A few weeks ago, Jennifer Morgan, French teacher extraordinarie, came to me with an idea. “How,” she asked, “could I take advantage of one of these animation apps that I’ve found to engage my students in tasks that require them to use their conversation skills?”
Jennifer already had the free app, Sock Puppets in mind, as one tool, but she also wanted an option for students who did not have smart phones or tablets that they could bring to class. We determined that the best way to bridge the technology gap would be to find a web-based animation application, similar to Sock Puppets that allows students to create characters, establish a setting, and record their voices for the dialogue. GoAnimate.com provided several free templates to create animated scenes.
I’ve asked Madame Morgan to be my guest on the blog this week, and she graciously accepted.
Here is our conversation as we reflected on her use of apps to support students in reaching their learning objectives:
What were your instructional goals for this project?
My students needed to take a spoken test to show they could carry on a basic conversation in French. By creating a video, they actually were able to show more of their knowledge, because they performed both sides of the conversation. These videos were able to show me their ability with the language and the pronunciation of French.
Why did you choose GoAnimate and Sock Puppets?
Sock Puppets is the Apple app – both programs allowed students to record their voices onto pre-made characters to create short videos. Both programs had different parameters, and I really liked both of them. Sock Puppets will actually change the student’s voice (they can set it to go higher or lower) and that was really fun for them. Also, Sock Puppets allows 30 seconds of recording time in the free version. GoAnimate, on the other hand, didn’t have a time limit, but instead limits students to only 10 lines of dialogue. In order to include all the required parts of conversation, my students definitely had to get a little creative! GoAnimate does not alter voices, but it has a wide variety of settings for the videos, and you can change the emotions of the characters.
Can you tell us a little about how you prepared your students to use the apps?
I had created a few samples on each program that I showed my students before they got started. Then during class I also projected the program and showed them how to get started, up to how to record their voices. After that, I pretty much let them work on their own – and most of them didn’t need any additional support. Those that did I was easily able to help.
What obstacles, limitations, or surprises did you encounter?
I had booked the COWs [computers on wheels] for two days, “just in case” and boy did we need BOTH days!! Neither of the programs we used allow you to save your work and edit/add to it later, so most of my kids spent the first day choosing their characters and settings, and testing out the program they were using. Then on the second day they were able to come into class, get their device and start recording their final project right away.
Overall, how do you feel the use of these tools impacted student engagement and learning? Will you use them again
I think doing the conversations digitally was really fun for the students, and therefore they were definitely engaged in the process. The videos also made the process much less stressful for my shy kids, as they tend to get intimidated by spoken tests where they have to approach me one-on-one. Those type of tests still have their place, but this was a great alternative. As a teacher, I personally really enjoyed many of the videos my students produced – they were really funny, so it was also more enjoyable for me to grade than having them come up to my desk one-on-one. Although it took two class periods to complete, it would have taken that long for me to do spoken tests, and it was much easier to grade since I could re-play the videos at will.
What are the benefits to using applications and web 2.0 tools for animation?
engages students in the learning process as they synthesize content into a digital story
supports collaboration between students through the writing process: brainstorming, story-boarding, drafting, revising, publishing
a task with an identified audience of their peers, other students, YouTube, etc. provides relevance along with rigor
We’d love to hear your thoughts regarding possible extensions and adaptations of this project in your content area! Feel free to leave any questions or thoughts for Mme. Morgan as well.