September 22, 2023

Animation Made Easy: The best tools for student projects, from stop motion to GIFs


Very often, complicated ideas can be easily explained with simple drawings, as Dan Roam claims in his best-selling book The Back of the Napkin (Portfolio, 2009). Case in point: The popular step-by-step video series In Plain English. Created by Common Craft, these simple productions synthesize various topics for learners, from social media to financial concepts. With accessible tools, you and your students can create your own simple animations to convey powerful ideas.

SLJ131201w_TK._wideoWideo allows anyone to make Common Craft-style animated videos online. Within the application, simply drag and drop stock elements—including text, cartoons, and drawings—into place with the Wideo editor and then set the sequence of animations. You can also upload your own images. All your visual elements can be flipped, rotated, shrunk, and enlarged.

Each element can also be reused as many times as you like, and users can adjust the timing of each animation. After getting all your visuals in place, bring your Wideo story to life by adding music or a spoken audio track. Wideo videos can be published online and viewed free of charge. To download clips, you have to pay for one of Wideo’s premium plans, which start at $20.75 per month.

SLJ131201w_TK._ABCyaABCya Animate This tool from ABCya allows you to create animated GIFs with up to 100 frames. Students can produce their animated creations by drawing, typing, and inserting images. Within each frame, you can change the background, add new images, and alter text. The feature I like best allows users to view previous animation frames while working on a current one. This helps students know where to position items within each frame in order to make their finished animations as smooth as possible.

Students don’t need to register on ABCya Animate to use the tool or save animations. When they click “save,” their creations are downloaded as GIFs. A $1.99 iPad app offers the same features as the Web version.

SLJ131201w_TK._AnimationAnimation Desk is an iPad app with free and premium versions for making short, animated videos. Create drawings using just your finger on the tablet screen. In the free version, users may include up to 50 scenes per project, each scene including as little or as much as you want to draw. A choice of brush and pencil effects is available, and you can also alter the opacity of your colors. When you have completed drawings for all of your scenes, hit “play” to watch your animation unfold. The video plays back as if flipping through a stack of sketches. Animations are exportable to YouTube.

SLJ131201w_TK._StopFrameStop Frame Animator from Culture Street is a neat tool for creating animated stop-motion movies. Making one is a simple drag-and-drop process. Begin by selecting one of nine background scenes and dragging your characters—all wooden manikins—into place. Position their arms and legs as you wish for each scene, and add additional props such as chairs and beach balls. Complete your stop-motion project with sound effects and music available from the Stop Frame Animator gallery.

Richard Byrne About Richard Byrne

Richard Byrne ( writes the award-winning blog “Free Technology for Teachers.”


  1. I am a teacher. A very poor, paying out of pocket graduate student, urban teacher from one of the highest poverty inner-city school. I would like to use these programs, however if they are not more affordable, my students would never get a chance to even look from afar, let alone try it out.