I have recently shared the Toontastic app to the Cube for Teachers database as a curriculum resource.
- Scaffolds Students. Toontastic has a great feature to scaffold students throughout the writing process. As students begin, the app talks to students by explaining the different stages throughout a story and how they make up the story's emotional energy. Visually, Toontastic provides students with a story arc (see the image below). This story arc is used to scaffold students throughout the writing process, which includes the setup, conflict, challenge, climax, and resolution. Each stage on the story arc is depicted with an image to help students remember what that stage represents. When a student selects one of the images on the story arc, it provides a definition at the bottom of the screen and the app will automatically read it to the student. When students are ready to begin, they know where to start on the story arc and can click the paint push to get started!
- Pre-made Themes. After students click on the paint brush, students are then scaffolded through the animation stages of creating a video and audio recording their voice(s). Students have the opportunity to choose from a large selection of pre-made settings, characters, and sound effects based on different themes! Some of these themes include: pirates, dinosaurs, Egypt, futuristic, ocean, etc. There are tones!! The abundance of pre-made themes really support student choice in their writing process while also making the app straight forward and simple for students to use. I can see the pre-made apps being very useful for primary and junior students. However, the app does provide the option to create your own characters and settings. This is a great feature if you have students who need an extra challenge or have a very unique idea. This also may be a good feature for some junior or intermediate students.
- Differentiate Writing. The app itself is essentially a way to differentiate the writing process. Instead of having students write a creative story with paper and pencil and then having them illustrate the pictures with markers or pencil crayons, this app supports the writing process through a digital platform. Depending on the grade or what curriculum expectations you are teaching, you may want students to create a written or typed rough draft of their story before they go ahead and digitize it through audio and animations. Since the pre-writing stage is still crucial and this app does not have a feature for students to begin pre-writing, I would suggest using a mind mapping app like Kidspiration or Mind Meister to get students started. The reason I say this is because pre-writing with paper and pencil defeats the purpose of differentiating with EdTech. If you are trying to engage a student who already struggles to write and is not motivated through traditional methods, I highly recommend you try differentiating all stages of the writing process with EdTech. The nice thing about Toontastic is that students can revise and change each scene if they are not happy with it. Students may be able to brainstorm and pre-write with Toontastic by testing out some ideas before they record and revise their final videos. I think this basically depends on your students and how they are responding to the app. If they are working in partners, the pre-writing stage may be more fluid and natural as students discuss with one another how they are going to set up characters, who is going to say what, and how they are going to move the characters. All of this just depends on your students and how structured you would like the writing process to be.
- Share Stories. After recoding voices and animating characters, students are able to then publish their videos! At the end, students can list the credits and characters in the video. This can then be downloaded and shared on YouTube! It would be really neat to have students post these videos on a personal blog and reflect on their writing process while animating!
- Engage Students. Not only does Toontastic support curriculum expectations, but it further support students' natural interest in digital technology. Students are digital natives. They have a natural intuitive ability to use technology effortlessly. Although this app may seem a bit overwhelming and complicated, it probably won't seem this way to your students. Furthermore, I have used this app with the student I tutor, and I have found it is extremely straight forward and easy to use. The student I tutor has ADHD, and this app really channeled their energy and focus. After years of trying to encourage this student to write creatively and think outside the box, it was as if this app reached into my student's head within 5 seconds and pulled out the most hilarious and rich storyline I had ever heard from this student. I truly believe that because I differentiated the instruction for my student to animate ideas instead of write them, it made the world of difference. This app truly opened the door to my student's mind and really helped this student excel. I now love sharing this success story with other teachers, and most importantly, this student is now more confident and very proud of their work!
Overall, I believe Toontastic has some key features that speak to a high quality educational app. I can really see this app being an effective digital platform for teachers to engage their students throughout the writing process. I highly recommend Toontastic to any elementary teacher and hope you found this review helpful!