Sunday, September 9, 2012

Creating videos with Talking Tom

If you grew up in Minnesota,  you might have visited a small amusement park located in Brainerd called Paul Bunyanland.  I visited the park when I was a preschooler.  While I don't remember any of the rides, I do remember our arrival.  As I walked through the gate, a large statue of Paul Bunyan welcomed me to the park and he knew my name!  This same magic can be created using the app, Talking Tom, and many of the other similar "talking" apps. Young learners find Talking Tom very amusing and motivating, they are very intrigued when Tom uses their name or mentions their class in the video.  Here are some uses of the app in early childhood and special education:
Remind students of rules:  "remember quiet hands and quiet voice at circle time", "to be safe on the playground we go up the stairs and down the slide".
Encourage them to try something new:  Have Talking Tom be a special guest who speaks to the entire class when it is time to try a new food at snack.  Call him Chef Tom and have him encourage everyone to try a taste.
Provide feedback/celebrate success:  "You did it, you were safe on the playground".
Give clues or prompts for a game:  Develop a scavenger hunt related to a concept such as signs of spring and have Tom give the clues, "find something that smells good and grows".

In this example, I use Talking Tom 2 for a rule reminder.  For the students I support, circle time can be a difficult part of the day.  The combination of factors such as close proximity to peers, large quantities of verbal information, and the need to stay in one place for a long period of time, challenge many students who have difficulty with self regulation, auditory processing, and attention issues.   At the beginning of the year, the teacher usually invests a few minutes at the beginning of circle time to remind all of the children of the rules, but toward the middle of the year these group reminders aren't given as frequently.  The adults who support the children with special needs typically need to continue to provide reminders about circle time rules.  We like to provide the reminders immediately before circle time and provide immediate feedback. We know that after so many repetitions our voices can start to sound like the teacher on the Peanuts, "wah, wah, wah"! In an attempt to provide some novelty we created this video with the purpose of reminding a student of the two rules he struggled with on a consistent basis.  The second video was created to  provide feedback and celebrate his success.

To create the video, begin by accessing the Talking Tom settings, found under the iPad settings (the gear icon).  Find the Talking Tom app by scrolling through the apps on the bottom left and select it.

Turn on the longer listening time and user recorded video. Your next step is to script your message, in order to get the "Paul Bunyan effect" make sure you include the student's name or the class name.  I believe the video can be a maximum of 60 seconds.  If you pause and Tom starts to mimic your speech, that is okay, it will not show up on the video, only what you say will be on the video.  When you are ready, tap the video camera icon, located on the left hand side, near the top of the screen.  The icon flashes when it is recording.  Tap the video camera to end the recording.    

A new menu will appear when you end the recording.  If you are not satisfied with the video, tap the X on the top right of the menu and try again.  If you are happy with your product, you have several options for sharing the video.  If you have an account, you can upload the video to You Tube.  The other option is saving it the the iPad in the photo roll by tapping "Photos".  

I have been finding many uses for Tom and his friends.  I use the app with students to encourage sound and word imitation, they enjoy hearing their voice in the video.  If you are allowing a student to use the app, make sure to turn the violence off in the settings, it is found in the same place as the recording options.  Also beware of all of the ads and in app purchase options.  How do you plan to use the video feature of this app with young learners?