Archive | November, 2013

Toontastic! An Educational Software Review

9 Nov

When first deciding to review an educational software for children, my initial thought was to review something that was explicitly educational. That is, I wasn’t looking for anything with educational in the title or  learning with…  or Can you find the TRIANGLE. I wanted to find something a child could explore with and not be aware of the fact that they are learning a wealth of new skills and that’s when I remembered being informally introduced to Toontastic in a lecture last semester while a professor was showing us the amazing things her son can accomplish through the use of technology. So, for my first software review I will be doing Toontastic.

Toontastic is a great platform that children can use to bring their imaginations to life. It is unfortunate that in today’s classroom curriculum’s and society at large creativity is stifled. Children are taught rigorous math, English, and science skills but when it comes to expressing their creativity a child may be misunderstood, told that it this is not important, or simply not given the opportunity to do so. Toontastic offers parents the opportunity to provide their children with the resources to express their inner director, their inner artist, and their inner collaborator as well as many others. The following is a video that adequately sums up the need for a game such as this one.

Toontastic is designed for children age 4 and up. With it, children can create an interactive animation with recorded audio and music. The game provides simple instructions that help children to understand the general flow of the story and what each segment might included. However the child may choose to change the flow of the story or add to the flow. For instance, rather than having the setting then the challenge then the conflict the child may choose to have the setting then the challenge then the conflict. Once the child has chosen a segment of the story they would like to work on they are then able to choose from a variety of settings and characters they would like to use or they may choose to draw their own or use a combination of both hand drawn characters and given animations as seen below.

      

I would like to start this review with the limitations because it is always better to end on a positive note. The first and biggest limitation is that Toontastic is only available on Ipad. Ipads are quite expensive and thus make the app itself unattainable unless you can afford to purchase an Ipad. If you cannot afford the Ipad, Toontastic has released themed versions of the game.

          

However, these themed versions do not even come close to the original. Because I cannot afford an Ipad, I tested out both the pirates version and the Shrek version of Toontastic and would not recommend them. Each scene in these games begins with an animated short thus setting the plot for your child and deciding what each character is meant to be doing. If your child decides to stray from the set plot then their story will not make sense because the following scene begins with an animated short on the assumption that your child followed the typical story line. For instance, when testing out the Pirates game I was unaware each scene had a animated beginning so I decided I wanted the old lady to run off with the pirates ship, however the following scene began with the pirate triumphantly showing off the fruit basket he had stolen from the old lady and I was sad. Back to Toontastic the original. Although the game states that it is free, the content that you receive is minimal at best. In order to have access to all the characters, scenes, and options you can either choose to pay $19.99 or pay individually for each scene or character your child would like to use. So in terms of limitations Toontastic scores low in affordability and accessibility.

If you can afford the app in its entirety though it is a fantastic tool. According to the article Practical Guidelines for Evaluating Educational Software, it is important that the program “puts learners in control of their own learning experiences, allowing them to select content, methods, materials, and activities that suit their own needs, interests and abilities.”(2000) Through its wide variety of characters and scenes as well as the child’s ability to draw his or her own characters and scenes and change the layout of the story, Toontastic breezes through this recommendation. Toontastic is appropriate for any gender and learning style. A child who prefers direction can follow the story line given and use the characters premade for him or her while a child who prefers a blank slate may draw their own scene and characters and decide how it plays out. The child who is shy may keep her story to herself, while the child who wants to show off may post her story onto the internet for the world to see.

Toontastic also provides children with an opportunity to collaborate with peers, friends, or family. “The American Psychological Association … acknowledges that learning is social in nature and that shared thinking is valuable to the learning process.” (Goyne, 2000) Each person a child brings into their story could be a new voice to a character. The child could work together with others to determine how the story should go and what each characters role will be. Where one child is struggling another might offer up a grand idea. Toontastic is great for both solitary play as well as social play. Toontastic also provides the child with the ability to take a picture of a friend and use his or her face as a character in their story. This opens up the door for even more complexities as the child might then incorporate a persons real personality traits and life situations into the story line.

Because the game is focused on the child being creative and living by their own rules, Toontastic does not provide your typical feedback. Can you imagine your child draws a pink cow and the Toontastic automation saying, “Cows are not pink, try again.” With a game such as this it is hard to determine what would qualify as good feedback. At the end of you story playback their is an audience applause sound played to give the impression that a grand audience has just watched and admired the child’s animated cartoon. The game also provides easy to understand direction to help the child along. They may also choose to upload his or her story on the web for their parents and family and the global Toontastic community to see. Therefore allowing others to provide them with feedback.

In terms of educational benefit, Toontastic can provide the child with skills from a variety of categories. The child could develop language and reading skills through their storytelling, they could develop artistic expression skills through their drawings and character actions and voices, they could work their creativity by coming up with new content and exercising their imagination, and they could also develop their communication skills while creating and walking others through their story.

All in all Toontastic would be a great tool to use to help your child express his or her creativity and imagination and be able to show it off with pride. Although it is only available on Ipad at the moment and it is still $19.99 once you have an Ipad, I would still recommend it if you have financial means to access it.

Reference

Goyne, J., McDonough, S., & Padgett, D. (2000). Practical guidelines for evaluating educational software. The Clearing House (73)6. 345.

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