Monthly Archives: February 2012

PuppetPals HD – Aesop’s Fables

I was first shown this app at a training day and really liked the simplistic interface for recording your own shows. I was looking forward to using this app with my students to allow them to create their own movies. I chose the theme of Aesop’s Fables and the lesson was planned so that everything that they needed to do they would do on the iPad. The reason I chose a theme rather than letting the students come up with their own creations was that some of my ASC students struggle with creativity and I wanted a level playing field for all students to participate in the activity.

They first had to choose an Aesop Fables that they were going to recreate. These were available on iTunes U for free which allowed them to listen the story and note down the key points. Next they created a mind map using the app ‘Popplet’ and noted down what characters, settings and scenes they needed for their movie. Once this had been done the students got searching on the internet for the various images they would need.

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Now onto Puppetpals. When you first start a new show you need to select the actors. Puppetpals comes preloaded with various actors and backgrounds but would recommend purchasing the ‘Directors Pass’ which allows you to download more themes. The students found importing the images really easy as they had saved them to the camera roll. Puppetpals allows you to import pictures from the camera library or take a photo using the iPad’s camera. If you want more high res images, some students used the digital camera then transferred them using the camera connection kit (more on that in a later post). Once they had selected the images, Puppetpals allows you to draw round a particular part of the picture to cut out the background allowing you to create your actors. So once all the actors had been imported and selected the next step was for them to choose their backgrounds. Again the students imported pictures from the camera role and resized the images to make their backgrounds. Once the backgrounds had been selected it was onto filming.

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With Puppetpals, when you press the record button everything you do on screen is recorded as well as any sounds made. The students soon learned that they had to be quiet during the recording process as any background noise would be included. What really struck me about Puppetpals, was how quickly students with Severe to Moderate Learning Difficulties pick up the controls as if it was second nature. Some students struggled with the pinch-to-zoom motion, to increase/decrease the size of the characters, due to their physical limitations, but overall they were able to quickly film their scenes using the friendly and intuitive interface. What was also nice to see was the students discussing amongst themselves the different roles they would undertake and making decisions collaboratively as a group. Once each scene was made they saved them and then exported them into iMovie to make the final edits. The students enjoyed making these videos and were excited to share them with each other.

To conclude, I found using Puppetpals in the lesson as an excellent and simple tool to help students create their own movies. The interface is very simple to use and all students were able to participate in the activity. Below are their finished movies, enjoy!!

Assessment of Life Skills – How?….

Since teaching a Life Skills curriculum, I have always questioned how we go about recording students’ progress to allow me to track this more accurately. What is it that we are trying to measure? What would we like our students to achieve from their lessons? As the curriculum we deliver is quite unique, I have yet to come across any guidance regarding subjects we teach apart from accredited vocational qualifications.

For the last 3 years we have been measuring students’ progress on the level of support that they receive throughout the lessons against specific lesson objectives. So for example for meal preparation we would give a grade for “knowing what equipment I need for a task” with one of the following grades:

S+ – 1-1 support

S – some support

I – Independence

I+ – Independence with confidence.

UPDATE 01/11/13

Since writing this post, we have changed the criteria to make it clearer for students and staff to aid the assessment process. The criteria we use now are:

S+ – 1-1 support

S – some support

S- – little support/guidance

I – independent work.

We felt that the distinction between independence and independence with confidence was difficult to judge and that by including support minus this allowed us to clearly assess students on the progress they had made.

In addition to these grades we write qualitative statements detailing milestones they achieve in the lesson and any other info that is relevant and adds value to the grades. Though this has been a step forward from previous assessments, I still felt that tracking students’ progress over the course of three years was difficult and wanted a more quantitive way of doing this.

Since September, I have been trialling a system that gives the students a score based on how independently they achieve the lesson objectives. I have initially used this system for meal preparation where the objectives are repeated for each different meal they create. Each grade has been assigned a score ranging from 1 for S+ to 4 for I+. Grade boundaries have been set for the different levels of support based on these scores. Below is a spreadsheet which shows the lesson objectives which are linked to our competency framework. Each objective is given an overall score which is then added up to give an end of unit grade. The grade boundaries are adjusted accordingly for students who may have missed a week. Also to put people's minds at rest, I focus on two objectives a week but students have opportunities to do the other objectives as they are part of the lesson. (Don't try to cover 10 objectives every lesson!!)

Over the course of the term this system has allowed me to successfully track progress made by students. It also ask gets me to ask questions about those students who might not have made asgood as progress as expected. At the moment my TAs and I are responsible for the assessment of students and we have discussed in depth what each grade would look like for each objective. The next step is to write level descriptors so that this can be shared across the department.

I understand there are some flaws to the system –

  • Students might not be able to demonstrate every objective each lesson.
  • At present, the system is very objective and still based on the assessors’ opinion until grade descriptors are written down.
  • Is it fair to give an average score of their grades, where students might be making more progression towards the end of the unit (though the skills are transferred for each unit, so not as worried about this one)

I know the system is not perfect, but at present it seems to be working. It has given me a much better understanding of the progress that students make across the year so far and I believe will be useful when tracking progress over 3 years. I would be interested to hear how other SEN 6th Forms are tracking students’ progress in Life Skills and how they go about assessment.

Thank you for taking the time to read and please comment on the post – all feedback is greatly appreciated.


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