CrazyTalk: Creating Engaging Projects to Encourage the Writing Process

Posted on October 15, 2007. Filed under: Uncategorized |

It is always difficult to engage students today. Technology seems to be almost the only thing they relate to and this generation of students is the most tech savvy generation yet. When I first started my job as director, there were those teachers who still held on to the idea that technology was a fad that would soon pass. Fortunately, most teachers today have changed their opinion and realize the technology in the classroom is here to stay.  So now, the challenge becomes how to use technology appropriately to meet the standards and objectives and engage students.

I am fortunate enough to attend NECC each year. This conference is the national technology conference and a must see for teachers and district level administration. While I was there this year, I stumbled across several products that I think have the potential to engage students and make learning fun while meeting objectives. Just like any other technology in the classroom, it has to be used effectively or it’s a waste of time.

CrazyTalk  4 is an animation program that allows users to take still images and animate them. When I first saw the product demonstrated, I was amazed at the simplicity. You can animate a still photo in less than 30 seconds! I am always looking for new technology tools for teachers and this one is sure to be a hit with students. We already have several classrooms experiencing Crazy Talk.

As a former Language Arts teacher, think of the application. I know from experience that you can ask your students to edit their work all you want, but in reality, few of them do. I notice in classrooms all the time that when students are writing for blogs or podcasts, the level of work produced is far superior to the paper book reports I used to get from my students. The reason of course is that they are writing for a larger audience, not just the teacher. For some students a grade is enough motivation to perform well, but for many of our students, a grade does not motivate.  Producing something that your fellow students are going to see not to mention family, friends and people from around the world is a different motivation altogether.

As far as the practical application, below are the steps I would follow to implement a CrazyTalk project in my classroom.

1.       Determine the type of report/informational project the students are going to complete. Once you see the product, you will have a better idea of some projects your students can do. Most likely, you are already assigning written products that could easily be turned into a CrazyTalk project.  Do not limit your projects to just people and animals. I have animated structures (pyramids, Leaning Tower of Pisa) and works of art (Mona Lisa) as well.

2.       Lay the groundwork. Talk to your students about the audience and the format. Teach students the difference in writing first person versus doing a report. If they are doing a report on Paul Revere, the most effective way to use CrazyTalk would be to animate an image of Paul Revere and have him tell the story from his perspective.

3.       Prepare your rubric.  The mistake most teachers make when integrating technology is that they tend to focus on the technology when it comes to the rubric. Although you will want to have a component on your rubric that deals with technology, you will want to focus on the curriculum standards and objectives.

4.       Define the process. Be sure to outline the process your students will follow. I would suggest letting them work in stages so that you do not have to have fifteen copies or more of the software.

a.       Write the report in first person (if you choose)

b.      Have your partner edit the report, read it out loud to each other

c.       Have another group read your script

d.      Get teacher approval to proceed

e.      Record the script

f.        Animate your image and add the voice over. Be sure your students are following copyright guidelines. I suggest finding photos on copyright free sites such as Pics4Learning or Microsoft Office.

You can use any software to record. Most computers have a free windows recorder on it. I have always used that to record my script and it has always worked great. The recording will take the longest, as students tend to be very critical of their work at this stage and want it to be perfect. You will also notice that many of them will change their script at this time because they do not like the way it sounds. This should be encouraged since it shows a higher level thinking when they are evaluating their work.

5.       Publish the products. Whether you publish on the school server, your website or on a CD, students will want to see each other’s reports and share their report with their family. The process is fun and in my experience of observation, students are much more meticulous in the writing process then when they simply write a report.

You can download CrazyTalk  4 free for 30 days at the Reallusion website. Many software companies offer the product and you can get discounts based on volume.  I would encourage you to try a CrazyTalk project in your classroom even if you use the free version. If you want to see a preview of what it can do, visit the website for examples. Although these are not educational examples, it will give you an idea of what the product can do. I always enjoy seeing what our students can do. Please send me any projects your students complete!!!

Check out the example I created, a book review on the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe



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2 Responses to “CrazyTalk: Creating Engaging Projects to Encourage the Writing Process”

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I enjoyed the sample. I cannot wait to do some creating with Crazy Talk!

I am a curriculum developer In north London and have just established a blog to record Curriculum Projects in CrazyTalk. Please visit the blog and if you would like to submit a project idea then please let me know.

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    The School District of Greenville County – Instructional Technology Department


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