Saturday, January 9, 2016

Target conversational behaviors and scripts with Plotagon

Some technology tools that can provide an engaging model of conversational "moves" and skills have disappeared of late. The web tool xtranormal, which allowed you to type out dialogues that onscreen characters would speak, was wonderful for this, but is disappeared and is only reemerging as a complicated-looking software for Windows only. Likewise, Go Animate! was once school-friendly but has ported to a befuddling business-targeting subscription model. Toontastic of course is an excellent resource for making animations of social interactions, but an extra person or an affinity for making different voices really helps.

Enter Plotagon. This free app for iOS is simple to use and allows you to:
-sign in with Facebook or via an email account
-create (tap the Create tab, then characters) a base set of characters. I'd avoid the randomize button as it results in some folks with hair and clothing combos that would be a bit too distracting for your students- just tap the arrow and you'll be able to adjust face shape, skin color, accessories and such, and save and name your character.

Plotagon's character creator- you'll need to create at least two characters before you make an animated conversation

-create (tap the Create tab, then plots) an animation in a simple way. The plot creator works easily- just add a scene, tap to choose your location (a generous portion of free downloadable settings/places are available), and type in dialogue:

Note that all elements in the "script" interface on the left are editable. For example, tap the word "neutral" and you'll be able to give your character a different reaction or expression. It took me a bit to figure out that to delete a line of dialogue, you need to tap and sweep it to the left.

Once complete, you can view your movie as a preview by hitting the play button or viewing it full screen. Any work you do is saved in your account as a "draft," but you can finalize your creation by tapping Publish and Share and saving it to the Plotagon website. There is currently no way to download the video to your Photos app (so don't use students' real names in videos that are saved to the website), but once "published," you can share to others as a link.

Some ideas on using Plotagon in therapy and language interventions:
-I love using tools like this in conjunction with an internalizable strategy. In one group, we created a 5 Point Scale around Topic Management:

5-Off topic and Uncomfortable
4-Whopping Topic Change (a Social Thinking® Term)
3-Connected but confusing
2-Bridged Topic
1-Connected Comment

I created plot videos (see links above in the scale) to serve as examples- endlessly amusing to my students- and we discussed how they corresponded with the scale and character perspectives. We then worked to create other examples, particularly of 2s and 1s.

-Plotagon can serve as a context to model other strategies such as Story Grammar Marker's® 6 Second Story and Social Thinking's "Wondering Question" and "Add-A-Thought" expected behaviors in conversation.

-The app can also be used in conjunction with the Superflex® Curriculum by Social Thinking to model examples of Unthinkable and Thinkable moments.

-For students with more significant challenges, the app can be used to create and model scripts for various situations.

-Plotagon is also just a fun way to practice writing or create projects related to curriculum topics.

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