Blog Archives

Puppet Pals, not just for kids

I first learned about Puppet Pals in kinder21’s recent post about connecting her classroom to China, and the very next day it came up in my class.

My students had divided a book we were reading into chapters, and each group was responsible for creating a video of that chapter’s main events.

It was a good way to review in a dynamic and memorable way.  The history teacher across the hall had been teaching his students to make Common Craft videos, and I offered this as an alternative to filming a live scene.

In an act of media fluency one student said “I think the app my sister is using in Kindergarten would be perfect for this!”  He described how it worked and it seemed interesting, so we quickly downloaded the free app and started testing it out.

Puppet Pals brings out the creative inner child in anyone who picks it up.  You can choose pre-set characters, or upload your own images and set them in pre-set or uploaded scenes of your choosing.

When the scene is set, you can hit record and narrate or give voices to the characters as you move them around the scene.  It’s essentially a puppet show that an individual can perform and film at the same time.

If you’ve seen a young child at play, moving toys around and giving them voices, this is the digital recording of that very same phenomenon.

The videos are fun to watch and the students have to summarize, problem-solve, collaborate, plan and execute the project… without even realizing they are using so many important 21st Century skills.

I love Puppet Pals, it’s going to become a standard fim-making option in my classroom.

Students use smart phones to research and edit their script while creating a Puppet Pals video on an iPad.

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Collaboration Fluency: Foreign Connection (possibility!)

Collaboration fluency is team working proficiency that has reached the unconscious ability to work cooperatively with virtual and real partners in an online environment to create original digital products. Virtual interaction through social networking sites and online gaming domains has become a part of the Digital Generation’s and our daily lives…so why not include it in our daily routines at school as well!

While social networking is not necessarily explored in Kindergarten, I am excited about an opportunity this year! I have a student who will be moving to China in March. She will return for 1st grade next year, but will spend nearly 6 months in Beijing with her grandparents to be fully immersed in the language.

This will become a wonderful opportunity for my class to continue our relationship with this child, but to start a connection with a class on the other side of the world!

How can this build collaboration fluency? I have lots of ideas! The basics of Kindergarten include numbers, letters, shapes, etc. I think the kids would love to teach one another some “basics”. At this point in Kindergarten we are working on building complete sentences and even writing our own stories. I think it would be awesome for my students to create stories (for example on the PuppetPals App) and send them to the class in China. The class in China could then retell the story in Chinese and send us the new version. I need to explore ways we could exchange these videos to make it a smooth process for Kindergartners to manage. I know the possibilities could be endless with this, but I love the idea of storytelling to collaborate with the Chinese class. Knowing that one of the students there will be one of our friends will allow my students to jump right in to it rather than be nervous. My students will be very interested to learn about what her new class and teacher will be like, so it would be wonderful to compare and contrast the classroom environments she will be in. We could also exchange photos or videos of our classrooms.

The 21st Century Fluency Project website suggests that with our wireless communication technology, it literally puts a “death to distance”. the ideas I shared above holds especially true to this. Even the tremendous time change between Oklahoma and China won’t get in the way of sharing and exchanging ideas! In fact, I believe it would be a smooth process that the kids would be eager to explore. I will be eager to post about the progress as it develops!

a fly tech tool in the classroom: Shutterfly.com

My favorite tool I have used by far has been Shutterfly. Shutterfly is used in many ways! Primarily for Kindergarten, it is used by parents more than the students. Aside from e-mail, Shutterfly is my line of communication with parents. Updated weekly, our Shutterfly class website contains calendars, photos, videos, curriculum, important info/forms, and general info about our classroom and Lower School as a whole. This password protected site has been invaluable in keeping parents completely connected with what is happening in the classroom.

The kids love taking pictures in class, so it is the best way for me to share them with their families. Through Shutterfly, you can order prints or photo books of the pictures you love! (fees apply via Shutterfly.com) I often receive emails raving about the website and how wonderful it is to get photo and video updates of our classroom!

One of my favorite features, drum roll please….SIGN-UP SHEETS! That’s right, sign-up sheets online. It’s amazing. You don’t have to worry about posting forms outside your door or for parents to find time to sign up for various opportunities in a timely manner. Parents log-in with their own email and have complete access to sign up for volunteer opportunities, conferences, etc whenever they want! I love it and so do the parents!

You can design your own class website however it suits you best. You can put as little or as much information on it. For those that don’t need a website for communicating with parents, it is a great website for kids to design their own websites. Are you a history teacher? Let’s say you have a student studying WWII. He or she could design a [free] website displaying what is learned! Within the website, he or she could have different tabs or pages titled: important battles, key figures, timelines, causes and outcomes, military strategies, etc. Within each section he/she can layout information in a variety of ways. Not to mention, other students could log-in and give feedback on what has been posted. He/she could also upload photos to help share the information.

As far as I can see, there are endless possibilities with Shutterfly! It is a free website, however, should you choose to upgrade, there is a fee good for one year. This gives you more memory storage for video uploads, etc.

What a great way to exemplify the fluencies of 21st century learning…creatively displaying information in such a way that engages others, sparks feedback potential, and a safe and educational way to post info on the internet. Oh the possibilities!

Shutterfly, you get an A+ from our Kindergarten class!

iPad Use…Too Much Screen Time for Kids?

I came across this article about Kindergartners in Maine getting ipads. As a kindergarten teacher, I obviously found it interesting. While I am ANXIOUSLY awaiting the ipads for our classroom, I was still intrigued by a comment in the article. The potential concern is: how will too much screen time affect our kids? Now, on one hand I know that we will use the ipads often, but certainly not all day, so will it really make a difference? On the other hand, ipads are brand new and we really don’t know how these kids will be in 10 years! Interesting!

http://www.necn.com/09/12/11/Kindergarteners-get-iPads-for-school/landing_scitech.html?blockID=563064