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Monday, December 22, 2008

Puppetools Review

Puppetools is a website devoted to encouraging the use of puppets in education. Their mission, as stated on their website, " is to open the door to sweeping change in education by advancing the principle of play in teaching and learning. The world still looks to America for inventive social, economic, and technological solutions. Once, America's gift to itself --and to the world--was a bold new experiment in political freedom. America's next gift--again for itself and for the world-- can and must be a bold new leap in education."

The visionary behind Puppetools is Jeffrey Peyton, the "Play Professor." He has a passion for puppets, children, and play in education that is both rare and inspiring. He genuinely seeks to advance the use of puppets as a way of unlocking the creativity of children and adults and making education fun. And his enthusiasm is obviously contagious based on the many, many submissions from both teachers and students of their puppet creations based on his ideas.
The bulk of the site is only open to members, and memberships run $99 a year for a group of up to 30 people/students. There is also a $20 trial subscription for individuals good for 60 days.
For this price, you get:
* 1 year to train and master Puppetools - the "Language of Play"
* Access to Puppetools' online Educator Work Area
* Access to Puppetools' exclusive practitioner video library
* Access to extensive research on play and education
* Access to hundreds of puppet images, concepts, and patterns
* Access to readings from the 200 page Puppetools Manual
* Access to their global community forums - learn with teachers around the world
* Put Puppetools to work in just days--for many it's just overnight
* Learn fast, flexible puppet design and construction--in just minutes
* Discover how a single paper hinge creates a limitless resource
* Engage playful, energized conversation for lessons and activities /all grades
* Use puppet know-how and techniques without acting, scripts, or theater
* Effectively harness Play and spark motivation, participation, and receptivity
* Discover the deep impact of play on students and teachers

So what's the bottom line? This is a tough one for me. Mr. Peyton makes puppets look so fun, and for classroom teachers or VBS/youth puppet outreaches, the information would be great. But I think most homeschoolers already recognize the flaws in America's education system- that's why we do what we do. And while some certainly recreate school at home, I think most homeschoolers tend to embrace play as a mode of communicating academic ideas far more than their "building school" counterparts. I'm not saying there's not always room for improvement, or that puppets wouldn't be fun, but personally, I don't see myself making them. Now, would I have my kids make them? Maybe. But my kids aren't really puppet kids. We've owned some, but they never see the light of day, and inevitably they have gone the way of yard sales or Goodwill. They are enamored with one puppet, Puff from Scott Humston's magic show. And they enjoy Scott's other puppets just fine, but it's never inspired them to come home and make one. They also will play with the puppets at the library, but I suspect that this is largely because they also have a puppet theatre AND at the library there aren't a whole lot of other things to "play" with. They might feel very differently about puppets they make themselves, but they make them at least once a month at Bible study or Sunday School and they've never seen play time after walking in the door. Based on that knowledge, I can say I personally wouldn't buy a subscription to Puppetools, especially not the $99 one, as other than ongoing support, I think you can glean what you need in 60 days for sure.
But, as always, I encourage you to take your own look HERE or at least check out what my fellow TOS Crew reviewers said HERE.
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