Toontastic is an app created by Google aimed at young “future authors, directors, musicians, inventors, and anyone else” that want to try their hand at a creative platform for storytelling. There are three options to choose from at the start: short story, classic story, and science report; each coming with a basic outline for children to fill in. For each plot point (ex: beginning, middle, and end), children can choose from the included sets and characters, or design their own. Once they decide on the setting and characters, they are able to tap record, move characters and props around, explore the set, and narrate the story. After, they are given the chance to add the musical score to set the tone of each scene. Once finished, the story pieces are put together in a single video.
The pros of this app are easy to list:
- it is available on a slew of devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android, and select Chromebooks)
- it is free and without in-app purchases or ads
- it is easily exportable and therefor shareable to parents, and
- it works offline (slow Wi-Fi cant hold you back!).
The cons that I found with my time working with the app are:
- it may give too much freedom of choice – in a classroom setting children may spend too much time on the designing of the characters than on the story itself,
- it offers limited settings and characters – would have to make children aware of them before sending them to brainstorm and write-up their story (before even touching the iPads), and
- it would take a lot of pre-planning to implement a build-your-own story lesson using this app – from the brainstorming process (given sets and characters), to choosing music, to blocking the characters on set. There would need to be a whole unit given on theater and story creation processes before.
Overall, I found this app to be quite enjoyable and could think of ways that it could be used in my current placement of a kindergarten class (though it would be mostly teacher led – not giving them full creative powers with it). I can imagine this being less stressful if it needed to be less structured (outside of a classroom), such as used for a family movie night.