Twitter is a beautiful place. I created an account 6 years ago this month, so I've been thinking about all the wonderful ways Twitter has changed my life since February 2009. Personally and professionally, Twitter allows me to connect with people and communities I couldn't otherwise. I actually wrote a This I Believe essay about Twitter last year for a HS poetry club project. I just love it that much.
Professionally, I've learned all kinds of cool things by following and chatting with teachers on Twitter. They encouraged me to try Google Slides and now I don't want to live without it. They told me Malinda Lo was giving away books to teachers and now Ash is on my bookshelf. They told me about Digital Learning Day (March 15) and got me excited about trying something new. They commiserated over stacks of grading and shared playlists to help me pace my own grading. They pull me into #EngChat conversations when I'm relaxing on the couch watching The Bachelor (guiltily!) or The Great British Baking Show (proudly!).
Basically, these teachers I've yet to meet have already meaningfully affected and improved my practice in the classroom. And people say social media is rotting our brains... :)
Today I want to share one tool I've learned about on Twitter and see if you can help me think it through a bit. (For those of you who don't know, #TIL stands for "today I learned." See... I used a hashtag in my title AND it actually makes sense. I'm cool now, right? RIGHT?)
What is it?
The app is called Tellagami and it is free to a point. I've only used the free aspects, so what you see below didn't cost me a thing. Here's the gist... like those XtraNormal videos that were really exciting for a minute, Tellagami quickly creates animations for you with very limited options for the speaker and background. In the free version, your recorded voice is what gets animated.
Why am I excited about it?
What's cool about Tellagami is that it's free and easy. Just a few minutes of playing on your phone and you've got a quick little video you can easily share through link, text, email, or post on various sites.
As you're setting up your video, you can, for free, select a mood for your character. You also have a pretty good selection of basic backgrounds or you can upload your own image to serve as backdrop. In my sample, you'll see I used a picture I took of the GSU campus. It's not an especially beautiful pic, but students will recognize it as the walk to the library.
I also like that Tellagami uses my voice instead of putting my words into the XtraNormal robot voice. Those voices make any video comedic, even if that's not the intent. And once the laugh is over... those XtraNormal videos get long quick. Be honest, how many of those have you watched through to the end?
Let's see it!
Here's my second attempt at a Tellagami. The first attempt involved some laughing and a couple of false starts, so I'm sparing you that one. Still, this second one was created seconds after the first. In all, I probably spent 10 minutes downloading, playing, creating, and saving this video.
Are there possible issues?
While I appreciate the range of skin tones and hair colors Tellagami offers in the free version and I appreciate that the characters aren't overtly sexualized, I do find the character options to be pretty one note. This hair type and cut is the only free option for women. Men have a similarly stereotypical cut. Sadly, it probably goes without saying that there are only two gender options. Only some teachers and students would see themselves or people who like them reflected in these very limited free options.
I can't tell how much would change if I started buying up accessories and options, but i also don't plan to start doing that either. This is where XtraNormal might have had a leg up; they had all kinds of character options, include animals and creatures that were pretty ambiguous -- not sure whether some of them were animals, aliens, fantastic beings or what -- and that was pretty neat.
Accessibility is important to think about as well. Since this is video, a transcript or closed captioning would be necessary. Posting to YouTube could shortcut the CC process, but as we know, those automatic captions are hit or miss. The captioning for the video I shared above was surprisingly accurate. The only word it converted to word salad was Tellagami. It transcribed it as "Telly coming" though, which made the rest of the sentence hard to follow. Anyone know how to adjust those? *Makes note to look it up.*
How could we use it?
This is the part I'm hoping some of you can help me think about. I'm not quite sure how I could meaningfully use Tellagami in the classroom. I've heard of instructors creating avatars of themselves (through other apps and widgets) to post announcements through online throughout the semester. I've always thought my students would laugh me out of the room if I tried that though. I prefer to type out announcements for easy reference anyway.
I could see sharing this with students for their own use. We regularly do small, quick presentations (individual and group) over readings or class activities. Maybe Tellagami could help them create a little video to share with peers, to mix things up?
I'm still thinking on it, but I'd love to hear your ideas. The app is fun and easy, but I don't want to add moving parts just for the sake of moving parts. So... sound off! Let me know!
And, of course, follow me on Twitter: @ahedrickGSU
Amanda J. Hedrick
Story collector, recipe enthusiast, educator, striving for a constant input and output of all things art and learning.