Rochdale Community Champions – Using Animation for Participatory Research in the Community.

Here is a guest blog post by Katy Goldstraw (Phd student and lecturer at MMU and lecturer at Edge Hill university)

Animation is a great fun way of getting your message across. What has struck me is that it captures people imaginations much more than being asked to present research in reports or presentations. I was asked to co-deliver leadership and research training as part of a partnership between Rochdale Community Champions and Edge Hill University. Rochdale Community Champions are a group of volunteers that deliver solution focused, person centred support on a peer-to-peer basis with their community. John and I, working at Edge Hill University, were asked to come and deliver leadership and research training with the champions. We were keen to use training techniques that were accessible, innovative and enabling. Having attended one of Jenny Fisher’s animation training sessions we felt that animation was a great way of sharing research outcomes and intentions.

The leadership and research training was delivered over 4 days with the two fold aim of creating a short animation by day four, as a stepping stone into a longer term participatory research project. The animation was to be focussed around what being a volunteer meant to the champions.
The volunteers loved the idea, we loved the idea – BUT how do we get circa fifteen peoples idea into one animation in four days? Well we did lots of shared discussion, que post it notes & flip chart about how people felt, what they wanted to research and how the animation should look. By day three, we were ready to create the PowToon. I chose PowToon mostly because it seems to me the simplest of tools and similar enough to PowerPoint that I could understand it.

We sat in a U shape and tried to whittle down the pages of notes about what was important about being a Rochdale Community Champion into three sentences. A game of ‘word popcorn’ helped. I had the computer and everything I uploaded was projected up onto the big screen. We created a short five-minute cartoon with the major messages the group wished to share. We chose to create one shared animation, as there was a significant diversity of IT skills and literacy within the room. This way everyone’s voice was heard.

As with all participation, the project was full of ideas and discussion. It was not without conflict with different group members wishing different things to be represented. Trying to create the animation ‘live’ when I have what can only be described as limited skills was hard. I created a draft by the end of day three and then went home and worked on the cartoon to improve the animation. The second draft was then shared with volunteers on day four.
Overall, the process felt very democratic and feedback from volunteers was positive – they really engaged with the idea of representing the community champions in a short and innovative way.

If I were advising others, to include animation in a community research project I would recommend a shared animation and using the ‘first draft’ and they time out to perfect. I found it all quite high pressure being watched by fifteen people whilst a learner myself. However, within that I was pleased that I was able to model a new idea and the very important message that we as a group could create an animation collaboratively.

For more info on the Rochdale Community Champs Project


Accessible Animation

When Jenny, Hayley and I facilitated a workshop at the HPSC teaching and learning conference on 9th January, 2015, on using animation in teaching, learning and research. One of the questions from a participant was: “is animation accessible?”  In brief, the answer was “it’s complicated!”.

There are a number of issues you might want to think about.

  1.  Is the topic you are animating about suitable?

For some people, animation is still seen as a bit of a frivolous activity, animation is often used to convey light hearted information and jokes.  If you are engaging in a serious or sensitive topic, you might want to think about whether animation is the best way to do this.  On the other hand, it is possible to use animation carefully and sensitively to convey very powerful and serious messages.  If you’ve been following the #JusticeforLB campaign, a campaign calling for the NHS Trust responsible for what was found to be the preventable death of a young man with a learning disability, you may have seen this animation: which conveys powerful messages about a serious topic.

  1. Are the representations of people suitable?

The free animation software offers a limited range of images of people you might want to think about this in terms of race, gender, size and dis/ability.  The range of items that you can import is also limited. As Jenny pointed out in the session, there are no wheelchairs available in “Go Animate”.

Some people with learning disabilities may object to being represented in a cartoon-like way.  This is because of a history of a long history of the infantilisation of people with learning disabilities which self-advocacy organisations have worked hard to resist.

  1. How can I make the information within the animation accessible?

There are some general ideas about accessible information that you might want to think about:

  1. a) Think about using a sans seraph font and using 16pt or larger – avoid using all upper case.
  2. b) Allow plenty of time for the viewer to read the information on the animation.  It might help to read the slide out loud slowly and use this to set the timings on the animation.
  3. c) Use a voice over to read the text aloud.  You might also want to think about audio describing the images on the animation.
  4. d) Use pictures to support the text, the pictures should appear before the text on the left hand side rather than on the right.
  5. e) Use plain English.  Avoid technical language or jargon that a lay audience might find inaccessible.
  6. f) Provide a link to a transcript of the animation.
  7. g) Share your animation on YouTube to reach a wide audience

And finally …

We have found lots of people who have found animations an engaging and effective way to share ideas.

If you have any ideas about how to animate accessibly, we’d be really grateful if you would share them on the blog.

Katherine Runswick-Cole

For more information about presenting accessibly read:

  1. Mallett, R., Runswick-Cole, K. and Collingbourne, T. (2007) Presenting Protocols for Accessible Research Dissemination, Disability and Society, 22 (2): 205-7.

Animation workshops at MMU

We have now run three workshops for MMU staff on animating since December 14. The latest one was at the Faculty of Health, Psychology and Social Care’s Learning and Teaching conference on 9th January. Over 30 staff and post-graduate students have participated in the workshops led by Jenny, Hayley and Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole. We began the workshops with an overview of the project, use of animation in learning and teaching, and how animations can be used for research (especially impact). Participants then had an opportunity to use go-animate (the schools edition) and learn some basic skills for animating.

We used survey monkey to find out participants’ pre-workshop experiences of animation in learning and teaching, and post-workshop views on the workshop content. We learned that an hour is not enough time and we need to do longer workshops. Also it is best to use a mouse when working on a laptop, and that google chrome is the best internet platform for using go-animate. Lots of positive feedback:

‘I am very excited about the animation work.  Ellie kindly recorded some of our students reading out their poems, and I wanted to set them to an animation.’ (Dr Kirsten Jack, National HEA Teaching Fellow)

Fantastic! Thank YOU so much (Amanda Clayson, MMU VCS partner)

‘It was just right. i was really excited about what you did. it was very approachable and at the right level for me to go away and do the animation again.’ (anonymous)

In other news, we have been awarded the second instalment of our MMU CeLT project grant as we met the relevant deliverables.