Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Getting creative with ToonDoo

I am getting ready to do several presentations on using internet tools and resources at ACEC 2010 this week, and one of the tools I’ll be inviting the audience to take a look is my creativity tool pick for the week: TooDoo. My workshop partner, who could not come to Melbourne, is the ToonDoo expert in our duo, so I figured that I'd better become learn more about how to use this cartoon-making online software. Let's take a look at how the basic ToonMaker works.

ToonDoo is really 5 different tools in one:

  • the ToonMaker which allows students to create from 1 to 3 panel cartoons using the collection of backgrounds, characters, objects, and features provided. It's also possible to import images created in Paint or regular photos into your cartoons.

  • the BookMaker which turns a collection of previously made ToonDoos into an online book with pages that flip. This is a great way to compile students' work into a collection that can be posted online for parents or other classes to see. (Earth Day projects anyone?!!?)

  • Traitr allows you to personalize characters that can can be saved and used in other cartoons.

  • Imaginer is the tool for distorting the features of a photo. These can also be saved and used in other cartoons.

  • Doodler is the draw tool. (I assume it works with a tablet, but I haven't tried mine yet.)

There is a new educator version of ToonDoo called ToonSpaces ($), but the main functions of the program are still free. At the Learning Centre we signed up with a gmail account and create one user name. All the students make their cartoons using our account and that name so no Canadian laws regarding the storage of student information on servers outside the country are violated. Creations can be public or private -- whichever you prefer.

For people used to using other tools, ToonDoo features may seem a little constraining. However, this tool's simplicity makes it accessible to youngsters (I found one how-to video by a grade 2 student) and also means that older students have to concentrate on the product rather than becoming overly enchanted with options and effects.

Several creative projects are shown below as examples of ways pther teachers have used ToonDoo to give students a different way to tackle what in the past have often been pretty dry assignments. In the first a French teacher used it to get students to write and illustrate the use of French phrases. In the second, making a cartoon strip replaced writing a traditional book report. The students imported images to populate the cartoon with characters that were more in keeping with the content of the novel. Finally the Toronto teacher of an Advanced Learning Strategies course had her students create ToonBooks to illustrate effective work habits. In these examples, the teachers have given imaginitive, creative twists to old assignments and the students don't have to be "artistic" to produce satisfying results.

The 7 Habits by Seannoel | Make your own at www.toondoo.com

My favourite application is the one dreamed up by my workshop partner. She wanted her grade 10's to summarize the key causes underlying the hostility between settlers and the Metis just before the Northwest Rebellion. Prior to this the kids had done the standard "copy/delete/compile" writing of paragraphs, but the events had little meaning for them. Debra wanted to bring the emotions and tension to life, so she invited students who wanted an alternative way to meet the learning objective to create a convincing 3-frame scenario. Now they have to imagine their way into the situation and play with characterization, symbolism, and dialogue to represent the conflict.

I've also known teachers to use ToonDoo as a storyboarding tool, and I think that this creative tool has a lot of potential for helping students learn to express main ideas (often a difficult task for to do well) because it empowers them to show and reveal rather than always having to tell and explain.

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