You may already be back to school or just beginning to get your classroom and plan for 2011 in order. If you are like most technology-using educators, you probably have a few tried and true first technology projects that you return to year after year. You know, the projects that are light on content and fairly light on technology skills so that you can get students started out on the right foot and begin to learn their abilities communicating with various technology tools.
Claymations can get complicated and messy, so getting a handle on the process before working with new and heavy content is important. Rather than developing an extensive script and storyboard, a rock video claymation engages students by actually asking them to share their current interests and requires them only to make a single character (or work together to make a band).
Students need only to capture 8-12 photos and then can repeat them to create movement throughout an entire song. Students can get more or less elaborate with characters, pictures, and movements, but putting it all together is quite simple. Working in small groups makes the process even easier and also saves you time when it comes to showing them all off!
But you may not have access to the time and resources it takes to do a complete animated video. If you are working with younger students or new technology users a more basic project is perhaps the best. You can always fall back on the nearly universal "All About Me" project. Pixie even includes a couple of different templates for this to make the project almost run it self.
An All About Me project can also be used to introduce students to one another (and don't forget to do one of your own to also set expectations as well as let them know who you are!).
First projects can include content learning as well, but remember successful learning with technology requires balance. If there are a lot of technology skills to learn (how do I launch Pixie?, what is my computer login?, where do I save? what printer do I use?), keep the content light or something that is previously known.
For primary students, you could have them create and print a table tent with their name and picture. To add a content dimension, have students find stickers or clip art with initial sounds that match each letter of their name. You will need to give them time to explore your clip art resources (helpful for future projects) and you can talk to students working to help them brainstorm and listen to their existing initial sounds proficiency.
Remember to save and store work that students complete. If students have taken the time to draw a self-portrait, have them export the page or file as an image to use in other programs. You might also want to use this as a baseline for skills as the year progresses and have them create new images as they grow and change.
These are just a few ideas of my favorite jump-start projects. What are yours? Please share you ideas!