Multimedia Projects with xtranormal

A few weeks ago, Dave Ferguson shared Anne Derryberry’s interactive storyboard created with xtranormal. Dave was looking at this as a tool for instructional designers to create storyboards with more pop, but I’ve been thinking about this tool as a way for students to create content.

One of the courses I’m currently working on is about project-based learning with multimedia. We’ve been looking at a number of different tools for creating multimedia. Because it’s also about project-based learning, I also want to help our participants (who are mostly K-12 teachers) see how these tools can be used to communicate topics with real-world relevance. I remember doing a number of projects in school where we researched topics and then gave a speech, wrote an essay, put on a skit, or created a poster. Many of those were very valuable learning experiences, and I don’t think we should do away with those. What if students could do that research and have this as an option for presenting their findings though?

Obviously, this is a really brief example. Student projects could have a lot more depth than this. I spent about 90 minutes total creating this: 30 minutes for research, 30 minutes to write the script, and 30 minutes to create it at xtranormal (including signing up for an account and publishing to YouTube). I used the default camera options; I could have spent a lot more time tweaking the angles if I’d wanted. But as a proof of concept, I think this works pretty well. No technical expertise was required; quick tips guide you through the process and you just type the text for the scripts.

Besides the more informative presentations like this one, wouldn’t this be a cool tool for digital storytelling? You could have your characters act out a dialog. You can only have 2 characters at a time, but you could string together a series of short episodes to create something with more characters and settings.

I do have a few reservations about this though. It’s still in beta, so I’m not sure what the final product will feature. It’s clear that they don’t intend this to be a free product forever; the current unlimited free movies are called a “promotion.” I hope they’ll do some sort of freemium model so that at least limited free animations could be created at schools. K-12 teachers should note that the Terms of Service prohibit use by anyone under 13, as many sites do due to privacy laws. The restrictions on commercial use seem pretty typical; actually, they may be a bit more lenient than some of the other Web 2.0 sites. It doesn’t sound like they’re opposed to commercial use of their product, just that they want people to ask permission first.

With any of these content creation tools, it’s smart to review the TOS first and check what happens to your intellectual property. This was nice to see included: “For clarity, xtranormal does not assert any ownership over your User Content; rather, as between us and you, subject to the rights granted to us in these Terms of Service, you retain full ownership of all of your User Content and any intellectual property rights or other proprietary rights associated with your User Content.” Of course, they do claim the right to license and use your content for the site and their own promotion, but I always expect that from sites like this.

I’m looking forward to seeing what happens with this tool moving forward, as I think it has a lot of educational applications. I’d love to hear other ideas for projects with this tool. Also, are there any other tools out there that do something similar to xtranormal? I’d like to have a backup if they go down or price it unreasonably high.

3 thoughts on “Multimedia Projects with xtranormal

  1. Christy, in a training-and-development setting, my only concern about xtranormal is whether it might seem too smooth when used as a storyboard, proof of concept, or prototype. I’m not saying that would happen, but I can imagine such an outcome.

    When clients haven’t done much online learning, they tend to think of the final product as the product. My PowerPoint, cartoon-figure storyboard, animated with hyperlinks, was an attempt to convey the interactivity planned for the actual product.

    xtranormal seems like it could do that, and do it faster. I think you’d have to set expectations so that people don’t carp about the computerese accent of the text reader and don’t get distracted by peripherals (colors, appearance, background).

    The digital storytelling you describe is another terrific use for this. What’s more, I think kids would try all sorts of interesting approaches and learn from one another’s experimentation — both with the tool, and with ways to handle whatever the topic of the story was.

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