What is Pencil?

Pencil is an animation/drawing software for Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux. It lets you create traditional hand-drawn animation (cartoon) using both bitmap and vector graphics. Pencil is free and open source.
How can Pencil be used?
You can draw directly into the program using a writing device (such as ipen), tablet pc w/ pen, or other interactive white board. Pictures can also be imported directly into the program. Once you have created your pictures, you can then use add sound and animation, resulting in your own cartoon. This is great for providing models or animation for students or an audience. In order to use this program, you have to be willing to create your own images or import them as well as spend significant time adding animation. This is not a path animation program which allows you to move items along a path or route. Instead you will need to layer images the same way as if you were creating a cartoon reel.
Links
To download software, visit http://www.les-stooges.org/pascal/pencil/index.php?id=Home
For directions on using the software, visit http://www.les-stooges.org/pascal/pencil/

How I used pencil in this demo
I wanted to use this program in my classroom for students to demonstrate the stages of mitosis. I imported images from the internet, used the drawing features of Microsoft Paint (occassionally copying over objects such as "arcs" and "3-D images" from PowerPoint), and drew directly with Pencil. Below is a copy of the flash file I created from the program and only using other programs that students in a typical computer lab would be able to access. Although there is no sound in this video, students in my class who participate in this activity will be adding video to their projects.

**mitosis.swf**

Pencil Activity
1. Download Pencil using the link above.
2. Using the drawing tools, draw an object.
3. On the bottom of your screen you will see a bitmap layer along with a second timer (1, 12, 24...).
4. Click on the second tab to create a new layer.
5. Make a change to your image, i.e. draw a hat on your person
6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 to make another change to your image.
7. Once finished click the play button in the lower right hand corner.
8. You can change the timing my clicking on the fps button (I used 1 sec intervals for the Mitosis Video).

Reflection

My reasoning for choosing this gift is entirely selfish. I first became interested in animation when learning about Adobe Flash and its capabilities. While watching Flash and Javascript (specifically math and science) videos, I became intrigued with how they worked and wondered if students would receive any benefit from creating the animation themselves.
Here are some examples of Flash/Shockwave and Javascript animations for math and science that led to my interest.
National Library of Virtual Manipulatives: http://nlvm.usu.edu/en/nav/vlibrary.html
Glencoe Interactive Tutor Example:
http://www.glencoe.com/olc_games/game_engine/content/gln_sci/biology_07_nat/chapter6/concentration/
http://glencoe.mcgraw-hill.com/sites/0078695104/student_view0/unit5/chapter18/concepts_in_motion.html
If you have trouble viewing the Glencoe examples, go directly to www.glencoe.com, select science, then Biology 2007 edition
In my current district we also use Promethean Boards which comes with ActivStudio (a great program but difficult for many teachers to learn). You can import Flash directly into the interactive whiteboard. Flash objects you can use include random name generators to call on students and scientific calculators that actually work. These items are also commonly referred to as widgets.
I began looking into Path animation for classrooms last year but now that I’m in the classroom and have access to the computer lab I am able to implement some sort of animation. However, funds remain a huge issue. I’d like to use this project in a high school biology classroom for students to draw/ describe the stages of mitosis and cytokinesis. I’m hoping by doing this in a lab environment students will appreciate the “novelty” of the lesson, practice computer skills and especially be more inclined to understand the stages and how they work. At first I thought this would be a great topic for my action research project, but I’ve had so many different ideas come up I’m not sure which to choose.
For the reflection, I know that I am a visual/kinesthetic learner and so “building activities” in science appeal much more to me than simply looking at the pictures or memorizing steps. From working with students, I noticed how quickly they pick up technology and are able to use it for new situations. I know that by exposing this activity to my students they will give me more ideas to increase my knowledge base on how this program can be used. I’m still looking for a better web2.0 program that allows for path animation, but until this I know I’ll enjoy using the more traditional form of animation on an on-line platform.
Some examples of software for path animation are:
Game Factory/ Multimedia Fusion by Click Team
Multimedia Lab by Tool Factory Inc.