How to make gif animations for your students

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Let’s face it.  In order to captivate your students, you need to convey your material in interesting and dynamic ways.  Sure you could create dynamic slides in PowToon or PowerPoint, but if you create your material there, there it will stay.  What if  you wanted to send it in an email, or share it on social media?   Your educational genius will never get past the slideshow. If you make an awesome animation that conveys your material in an interesting and engaging way, you should be able to share it as much as possible.  I’m going to show you how to quickly make gif animations (like the one above), without downloading any new software.  You’ll be able to share it like any picture on just about all forms of social media and communication.

 

If you’ve spent any time on the internet then you’ve come across one animated gif or another that you stared at endlessly because it was so funny, cute, or unbelievable.

The great thing about animated gifs is that they do not require a video player.  Gifs also have a much smaller file size compared to video.   It turns out many of the short animations you see on the internet are actually animated gifs.  Their very portable nature means that you can use them in PowerPoint, or send them in emails or even share them on social media.

 

What is an Animated Gif

Gif stands for Graphics Interchange Format.  Unlike other image file formats, gifs allow the creator to specify a set of images with both order and playback speed.  This quality is what gives them that special ability for animation and video.

 

What you’ll need

Just like I promised, you won’t need to download any new programs (hopefully).   You’re going to need a program for creating pictures, but it can be any program.   We’re going to use PowerPoint for some reasons I’ll describe later, but it really doesn’t matter.  The images don’t even need to be the same file format in order for you to create the animated gif.  A website is going to handle the conversion from single pictures to an animated gif, so you won’t need to download anything there.

Let’s get started, shall we?

 

Planning your animations

The first step in creating an animated gif is to decide what your gif is going to be about.  In this case, the only limitation is your imagination.  If you can draw it or record (video) it, you can make a gif from it.

Animated gifts are good for concepts that are better conveyed with motion or a visual change in state.  Think about a physics diagram that shows a ball falling along with the appropriate equations, an anatomy lesson that shows a heart beating, or a history lesson that shows movement on a historical map.

Another way to use an animated gif is to add flourishes to the material you’re going to teach.  This might be a video converted to an animated gif that shows an example of the phenomena you’re trying to explain.  It could also be something funny or just dynamic that goes along with the theme of your subject.  In these cases there maybe an animated gif already out there that will serve your purpose.  This flower is just such an example.  Notice the information is not changing, but the butterflies are mesmerizing.

 

 

If you’re trying to decide whether to use PowerPoint, Google Slides, or some other options, let me tell you why PowerPoint is a good quick option.

The first reason is that you’ve probably used PowerPoint at various times in your life already,  so there’s no learning curve. The second reason is that PowerPoint is naturally presented as a set of slides.  This is the perfect interface for creating an animated gif which is an ordered set of frames.  You can easily cycle through your slides just like the animated gif will.  You can also easily see the frames before and after using the slide organizer on the left sidebar.

Another good reason to use PowerPoint is that saving frames is really easy.  With one action I’ll cover later, you can save all frames to different files simultaneously.

While PowerPoint is not the best artistic option, it does lend itself nicely to the quick creation of animated gifs.

 

Making the Frames

Just like we said earlier, you don’t need a special program to make the individual frames of the animation.  I’m going to use PowerPoint (PPT) here but anything will do.

Remember that animated gifs are a set of individual pictures that get played at a constant rate throughout their animation.  This means, the smaller the difference between frames, the smoother your animation will be.  I wouldn’t spend too much time trying make gif animations smooth.  You’ll be surprised at how good our mind is at filling in the gaps we never really saw.

In the example here, I’m going to do a setup for a physics question.  I want to show a ball falling a specific height and traveling a certain distance.  Let’s also add a guy getting knocked over at the end.  Slapstick humor is always a good fall back.

My first frame looks like this, but your animation could be anything you want.

 

Make gif animations by creating your first frame
Make gif animations by creating your first frame

 

Next, we’re going to create the next frame which looks like this.

Second Frame of the animation.
Second Frame of the animation.

 

Notice how there’s only a slight difference between the first and the second frame.  I recommend that you copy and paste each new slide, then tweak it slightly for each new frame. We’re going to continue like this until we get to the last frame.  I made 12 total slides/frames.  You can do more or less depending on your preference

Each frame of a Gif is a snapshot in time.
Last frame of the animation.

 

Now all we need to do is go to the File menu in PowerPoint.

 

 

 

Select Save as and pick .jpg

 

 

 

You’ll then be prompted to save either “Just This One” or “All Slides”.  Click “All Slides”

That’s pretty much all of the work involved there.  Now all you need to do is convert it to an animated gif.  We’re going to leverage an online resource so we don’t need to download any software.  You also don’t have to register or do anything other than using the gif creating service the site offers.

 

 

Now go to http://gifmaker.me/

 

You can immediately select the “Upload Images” button.  This will open up your typical browser window.  One cool feature here is that you can select more than one file at a time for uploading.  This step should be pretty quick because PPT should have saved all your frames automatically in a folder.

Now your window should look something like this

Scroll down a bit until you get to the button that reads “Creat GIF Animation”.  Click that.   After it’s done, you can click “Download the GIF”.

 

making Animated Gifs (6)

That’s it, you did it!  If you want to use this in a PowerPoint presentation, email, or social media platform, you can treat it as you would any other picture file.  I should warn you that PPT will not show the animation unless it’s in slideshow mode.

If you want to use your animated gif in a PowToon, check out this easy 2 step Tutorial by the people at PowToon for making it PowToon Friendly.

Now go forth and create engaging funny animated gifs.  Let me know what you make by leaving a link in the comments, or by sending me an email once you’ve joined the email list.

If you’d like my top resources for finding pre-made animated gifs for your classroom, sign up to the email list and I’ll send them right over.

And Remember

Connect, Engage, and Enjoy…

 





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