser, Lozano, Mackenzie, and Morrison, 2005).
  • In programs such as PowerPoint and OpenOffice Impress, animations are visual effects applied to various components on the slide such as graphics, titles, or bullets.
  • Computer animation is the art of creating moving images with the use of computers.
Animations are not mere eye candy! For educational purposes animations are not inherently superior to static graphics. However, if proper consideration is given to their use and design, animations can be an effective learning tool that is superior to static graphics. Animations promote student engagement because of their affective and cognitive characteristics. They have the ability to focus and sustain our attention. However, effective use of animations as a learning tool requires that there use have an educational objective. Animations should not be used as "merely eye candy" (Lowe, 2001). Animations should be used when dynamic change is essential to understanding the concepts being taught (Allessi and Trollip, 2001). Additionally, animations can help accomodate different learning styles and support educational objectives by demonstrating concepts in a more concrete way. Properly used and designed animations can provide the following advanages over static graphics: (Lowe,2001).
  • Animations are more realistic because they have the capability to demonstrate the dynamic aspect of subject matter.
  • Animations are more explicit because dynamic aspects are demonstrated for the learner, requiring the learner to make fewer inferences. This results in fewer misconceptions on the part of the learner.
  • Animations are clearer because they do not require accompanying symbols (arrows or dotted lines) in order to show dynamic processes that clutter up the display. Nor does the learner have to increase their cognitive load in order to interpret the various symbols.
  • Animations reduce the learner's cognitive load because the learner does not have to mentally animate still pictures that represent dynamic processes.

Below the dynamic function of the solar system is demonstrated through animation providing an example of appropriate use and design.

It should be noted that, if animations are poorly designed or overused with no educational objective, they may actually be detrimental to learning, because they may distract the learner from the important elements of an educational experience (Ruffini, 2009).

Betancourt (2005) offered five principles that should be considered when designing instructional multimedia in regards to animation:
Apprehension Principle - The animated object should follow the traditional graphic design that is consist for a particular domain. Any cosmetic part of the object that is not necessary for the learner’s understanding should not be included.
Congruence Principle - Changes in the animation should depict conceptual changes even at the expense of realism.
Interactivity Principle - Information is better understood if the learner has control of the pace of the animation. The inclusion of a resume button gives the learner time to chunk information and synthesize information.
Attention Guiding PrincipleIn order to ensure that the learner’s attention is focused on the important elements, verbal commentary, highlighting, or arrows should be used emphasize these aspects of the animation.
Flexibility Principle - The learner should be given the option of when to activate the animation in order to make it more appropriate for different ability levels.

The use of animation in PowerPoint presentations can be an effective teaching tool. (Ruffini, 2009)
Well-designed animations included in PowerPoint presentations can provide a more concrete learning experience as well as increased student engagement. PowerPoint 2007 has moare thatn 100 preset animations and additional animations for customization using Motoin Paths. Furthermore, the Power Point customization menu has four customization categories that can be used to demonstrate a concept. These categories include Entrance, Emphasis, Exit and Motion Paths.

Student designed animation promotes knowledge construction and provides opportunities for collaboration.
Having students create visuals in this case animations helps them internalize and remember information (Marzano, 2001). In addition, because animations are visual they help support the different intelligences. Furthermore the creating of animation projects can require the use of multiple intelligences. Making a clay character to animate employs the bodily kinesthetic intelligence, writing a story or script involves linguistic intelligence, collaboration involves the interpersonal intelligence, creating an animated production utilizes spatial intelligence, and organizing and sequencing frames utilizes logical and mathematical intelligences.
Student created animations can be an effective learning tool in a variety of subjects. Concepts that are difficult to understand solely through text can be conceptualized through student designed animations (Kolk, 2007). For example:

  • In science, animation allows students to create and manipulate physical models of scientific structures and processes (Kolk, 2008). The process of chemical bonding can be demonstrated at the atomic level.
  • In language arts, student can utilize descriptive information about characters to illustrate them through animation.
  • In math, students can use animations to demonstrate algebraic equations by relating them to lines and points on a coordinate plane (Kolk, 2008)

There are many animation design programs that are designed for student use. Below are videos that provide some information on three of these programs:
1) Animation-ish 2) ToonBoom 3) Claymation

ReferencesAlessi, S. & Trollip, R. (2001). Multimedia for Learning. Needham Heights: Allyn & Bacon.Betancourt, M. (2005). The animation and interactivity principles in multimedia learning. In Mayer, R. (Ed.), The Cambridge Handbook of
(pages 287-296). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Kolk, M. (2008). Supporting science learning with animation. Didatics World, 1(7).Lowe, R. (2001). Beyond eye-candy: Improving learning with animations. Apple University Consortium.Marzano, R., Pickering, D., & Pollock, J. (2001). Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student
. Alexandria: Association for Supervision and Curriculum and Development.Ruffini, M. (2009). Creating animations in powerpoint to support student learning and engagement. Educause Quarterly, 32(4), 1-4.Tversky, B., Heiser, J., Lozano, S., Mackenzie, R., & Morrison, J. (2004). Enriching animations. Retrieved April 13, 2010, from