Thursday, May 16, 2013

Digital Storytelling with Puppet Pals in the Classroom

This is a copy of the review that I did for The Teacher's Digital Toolkit.  A site run by Sol Joye where teachers share their digital experiences with programs and apps in the classroom.

 9CostPuppet Pals Logo
10 Classroom Readiness
 91.8% Average Score (based on a weighted scale – SEE HERE)
WebsiteiOS Apps Android Apps Standalone Software 
SUMMARY: Puppet Pals HD is an app for iOS devices such as the iPad, iPod Touch, and iPhone.  It is a digital storytelling tool that allows students to tell a story using pre-created characters, or their own with the Director’s Pass.  Students move their characters across different backgrounds and record their voices and movements.  Digital storytelling with Puppet Pals can be used in many different classrooms from History or Science, to Language Arts and Foreign Language.  It can incorporate many different topics and allows the students to create their own story and learning experience.  Here is a summary on how to use Puppet Pals.
COST: There are two different apps that you can download from iTunes.  There is the Puppet Pals HD app, which is free, and the Puppet Pals HD Director’s Pass app that costs $2.99.  I recommend downloading the free app first, and then you can purchase the Director’s Pass inside it for $2.99 if you like it.  This is a one-time fee that allows you to download all of the character packs in the app, and also allows you to use any picture you want (from your camera roll or camera) in your story.
DIFFICULTY: This app is designed to be used for many different ages from toddlers to adults.  The students (7th graders) found the app to be rather easy to use, which is what it is designed to be.  They were able to incorporate all of their images and record their stories with ease.  The first two lessons were spent with the students learning how to use the app.  Many thought that that was too much time, because they picked it up rather quickly.
LONGEVITY: Students really enjoyed using Puppet Pals in class.  When they came to class students were always asking if it was going to be a Puppet Pals day.  Throughout the project they all seemed to be engaged.  After the project on world revolutions, the students used the app again during a trip planning unit as they took us through a day their capital city.  The students were engaged the second time through the process as well.  I wouldn’t do the project more than the two times that we did in our World Cultures class, but I could be incorporated into other curriculum and still retain its’ excitement.
VERSATILITY: There were three issues that students found the most annoying were that once you started recording, you couldn’t go back and just re-do a section.  If you hit the back button, then you lose the entire recording that you were working on.  The second issue was when the students were cutting out their characters.  While the process was simple, some of the students wanted more accuracy in the tool.  The third was when they were recording.  The microphone can pick up background noise easily, so if they were trying to record in a room with other students there was sometimes “extra noise” included in their recording.  All of these items were easily worked around, as the students found solutions to the problems and shared their best practices with one another.
CLASSROOM READINESS: Since the app is so straight forward, it is ready to go right out of the box for classroom use.  There is a short learning curve and the students gravitate towards using it.  During the unit I taught on world revolutions, I provided the necessary scaffolding for the students to understand the process of digital storytelling.  We went through the basic use of the app, picking and researching the topic, how and why to use historical images, how and why to storyboard, recording, editing, and how to upload / post their stories to their blogs.  The project was more about the process of creating a digital story, rather than just using the app.  For more information on digital storytelling and downloadable lesson plans please visit my site.
Student Summary:Letter Grade: Average student rating: 8.4/10: B
Ease of use (1 easy – 10 difficult): 4.2 / 10
Time needed / wanted to use: (1 less – 10 more): 5.8 / 10
 Level of “fun” involved (1 less – 10 more): 6.6 / 10
 Level of versatility (1 less – 10 more): 6.2 / 10
“Puppet Pals is super easy and convenient to use! But like any other tool it takes an explanation and practice work.”
“I think Puppet Pals is really fun! When I need to use it for a project it is fun and convenient. However I wouldn’t spend my free time on it when it is not for a project. But it is always exciting to hear I have a project on it!”
“Puppet pals is very versatile. I could use it for a documentary with real pictures or I could make a cartoon about a bunny on it.”
“I really like how you can make your own backgrounds and characters from photos with the directors pass. I really wish there were a part of it that let you put multiple clips together so you didn’t have to transfer it to iMovie or something like that.”

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