Launchpad EDU is a website that offers free lesson plans, best practices, and other resources from educators to help others teach with Launchpad’s Toontastic storytelling software.
As a member of the toy industry, Launchpad co-founder Andy Russell watched kids tell incredibly creative stories while playing with their toys, and he wanted to create a way to capture these stories so kids could share them with others. In particular, he wanted to provide a playful learning opportunity on touchscreen digital devices as an alternative to video games. This led to the Toontastic animation tool for the iPad, which he created with alternative-media journalist Thushan Amarasiriwardena. The tool was designed in partnership with Stanford’s Graduate School of Education and Zeum: San Francisco’s Children’s Museum.
A pilot study showed that after a weeklong social-emotional development unit in which students created three Toontastic cartoons, students used more descriptive language, more character voices, more coherent narratives, and more distinct moods and energy levels in their stories.
To set up Toontastic, teachers first buy Toontastic: School Edition from Apple’s App Store and download it on each iPad, taking advantage of the 50% off volume discount for ordering 20+ copies. Then they make a classroom account on ToonTube (Toontastic’s “Global Storytelling Network”) and log into the site on each classroom iPad. Once Toontastic is set up, teachers can browse the Launchpad EDU site for “Mission Plans,” best practices, and other resources to get started teaching with Toontastic.
Students create scenes for their stories by choosing a setting, adding characters, and pressing the “Start” button to begin recording the scene. Like in a puppet show, students move the characters in the animation with their fingers and add dialogue by speaking aloud. Students can play with the emotional energy level of each scene by dragging the scene’s icon up and down on the Music page to change its style and intensity. To add scenes, students go to the Story Arc page, where they can stick with or deviate from the default sequence of scene types: Setup, Conflict, Challenge, Climax, and Resolution. Finally, students press a button to stitch their scenes into a single video, choose a genre for their story, and either save the video to the camera roll or upload it to the classroom ToonTube account. ToonTube also lets students manipulate a digital globe with their fingers to select a state or country and watch cartoons made by kids who live there. (7.5 million cartoons have been made so far, so there are plenty of options!)
There is a free version of Toontastic, but it does not allow students to draw animated characters, save video to the camera roll, add images to stories and reports, and share videos privately.
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