It's one of those tools your learners will love and — as I'll be suggesting — one of those tools you the teacher don't need to know all about.
If you suggest it to your learners, possibly as homework, possibly to your fast finishers and/or to those in verymixed ability classes with a much higher level of English, I think you'll be amazed by the results.
You might want to suggest that the animations are kept private and then displayed only in class, a solution that could also be adopted if you are uploading videos to YouTube. Privacy, as I'll also be suggesting, is a big issue with young learners.
To test it, I made and sent her the movie above — and she then replied with her own movie.
The idea would probably work well with young learners: if they have something to tell you, like they won't be coming to class, or have forgotten their homework, it's more fun than just an e-mail.
Problems with Moviemaker
There are a couple of minor issues with Moviemaker, one being that it starts to play automatically, so if you embed it on a blog as I've done here, you get that disco beat whether you like it or not (you do have an option to have no music — but that's not going to interest a kid!).
Nor can you edit your movie once you've finished, so you can't then remove the sound track (or correct any other errors). It's also a drawback that you can't record audio.
You'll also find that some of the characters you get (scantily-clad ladies, for example) and some of the possible settings for your movie (like, bubble baths!) are perhaps not entirely suitable for young learners.
Here's another cartoon creator (thanks, Kate!), this time from Chogger.com, with my first go with it in the screen capture, above.
You've got the sort of interactive tools you'd expect — text (including speech bubbles and captions), images (including drawing them and importing them), the ability to add new panels (3 shown above, the "active" one in white) and so on.
It isn't entirely intuitive if you're 50-plus like me, but to a kid familiar with technology this one will be a breeze.
You don't get the hundreds of ready made cartoon characters you do get at similar sites like ToonDoo, but I actually think that's a plus, as it leaves a lot more up to the user's imagination and creativity.
I particularly like the fact that you can import photos (in the screenshot, I've imported my SecondLife avatar). You (and I really mean your learners) can tell stories with speech bubbles in PowerPoint but I think young learners will love this one as an alternative.
My preference would still be for good old Word for writing collaborative stories in class [why?]– but, if you have a class blog, this looks like a fun piece of homework.
Personally, I have a preference for using good old Word, or even PowerPoint, or (best) a blog, for creative writing as I think that with some of the above your learners will end up spending more time on the technology and less time on the writing and the interaction in English (with the latter being what we're really trying to obtain in the language classroom)…
But I accept that, especially with younger learners, being able to animate things is probably more exciting, and hence more motivating and engaging and thus as likely as anything to produce learning.
A European Union Comenius project, Educomics is an initiative for using digital comics in language education, which aims to "show educators how digital comics can be used in the classroom to enhance learning, engage and motivate students, and use technology in a practical and effective way".