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Social-Emotional App-tivities that Really Work

WHS has embraced social emotional learning as a focus this year. Edutopia has done a fantastic job of delineating this topic further with “Self-Assessment Inspires Learning” and “Social and Emotional Learning Research Review“. Last week I posted a blog on the WHS Wifi site entitled, “Creative Risk Taking in the form of a Final” and shared it out with our parents and staff. This week I would like to go one step further and re-post this blog with a few more anecdotes for the greater edusphere…

Hybrid Exams

This past semester a few of the English II Pre-AP teachers offered a hybrid exam meshing both a paper as well as a digital presentation. As the presentation was not to be longer than a minute and to focus more on social-emotional self-analysis rather than the bells and whistles of a high end video production app, students selected the FREE Shadow Puppet EDU app to create their final product.

Digital Discoveries

I sat in on a few of the final presentations and took notes. Below are some of the digital discoveries that I gleaned:

  • Deeper Awareness of the Socio-Emotional: Meeting student’s social-emotional needs has been a focus with all content areas this year. While the video projects were all created using the same application, each one personally touched on a social-emotional self analysis with a text to self approach to Catcher in the Rye (the novel they had just finished). Many times we have students complete assignments but they don’t have ample time to reflect. As reflection and self-analysis were at the heart of this assignment, students had built-in time for students for self awareness. Within this forum, I noticed topical trends like transitioning, worry, future goals, stress, anxiety, lying, depression, isolation, introversion, bullying, perfectionism, adaptability, perseverance, performance anxiety, unrealistic expectations, responsibility, coping with change and death etc… and the coping mechanisms that many use to overcome these struggles. In HS, where these emotions and issues can seem heightened, I felt like this assignment really validated these sensitive issues. Some of the more poignant quotes were:
    • “Being a teenager is like testing the waters”
    • “You can’t change the future unless you change the now.”
  • The Power of Audience: Both Michele Benage and Lee Bergen mentioned that the power of sharing these projects with their classmates allowed for bonding and empathy (e.g. some students realized that they were not alone in their feelings and struggles and others felt like they had initially misjudged their peers without knowing the full story).
  • Meeting the Needs of Diverse Learners: Due to the hybrid approach of this project (e.g. both an essay and a video), learners had the opportunity to articulate their voice in both written and visual form. I felt like this really met the needs of our group of learners. Some may be more articulate with words and others with visuals and this gave each student an opportunity to be successful in their own way. Additionally, those that suffered from performance anxiety – that would rather record their thoughts rather than stand and deliver had a venue to successfully convey their ideas behind the scenes rather than in the spotlight.
  • Polishing PresentationsWith any project, some presentations were better than others (both visually and content-wise). Truly, if we don’t give our students these types of presentations, they will never have an opportunity to improve in this arena. Additionally, by seeing their peer’s presentations, this allows students to note best practices for this form of content delivery. I also think there is power in providing an assignment that can not be easily pulled and replicated from an online source – a task that requires both self-analysis and the ability to create something that doesn’t already exist.

Student Exemplars

While observing the presentations during finals week, three students presentation stood out to share as exemplars for poignancy and creativity. Each of these students not only completed a thoughtful self-analysis but took a creative approach in the delivery… as they all included original artwork. Before I shared the examples I made sure that I permission from all 3 students as the content was of a personal nature:

Shadow Puppet


  • Catcher in the Rye: I loved that this student created all of their own illustrations in Adobe Illustrator and then incorporated them within his video.
  • It Takes a Listener: This student used a very creative and poignant approach to blending hand- drawn original images with 2D and 3D environments.
  • Hello Classmates: I enjoyed the questions that this one raised and the hand-drawn images.

Gleaning Creative Commons Images

Though most of the exemplars featured above include original art work, I did want to mention the power of the built-in Creative Commons image search available within the Shadow Puppet EDU app. It includes maps, landmarks, Library of Congress, Met Museum of Art, The British Library, NASA, NOAA, Web Images, Flickr Creative Commons, Wikimedia, and Open Clipart. When images are selected from the the built-in image search to be used within a project, Shadow Puppet automatically cites all of the images used within the work at the end of the video.


Collection and Submission Logistics

Since Shadow Puppet publishes to a url, I suggested the easiest way to collect, organize, and view all of the student submissions proved would be with a Google Form (see example posted below). As this was the first year using this hybrid approach to a final exam, students had the option to allow permission of their project to be shared so future classes could have a possible model for the assignment in upcoming years.

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 3.49.03 PM

Reflections and Strategies

While I do enjoy showcasing these projects, I can’t help but add the lens of Instructional Technologist and my own reflections for future professional development needs…  similarly to as I did in the “iPad Project Plan“. As I reviewed the projects, I considered a few tweaks for next year…

  • Limit Non-Original Images: while the ones featured above did include original art work, there were many others that blended personal photos and stock images. Providing a limit of images that are non-original forces students to look inward and utilize personal or original images for the bulk of the project.
  • Collaborate with Counseling Department: I hesitate a bit with this one as the nature of this project is very personal and introspective. However, many times a student’s perspective can help another student going through the same issues. One thought was to have students work in conjunction with the counseling office to design posters or pamphlets with a QR code to their video to add an additional layer of purpose to the project by supporting their fellow classmates through similar issues.
  • Fleshing Out All of the Themes: This was an idea from Carolyn Foote @technolibrary. As this project was a final, there was not dedicated class time to circle back on these projects and flesh out themes (e.g. stress, depression, anxiety). Provided there were time to do this, pursuing a class discussion of all of the themes addressed in the student projects and how they could be linked back to the book would be a worthy activity.

Many thanks to Lee Bergen and Michele Benage for allowing me to “crash” their classes and share these in depth reflections and to our students for letting me share their work with others in hopes that it might inform and inspire!

 Support Resources

I have to tell you that I was truly impressed by the quality of work and introspection that was infused within these projects and feel like Shadow Puppet was the perfect tool to illuminate this type of assignment. I would be remissed if I did not share some of the excellent support resources that Shadow Puppet offers on their site to complete app-tivities! From classroom stories and lessons to printables… they really have thought of it all!

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 8.38.03 AM



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