There are growing numbers of Web-based tools for creating animated stories today. When combined with good writing instruction, these offer a motivating and engaging means for students to publish and share their work. One interesting tool I just discovered, thanks to a teacher at one of my campuses, is Xtranormal. Xtranormal allows users to create animated stories including a variety of settings and characters, computer generated voices, character animations, facial expressions, background music, and more. Stories can be private or public, and they can be published easily to YouTube accounts. The site also includes a rating system, including G, 13+, and 18+, and users can select account settings to allow or block content rated for older audiences.
The user interface is relatively easy to learn. To begin, creating a movie involves selecting a story’s characters and setting (such as animated animals, super heroes, etc.). Within a chosen scene, users are then able to choose various camera angles and specific characters. Once the scene is set, characters are put into action by clicking to select and then typing dialogue. Animated effects and facial expressions are added by inserting the cursor into the desired point in the dialogue box, then clicking on the effects icons and selecting the desired options.
I created the video below in just a few minutes. It is included as part one of a series (assuming I get around to creating more), another cool feature of the site.
Overall, I really like the possibilities of Xtranormal. There is one animation effect called “up yours”, and you can probably imagine the accompanying effect, so be forewarned. Other than that, however, it appears to be very kid friendly, and would seem to be particularly useful for upper elementary through high school students. If interested in exploring other animation sites, here are a few more you might want to check out: