Welcome to Jennie Magiera's Technology in Education Blog:

Redefining the (digital) Classroom

Saturday, June 15, 2013

What the GIF?

GIFs. Graphics Interchange Format.

Perhaps you see them on blogs, in Andrew Stillman's scripts or flashing at you in website ads (if not - here's a sample GIF to the right for your viewing pleasure). BUT have you ever thought of using them in class? Today let's explore that thought...

We interrupt this blog post for an important Public Service Announcement:

GIF is pronounced with a soft g - as in "jif". To those who dissent, please refer to the creator of the file format, one Mr. Steve Wilhite. Go to 0:45 of this video for final proof on this.

END PSA. You may now return to your regularly scheduled blog post.

... anyway... so....

GIFs in school! How could this be useful, you might ask? Great question! Think: sequencing - or cause/effect - or cycles in science - or even math problem solving! Imagine your kids are using an iPad app like Drawing Pad or creating a Google Drawing to show the life cycle of a butterfly, the three main events in a short story, the steps they took to solve a math problem... etc. Normally, they'd just send these images to you or post them to a site. What if... they could create an animated GIF - not only because it's "cool" and "fun" but also because these could be an animated way for others to see - in just a few seconds - exactly what the student knows.

Why not just create a video or screencast? Well, these have their place in the pantheon of student creation - absolutely. However sometimes it's nice to have a quick, succinct visual for kids to show what they know. Moreover, the file size of a video can sometimes be a problem for certain sites, emailing files or even the WiFi in a building. GIFs are mini files that say a lot in a small amount of time and bytes. Additionally, GIFs can be embedded easily into Google documents, websites, presentations - etc... not worrying about sound, uploading to YouTube or embedding from a third-party screencasting site.

So how do you make a GIF? There are tons of websites and tools to do this, but here are two that I find to be the most simple:

Recently the amazing Kevin Brookhouser shared this video that teaches you how to auto-create a GIF with Google+. In this workflow, you simply upload a series of photos with similar backgrounds to Google+ and the little droids who work in the Google cloud create a GIF for you. All you have to do is sit back and wait (Kevin says about an hour).

If you don't mind getting your hands dirty and doing the work yourself - or want immediate results - my favorite site to use is Picasion. It's free, simple, and allows you to download an unwatermarked GIF to your desktop (or use a direct link, or get an embed code). You simply upload your series of pictures and BAM - GIF - in a giffy. ;)


  1. I really like this idea! I could use it in my Structures of Life unit in Science or have my 4th graders produce a GIF on a long division problem. By brain is swirling with ideas! I know you mentioned using Drawing Pad on the iPad but any idea on if this works on the iPad? My classroom is 1:1 iPads so I was curious if you had tried it on the iPad. I will definitely be experimenting with this soon. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Yup! It works great! Newer iOS allows you to upload files from the photo roll to websites, so the Picasion GIF maker works great. If you don't want to spend money on Drawing Pad, try Doodle Buddy or Educreations to create quick drawings!

  2. What a neat idea! I'm going to try Picasion right away. Thanks very much!

  3. Wow! Very cool! I like how you had a PSA in the middle of the blog!! Very funny!!! :)

  4. I have just started following your blog and I am excited to read all your links to different technology sites I can use. What is your favorite place to keep all your links together (so you can find them quickly and easily)? I am trying to corral all this great information into one place.

  5. GIFs are neat. I have been playing around with them for a while. Sort of a quick and dirty stop motion animation. Caution on Picasion - some of the GIFs that appear are a bit on the adult side. gifmaker.me has tamer ads, but it doesn't allow upload from iOS. GIFs also do not download to iOS, but the url and code for the GIFs is an alternative to that.