This week’s blog is about the tool Toondoo. This site allows students to create their own cartoons and books online. The site is colourful and has great fun images, many of which are dynamic, in that they move during manipulation of the different features. For instance, there are little gears, like those in a machine, that move around in circles when information is being opened. This keeps the students attention when they are waiting for things to open. Keeping students attention focussed is a primary preoccupation of teachers and Toondoo understands this well. Children love cartoons and the idea of creating their own is a fun way of developing projects in their ESL class. They will be having so much fun that they forget that they are learning English. At the end they will be proud to have a finished project they can keep and show off to their classmates and parents.
The Quebec Ministry of Education requires that teachers encourage their students develop their creativity and Toondoo is an excellent tool with which to do this. Students are able to work autonomously on projects individually or in teams. The tool can also be used to create class projects where everyone participates in doing their part of the collective effort. The fact students can choose from a variety of characters to appear in their cartoon is, in itself, great, but studenst can also customize the characters by giving them different features such as hair colour and hair style, eye colour and eye shape etc. etc. The cartoon or book is also custom created by the student. For instance, the actual layout and background scenery is selected by the student. In this way the tool really makes for a personal experience. For instance, students can create characters that resemble themselves and their classmates, thus making for a much more meaningful experience.
The setup of the site is divided into: Toons, Books, Dooers, Tools, Compleetoons, Shop and Etc. When these are selected a list is given of the uses of each. I will give a brief description of the most important of the uses in terms of pedalogical purposes. In the category Toons the students actually create and save their cartoons. The fact they can save their cartoons on the site is very convenient. In addition they can also access their other cartoons they are working on here so we can see they the students can have numerous projects if necessary. I like the idea that the Toons and Books categories are divided into two separate parts because this keeps things more simple for teachers explaining to students what they should open. I also like the fact that the language in the toolbar is very simple and clear … ‘Toons’ , ‘Books’ etc. The Dooers category is essentielly the user profile area. In the Tools section students have tools that they, for instance, create characters with, before putting them into there cartoon or book. The Compleetoons section is where students can access cartoons that have completed. The Shop section is not free and where high-resolution Toondoos can be produced … which of course is at the discretion of the teacher. The Etc. section is essentielly a collection of useful information that can help teachers and students better use the site.
Here are three sites that give other pertinent information with regard to Toondoo:
At http://teachinghistory.org/ I noticed an interesting comment that the fact that this tool eliminates some of the frustrations students may have when doing their own drawings. In other words this means the students are concentrating on the actual subject matter rather than the artwork which is of secondary importance.
http://www.teachersfirst.com points out that like any online use teachers shoul be concerned about safety concerns, though their editor did not see anything objectional. Teachersfirst explains that students should be prohibited from accessing the links to ‘popular’ Toondoos because there could be objectional context since it is open to the public.
At http://www.teacherade.com there are two very simple but very important comments about Toondoo : that its easy to use and free. Easy to use is obviously essential when working in a class environment and particularly with younger children. Well free means free … so the teacher doesn’t have to ask the school direction for funds.
I will finish this weeks blog by saying that I worked with Toondoos with a group of elementary grade six students in intensive English and found the site to be extremely useful. I should point out here that is not a tool that can be used as a quick ‘filler activity’ because, although quite simple to use, it takes students a bit of time to get used to using the tool bars. In addition, the projects themselves take up a large amount of time. On the other hand, for longer projects Toondoos is a fantastic tool for teaching ESL reading and writing skills and, while the site does not have an audio element, the students practice their oral skills while talking about their cartoon or book, and if they present it to the class. Thus, Toondoos is an excellent tool for working on all three Quebec Ministry of education ESL competencies.