Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Review of Puppetools

When my daughter was younger, she had a favorite friend named Chip. She adored Chip. Together they would talk, play and enjoy their time together. Chip certainly was no ordinary friend. In fact, Chip was just a pair of eyes. Yes, just eyes. This pair of eyes could be slipped on a finger, which transformed into a nose, for an instant friend. The simplicity of Chip became a tool to engage the mind to think, experience and learn creatively. Puppetools, a subscription website, recognizes the power of play in learning through puppets. I'm sure Jeff Peyton, Puppetools founder, would appreciate my daughter's relationship and interaction with Chip.

Jeff Peyton, also known as the Play Professor, has a passion for puppets. This passion stretches across 30 years of research and a desire to change the way education is approached in the classroom. The Puppetools mission is:

"to open the door to sweeping change in education by advancing the principle of play in teaching and learning."

The idea of Puppetools is to provide a place for educators to support each other in using puppets in the classroom. The website contains tutorials, videos, pictures of puppets created by students and teachers and a forum for discussion. Jeff Peyton has designed a paper hinge to be used as a base for puppet creations. Instructions for the hinge as well as 37 templates are included on the site. However, the idea of the site is not to be limited to the templates but to create your own puppets and then share with other members how you are utilizing them in your classroom through pictures, videos and posting on the forum. There are examples of teachers using puppets for unit studies, during reading circle time and even as behavior correction tools.

The best way to describe this website is an accumulation of research on the value of puppetry and creative play along with a platform to brainstorm with other members on how to incorporate puppetry into the classroom.

There are two subscription options.

Trial Subscription (60 days), $20
Regular Subscription (1 year), $99

The regular subscription can have up to 30 users, significantly reducing the cost for individuals.

While there is a lot of information on the site, navigation is more an exploration rather than a quick download of information. I believe the intent is for users to stay awhile and browse the site for inspiration. The forums seem largely under-utilized, though I suspect that Jeff Peyton would gladly answer any question or comment posted there. I would have liked to see more recent teacher and classroom videos as well. The research is long-standing, but the idea of sharing puppetry techniques in this format is fairly innovative and new; there seems to be a lack of members to effectively meet the site's goals. However, the platform for sharing is in place for like-minded puppet users to communicate with and inspire each other.

While we still employ lots of creative techniques in learning, the days of Chip and other puppet friends in our house are sadly gone. However, I believe both of my kids would probably still enjoy making puppets and using them with younger children, giving puppetry continued educational value for older children. While this isn't a site that I would personally use, Puppetools is a unique resource that may benefit others. The site is designed to best fit classroom educators, either traditional or through homeschool co-ops, wanting to routinely incorporate puppetry into their teaching. Those involved in a church puppet ministry may glean information through a membership, especially if they are on a budget and need ideas for constructing inexpensive puppets. For individual users interested in incorporating puppetry at home and having trouble getting started, the trial subscription could provide some starting ideas to jump start imagination and creativity. Visit the Puppetools website to learn more.

See what other TOS Crew members had to say about Puppetools by visiting the Crew's Official Blog!

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