Friday, November 19, 2010

An Xtranormal Experience with 7-year-old kids

Technology is like electricity: it is pervasive, boundless, it is everywhere… it is useful. We teachers ignore it at our peril. We would never expect our pupils to use typewriters or read by candlelight. Equally, we should be encouraging them to use the tools they have available, the tools with which they are familiar if we are to ensure they remain engaged and motivated.

I had longed searched for a tool with which students could work collaboratively and have fun at the same time. Xtranormal ( entitles itself as a text-to-movie website which allows teachers and students to create short films with their own scripts by using clever text-to-speech technology. This means students write a script and then feed in into Xtranormal to produce films with characters dramatizing it.

My pupils, 7-8 year olds are rather motivated learners and loud as any kid their age. Needless to say they are crazy about technology and a simply coming to the board can turn into great excitement. They were first introduced to Xtranormal, a webtool with which they were not familiar yet, at one of our regular classes. I have created a short version of myself teaching and saying their names thus quickly managed to engage my students’ attention: it soon transpired that this was an activity they wanted to do. With a few jaws almost touching the floor I said the magic words: “You are going to create animated videos like this one!” – They were amazed and could not wait to start.

I allowed my students a few minutes to brainstorm dialogues they wanted to transform into animations. In small groups they came up with simple chunks of words in accordance with what they had previously studied. The most creative dialogues among the groups was the one chosen to be featured in the short-film. While they were in charge of creating the dialogues, I was on the computer editing the video according to their like. And then, our first animation was born. Once they were all satisfied the script and the editing were finished to the best of each pupil’s ability, they were then set the homework: bring in more ideas for dialogues for the next videos. And ideas poured in the following classes. They wanted to create a video every class. It was difficult to tame their incitement.

Some teachers have reported problems during the implementation due to parental authorization. I, myself, strongly believe that in such cases not only the kids should be engaged in the project but parents too! Having the support of parents by adding a little note with the link to our first video on the institutional letter helped me get going with the project. Great Slander once taught me: "Should any problems with parents arise; I would try to convince them by showing how powerful the experience is, provide them with examples and explain how safe the kids will be."

My conclusion is that the upshots of this project could not have been any better. Using this tool has enabled my students to revisit vocabulary and structures, thus contributing for their learning and comprehension of the language as a whole. I was very happy myself with the feeling of accomplishment we had.

I would surely do this project again without any changes since it has helped me realize the importance of the role of technology in current education. Paraphrasing Shelly Terrell, we should use technology not only because our pupils use it or will be expected to in their careers. We need to use technology to tear down our classroom walls. We should use technology to show students that their voices can travel the world just like ours do when we tweet, blog or update a status on Facebook. We need to use technology to motivate students to continuously research and to show them that their work transcends beyond the class syllabus.

 Wordle: xtranormal


gret said...

I loved this post Bruno! The videos are awesome. You're making such a difference for your students! I agree, technology gives us the opportunity of bringing the world into our classrooms. We can connect our students' learning with reality and create meaningful learning opportunities for them.
I've heard of xtranormal, but haven't tried it. I can't wait to create videos with my students now! Sounds like an amazing activity! Thanks for sharing!

Danny said...

Great blogpost Bruno - excellent use of Xtranormal!

Post a Comment


Copyright © 2010 Education & Technology in Brazil | Premium Blogger Templates & Photography Logos | PSD Design by Amuki