Monday, March 12, 2012

How did they teach you to be, just a happy puppet dancing on a string?

This blog is starting to become a chronicle of my conversion to all things iPad, so I suppose I'll just continue the trend here. Today's exciting topic: "Easy Content Creation." No really; it's interesting. I swear.

The reasons people love or hate the iPad are often ironically the same. The lovers only buy apps from the the Appstore and movies from iTunes and they will happily do so for the foreseeable future. The haters want to jailbreak the devices or (better yet) promote Android and have Apps freely flowing and movies flowing and free. The lovers exclaim how easy it is to surf the net and check email, while the haters wail that these underpowered content consumers will never replace the power and functionality of a "real" computer.

But no one (much) seems to be talking about iPads creating things. I got the iPad because it is a wonderful device to hold and watch things with. But, as I've said above in the blog, I'm beginning to see exactly how powerful a tool this little baby will be.

(Please allow this digression; I will get back to the point soon.)

An annoying byproduct of technology is all the different ways it doesn't work. When the tech has been planned well, and you get to your classroom ten minutes before your kids, and the Internet gods have decided to smile upon you, Voila! A futuristic educational performance awaits.

And that happens at least once in every teacher's life.

More often then not, unfortunately, you hit a snag somewhere. Snags are normal and happen with lost books, broken DVD players, inkless whiteboard markers, etc. Technological snags seem more difficult though, perhaps because so many of us teachers are not really digital natives. And we seem to remember the tech snags longer too, creating a negative feedback loop that discourages us from ever trying anything computer-y again.

Enter the iPad as a CREATOR of content in the classroom. I will never claim that the iPad works flawlessly. I've had Apps crash, connections get dropped, and...well...I'm looking for a third thing that has gone wrong, but I can't think of one right now. In any event, things will go wrong with it. But the beauty is that this a) rarely happens and b) is easily fixable.

So when you ask kids to do something in class with their iPads, you won't be waiting for 3 minutes while they boot up the machine. You won't have to worry about whether they'll record things correctly. You also (if you have an Apple TV) won't have to worry about whether they'll be able to share their work.

Case in point: Puppet Pals. Again, a full disclaimer, I know nobody who is a part of making or selling this App. I heard about it at our recent tech conference. Several teachers said their schools had bought it for their elementary kids, but then they found that their high school kids were using it too. It is an amazingly easy video production device that creates a narrated puppet show with preset characters or pictures of characters. Want Maeve to present to the class how the water cycle works? Send her off to a corner for five minutes to record a puppet of herself doing just that, and then have her upload it to the class portal from her iPad.

Just how easy it is to use this App was proven to me by my three year old. She watched me play with it for no more than one minute, asked to use it, I gave her about 30 seconds of instruction, and (by herself) she made this.

Now I'm not planning on entering this movie into the Academy Award race. That would be foolish. Everyone knows they give preference to films released in Fall and Winter. But her intuitive ability to tell a story with this tool the first time around tells me that we are on the verge of something big. That something doesn't necessarily have to be the iPad, but with 60% of the tablet market cornered and blue skies for Apple's foreseeable future, I wouldn't feel so excited to be a traditional computer company right now.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your insights, I think Puppet Pals is the next app. for us.