Sunday, November 4, 2007

ToonDoo project for Block Eight

I have already created a wiki for a grade nine class to share their ideas about the Snow Willow Award nominees. This is a project which uses some Web 2.0 tools to “foster active student engagement, discussion and creative outputs” as asked for in Block Eight, The Screen Writer. I am anxiously waiting for the teacher and class to be ready to begin the project with me. Therefore I am not going to design another project with the books we read earlier in this class. However, the site I used for the project I am going to talk about could easily be adapted for a “revisioned” book report or book talk.

While waiting to begin my wiki project, I have worked with another class of seven grade nine students in our learning disability program. They had just completed a study of short stories. They had learned about the parts of a short story and analyzed several. One of the sites their teacher had found useful with them is the plot diagram tool on the Read Write and Think site.
As well as plot, they learned about theme, setting, and character. The teacher was looking for way they could demonstrate their learning without having them write a short story. I introduced her to the online cartoon making site ToonDoo and she jumped at the chance to use this with her students.

For the first lesson we studied the graphic novels in our library collection and learned basic terminology like panels, gutters, and text. We looked at the different ways to show motion and time passing. Next, we studied the ways to add text as speech, thought, narration and sound effects. Then we examined different panel layouts. Finally we looked at the variety offered by the “camera angles” that are used: close ups, over the shoulder view, bird’s eye view, bug’s eye view, long shot, medium shot, and extreme close up.

The second step was for the students to set up an account on ToonDoo ( using a pseudonym or pen name. I gave a brief explanation the features on ToonDoo and then they were allowed to explore and play for an extended period. They were excited by what they discovered and created and were constantly sharing, comparing, and showing each other how to work the program. It was important for the next step that the students be familiar with what was available for backgrounds, objects, characters, etc. in ToonDoo.

For the next session, I prepared a graphic organizer for the students to plan their ToonDoo cartoon. They had to describe the time, place, and atmosphere of the setting, name and characterize the protagonist and antagonist, and diagram the plot with the opening, rising action, climax, falling action and denouement. This was difficult for the students but a necessary step to get them beyond just playing with three panel cartoons to developing a “ToonBook” or full length story told in cartoon format.

They were very happy to get back onto the computers and create their cartoon stories. I gave reminders to employ the techniques we had talked about earlier like different camera shots and ways to use text. The program is limited in the shots that can be created but we did achieve some variety.

The students have very much enjoyed this project and are very close to “publishing” their final project after five one hour sessions.

One of the features of ToonDoo is that you can comment on other people’s creations and rate them. You can save your own and others as favourites in “galleries”. There are sections for ‘Most viewed”, “Editor’s picks”, “Most argued”, etc. This encourages an online community commenting and collaborating about cartoons. Students are publishing their creative expression in a public forum, receiving feedback and critically evaluating others’ work.

Students found this project enjoyable and motivational. The teacher was delighted with their engagement, creativity and demonstration of learning from their short story unit. I was pleased to be able to incorporate an introduction to our graphic novel collection, knowledge I have gained through this class, and just plain fun in this project. One final note I could make is that a Mosaic Down Syndrome student is integrated in that class with and assistant and he experience great success with this project. I highly recommend this project and the ToonDoo site for which I see endless educational applications.