Introduction to research issue

This research thesis is on animation as a medium for teaching. There is a distinction between using animation to teach and learning how to animate so these areas are separate pages within the Literature survey.

6 musical theory animations

I initially set out to justify the use of animation as a teaching medium by creating and trialling 6 animations dealing with musical theory. Click on each screen shot to view the animation:

1. Beat and tempo
2. Drum notation
3. Rhythmic notation
4. Counting
5. Time signatures
6. Reading charts

I am grateful to my supervisor, Dr Jane Southcott, for allowing me to compile this thesis using HTML. It would have been restrictive to talk about animation using only ink and paper. By using HTML (Hypertext mark-up language) (1) I have been able to incorporate the various multimedia elements of animation directly into the thesis.

Variant graphics

To "animate" is to give life to something. Animation is normally defined as moving images. I prefer to use the term variant graphics. This is because films are also moving images so I wanted to find a term that is exclusive to animation. The reason for using the word variant or changing rather than moving is to create a definition which can include slide shows. In a slide show, there can be movement within a frame or a complete change from one frame to another. Variant covers both scenarios.

Types of animation

We are immersed in animation in a variety of forms. I have devised the following diagram to illustrate the various uses of animation:

Using the categories of entertainment, education and advertising, the various applications of animation can be seen to be connected with the common element of using animation as a graphic enhancement.


The most common application of animation is in entertainment, primarily cartoons. Educational cartoons are referred to as teaching episodes because they usually don't have the personification elements contained in most cartoons. Special effects are also a common use of animation. They are known as Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) when enhancing actual film for a movie.


Most TV commercials contain elements of animation. These can range from the inclusion or brand names and logos to complete animated imagery. When you consider that TV advertising is the sole revenue source for funding commerical television, the value of animation should not be underestimated. Most good ads are entertaining but advertising is designed for promoting sales or product awareness regardless of entertainment value.


There are three uses of animation in education.

  1. Teaching episodes
  2. Learning environments
  3. Educational games

A teaching episode is something people watch to learn something. Of the eight animations (2) I've created for this thesis, the first seven are teaching episodes.

A learning environment is an interface where the user can move to different sections in a non-linear way. Various things can be learnt along the way through observation and interaction. The key signature animation from the Interactivity page is a learning environment.

"Higher education has entered a transition from the teaching paradigm to the learning paradigm." (3) Learning environments utilise interactive multimedia. "The educational potential of this technology closely parallels the pedagogical goals of the Learning Paradigm." (4)

Educational games are similar to learning environments. The distinction between a game and a learning environment is the element of winning.

Graphic enhancements

Graphic enhancements involving animation can be seen on TV every day. In addition to advertising, there is various imagery to enhance weather reports and sporting presentations. Animation for sporting events has become quite sophisticated and very useful for summarising information. This technology is often used when making judgements about decisions like "lbw" appeals in cricket.

Visual language?

I had originally planned to elaborate on the term visual language until I came across the following argument in a required text for graphics designers:

The term "visual language" is a metaphor. It compares the structure of the picture plane to the grammar or syntax of language. The effect of this comparison is to segregate "vision" from "language." The two terms are set up as analogous but irreconcilable opposites, parallel realms that will never converge. Theories of visual language and the educational practices based on them close off the study of social and linguistic meaning by isolating visual expression from other modes of communication. (5)


As technology continues to improve exponentially, it will not be dealt with in great detail here. I have addressed technical considerations where appropriate whenever they occur and have also created the functional categories of High tech, Low tech and No tech which are explained in my conclusion. Colwell concludes his chapter on "Computer-based technology and music teaching and learning" by answering his own question on the validity of technology: "Is it worth the trouble to keep studying its role in music teaching and learning? Unconditionally, yes". (6)


(1) It is surprising that people are still debating the definition of hypertext. Various attempts to qualify terms such as hypertext, hypermedia and multimedia are not helpful. Dugan (1999:93-100) tries to make a case for hypermedia being a full multimedia experience of having control of the various media sources you link to but multimedia has always allowed you this level of control. The fact that a link can have hover functionality so that various messages or images appear when you hover a mouse over highlighted text doesn't warrant new definitions as it is still a link. Dugan concludes his chapter saying "the fact remains that a clear definition for the term hypertext is not easy to establish". (Dugan 1999:98)

Five years on, an entry in the "Education and Technology Encyclopedia" is no closer to a definition; "Although no consensus has not been reached on a pure definition, it is important to note that hypertext refers to more than simply a functional, electronic linking of texts." (Kovalchick 2004:314) Clearly, the word text in hypertext is the problem so the process of linking together information will be referred to throughout this thesis as linking. Denise Tolhurst from has simplified these three terms by creating a venn diagram (Hackbarth 1996:229) with Hypertext in the middle circle surrounded by Hypermedia and then Multimedia. I still maintain that it's better to just use the term linking.

(2) I was given time to develop two additional animations through a Knowledge Bank grant in 2006. These animations dealt with the Treble Clef and Key Signatures. As this was after my 6 viewers has been selected and tested, these animations are not part of my data design or interview process. They are, however, explained and critiqued in the Research methodology and Interactivity sections.

(3) Gutl (2003:233)

(4) ibid.

(5) Lupton (1996:65)

(6) Colwell (2002:435)

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