UDL Spotlight

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SAM Animation: A Cool UDL Tool

Posted by udlspotlight on March 31, 2009

Jenna Wasson, a CAST Research Associate and Instructional Designer, discovered a very cool, free web-based tool, well-aligned to the UDL Guidelines – SAM Animation. It’s designed to give students (even really young ones) the power of making stop-action animations to share their ideas and understanding. The environment provides a unique experience for students to grapple with challenging problems in mathematics, science, engineering, and more as they engage in the process of generating animations.

Watch a SAM Animation

Listen to how animation is used to teach science

In this two-minute audio clip you will hear from Brian Gravel how students are able to demonstrate their understanding of photosynthesis through the process of creating an animation.


Explore how SAM Animation aligns with the UDL Guidelines

Access the complete version of the UDL Guidelines: Version 1.0

Multiple Means of Representation Multiple Means of Action and Expression
 Checkpoint 3.2: Provide options that highlight critical features, big ideas, relationships.  Students can create animations showing the big ideas in science, math and engineering using a variety of representations including diagrams, text, props, drawings, narration.
Checkpoint 5.1: Provide options in the media for communication

SAM is a unique and engaging way for students to express their ideas

Checkpoint 5.3: Provide options in the scaffolds for practice and performance.

Although scaffolds are not embedded directly into the SAM software, there are many opportunities for teachers to support students’ use of SAM with outside resources (graphic organizer to plan out animation, pre-cut objects for students with motor disabilities, etc.). However, there are significant scaffolds for teachers who would like to implement SAM into their classrooms. There are models of various students’ animations on the website and a SAM Animation Community wiki for educators to share ideas and support.

Checkpoint 7.1: Provide options that increase individual choice and autonomy.

SAM leaves expression up to students’ creativity. Student can choose to animate objects, cut out figures, their own drawings, etc. They can choose to use text, images, or a combination of both. They can choose to add sound. The can choose to add audio descriptions using their own voices. Multiple opportunities for choice are embedded into the stop action movie making experience.

Checkpoint 7.2: Provide options that enhance relevance, value, and authenticity.

Most students are familiar with stop-action movies in their lives outside of school. Providing students with the opportunity to make their own movies brings outside interests into the classroom and heightens student engagement.

Checkpoint 8.3: Provide options that foster collaboration and communication.

Although SAM can be used by individual students, many teachers choose to have their students work in groups to create their movies collaboratively.

SAM Animation is an excellent example of what we mean by “provide students with multiple means of expression.”  SAM allows students to express their ideas through a unique and socially-relevant medium. It’s also an excellent example of what we mean by “provide students with multiple means of engagement.” By providing a tool for expression that is so engaging and flexible, teachers gain a more accurate window into their students’ understandings.

Learn more about SAM in high school science

Listen to Bill Church, a high school physics teacher, as he describes how SAM Animation helps his students engage in the scientific process.


The SAM Animation website has all that you need to know to create your own animations. You can also see animations others have created, collaborate with users via a classroom Wiki, and learn more about the research behind this very cool National Science Foundation-funded project.

Special Note: SAM Animation is hosting its first annual conference SAM Animation Conference for Teachers on May 15th, 2009 at Tufts University for those who use or plan to use SAM Animation to teach science, math, reading, social studies, or anything else in the classroom. samconferenceflyer_may1509


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