Animating the Learning Environment

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This month's student contributor describes how animation and simulation software helps her and her fellow students to think and work creatively.

AT MY SCHOOL, we use animation/simulation tools in many different ways. My teachers have us use the software mostly during our technology lessons, and we have learned many things while using the tools. For example, I've learned how to type, how to access the menus in a program, basic programming concepts, and the most important thing is that I've learned how to work in groups.

We also help the younger children in our school to learn about different topics by letting them play the games we make. In my case, I created a game that teaches about vowels and their sounds. The game lets children listen to the different words that begin with a particular vowel. (For example, with the letter "a," they can click on a word such as apple and listen to the pronunciation.) Then they are tested when they have to drag the vowel to the words that begin with "a."

Another girl in my class made a game that teaches facts about the planets and the universe. This is a matching game where the younger students move planets to the correct rings. We mostly use CREATE Together from Bytes of Learning (www.bytesoflearning.com) and Kid Pix from Riverdeep (www.riverdeep.com) to make our games.

We learn by creating. Our teachers let us choose a topic we like and make games to share information with our classmates. Last year, we worked with our grammar teacher in the lab. We used nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs, and we made a project where we had information and games. We used the games to practice grammar, and some of my classmates who were not good at grammar benefited because they were learning in such a different and active way.


A sample project created using animation/simulation tools.

Using animation/simulation tools is important to us because we can learn better from creating instead of just listening. It's a more fun way to learn when you work on a computer instead of books and notebooks. Notebooks don't let you add sounds, videos, movement, and animation to your work. We also help each other learn by playing the games that all of the other students make. And being able to use these programs to make games also gives us more time on a PC, which helps our computer skills.

It's funny that some of us students know more about animation/simulation tools and how to use them than some teachers do. The teachers who don't integrate computers into their lessons are the ones who don't know as much.

I think they don't use computers because they are afraid of not knowing what to do or say if we ask them something they don't know. I think this has a bad effect on us because we are limited to the way teachers teach.

If I were a teacher, I would give my students the chance to practice every topic with animation/simulation activities. I would prepare games for them to prove what they have learned every year, and I would make a CD with all of their creations as a reward for hard work.

Students at my school are being prepared for college and the working world by learning the technology skills we will need. But I know that I still have a lot to learn. Animation/simulation tools can help prepare us for the future because they make us think creatively.

Paola Luconi Galva is a fifth-grader at Saint Jude School in Santa Ana, Costa Rica.

This article originally appeared in the 01/01/2006 issue of THE Journal.

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