Google just launched a complete overhaul of the popular Toontastic app – meet Toontastic 3D – a 3D cartoon storytelling tool. It really hits a sweet spot between ease of use and just enough customization to unleash your inner Pixar.
While it’s being promoted for elementary and middle school students, I think people of all ages could have fun with it. It’s a free download and runs on iOS or Android phones, tablets and “some” Chromebooks.
You begin the process by picking a story organizer. Choices include “Short Story” with 3 scenes, “Classic Story” with 5 scenes and Science Report. (Much cooler than Powerpoint and shown below). Or you can create your own story structure.
The app provides a step-by-step guide for organizing your cartoon. For example the “Classic Story” includes – set up, conflict, challenges, climax and resolution (with helpful thinking prompts). Then select and customize your characters. You can even use an in-app tool to add your face to a character. (Yes, that’s me below.) Next you’re guided through the design of each scene. You move your characters in the scene by tapping on the screen and adding your voice tracks for each. You can also activate their special actions (in this video, my character can break dance). Many of the background objects are interactive and can be activated with a tap. Finally you can add mood music from the app library with some simple controls to customize the soundtrack. Scenes can be reorganized before saving your final project.
Your finished cartoons can be save locally in-app or on the device. You can export them to your device’s photos app or library. The finished high-resolution video is saved as an mp4 and easy to share – you can import it into projects or upload to YouTube or other sharing services. Once it’s on YouTube it’s easy to embed into a blog or other Google tool.
Best of all, it’s designed to be school friendly – no ads or in-app purchases, no email or login required and you can even use it off line. Google states that they do not store your finished content nor any user info.
I plan to use this app with my EdTech Methods class. I’ll share some of their work when I do. Till then, here’s a finished video by DeeDee I found for you to enjoy.
It features eight engaging questions and historic documents that empower students to be the historian in the classroom. The units draw from a fascinating collection of text and multimedia content – documents, posters, photographs, audio, video, letter and other ephemera. “Stop-and-think” prompts based on CCSS skills guide students through analysis of the primary and secondary sources. Essential questions foster critical thinking. All documents include links back to the original source material so readers can remix the content into their own curated collections.
All of my student’s wrote for a public audience on our class blog and persued three class goals:
Learn to think like a historian.
Become a skillful instructional designer
Develop technical skills for production, reflection, growth and professional networking.
The lesson design process began early in the semester when students designed lessons in historical thinking skills based on the work of Sam Wineburg and the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG). They focussed on three key skills – Sourcing, Contextualizing and Corroborating. Then students identified essential questions worth answering and gathered documents to explore the question in an extended lesson design process.
I’ve been asked to pilot a new edtech class this spring for undergraduate ed majors in University of Portland’s School of Education. I’m still in the brainstorm phase and I thought I’d like to share some of my initial thinking.
First off – a few things that I don’t want to do:
Oversell edtech. Too often educators try to force the latest edtech tool into the classroom because they think it’s cooler. Faster. Shinier.
Focus on teaching apps. Oh how I hated being forced to sit in a computer lab and suffer though PowerPoint professional development as a teacher. When I need students to use a specific app, I typically create a YouTube channel of short screencast how-tos. Or students can use the University’s Lynda account for more.
Take sides in the platform / device religious wars. These students will end up teaching in different settings, each with it’s own unique edtech landscape. They’ll need to be able to use what ever they find in their placements.
Instead I’d like to first “teach” adaptability – the mindset that’s helped me navigate the ever-changing edtech environment since I began my career in the early ’70s – an era of filmstrip projectors, 16mm movies and ditto machines. I’ve always thought first about my instructional goals, then tried to leverage whatever resources I could find to reach them. That calls for flexibility and a willingness to figure things out on your own. I couldn’t wait around for some school-sponsored PD.
A second, equally important goal would be to teach critical evaluation of the intersection of good instruction and technologies. A good teacher is skeptical, always re-assessing what’s working and what’s not. That’s especially important in the dynamic edtech world.
I envision a problem-based approach where I layout a series instructional challenges (opportunities?) and invite student teams to come back with a plan for achieving the goal using as much or as little technology as they saw fit. They would be expected to find a way to share their work in or out of class (why not flip that as well?) We would then go though a group evaluation, reflecting on what worked and what didn’t. Was the juice worth the squeeze? Move on to the next instuctional challenge. Reflect, rinse, repeat.
Here’s how I thought I might open my first class: “Good instructional often begins with a pre-assessment. This is an edtech class, so as a starting point we need to get sense of where everyone resides on edtech landscape.”
What would be useful to know?
How should we gather that info?
How do we store and share (represent) what we find out?
Would any digital technologies be useful in this task? If so, which ones?
How do we set that up so that your peers can be successful participants?
Brainstorm over: Any thoughts on this approach? Anyone else out there teaching an edtech course and care to share?
Image Credit: Civilian Conservation Corps, Third Corps Area, typing class with W.P.A. instructor ca. 1933
National Archives and Records Administration Identifier: 197144
I’m excited about JuxtaposeJS – a new free web-based “storytelling” tool from the Knight Lab at Northwestern University. As they describe it: “JuxtaposeJS helps storytellers compare two pieces of similar media, including photos, and GIFs. It’s ideal for highlighting then/now stories that explain slow changes over time (growth of a city skyline, regrowth of a forest, etc.) or before/after stories that show the impact of single dramatic events (natural disasters, protests, wars, etc.).”
I think it’s a great tool for students and teachers who want to explore themes of continuity and change. While it could be used to compare and contrast in subjects across the curriculum, I’ve created a few examples using historical content.
I selected pairs of historical and contemporary images with elements that are consistent and aspects that change. But the challenge is to size and crop the images so that the consistencies align. To accomplish that, I used another free tool – Google Slides – to position and crop each pair of images and export as JPGs before importing into JuxtaposeJS. (Scroll to the bottom of this post for my workflow video that illustrates each step of the process.)
Created with two archival photographs Tom Torlino – a student at Carlisle Indian School, 1882 and 1885.
More about Tom at my post on Medium.
Pro tip: get the eyes aligned
Created with archival photograph paired with a screenshot I took from Google Street View.
Portland Ore Engine No 2 – 510 NW 3rd Ave. Pro tip: choose a historic image that is shot from an angle similar to Street View. Street View is made up of a series of still images. You may need to navigate slightly on the street to get a shot that matches. Street View has been shooting for years. Use the drop down timeline (highlighted here) in upper left of Street View that has the angle and lighting that works best for your Juxtapose
Archival photograph of paired with photograph I took in the same location. Taylor Hotel entrance Circa 1920
Pro tip: bring along a print out of historic photo to line up you new shot. Maybe you’ll get lucky (like I did) and find a SUV parked in the right spot.
Here’s a video that details my workflow for this project You’ll see how I used the transparency feature in Google Slides to create two well-aligned images that I imported into JuxtaposeJS via Dropbox. JuxtaposeJS supports both vertical and horizontal sliders. Pick the orientation that does a better job of concealing or revealing the continuity and change. Once the images are “published” at JuxtaposeJS they can be imported into your web via an iFrame embed as I have done in this post.
I just finished teaching Alaskan Studies at University of Alaska Southeast’s MAT program in Juneau. My course was teamed with a Multicultural Ed class in the first three weeks of the on-campus session. We took a PBL approach and our cohort of 37 MAT students did a terrific job researching and designing six regional iBooks as models of culturally responsive teaching. More on their assignment here.
Each iBook begins with a regional overview focussed on the intersection of three factors – natural environment, the human environment, and the cultural expressions unique to the indigenous people of the respective region. Six-member teams collaborated on each overview and then each student designed a culturally-responsive lesson in their content area focused on that region. The iBooks are filled with interactive elements and extensive source material from Juneau’s newly opened Alaska State Library, Archives and Museum (SLAM).