Graphics have been used since man’s beginning. Archaeologists have found evidences of cave drawings used to record events, some Native American tribes used graphics on their Winter Count to record important events and keep track of time. Others, such as the ancient Egyptians based their language on a system of graphics known as hieroglyphics. Recently, graphics know as animations have become increasingly popular. Animations are able to translate, rotate, and reflect, while static graphics remain stagnant.
I utilize both animations and static graphics in my lessons. Static graphics are most appropriate when presenting a concept in a PowerPoint format. I find it distracting when something is moving across the screen. Animations however are wonderful for building background knowledge, introducing vocabulary, and running a simulation to help visualize an otherwise abstract concept. The school I teach at has a license for Discovery Science, and not only do they offer outstanding virtual labs and a massive library of videos, but they have an incredible animated dictionary. I have clip art and images next to definitions of my vocabulary words around the room, but some words need to be seen taking place. For example, last unit my students had to learn the word “deposition”. I had a picture of the Nile Delta next to the word and definition on the wall. Some students understood this, but many more students comprehended the word “deposition” when I showed an animation of a river dropping soil, rocks, and silt as it reached a larger body of water. Simulating a process is another effective use of animations. PhET has become one of my favorite websites for science simulations. Their simulations contain little extraneous information and allow students to explore, infer, process, discover, and ultimately learn. Students are in control of the animations, and this is much more engaging for them than a static graphic of the same concept.
Animations cannot begin to replace the simplicity of static graphics, and research is yet to show an large benefit to using animations instead of static graphics. Both need to be utilized at the proper time in order to maximize their effectiveness.