Why Animation for Learning?

This week, I am focusing on research that supports my decision to create animated videos as teaching tools and my design. I found an article that supports the idea of animated videos being an asset to visual learning and acquiring new skills.

The authors Bello-Bravo, Tamo, Dannon, and Pittendrigh (2017) conducted an experiment in which they presented two teaching methods to a group of rural farmers in Benin. One method was a traditional means of presenting information while the other was a series of videos that were viewed primarily on the participants’ phones. The authors found that not only did the participants learn more from the videos, but they showed great interest in being able to view the videos and share them digitally. In their findings, the authors make it clear that traditional teaching approaches produced results in learning, but the digital approached produced much higher results when it came to knowledge acquisition.

The authors also see potential in their specific animated videos to be able to be translated and used in other contexts, cultures, and populations.

This article is helpful for me because I do need to defend my choice of design and production. Animated videos are highly favored by businesses and there is great value in transferring them to use in education. This article focuses on a very different audience learning something very different than what I am creating, but overall the benefits are transferable.

Right now, I am finalizing a proof of concept video for my committee. I have given them a project proposal and a bibliography of my sources, which they have sent me feedback on. I am going to turn in my final committee list this week.

 

Common Core and Social Studies/History/Civics

This week, the article I have chosen to write about looks at how Common Core standards have affected social studies and history classes. When No Child Left Behind was implemented, classes like these were placed after subjects like reading and math. Teachers were unable to devote too much time to them because they began to “teach to the test.” This article examines the time period when Common Core was brought to reintroduce social studies into the mainstream curriculum.

The authors, , recount the history of No Child Left Behind, and how it became much more concerned with a school’s “output” than its “input.” The federal government became much more involved with education and started holding schools accountable for their students’ proficiency rates in essential subjects like math and reading. In 2009, the Common Core standards were introduced. They are meant to rework the national standards and make them less rigid than what was outlined by NCLB. For Common Core, states worked together to come up with standards for various subjects.

Before Common Core, the researchers found that teachers in secondary schools were largely unchanging in their teaching methods- which included almost 100% lecture. The new Common Core standards, however, require more “skill acquisition” so as to make students “college and career ready.” The authors conclude that social studies teachers face a great challenge ahead in reworking the curriculum that has been overshadowed for years.

This article relates directly to my research because it deals with social studies as a whole subject in high schools. Researching education standards and test scores are essential for this project because they help “outline the problem that need solving.” My project has a purpose, and part of that purpose is to supplement teaching materials that have lacked for so long underneath bogus legislation.

Right now, I am in the middle of producing a “proof of concept” video for my committee. They have just sent me feedback on my proposal and I am responding to it.

 

Using Social Media for News

This week, I chose an article that is timely (midterms are six days away!) and relevant to my project and the research that is needed for it. This article is from 2010, and the authors claim that they are not aware of other research that has examined the link between political engagement and use of social networking sites. This may be the first study that has approached political engagement in this way, because I have found and cited research that studies social networks, online use, and political engagement online and off.

The authors, Baumgartner and Morris, use Uses and Gratification theory to guide their study. They note that most individuals use social media for entertainment and socializing rather than for news or political information. Although, they cite other political communication researchers who agree that incorporating “soft news” or small pieces of political information onto these sites can help with political awareness and “contribute to democratic discourse.” The authors take issue with this though, and write that the difficulties of getting that kind of information to stand out among entertaining information and the ability of people to just avoid absorbing that information present significant issues with this idea.

The authors examined online use and subsequent political awareness a year before the 2008 presidential election. They took a sample of 500 college students, a majority of whom had a profile on Facebook or Myspace. The participants stated that they used the social networks for news gathering and considered social networks as “separate” from traditional news outlets.

After assessing more of what kind of news the participants see and read on the internet, the researchers tested political knowledge of those who exclusively used the internet to get news. They compared these with tests given to those whose primary sources are traditional (i.e, cable news). The results show social media users are less informed than others. They also find that those who news gather on social media are less likely to engage in political activity such as voting.

The authors conclude that social media users who primarily gather news online will not contribute significantly to democratic processes or gain much political knowledge.

I feel like this study was done at a time when the distribution of news and political information online was not fully realized. Social media sites (like Facebook) have advanced and online news sources have grown, meaning gathering news online is not a totally fruitless activity. This article can nonetheless be useful to me because research has come out since then that supports the idea of social media being a mobilizer and a tool for political efforts.

My project has hit a huge issue with production time. My laptop is not able to handle After Effects if it’s been running for too long (a.k.a an hour), but when it hits that point After Effects crashes and deletes whatever files were uploaded to it. I can only use university computers to do a majority of the actual production which makes me really concerned for winter break. I also do not live near campus. There are times when I do need to be on campus anyway, but next semester is a different story. I’ve already lost over five hours of work because of that issue.

Stanford Media Literacy Report

This week, I was introduced (by Kristina De Voe) to a report published by Stanford University regarding the ability of digital natives (a.k.a teens in the current time period) to distinguish between real news stories online and ads. The researchers from the history department conducted this exercise in which students were asked to complete tasks evaluating their “civic online reasoning.” The researchers conducted this at the high school and collegiate level.

The results showed that both high school and college-level students did very poorly when asked to distinguish between news stories and ads, fact check, and identifying biased information. The researchers pointed out that this is highly alarming, and went so far as to say that democracy is at stake while youth currently lack these skills.

This report helps with my research for my project because it directly addresses the question of how teens engage with political and news media online. Since the 2016 election, social media sites have been on high alert for fake news stories and click-bait traffic that saturates news feeds. Teens who use social media for news (or not) are likely to see this information and could find themselves giving credibility to sources without proper context. It addresses the issue that I am trying to help alleviate which is the lack of political understanding a digital media literacy.

Right now, I have created the intro to my first video. I am moving forward with the rest of the video. I am working on short storyboards for each video and will begin the script for video 1.

Teens and Political Exposure

The article I’m focusing on this week is called “The Long-Term Impact of High School Civics Curricula on Political Knowledge, Democratic Attitudes and Civic Behaviors: A Multi-Level Model of Direct and Mediated Effects through Communication.” This study sought out to examine the not only the factual political knowledge that students may learn, but to further evaluate the density of that knowledge.

The researchers collected data from students from two different schools. One school served mostly wealthy students and the student population was mostly white. The other school was serving students who were mostly “economically disadvantaged,” and the population was 70% black students. The researchers set up multiple communication exercises that went along with different areas of examining political knowledge. These exercises were overseen by teachers in multiple classrooms. The researchers found that political knowledge (factual and density) varied across classrooms. Ultimately, though, they found that teaching practices and political discussion caused an overall negative impact on further gathering of political knowledge by students themselves.

This article contributes to my project because it deals with the question of how effective civics education is and how this kind of exposure effects teens when confronted with politics. My project hopes to help teens seek their own political knowledge and to engage in political activity. This study found that their methods were ineffective in fostering that type of activity in teens. My project will hopefully be able to be effective since I am using different methods. While it is a one-sided effort, it will hopefully speak to teens from a digital place as well as remove the pressures from maybe engaging in an activity in a classroom. Classroom activities and discussion may require students to participate, which can cause resentment or make students feel forced to speak on a subject that do not know much about. The videos are passive; students can choose to ignore them or not to pay attention to them. But some students may feel more comfortable watching them and feeling in control of their learning.

My project is going to start becoming more solidified aesthetically. I have officially named my video series and am designing the intro currently. I am also in the process of making my committee official. I just really hope this all ends up working out :/

Black Youth and Politics

The reading I am focused on this week is examining the political engagement of black teens versus the political engagement of white teens. The researchers (Harper, et al.) found that black youth are more engaged in political discourse than their white counterparts. This is despite the fact that it is thought that whites are much more likely to be politically aware because of their access to information (education, media, technology, news subscriptions, etc.). The researchers used a questionnaire sent out to 4,000 participants ages 12-17.  The questions were meant to understand political interest, news interest, and civic engagement outside of social media. The results of the survey and analysis revealed that black teens were much more inclined to be caught up with news and relevant political information.

This article is relevant to my project because I need to research the state of teen political engagement. Are they interested now? Is it more than they have ever been? What has social media done to this interest and spike/decline in engagement? The researchers in this article initially suggest that the election of Barrack Obama as U.S president may have erased the notion that politics is for white men only. Despite the overall lack of black representatives in government, black youth hold a deeper interest in government affairs. My targeted audience is also public school students. Public schools have a higher black population than private schools, and some public schools have less resources and access to information than others. These videos are meant to serve as a free resource to youths so they can be inspired to take an interest in politics and be able to be directed to more information so they can remain aware.

For my project, I am currently working on the actual title of my series and an intro to each video. I have begun talking to committee members about my project and taking advice from them. For example, I am going to be breaking down my video topics even further because I would like to keep the videos shorter than originally planned. This will hopefully hold the attention of my audience more.

Link to research article: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10646175.2010.496662#aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cudGFuZGZvbmxpbmUuY29tL2RvaS9wZGYvMTAuMTA4MC8xMDY0NjE3NS4yMDEwLjQ5NjY2Mj9uZWVkQWNjZXNzPXRydWVAQEAw

Can Kids Be Inspired By Their Own Media to Love Politics?

I have been wondering lately whether or not teens and kids can be persuaded to political life through the very media that they are so addicted to. Some teens are drawn to politics only through the adults in their lives who might just tell them who to support or what they believe in.

There are many sources out there for political news…but teens might not know who to trust. Media literacy is very important at times like this. This week I read Digital Media Literacy Education and Online Civic Political Participation, in which the authors study if media literacy education can inspire students to get involved in civic and political activities.

The researchers (Kahne, Lee, and Feezell) developed questions to find out how effective digital media literacy has the potential to be among youths. This potential could increase necessary engagement in political activities. Next, the authors gave out surveys to high schoolers in California one year and then returned the following year to give them a follow-up survey. The surveys asked the students about their online political information gathering habits and their digital encounters with those who are politically active, and interactions with politically diverse individuals.

They also answered questions about learning opportunities within their schools that offered media literacy and how to navigate digital news. The authors found that political engagement and exposure to political information increases with greater sense of digital media literacy. This shows that media literacy benefits students and young teens by providing them a way to navigate the complex online news world. Many like to believe that teens are tech-savvy enough to figure something like that out, but information is difficult to sort through.

This article is relevant to my project because part of it involves a brief media literacy lesson that will teach teens how to find unbiased, objective political news. It will also show them what biased news looks like. My project is also a call for digital media literacy in general. Youths can learn to become more critical thinkers by questioning sources and credibility.

For my project, I am considering turning to my committee members for help with more in-depth media literacy information.

My article: http://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/view/999/675

 

 

 

Project Readings

This week I read the article Dr. Shaw posted on Slack for me to check out. Michael Serazio’s study focused on the original goal of my project- to see how politics utilizes media to get America excited about its own government- and now focuses on the method of my project. Serazio wants to know more about infotainment and the way Hollywood and politics interact. He speaks to those in the business of glamorizing politics so the public will pay attention. He finds that political consultants reduce the overwhelming (and sometimes boring) complexities of political issues and provide a means of awakening the public. But, he also states, a more critical analysis might find that entertainment methods of representing candidates “is no proxy for competence.” It simply gets people to pay attention to political advertising.

This article helps me with my project because I am technically using entertainment to disperse political information. It is to educate, there is no biased information or any encouragement to favor one side, but nonetheless it is information that can be very boring for a teenager. My use of animation, color, movement, and characters is all meant to get kids to pay attention and hopefully remember the information. Politics can be hard to follow and can be easily misconstrued. We also live in a country that runs on opinions and varying personal beliefs. We have many, many sources of information that are producing stories and articles with multiple perspectives. Young kids can also be impressionable and not have the media literacy skills or understanding of the political system to know where to get information that aligns with their own beliefs. These videos are entertaining, but are meant to be simple enough so that kids feel confident enough to learn more about complicated issues.

For my project, I have begun working with Adobe Illustrator and After Effects. Both have what I am looking for in my project and it is easy to get them to work together. I am currently working on animation styles. My videos are going to be consistent in style, and obviously different in content and color scheme. I am doing no more than five videos. They are going to be introduction videos to things like the democratic party, the republican party, “who are the third parties?” and how to register to vote.

Project Style

My project is going to look like a series of animations done on Adobe software. The animations are meant to be engaging and keep the interest of high school age kids who are going to become active citizens once they turn eighteen. Some (not all) young kids do not know much about politics and government because it is not always relevant to them. Even some adults do not know how our democracy serves us.

Kids learn government in school, but for some it is hard to understand because it usually just involves a teacher talking at them and handing them a test. This is fine for some students, but many cannot learn this way about this particular subject.

My animations will include characters in various environments acting out what is said in the voiceover. The voiceover will include simplified language to explain wordy concepts (e.g., the electoral college) and how they work.  The series will maybe include 7-10 videos that will only be around a few minutes long. The reasoning is that with a basic understanding of something like the electoral college, kids can understand the news better and maybe want to learn more about it. As they grow older they will be more willing to understand the complexities of maybe why we have an electoral college in the first place.

The style of animation is hopefully going to be faster paced and textured. Each video is going to include a color scheme, rather than just a bunch of different bright colors so students can maybe remember the information better because it is associated with one color. I want these animations to serve a teaching purpose.

Research & Skills

For this project, I am going to need to do my research in a few differing areas. First, I need to look into past (and even current) political campaigns and see which ones were successful or unsuccessful. I also need to research advertising and symbolism. I should also research media effects and use that as the main theory driving my research. On this topic, I have found many resources and studies that have really helped me so far. I have compiled a list of readings that I have taken a look at so far.

1. Dulio, D., & Towner, T. (2012). New media and political marketing in the United States: 2012 and beyond. Journal of Political Marketing, 11 (95-119). Retrieved from: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15377857.2012.642748?src=recsys&

2. Miller, W. (2013). We can’t all be Obama: The use of new media in modern campaigns. Journal of Political Marketing, 12 (326-347). Retrieved from: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15377857.2013.837312

3. Backes, K., Hernandez, M., & Oyedele, A. (2018). Consumer culture and political ideology plots in social media campaigns. Journal of Promotion Management, (1-20). Retrieved from: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10496491.2018.1427655

4. Stromer-Galley, J. (2000). Democratizing democracy: strong democracy, US political campaigns and the internet. Democratization, 7 (36-58).

5. Kelly, S., Steger, W., & Wrighton, M. (2008). Campaigns and political marketing in political science context. Journal of Political Marketing, 5 (1-10). Retrieved from: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1300/J199v05n01_01

 

I have fixated on the idea of creating a website. Technical skills would include learning to design my own website and also the best way to organize it that would make it easy for someone else to use. I also need to find the right material to feature on my website.