iPad Programming with Puppet Pals HD by Beth Saxton
Last year my library created an internal grant program to encourage innovative programs and services. A co-worker and I submitted a proposal to buy iPads for youth programming and were selected.
With our five thousand dollar grant we were able to purchase purchase eight iPad2s and eight Big Grips iPad cases designed especially for use with children, a case to transport the units, an AV adaptor for use with a projector, and a sync tray that would allow for mass charging and configuration. We also purchased an iTunes card for apps, the bulk of which is still available for future projects. After some research, and a lot of app testing we selected Puppet Pals HD as the app for the program during the grant period.
Puppet Pals HD is an easy to use iPad app that lets the user create easy animated movies. Just go ahead and spring for the 2.99 Director’s Pass, it is a great value as it includes all the character sets. Kids can choose from downloadable sets of characters including pirates, monsters, cowboys, and fairytale themes. You can also “cut-out” people from pictures on your camera roll and use them as characters.
The character sets were also great because they acted as story starters for the kids. As our program was close to the election we did end up disallowing the use of the political character set. We love that the kids care that much, but some of the movies ended up being rather inappropriate arguments between cartoon politicians.
We used Puppet Pals with children and teens at three branches as part of a program introducing iPads for content creation. For the most part it was a really great choice. Once you select characters and choose a backdrop you are ready to record your movie. Users can move the characters around the backdrop while recording a narration or dialog. It was very easy to use. Children ten and up reported no problems figuring out what to do, and patrons as young as seven were able to make videos with a little bit of staff guidance.
The app allows for export and it’s pretty easy to do. However, at our library parental contact is a challenge so we were unable to get releases to post the projects on the library website as we’d hoped. The students were happy to export their work to their own accounts to show their friends.
You are limited to basically one scene per movie with Puppet Pals, it’s not really intended for bigger projects. There is no editing, so if you make a mistake while recording you’ll need to go back and start at the beginning. These limitations were not a problem for us, as our goal was just to let the participants have some largely unstructured time to explore the technology. Nearly 100 children and teens participated in our project, and almost all of them responded that they would tell a friend to participate if we offered similar programming in the future.
You can make it more of a literacy building experience by having the young people write or storyboard their movies before they record. There is a similar app called Toontastic that actually takes users through the elements of storytelling including setup, conflict, challenge, climax and a resolution that would also work well for a more structured program.
We also learned a few things about iPad programming in general that we will incorporate into future events. First, 2-3 kids can share an iPad without much problem, and they enjoy working together. Most apps appropriate for elementary age children can be learned and used to create a project in a single session. In general teens had used an iPad previously while younger participants had not. Finally, if you wish to have something recorded an additional microphone will make for much better sound quality than the internal mic.
Youth Services Librarian