A regular visitor to the MOSSSIG blog, Len Euart, asked what was available for doing simple animations with students on a WindowsXP PC. I have been looking around since he asked, and may have finally found a great tool. It is called Pivot Stickfigure Animator. It is a tool that makes GIF animations. GIF files are one of the basic graphic files on the Internet along with JPEG files. Animated GIFs are very common, too. If you have seen the little smiley faces that wink at you, you are probably looking at a GIF animation.
There are a bunch of programs (not all free) that let you do GIF animations, but Pivot is notably special because it lets you build the individual frames of the animation interactively. Most of the other GIF animation tools expect that you have a bunch of frames you want to put together into the animation.
Even better, you don’t need to be much of an artist. The program begins with a screen that has a classic stick figure centered on the work space. A stick figure isn’t much, but, the big deal is that the joints of the stick figure are pivot points (hence the program name). Make the arm move around the elbow, go on to the next frame, move the arm back, etc. and you get a waving stick figure! Save in the pivot format first. Then export the animated GIF. Open the GIF file with any browser, and there’s the animated character waving at you.
I am certainly no animator, but you get the idea.
The next great thing about the program is that the animations your students create can be easily put together into a “portfolio” as part of a web page. Animated GIFs are, you remember, standard features of the Web. You can put the exemplary work of your students on your classroom Web page so the parents can see the work.
Before, or just after, you do your download, make sure you look at the example animation that the program author has posted.
Challenge your students to be creative. When you have some examples posted on the Web, leave us a comment with the link to your page.
Update: Pivot runs well using Wine on my Kubuntu 8.04 laptop. I even get a nice desktop launch icon.