Shadow Puppet


Shadow Puppet is an application that can be used to tell stories or personal narratives using photos. It’s a free application for the iPad or the iPhone. Once downloaded, the application can be opened and the user will find find three videos: a how to video that outlines how to use the application, a sample video made by a child, and a sample video made by an adult. It’s really simple to use. Users can import the photos they want to use from their photo library and start recording their voice while each photo is shown. Voice can be recorded photo by photo (recording and pausing) or recording can be done continuously by clicking on the arrow to change the photo while recording. A great feature is that the user is able to pan (gliding fingertip over screen) and zoom (double tap to zoom in and double tap to zoom back out) while recording. While on a photo, the user can tap once which makes a little sparkle appear to give a specific area or item in the photo special attention. Shadow puppet videos are best shared online (i.e. on Shadow Puppet, on Facebook and on Twitter). It should be noted that Shadow Puppet created videos are not intended for airplay via HD screens because the videos are in 400 x 400 pixel-format.

The use of a storytelling application such as Shadow Puppet offers high school ESL teachers a way to evaluate C1 (Interacts orally in English), C2 (Reinvests understanding of texts) or C3 (Writes and produces texts) depending on how it is implemented. As Keith Caldwell points out in his blog, Storytelling as a Pedagogical Tool :

“[Storytelling] is not only a potent tool for the teacher as a way of organizing information, but as a dynamic means for students to express what they have learned.”

If a teacher were to give an impromptu speaking project such as having students use some photos to tell a story by creating a video using Shadow Puppet, it could potentially be used for a C1 evaluation, as long as the speaking task is not prepared for ahead of time. A task could also be given to students where they would have to retell a story (i.e. a story or piece of literature they have already read or listened to in class) from the perspective of different characters, asked to explain why the characters acted as they did, or asked to make up an alternative ending to the story. This could be considered C2 because it allows students to demonstrate evidence of understanding of texts, to demonstrate their use of knowledge from texts in a reinvestment task, and to demonstrate their use of strategies and resources. If students were given a task where they had to produce an outline or script in order to carry out the creation of the video, this is could be evaluated as a C3 because students would be demonstrating their participation in the writing and production processes which involves content and formulation of the message, and their use of strategies and resources. Digital storytelling, in particular, as noted by Prasanna Bharti in her blog, How Can English Teachers Benefit from Digital Storytelling Tools, “is a great way for students and teachers to share their knowledge. It offers new ways to combine several medium such as animation, website, audio, graphic, video to create powerful stories to hear and see.”

As with any technology, teachers need to be aware of its limitations and know how to manage any issues that arise. One pertinent aspect mentioned by Jennifer New on her blog, How to Use Digital Storytelling in Your Classroom: Empower student creativity with affordable and accessible technology, is that :

“Kids are not used to the kind of freedom they’ll need to do great creative work. Some will thrive in that environment, others will require close supervision to make sure they complete their projects.”


Because of the versatility of how digital storytelling applications can be used pedagogically, I myself as a future ESL teacher have reflected on them and now see many potential ways to use an application like Shadow Puppet, even with high school ESL students. I am concerned more with high school level, so, at first glance, I didn’t see an application like Shadow Puppet as having any potential use in the high school classroom. After further research, I have changed my perspective of this tool. It, surprisingly, can be used to achieve many language competencies and used an evaluation tool as well. I know this will have a crucial impact on which activities and technological tools I choose to use in my ESL classroom. Further, using Shadow Puppet would be considered to be at the Modification or Redefinition level of Ruben R. Puentedura’s SAMR Classification  depending on the way in which it is used.


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