The ToonTastic app is clearly fun, as I described in the previous post. But is there an educational element to this kind of digital storytelling? What do kids learn when they piece together a plot hatched from their own imagination? I asked Andy Russell, the app’s co-creator, to tell us more. Andy is a graduate of Learning Design programs at Stanford and Northwestern and has worked for companies like Hasbro and Sony PlayStation to design playful learning experiences for kids.
Q. Why do you think story-telling is important in a child’s education?
As educators, we’re challenged to create new opportunities for kids to become producers of creative ideas and not just consumers – and storytelling is a common and underlying theme in most, if not all, creative work. Toontastic enables kids to craft and share their own cartoons, but the core lessons of Character, Setting, Emotion, and Narrative Arc apply to many other mediums from creative writing to filmmaking, music, and art.
Our first goal is to help kids become better storytellers. Beyond that, however, we see play as a tool for kids to learn about the world around them. Imaginative play is a social laboratory where kids learn by trying on, testing out, and adapting new ideas just as they might costumes – an experimental theater for practicing the many roles and rules that young children are learning every day. As many parents can attest, it’s not uncommon to see one day’s “real-world” lessons being practiced in the next day’s dress-up session. With that in mind, our ultimate goal is to leverage those stories as lessons themselves – to create a global storytelling network for kids, by kids, where children can share their stories online and learn about the world around them through cartoons made by other kids just like them.
Q. How does Toontastic leverage those storytelling skills?
Toontastic is a constructionist learning tool that empowers kids to create their own cartoons while introducing and guiding key storytelling concepts along the way. Many Constructionist learning tools like Scratch and Logo enable kids to express themselves through computer programming. We like to think of Toontastic as Scratch for storytelling – swapping out formal logic for story structure (Characters, Setting, Story Events, and Narrative Arc) – the “code” of storytelling.