No monkeys were harmed in the making of this cartoon!
This professional development activity saw me creating a cartoon about diversity for young children while learning how to use Toontastic (2013), an application developed by LaunchPad toys to assist learning through creative play. My cartoon called “Simone and Mark make a new friend” is available from http://toontube.launchpadtoys.com/240064
Our library is looking at offering courses for parents on mobile apps that can be used to promote learning for toddlers and pre-schoolers, so I began this project with the idea that I would review an app, game or ebook, available for iPad (or Android) that dealt with diversity. After some searching I found some interesting games (Blinq, 2013; Duck Duck Moose, 2013) and a cute animated eBook that seems to be missing some of its images (InteractBooks LLC, 2012) but nothing that really answered my need. After toying with the idea of creating a picture book or ebook myself, I came across Toontastic and used it to create a short cartoon aimed at pre-schoolers advocating diversity.
In creating my script I had to learn Toontastic and work out how to use it to tell my story. Trying to fit my pre-existing ideas for a story about a family who all played different sports into the pre-existing characters and scenes provided by Toontastic proved problematic. After viewing a couple of other people’s cartoons on the website, I decided to create a version of the ‘playground encounter with new person’ theme. I spent some time writing a script, selecting characters and a setting that would fit in with my new idea. I decided to ‘normalise’ one very unusual character and make my rejected character differ only slightly from my main characters; my intention was to highlight the futility of focussing on difference when people have essentially the same feelings and aspirations.
So why and how is diversity so important?
‘Respect for the diversity and individuality of all people’, forms one of the core values of the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA, 2013) and it is commonly held by many in the profession that this respect for diversity underpins intellectual freedom and equity of access to information which help make a functional society (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), 2013) – one which encourages the full intellectual and moral development of the child in an ultimately safer world. Another key and important reason for acceptance of diversity for youngsters, is that as they develop, and begin to explore their individuality, they need to feel it is okay to be different (CILIP, 2002; Miller, 2010).
Is Toontastic fantastic?
I downloaded the iPad version of Toontastic. As with any new software, even “easy to use” tools like this one take time to learn. It was relatively quick though and didn’t require much reading, although the great parent resource (ref) does provide some good background and tips. I think the beauty of this tool is that since much of the “mechanics” of animation is done for you (characters and settings), you are free to concentrate on the themes and other creative elements of your story. Scenes can be added and customised with a simple add music tool. The downside is that the stock characters and settings may not be want you want, but for those needing more, Toontastic has a simple drawing tool and a camera tool. So not fantastic but pretty useful.
In a library setting Toontastic could be used with older children such as Tweens and teens to explore topics while developing skills in digital and information literacy without needing the artistic skill that many of the other animation software programs require. With younger children it could be used to develop an understanding of story elements as part of their developing literacy skills.
Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA). (2013). Core values Retrieved May 20, 2013, from http://www.alia.org.au/alia-core-values-statement
Blinq. (2013). Brains My Body [Software – mobile app]. Available from https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/brains-my-body/id624511702?mt=8
CILIP. (2002). Start with the child. Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals website, from http://www.cilip.org.uk/filedownloadslibrary/groups/ylg/startwiththechild.pdf
Duck Duck Moose. (2013). Peek-a-Zoo [Software – mobile app]. Available from https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/peek-a-zoo-by-duck-duck-moose/id477766317
InteractBooks LLC. (2012). Sam and Ben. Retrieved from https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/sam-and-ben/id502432918
International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA). (2013, February 28, 2013). IFLA Statement on Libraries and Intellectual Freedom Retrieved May 20, 2013, from http://www.ifla.org/publications/ifla-statement-on-libraries-and-intellectual-freedom
Launchpad Toys. (2013). Toontastic [Software – mobile app]. Available from http://launchpadtoys.com/toontastic/
Miller, P. (2010). Piaget’s theory: past, present and future. In U. Goswami (Ed.), The Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of Childhood Cognitive Development (2 ed., pp. 649-672). Hoboken: Wiley. Retrieved from http://CSUAU.eblib.com/patron/FullRecord.aspx?p=555065.