Pivot Stick Animator:thoughts and reflections on a new writing tool

I have published a number of posts about the freeware tool, Pivot Stick Animator and shared a number of independent student outcomes, but the excitement generated by my class over the last couple of weeks of term lead to this post, that sets out to introduce a few basic moves and a few thoughts about its place in the writing process.

Pivot Stick Animator was first shown to me by our technician. We downloaded it from snapfiles and installed it on the network where it lay unloved and unexplored, until during a unit on control and modelling a student found the shortcut, and asked what it was. I first used it with Y3 (7-8 yr old) students last summer, but when the outcomes created were discovered on the school website, older students began downloading the software for themselves to play with at home and developing short animated sequences to share with me through I really became excited by this when I began to see what the tool revealed about their understanding of story structure and visual narrative. Over the last 2 weeks or so this is what has really grabbed my interest observing how the "talk for writing process" we have engaged in over the past 12 months supported and informed the iterative storytelling process involved in creating their visual outcomes.

Beginning with a free play and exploration session proved really beneficial allowing the students to see for themselves how the environment worked. Essentially the tool works like an onscreen flip book. A single image is first of all created by placing the stick figure character in a starting position and then pressing the next frame button. From here simple motion can be created by pressing and holding the mouse over a "pivot Point" and dragging that element to a new position, before pressing the next frame button again.

Creating movement and motion is achieved by dragging and moving elements of the figure and then capturing each frame when finished. This wave action for example was created by repeatedly moving the upper portion of the characters arm, and pressing the next frame button in between each movement .


Changing the colour of the character to red, and moving the whole image upward slightly each time the arm moves, and then down as in the next image makes him a little angry, hopping mad so to speak. Or perhaps left as he started he could be calling for help! Whole character movement is achieved by clicking on the orange pivot pont, dragging the image and pressing the next frame button in between each movement as with the wave.

Working with the students, we chose a story context, by searching the web and downloading a background image. This supported discussion about who the stick character might be, what they might do, how they might do it and so on. Perhaps what was most interesting and powerful for me, as I observed the process as a whole however was the iterative nature of the narratives that unfolded throughout the task and between and across sessions. As the children began to play and review their "drafts" watching their current story unfold, new narrative possibilities began to emerge and would be introduced into discussion, students drawing on the story so far to project and plan possible next steps in the action. Working in pairs they made decisions about what path the story would take by agreement. "it would be really fun if..." Shall we make him dance here..? "I think he should.... next." Central to this activity is a view of authorship beyond penmanship and one that sees story creation as an ongoing process of design and redesign, something that can be difficult to model in the more traditional writing session. The power to support visualisation and engagment with muliple narrative through talk, while evaluating "potential" outcomes, predicting plausible or possible next steps in the action, is an important part of the process that writers go through in bringing their imaginings to the minds eye and ear of their audience . And is something that as a person plus,this tool seems to offer in abundance. To close my ramblings for today, I leave you with an animated short of my own. with the olympics around the corner, I introduce you to the weightlifter.

Got a few minutes to spare, why not download a copy yourself for a play from snapfiles.

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