Tell us a little about yourself and your role at the company.
My name is Emily and I do marketing and community outreach here at Shadow Puppet. We’re a very small team and so we’re all very involved in developing the product and working with our customers.
What led to the development of Shadow Puppet?
With Shadow Puppet, we set out to enable people to quickly communicate a visual idea in a way that felt truly native to the iPhone/iPad. We started by looking at how people were using their phones today and noticed that often when people would get together with friends they’d share a story by flipping through the photos on their phone and explaining what happened. It’s something that’s incredibly easy to do -- so easy young children can even do it -- but actually a really powerful way to tell a story.
The problem is that if you aren’t physically next to someone, communicating this way is difficult. Sharing more than a single photo is tough, and editing a video that’s more than a few seconds long can be complex and time consuming, which is where Shadow Puppet comes in. Our app lets you tell rich visual stories just as easily as you could in person, but share them with people who couldn’t be there, all right from your iPhone or iPad.
Since our launch of Shadow Puppet last fall, we’ve seen tons of use in schools by teachers and students. Their feedback really helped shape the features of Shadow Puppet Edu. Most teachers were looking for a way for their students to use technology to document their learning, explain a concept or record a short presentation. They wanted a tool that was flexible enough to adapt to different learning levels and subject areas, and also didn’t have a huge learning curve.
How long was the initial development period?
We’ve been actively building the features for this release since January, but had several months of research and observation of our first version before that. We’re excited to have our Edu version out in the world and see what people create with it!
Have you been pleased with the reception the app has received from educators?
When we first launched Shadow Puppet, we didn’t have use in the classroom in mind. But as it turned out, many educators found the tool very useful and quickly adapted it to their classrooms. It was inspiring for us to see so many kids using our app everyday to express themselves, explain ideas and tell stories. We’ve since added many new features based on feedback from teachers, like the ability to overlay text, add video clips, and safely search the web for images.
Have you found that it is being mostly used in a certain teaching stage?
We’ve seen Shadow Puppet used by all ages, from kindergarten students practicing counting aloud with the help of their teacher to high school students creating audio-visual personal essays. We’ve especially seen a lot of use by elementary and junior high school students and their teachers, and have some great interviews from those teachers on our website and lesson ideas in the app. The great thing about our app is that it is very flexible—you can make something very simple with just a few images and your voice, or you can create a video that is more complex with photos, video clips, music, voice, titles, and on-screen drawing.
You've just launched the newest version of the app; what key new features can users now enjoy?
We’ve added new features based on the feedback we received from our most active teacher users:
Now combine photos and video clips with voice over narration. While recording, you can add animated text titles and draw on screen.
Search the image catalogs of Library of Congress and NASA for great content to include in videos, in addition to Flickr Creative Commons search, web image search and animated gif search. We’re super excited to make the amazing content from these sources accessible to students and teachers like no other app has done before.
Common Core-aligned activity ideas in the app to help teachers quickly get started using it with their English, history, science, math, art or foreign language classes.
Simple sharing and no app is needed to view the videos. It’s easy to share with parents, students and colleagues. You can also now upload video files to Google Drive, Dropbox and YouTube.
What features do you think set Shadow Puppet apart from similar apps available in the App Store?
What sets Shadow Puppet apart is that is really is easy to use. You can make custom videos in just minutes, and without any hassle or headache, which is great for busy teachers and young students. Every user we talked to during our research before starting to work on 2.0 said that simplicity was the best feature of the app, and we worked very hard to maintain that while adding new features to 2.0. (Check out the sample video to the left)
Tell us a little about your In the Classroom section of your website and what that offers.
We were blown away by the creativity of the teachers and students using Shadow Puppet and wanted to create a resource for other educators to see how the app was being used and get inspired to incorporate it into their own lessons. On our In the Classroom page, we have stories from teachers about how they use Shadow Puppet, complete with great examples from students and lesson suggestions. We also have a bank of activity ideas broken down by subject; we’ve also included these activity ideas inside the Edu app. We also have some information on how Shadow Puppet can help students meet several of the US Common Core State Standards. Teachers are such creative people by nature, we just wanted to put a few ideas out there to get their creative juices flowing.
In general, how important do you feel the use of mobile technology is to the modern educator?
We’re not educators, but it’s clear that empowering students to use technology to effectively communicate their ideas and interact with others is a huge part of what the modern educator is tasked with. We’ve also heard many teachers say that technology is how their students relate to the world, and if they want to reach their students, they need to start using technology, we can really believe that. Technology also opens up the classroom to the rest of the world, which is so important today and part of what we are trying to facilitate with the image search functionality in our app.
What's next for you? Do you have any other projects in the pipeline that you can tell us about?
We’re planning to refine the features of Shadow Puppet Edu and of course fix any bugs our users discover. We’re excited to see how teachers and students use the app at the start of the school year and I’m sure many of the future features will be based on what they ask for.
It's been great speaking with you Emily. We think Shadow Puppet Edu has the potential to become a core app for teachers in the new school year and we wish you every success with it.
Read our review of Shadow Puppet Edu here.
Visit the Shadow Puppet website to find out more about both apps here.