For the past three years, the Schlechty Center has helped educators embrace the connection between digital tools and engagement in an offering called Engaging the Net Generation. Some of the more popular tools we have explored in this session are those that allow students to create animated stories. The connection between Novelty and Variety and student engagement is powerful. Students find themselves writing complex stories, summarizing literature, and creating math tutorials—all the while engaged— because of the Novelty and Variety that animation leverages.

There are a number of apps and program that facilitate this connection. For tablets like an iPad, young children will engage with apps such as Sock Puppets, Puppet Pals, Tellagami, Morfo, and ChatterKid. Older students could move on to the PC- or Mac-based GoAnimate.

All these platforms work the same. The student creates a scene with animated characters and then adds a storyline by recording or typing script.

But each of these apps has its challenges. Sock Puppets is a wonderful app. But for the free app, your characters are limited to 30 seconds of storyline. Time can be increased to 90 seconds by buying the upgrade for a very reasonable $1.99 per student. Likewise, Tellagami requires that students buy the type-to-script feature. Tellagami also is limited to soliloquoys, or one-character animations. GoAnimate used to allow unlimited 30-second animations for free. No more. The best you can get is a 14-day free trial before students are asked to buy in. To be fair to GoAnimate, they do offer a complete GoAnimate for Schools package, which is a wonderful, powerful platform—if a school can afford it.

Enter Plotagon to the rescue. Plotagon is a superb animation platform. Here is why we like it so much:

  • Plotagon is an app that can be downloaded to ANY device—PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, etc.
  • Plotagon currently gives away a lot of features for free. Everything needed to create wonderful animations is available for free including a variety of characters and scenes. We have not run into any time restrictions.
  • In Plotagon, students create script in a realistic script-writing mode. In other words, the finished text looks like any play script one might pick up and read.
  • Control over character action and emotion is a very simple process that is executed from easy-to-use drop-down menus.
  • Final animations are published on the web in individual accounts. They can also be recorded by screencasting. They can also be saved in the app and kept private without publishing. Animations can also be published to YouTube where they can be coded private or public.
  • There is a Plotagon Education option. For $99 a year for 30 students, students get full access to a wide menu of characters and scenes. Plus, all animations can be stored in a private classroom account as opposed to on the web (which is standard on the free version).

In the spirit of full disclosure, Plotagon makes their money by selling extras—extra characters and scenes. We like this approach because a fully functioning platform is available for free including many different characters and scenes. Additional purchases are optional and not required to use the platform.

So what are the challenges with Plotagon? First, using Plotagon, even offline, does require an Internet account. That can be problematic for children under 13 or in districts that restrict students from creating online accounts. However, many districts work around this with appropriate disclosure and parent permission.

A second challenge in using the free version is students may see a library of public, published plays. As is always the case with the Internet, some of these aren’t suitable for student viewing. This potential for misuse could be minimized with a classroom culture of good digital citizenship.

Digital animation is a powerful classroom tool that educators should have in their toolboxes. Many Design Qualities can be addressed through the creation of animated stories including Novelty and Variety, Product Focus, Affiliation, and Authenticity. The resultant work and products can address a lot of learning standards.

Plotagon is an exceptional animation platform that can be accessed for free or purchased as an educational app for classrooms. We hope you give it a try!