I’ve spent close to four hours down in the Vendor Hall, which is enormous. I was singularly impressed with the vast futility of most of it. Most of the equipment and gear is directed at administrators and IT people, who are empowered to make budgetary decisions. And most of the gear I saw is stuff with almost no practical applications to the way I actually teach. Sure, I’d like a white board with smart tech, or a projector, and I’d find ways to use a lot of the gadgets downstairs if the administrators came in and gave them to me. But I didn’t see anything I had an immediate use for.
Except one. Animation-ish, from FableVision. It’s a drawing and animation program easy enough for a second or third grader to learn to use well, and advanced enough that I want a copy RIGHT NOW. Yes, they’ll tell you it’s based on the best-selling books of Peter Reynolds. Yes, they’re based out of Boston, at the Children’s Museum there. Yes, yes, yes. All that’s really cool.
But first, you make a 3-frame movie. You learn to draw. (They really should collaborate with XPLANE.com to include some of Dave Gray’s drawing tutorials for young kids). You learn to animate your drawings. Then you move to the intermediate level, where you can make flipbooks and actual animated cartoons of 10-10,000 frames. You can add color, and three-dimensional patterning, and backgrounds.
In other words, it’s a Warner Brothers’ animation lot, limited only by the imagination of the animators. It also functions as a video exporter, but NOT as an audio editor. Which means you can make these animations — of people, places, chemical interactions, water cycles, whatever — in this program, and then export them as QuickTime files or other formats to other programs. Which means it’s not a walled garden. You’re not doing all of the work in one proprietary format; you can import and rehash all of your work, and save libraries for future school years. This is utterly cool.
If I have money left at the end of the conference after paying for dinner, this is what I’m buying. Nothing else.
This is the gold standard for tech in the classroom. The rest of it is far more easily managed with opensource or free tools. I won’t even talk about the sheer crappiness of the ancient history ‘digital textbook’ some company tried to sell me.
Go try out Animation-ish. It’s the only tool worth looking at twice down there in the dungeons, and the only one worth carrying up into the light.