Shidonni is a Web 2.0 tool with which students can create animated worlds. First, students choose whether they want to create a bird or a four-legged animal. Then, they draw the animal with a basic crayon or pencil. There are also mini tutorials for how to draw a particular kind of animal (giraffe and turtle for example) for those students who are nervous about drawing.
I could have played around with it for hours without ever creating an account! I teach K-6, and would use this in grades K-3. That's about 400 kids, so I skipped the account creation and let students make animations for fun. If they wanted to share them, I could project their creation onto their classmates' screens with Apple Remote Desktop. I can also avoid downloading the program since it can be accessed online without having to install anything. With Workgroup Manager, I would have to make sure that my managed networked accounts had all of the required internet plug-ins enabled. Shidonni requires Microsoft Silverlight, which can be installed on a Mac.
Using Shidonni in the ClassroomI would also use this tool to have students apply knowledge that they have acquired through sites like KBears or National Geographic Videos. I teach each class for 45 minutes once a week, so keeping up with accounts would be nearly impossible, but I like your idea, Amber, of having students 'care' for the animals and for a teacher to check in on their students' animals. I would love to have students play their animations to teach each other about their animal by narrating the presentation of their animation during class.
The account issue is a big one at the elementary level. Most websites require the age of 12 to 13 to join, and often require a parent's email address. This would require a high level of coordination with parents, which in an urban school of 650 students is very difficult. Permission letters would be required for each and every student with an account.
Shidonni would also help younger students learn how to manipulate a mouse to create an image. I find that most of my Kindergarteners struggle to make any kind of drawing aside from scribbles as they have not mastered the art of mouse maneuvering (some of the mice are almost twice the size of their hands!).
ChallengesOne challenge I found using this tool was the way the 'straight line' function worked. Rather than offering a Straight Line tool, the user must use the graph to create a straight line. This makes drawing a bit difficult, but the graph does help with creating symmetrical and well-balanced drawings.
Another is that without an account, many of the extra tools are disabled. This is pretty normal as far as free online tools go, but the account thing is something I struggle with because of my teaching situation. Even if I were a classroom teacher with only 26 kids, what would happen to these accounts once my students moved on? Who would be maintaining/monitoring them?
I also shared this site with other SDP computer teachers, but they could not run Silverlight on their PowerPC Macs, only the Intels. Many were hesitant to install Silverlight at all. I, however, installed it and sent it out to all of my machines through ARD and will be using it on Wednesday with a 2nd grade class.
How it Went.....
I used Shidonni with my 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders. I used Remote Desktop to do a quick tutorial. My 1st and 2nd graders enjoyed it, but had trouble understanding that they had to draw their animal and their background separately. However, after a few times using it, they quickly picked up on this.
My 4th graders picked it up really quickly and enjoyed it as well. Is seems that there is no age limit :) Now that I have experience using the tool, I would definitely NOT try this with my Kindergarteners. It would just be frustrating for them. Unfortunately, no one could save their work because they didn't have an account, which seems to be an issue with all of the Web 2.0 tools I've come across.
As far as ease of use goes, my students did not really need any extra tutorials, though I did notice that one student used the "Help" option which led him through a tutorial on how to draw a giraffe. The video at the beginning was useless since SDP blocks YouTube!