30 Sep 2013
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Animation software has potential in schools

By Rebecca Wood

A New Zealand IT expert has just completed a 30-minute educational animation for a Vanuatu NGO – and believes the concept has big potential as a learning resource in schools.

Nelson-based John Herd spent nine years in Vanuatu and worked with Wan Smolbag Theatre as an IT advisor.

"Part of my role was to provide computer training to unemployed youth, and while I was looking at some creative applications I could teach them, I stumbled on a very affordable 3D animation software called Moviestorm.”

Moviestorm is a virtual movie studio of prebuilt costumes, props and animations, and functionality for the production of 3D animations. The software is an offshoot of the 'Machinima' movement, which sprang up when players of first person shooter computer games developed methods of recording their game play to show to their friends.

During Herd’s assignment, Wan Smolbag produced a series of radio plays based around the importance of numeracy and literacy, with plotlines relevant to the local population.

“It occurred to me that producing an animated version of one of these shows would provide another useful teaching resource, and also test the potential of the software as another production tool for WSB's future work,” he says.

“You only need to look at the huge numbers of skilled people involved in mainstream animations to imagine the costs involved. But although we are not talking Pixar quality quite yet, affordable software like Moviestorm with its shallow learning curve allows a very small team or even an individual to produce a perfectly acceptable product which can meet a real need in education, and not just in developing countries.”

Herd is passionate about the potential of computer animation in New Zealand schools and believes the programmes can be used in a number of ways – from giving students nervous about presenting to the class another format in which to give the presentation, to giving teachers another tool to engage students, as well as teaching students about the film-making process.

"Education is the fundamental underpinning of any society," he says. “It empowers people and makes real change in their lives. By using new technologies like this in innovative ways, we can help accelerate and distribute knowledge more quickly and more widely without having to break the bank."

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