Two years ago I purchased my first iPad. I fought back the urge to buy the iPad 1 knowing that the iPad 2 was right around the corner. Immediately, I saw the educational value in the iPad 2. Moreover, at that time I was in the middle of my doctorate course work and I had to choose a topic for my EdD project study. After downloading a few apps and trying them out with my classes I knew I had to spend more time researching and studying this device and how it could impact my teacher beliefs and instructional practices.
Story telling is a bit part of my classroom instruction. English as a foreign language students (EFL) respond more to stories than teacher centered lectures. Therefore, I asked myself how could the iPad be used to enhance story telling in an EFL classroom? I looked at interactive storybooks, simple story telling apps, and other educational apps that were available. However, it wasn’t until I discovered Toontastic from Launch Pad Toys that I knew I had found something special. There is a free version and an all access pass. The free version gives you enough to get to know the great features of the app. However, the all access pass is the way to go. Purchasing the all access pass unlocks all the great features of the app as well as any new updates for life!! With so many app companies trying to strike it rich with in-app-purchases it was refreshing to see a company that was more concerned about putting out a quality product.
Toontastic is a storytelling app which allows children to create cartoons or Toons on the iPad. With a few swipes and taps students select their settings and characters (Toys). Once the characters are selected students can manipulate the characters easily on the screen to tell their story. The app allows children to record their voices as well as the movements of the characters to tell a story. My daughter was four when she started playing with Toontastic. As a multicultural child (Korean and Canadian) living in Korea she struggled with reading and writing in both languages. However, she was very creative and showed this often during play. Toontastic gave her a tool that allowed her to share her wonderful stories with her parents, grandparents, and friends. She didn’t have to worry about writing or reading. All she had to do was put her fingers on the screen and start telling her story.
After seeing the benefits of this app for my daughter, I began to incorporate Toontastic into my primary classes. With only one iPad at the time, I had to work on managing my students’ excitement and teaching them the importance of working together and sharing. This wasn’t a problem because Toontastic is designed in a way that collaborating on story is easy and fun. For example, I usually had two students work on one story. Students would begin by planning their story with a traditional storyboard. Once the planning was completed they would take turns choosing settings and characters for their story. When it was time to record, other students would help my moving the characters as the students read. It would take a few classes to finish one story but the response from students was amazing. In the past it was difficult to get struggling students to tell stories. With limited vocabulary and writing skills tell a story was torture. However, with Toontastic and a little help they could easily create wonderful stories and proudly show them to friends and family.
Sharing Toons created with Toontastic is easy. You have two options. First, you can upload your Toon to the Launchpad website where it is stored in a Youtube like fashion. Students can share links to the stories with friends or they can showcase them from the iPad. In addition, students from all over the world can view the stories from their iPads. The second option, is to export the Toons to the camera roll. This is a new feature that I love. It allows students to edit their Toons and add them to other apps. For example, we often edit our Toons in iMovie, or create screencasts with Explain Everything. Recently we’ve been experimenting with Toontastic and a green screen. With a green screen students can create stories where they can interact with Toontastic characters. With my first grade students we wrote stories in Book Creator and added videos to enhance our stories.
Overall, Toontastic is an amazingly versatile iPad app that is only limited to a child’s imagination. Whether you are teaching children about story telling or creating a movie. Toontastic is a tool that every teacher should have in their classroom!