Storyteller Katrice Horsley shows second grade teacher Christie Down PuppetPals HD in an Outdoor Education lesson.
The release of iOS7 on September 18th this year prompted the customary exchanges of views on the blogosphere about what was good and what was less good about the upgrade. Design purists celebrated the apparent demise of skeuomorphism at the hands of Sir Jony Ive. Others took turns saying Apple has lost its way, scored another hit, become out of touch, proved once again it has its finger on the pulse, fallen behind, taken the lead and all the other polarised clichés that seem to accompany new technology releases these days.
Personally I was keeping an eye out for the return of that old chestnut “the iPad is fine for content consumption but it can’t do content creation”, and I wasn’t disappointed. Several commentators who have obviously somehow missed Pages, Numbers, Keynote, PuppetPals HD, Morfo Booth, Evernote, Penultimate, Moxier Collage, Art Rage, Moodboard, Collabracam, Me Books, Showbie, Edmodo, Explain Everything, iMovie, GarageBand, Creative Book Builder, Book Writer, Strip Design, Hopscotch, Animation HD, Aurasma and so forth trotted out that line on various forums.
This got me thinking. It simply beggars belief that all these people are in the pay of Google or Samsung. Some of them probably genuinely believe that students and others cannot create meaningful content using iPads – or at least that they cannot create content that cannot be replicated on laptops or desktop computers (as, for example, the work created on the iPad apps for WordPress or Prezi etc. could be). The visit of accomplished professional storyteller Katrice Horsley to our school campus this week gave me the opportunity to see how someone unconnected with our school and its recent history of iPad integration would approach an outdoor learning opportunity. To my delight one of the frist things Katrice did once she was out in the woods with our second graders was to introduce one of our newest staff members to the wonders of PuppetPals HD.
Katrice Horsley in full swing talking to the second grade shortly before tasking them outside
There is almost nothing in PuppetPals HD that qualifies as content consumption. The power of the app lies entirely in its capacity to provide a vehicle for users to express themselves. As a language teacher I have used PuppetPals HD for script capture ahead of practical work in drama. In the case of Katrice’s outdoor learning lesson PuppetPals HD provided an option for storytelling. The second graders told their stories today using traditional materials like sticks, rocks, bark and some novelty eyes that Katrice brought along. But photographs of these characters, settings and objects can easily be incorporated into PuppetPals HD shows which can then also be edited within the app or in other apps in an app workflow.
Second graders tell their stories to Katrice at the end of an outdoor learning lesson
PuppetPals HD happens to do this task extremely well, especially if one invests in the paid version of the app, but there are myriads of alternative apps out there. Students are also using apps such as iMovie (now bundled with new iPad purchases) to tell stories, Pages (similarly bundled) to create eBooks (many other apps facilitate this too these days) and Garageband to create soundscapes and backtracks for their story creations. The iPad hasn’t invented all this – any more than the development of the four treasures (paper, ink, brush and inkstone) in second century China “invented” writing. It merely provides a much tool for the job than was previously available.
I don’t expect the content consumption die-hards to surrender just yet. I’m sure they will still be claiming that the iPad can’t create anything in years to come when work done on tablets constitutes a majority. But then again, I read today that the Flat Earth Society still has nearly 2,000 active members.