Working Toward Classroom Relevance With Video

Ok-  for those of us wondering about the “educational” value of Animoto…  I bring you a Martin Luther King Day trailer from Stacy Baker:


Stacy is a cyper-pal of mine and one of our growing group of inspiring collaborators on The Synapse.  She is also a blogger herself and a teacher whose class blog entitled “Extreme Biology” was nominated and won a 2008 Edublogs Award for “Best Class Blog.”  She has recently taken the newly-released features on Animoto (adding text overlays and altering slide pacing) and really ran with them.  She is now becoming quite adept at using Animoto to deliver motivating “trailers” to introduce new topics of study for her biology classes.

One of the things I respect Stacy for the most  -is not only being willing to immerse herself in the latest technology-  but for taking the professional “second look” at any of these technologies for their real educational value at the classroom level.  I think her blog is a really good example of how one does this.  If you see what I see throughout her archives, you will notice time and time again a willingness to experiment, reflect and evaluate.

Several of us in our spontaneous little web community, including Erin, have been experimenting with this sparkly video tool since its debut.  Like most people, we all fell in love with the cinema quality of the transitions, its ability to match action to the music you select, and the overall ease of use.  This post of mine from last June was all about the tool itself.  That was pretty much prior to any attempts at classroom use.  To be honest, most of us quickly gave up on Animoto as an “instructional” tool.  That is, until we all pretty much seemed to spontaneously remember that there is a ton of value in grounding our course concepts in relevance.

Settling in

I think this follows a natural progression with the adoption of any shiny new technology.  The early adopters among us seem to dive in, feel out the parameters, see what it can do, and then spread the news quickly.  The next step then seems to be true evaluation on the front lines  The MLK day trailer above is a perfect example of a multidisciplinary look at one topic in biology.  If this video doesn’t make a brief case for the relevance of the study of genetics, then I’m not sure what does.  The biology of race is not one often examined in biology classes and I applaud the energy Miss Baker is putting behind this issue.

If you have read much of this blog you also know I am a huge proponent of front-loading any conceptual heavy-lifting with tons of attempts to engage and motivate.  It seems as if I am coming onboard with Animoto being another good tool to “hook” student interest.  From my first attempt at Animoto:


…until recently, I saw Animoto as a really slick little marketing tool for education.  The fast-paced and pretty videos work really well to show off something that has already happened.  With a few new features, and a switch in thought from marketing to motivation, I am now seeing Animoto in a very positive light for classroom use.  Actually-  my wife, Erin just beat me to a post on this topic.  What is this- competition?  Wow.  In fact, notice the title of her blog.  Perhaps this is what happens when firstborns marry.  But yeah-  please feel free to welcome her into the blogosphere with some feedback as this is her first post on an individual blog.  Also be sure to check out her video there introducing “mollusks” to her zoology students!

Have you used Animoto yet?  Feel free to comment with examples…

Sean Nash

Biology teacher in the great state of Kansas. Back at it in the classroom after a 30-year career in Missouri. Former District Curriculum Administrator, Instructional Technology Coordinator, and Instructional Coach. Biology instructor since 1993. Find more about my passions and my work at


  1. Tried it after the PD animoto you made. I had a hard time finding a picture application that was uploadable until I hit flickr. That helped. Now I just need more time. I have plenty of “product” to market! 🙂

  2. I am what I’d like to call a loyal lurker of your blog. Despite being biology-handicapped my whole life, I find myself drawn to the data and illustrations shared in you Biology blogs as well as experimenting with the sites you guys suggest to facilitate easy learning. I must admit, that unlike any other lurking experience, tonight I found myself compelled to submit a comment after seeing my seven year old son’s reaction to the Animoto presentations you shared. I’ve always been aware of his interest in pre-historic animals, events, and nature in general- and my husband and I have encouraged and nurtured this interest by visiting museums and by contributing to his never-ending collection of books on pre-historic events and of course, dinosaurs. Nathaniel, my son, has always considered himself to be a dinosaurs-know-it-all. As you know, being a know-it-all comes with being a first born-AND being an only child only exacerbates this ‘virtue’- But back to my point- tonight this took a deeper meaning to me when I saw him rocking to the music while calling out every sea creature in the ‘Marine Biology’ video. For a second I wondered if he was making them up as he went along- but he gladly recited them again as the images changed. With his old soul’s gesture he suggested that more of these videos be added on You-tube for his enjoyment (yeah- it’s all about him sometimes). As you can imagine, the natural thing to do was search in You Tube and look at everything else you have out there. We enjoyed them all and we want to congratulate you guys for the successful team you have going here- this is a purpose-driven effort. Awakening the minds of young people and sharing valuable information amongst teachers in the Biology field is a goal I feel you have accomplished, and you know it. But being able to awaken a child-like interest in biology in a practical-Technology Management oriented mind like mine is a nice bonus.
    ~Blessing and continued success.
    Your respectful lurker,
    Kenia NYC

  3. A “loyal lurker,” huh? Well, to me that sounds pretty flattering. I thank you tons for entering the discussion here. I’m glad something moved you to type something into the little box here.

    Yeah- funny how birth order and the like seem to determine so much of a child’s demeanor, huh?

    I can just picture your little guy calling out the names of the critters in the video. Awesome.

    Thanks again.


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