by MARK WEST 05/14/10
Animated Gifs have a bad rap. Heralded in 1987 by CompuServe on their early bulletin board system in pre-Internet times as a way to display pictures (anyone else remember the motto, "choosy developers choose GIFs"? And yes, it's pronounced with a soft g). GIFs offered more colors than other formats in 1987 and with the revised format in 1989 animation was available in 256 colors with a new "interlacing technology". Animated GIFs were quickly adopted by the evolving Internet of the 1990s, and for the most part, are becoming as obsolete as 8-track tape players. However, in education, we don't pitch it out until it's no longer useful. There are teachers still using cassette tapes (not mp3 players), and some even use 35mm film. Why neglect something that can work just because it's gone out of vogue?
Of course, sometimes you can find a "spot graphic" as a gif animation that you can't find as a movie and still images can't show your students the retrograde motion of Mars, as an example. If you can't find a QuickTime .mov or perhaps an MPEG file, search for an animated gif of it.
Sometimes animated GIFs can supplement your instruction, but look cartoony or have very little educational value. But I wouldn't complete write them off simply as a fad of the 1990s (which they were).
While animated GIFs can look poor quality, check out this one at Wikipedia which shows a progression of the seasons from NASA satellite imagery If you're trying to teach about the climate, this does something that no traditional classroom globe does. And it looks good. Consider also this roating globe or this animation of Newton's cradle both are good quality GIF animations. Just because animated GIFs aren't cutting edge (and you won't see this quality in an animated GIF), it doesn't mean we shouldn't consider them.
This is an animated GIF I made to show you the location of the "Insert Media From File" icon on your Toolbox.
Inserting an animated GIF is not really any different than down and using some multimedia element. You can use the "Insert Media From File" icon that is on your ToolBox or simply click and drag the image into a flipchart.
How Tos >