This spring the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology held Whiteboard Animation workshops for two biology classes: Molecular Biology BIO301 and Biology of Cancer Bio120, both taught by visiting professor Dr. Lynn Kee and supported by Dr. Andrew Bell in the CTLT. One of Dr. Kee’s goals for the semester was to expose her students to new ways of thinking and communicating about scientific inquiry and discovery. Animating the cascades and mechanisms involved in biological systems has been shown to be a highly effective method of learning those complex processes (REF). Whiteboard animation was chosen because it required very little technical ability, could be recorded within one class period, and promoted an active learning experience. Without large technological hurdles, the students could focus on the primary objective: becoming effective storytellers through a new digital medium.
An effective whiteboard animation depends on successfully incorporating two components: a well written narration and purposeful illustrations. The upper level Molecular Biology class used the whiteboard animation as the introduction to a larger digital lab report for an independent research project. Students worked in groups of 2 or 3. Each group was given a specific project and were tasked with using the whiteboard animation has an introduction to that project. The Biology of Cancer class was also divided into groups. Those groups used the whiteboard animation to describe different types of new drug treatments and/or drugs.
The whiteboard animation module included two workshops: a planning workshop and a production workshop.
Planning workshop: a short 15 minute introduction to the goals and rationale behind whiteboard animations. This workshop, given in their usual classroom, was given a few weeks prior to the production workshop so that students could plan, write, and draft their script and illustrations.
Production workshop: given over the course of 3 hours in the TLC. This workshop had two components: recording the illustrations with cameras and lights provided from the TLC and recording the written scripts in the specialized audio labs of the TLC.
With three whiteboards and two audio rooms, each class (with 16 students) were able to finish within 3 hours. After the production workshop, students were told to combine the two audio and visual components within iMovie as an ‘at home’ assignment. Even students without an prior iMovie experience were able to complete the process with 2-3 hours. The module was concluded with a class viewing of all the animations that were peer-reviewed to further develop the student’s ability to understand what is and what isn’t effective storytelling methods.
Example: shown here
Incorporating a whiteboard animation module into your classroom curriculum is easy and, because of the nature of the assignment, is very flexible to the content you wish to be discussed. Students are challenged with generating not only a effective and concise script but a thoughtful progression of illustrations that effectively emphasize the important topics. This process helps the students learn not only the course content but also develop new digital media skills. If you are interested in incorporating this module into your curriculum contact your CTLT liaison.