Connecting dots for digital learning and teaching

Machinima As A Teaching and Learning Tool for MOOC

This week, everyone is talking about that Google has released a new tool called Course Builder, which is powered by open source software designed to let anyone create online courses.

Earlier this year, Google ran a program called Power Searching with Google, a kind of Massive Open Online Course which attracted a large audience of about 155,000 students from across the globe. Google has an array of collaboration tools like Google Drive, Gmail and Google Docs that have all joined the online course. Especially Google Docs are commonly used in many classrooms.

That makes me think of a company just got strong backup by Google in this May – Machinima. It  raised $35 million from Silicon Valley investors including Google, Redpoint Ventures and MK Capital. From Wikipedia, the word “Machinima” is the use of real-time 3D computer graphics rendering engines to create a cinematic production. Machinima productions can remain close to their gaming roots and feature stunts or other portrayals of gameplay. While the company got Google’s investment is best known for distributing video game trailers and about a dozen original web series via YouTube, gets more than 1.6 billion video views a month and has more than 168 million monthly users.

It seems like connecting dots, but maybe I just wish that online courses will become as fun and immersive as watching an animated story that involves learners to take actions instead of watching lectures. In this way, the learning process is facilitated. And it seems hopeful! Bravo to all creative educators who already started to use Machinima in their teaching. From Gridjumper’s Blog, this post explained how you can use it in classrooms. In the blog, there is a lot more information about creating immersive learning experience through low-cost or free technology tools.


Teachers are generally a creative and resourceful bunch, and though we do make use of commercially produced materials, we often customize them for our students.   Unusual, humorous, poignant and the relevant materials (pictures, artifacts, movies, stories) help us to introduce a topic, define processes and content, and trigger creative thought.  Machinima is a tool/process that teachers can use for each of these, and it is inexpensive and relatively easy.

Machinima is a way of making animated movies with nothing more than a computer and screen capture software and “filmed” either in a virtual world or Video Game. The “movie” can be used “as is” without any editing or embellished with sound, music, special effects, text, and editing.

Considering the components of a typical lesson/unit plan, either teaching a process or introducing new content, machinima could be incorporated to bring interest, help explain, and just get attention in a way that today’s students are used to.

  • Lesson/Unit Introduction:  A short clip  introducing a topic in any subject area is possible with a machinima.  Virtual worlds allow for scenes and actions that would be impossible to recreate in the physical world.  As you look over your lesson plans the introductions used to introduce concepts on history, science, math, and literature will trigger ideas of making a machinima to make that  introduction more interesting, relevant and memorable.  Using a video game to make that introduction is certain to catch student attention, you can open a free introductory account in most games  to use for machinima and virtual world registrations are free to join.
  • Lesson Objectives:  When you give students objectives for a lesson or unit it is typically in words, written and spoken.  How about having an avatar tie the objectives as they go through some motions or appear in a setting to bring attention to the highlights?  Perhaps supplying the objectives in an animated fashion will support students in successful learning.
  • Lesson/Unit Materials:  As your machinima library grows, movies will be included in lesson/unit materials and can be shared with colleagues.
  • Unit Procedures:  Teaching requires the use of multiple procedures to ensure learning,  those that involve student interaction and collaboration have proven effective.  Student created machinima is a potentially effective addition to the more traditional activities that you currently use.
  • Unit Assessment:  Student created machinma is a form of authentic assessment, evaluated with the use of a rubric provided to students at the start of the unit.
  • Remediation & Enrichment :  Machinima works for  both enrichment and remediation as students can work in groups and develop machinma ensuring objectives, keeping in mind that grouping students to ensure success is important.
  • Differentiating Instruction:  Developing any project in a group requires use of various skills and knowledge.  All students can contribute to a machinima as there is a variety of skills and levels involved.

As you wind down the school year and the think about how to do it better next year, consider incorporating machinima into your teaching repertoire.  You may want to register for the free Machinma course beginning on June 4 at the site.

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This article is licensed under CC BY-NC.


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Categorised in: Constructivism, Teaching with Technology

6 Responses »

  1. I’m a big fan of machinima and think that all of the suggested applications for it are worthy additions to teaching and learning.

    The creation process for machinima however can be a little convoluted for many teachers, which is why I’ve been encouraging them to look at quick and easy DIY tools like xtranormal and Go!animate. These also provide text to speech which while still shaky on occasion, is getting better and better.

    • Really appreciate your suggestions. That’s a thoughtful advice.
      Maybe “Second life” is also a easier choice for educators who like to facilitate immersive learning experience.

      • Absolutely, for live activities, role-plays and collaboration, Second Life (and other virtual worlds) are unbeatable – I just wish our institute IT team made it easier for us to use here 😦


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“Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand.” -------- Chinese Wisdom "Games are the most elevated form of investigation." -------- Albert Einstein
"I'm calling for investments in educational technology that will help create digital tutors that are as effective as personal tutors, educational software as compelling as the best video game," President Barack Obama said while touring a tech-focused Boston school (year 2011).
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