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Toontastic

This week we look at the comic-creating application Toontastic in an audio interview format with Ailsa Mantelow.

 

Toontastic

To accompany Ailsa’s interview, Seamus has provided an indepth look at how Toontastic can be utilised

Toontastic markets itself an educational aid which allows early learners to develop linguistic and creative skills. As one might reasonably speculate from the name of the app, Toontastic allows children to create their own animated cartoons. Budding Walt Disneys get the chance to choose sets, characters, and music and bring their creations to life using animation and dialogue.

What’s in it?

Toontastic starts by providing five story scenes to animate. Each of these scenes is given a title such as background, conflict, and resolution. These will most likely go way over the heads of our students, and should probably be ignored, as should the rather annoying instructions which accompany the initial setup.

For each scene, the user needs to make a number of choices before beginning their animation.

Firstly, they need to choose a location for the scene. There are four attractive preset locations provided including a castle, a lunarscape, and a pirate ship. Children also get the option to paint their own scene on screen, though the likelihood is that, like mine, their set will appear as an unsightly blob. My criticism here is that with only four preset backgrounds, users should have the option of copying and pasting sets from another location or of accessing a bank of different sets.

Next, children get to choose what characters and objects they will place in their scene. Most of these are what might be expected to match the sets provided, such as a space alien, a shark, and a Princess. Others are a little more bizarre, such as a giant clam and a showjumping fence. Once again, children get the chance to draw their own character, but this is likely to be rather difficult for younger learners to manage. The characters are fun and children will enjoy using them, but again there is simply not enough choice.

Now we are ready to make their animation. This process is fairly straightforward. In real-time, users move the characters around the screen while speaking their dialogue or narration into the iPad’s microphone. This software automatically records the audio and visual action. Although this is a very simple way to allow young learners to make their own animation, is also rather difficult to master the technique of moving characters and speaking at the same time, especially as the microphone is at the back of the ipad.

A useful feature of the animation is that characters legs move a walking motion as you manoeuvre them around the screen. Their arms are also movable, and they can be viewed in front or side profile.  However, moving the characters around is rather awkward as they rarely seem to go the way you want them to. This is especially frustrating as you are animating in real-time, so you have to start again if you make a mistake.

The final addition to a scene is the music. Musical choices are displayed as emoticons on the screen, so for instance, the user will tap the happy, sorrowful or a angry face to access the appropriate music. This visual display makes the process of choosing music easier and more fun for young learners. However, most of the music is either classical or cinematic and may not appeal to a child’s tastes.

Students repeat this process for each scene, until they finish their movie. They then add a title and credits to the finished animation. Children can then choose to upload the video to the Toontastic online video sharing site called ToonTube. This is a very professionally laid out and engaging site where students can watch videos made by children from all over the world.. Alternatively, your students can just watch it in class with their friends.  There does not appear to be a Social Media sharing option which is a pity

Uses and Misuses

To get the most out of this software, it is better to be prepared in advance.  There are so many options, that younger children may become frustrated and confused. For this reason, it would be better if you learnt to use the software before introducing it to your students. It would also be helpful if you gave them an initial 15-20 minute playtime with the software to allow them to become more familiar with it. Showing them a movie which you made yourself or one from ToonTube would also help to generate enthusiasm.

For best results, students could make the animation as a project over 3 to 4 classes. This would give them time to think of characters, draw storyboards, and write dialogue. Though, it would also be perfectly possible to make a basic 1-2 scene story with in one class.

One thing that I would not recommend, is using this app as an impulse activity to take up half an hour when you have nothing else to do. It takes at least 15 to 20 minutes for children to work out even how to use the software, so trying to create something meaningful without preparation in a short space of time is likely to produce a complete turkey.

In Short

Toontastic does have its limitations, it is probably too difficult for younger children to operate (although they might have fun trying), and perhaps too limited in its resources to maintain the interest of older children for a length of time. However, if well prepped and used sparingly, this app may well encourage the fun and creative use of language in the classroom, gives children something tangible to show their mum and dad after class.

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LearnEnglish Grammar

In this second installment of our three part series, we’ll be looking at the British Council’s new grammar practice application, Learn English Grammar.

 

In a nutshell, this application consists basically of controlled practice grammar activities. There are a few options available from the main page. The ‘Practice’ function is the primary use of the app where the learners access various grammar points and practice them. The ‘Test’ function consists of similar timed activities where learners try to compete with themselves to improve their score. Under the ‘Manage’ tab learners can reset/blank their progress in the various grammar categories, if they’d like to start revising from scratch. The ‘Purchase’ tab is where learners can buy additional grammar sets for self study because, unlike previous British Council applications, this app is in fact not free. It does, however, come with sample sets for elementary and pre-intermediate learners to give them an opportunity to sample the product before purchase.

Some of the language points available in the elementary set

There are in fact a number of different controlled practice types, including: single/multiple gap fills, open typed response, arranging/ordering, syntax practice and word ordering.  Click on the thumbnails below to see an example of each.

Single blank gap fill

Multiple blank gap fill

Arranging/Ordering

Word ordering

Open Response

Syntax work

How to use it?

In fact, we’re not advocating you spend a great deal of time using the app in the classroom. It can be used in class to provide extra controlled practice for a language point, and one of the clear advantages here is that learners can work at their own speed and strong students can explore other sets if they finish early. In this sense, it’s similar to the ‘fast finisher’ activities you might use with young learners. However, the clear advantage to this application is its use outside the classroom. As it is available on both Apple and Android platforms, students have a quick and easy way to practice their grammar whenever they have spare time during the day. As with any autonomous learning tool, there is certainly value in introducing the app during class time and letting the learners have a go with it, before encouraging them to download the product on their own smart devices. After all, our experience has shown that taking the time in the classroom to actually use the app significantly increases the chances of the learners using the tool in their own time.

Big City Small World

This week’s app is called ‘Big City, Small World’ (BCSW) and is published by the BC globally. BCSW is an audio soap featuring a cast of digital characters and focuses on their lives and experiences living in the UK. Before we have a closer look, it’s worth mentioning that although the app is officially aimed at elementary-level learners, the listening texts will most likely provide sufficient challenge for pre-intermediate learners in the Korean context as well.

Some of the characters from Big City Small World

The app features over 30 episodes which can be downloaded or streamed to both Apple and Android devices.

Some of the episodes from BCSW

As when introducing any new learning resource, it’s often wise to trial the use of the tool in the classroom to ensure your learners see the value of using it in their free time, and BCSW is no different. We recommend that you use a straightforward ‘jigsaw listening’ approach with the app in class. Simply divide your class into pairs, with one iPad per pair, and get them to select an episode from the show. At this point make sure that each pair selects a different episode, then get them to listen to the episode and make notes of the key events and language, as they will then go on to summarise the episode to another pair of learners. Let the learners get on with the task, providing support when needed. When the groups finish, feed in whatever summary language or sentence frames you feel appropriate, get each pair to practice first before getting on with the actual summary with another pair. If time and interest permit, you could then go with a task-based approach by providing feedback on common errors or feeding in additional language, before remixing the class and having them summarise again with another pair.

A typical episode of Big City Small Word. Note the typescript provided which can provide scaffolding for lower level learners.

Youtube

Today I’m providing another instructional account focusing on Youtube for sharing video. It is an often asked question, now that I’ve acquired my video, how do I get it out there?

Youtube is a great archive and sharing platform, it may seem counter intuitive but it is the facility that Youtube offers to customize privacy settings which makes it such an appropriate utility for sharing video, the point being that only the audience you want to be able to access the video, can in fact do so. More of this later.

Firstly you need to upload your video, click in the right hand corner, of your chosen video which will be found in the Camera Roll, and the option ’Send to Youtube’ appears.

Following this you need to log in to your Youtube account, if you need our account details please ask a member of the Digital/ICT team. Next you will need to fill out all the fields in the upload window: Name, Description, Tag and Category, also in the Privacy Settings click ‘Private’. Finally hit Publish. Your video will upload in a few minutes.

Now if you log on to Youtube, using your desktop computer, up in the right corner hit Video Manager. A complete list of your videos will appear. Your recent upload should be at the top of the list. Click on Edit. Now in the Window you have various options, you can alter the Privacy settings if you want, but what we want to do is share the video with specified persons. On the right hand side you can enter an audience member by keying in either their Youtube User Name, or e mail address . They will receive an invitation to view the video.  To view they will have to log in to Youtube. You can invite as many people to view as you want.

What then are the applications of this form of sharing? Firstly you may want ensure the privacy of your class members is protected when producing content with them, certainly if working with YL’s  guardian’s permission and protection of privacy is a statutory obligation.

Secondly, this method of sharing has been been successfully used in the sharing of video projects between different centres collaborating on projects globally, such as in the creation of Wiki’s, as well as projects within a local community of learners.

British Council Idioms

Today’s post is looking at how you can use our very own BC Idioms app in the classroom. In particular, this activity plan can be very useful during counseling sessions, as it is largely something the learners can carry out independently.

Using British Council Idioms- Activity Plan

1. Demonstrate to class how to find/open the app by swiping to the left from the iPad home screen and searching for ‘idioms.

Thematic and situational idioms in the BC Idioms app

2. Explain that in pairs the class will choose one set of ten idioms to study, either the ‘thematic’ or ‘situational’ idioms will do, and walk them through how the app works. Essentially, the learner ‘studies’ an idiom, getting information like the spelling, pronunciation, a sample sentence, an explanation of the meaning, etc., etc. They then repeat this process for the other nine idioms in the set. After this stage is complete, the learners move on to the practice activities (gap fills, sentence ordering, etc.) where they ‘learn’ the idioms they have previously encountered.

A sample study card

3. Explain to the class that they will have two minutes to look through the different topics for each set of idioms, and after this time they must choose a set to study. Make it clear that each pair must study a different set of idioms.

4. Distribute the iPads, one per pair of students, and let them browse for topics of interest. After the time is up elicit from each group the number of the set that they wish to study. Write these on the board for each group to ensure that no two groups are studying the same set.

Some of the different topics available

5. Let the pairs get on with studying the idioms. Monitor and provide assistance when needed. Also, make sure they keep going once they’ve completed the ‘study’ portion of the app. In trials many groups forgot about the practice stage entirely.

One example of the different kind of practice activities

6. Once the class has completed studying the idioms, get their attention to explain the next stage of the activity. Learners will go back to their set and choose one idiom that they found most useful or interesting. Explain that they will be teaching this idiom to other students in the class, so they need to make notes about this idiom, including the relevant information (pronunciation, meaning, similar expressions, etc.) Make it clear that these notes must be made on paper, as the learners will not have access to the iPads subsequently.

7. Once the preparation is finished, set up an activity where the students mill amongst each other and teach their classmates their selected idiom. You could put some sentence frames on the flipchart to support this stage (The idiom I studied is…; I chose this idiom because…; It’s similar to XYZ (in Korean)

Splice

This week ‘App of The Week ‘ has an instructional focus, setting out how to use Splice as an  App for editing your video and photos, this is because there have many questions on how to use this App.  So… lets cut it up.

Setting up your project: Tap the + button to start your new project Settings: Use this screen to set up the appearance of your project. Note: HD looks very nice on the iPads screen, but it will take longer to finalise your finished project.

Adding media to your project: The next step is to select  media (video or photos) that you want to include in your project.

Tap Video/Photo to add media Media is added from your photo album (aka Camera Roll). Tap Camera Roll and select the first video clip or photo.

After you select your first video/photo tap the picture to begin piecing together your video.

You can add another video clip/photo by tapping the + buttons, or you can add effects, crop, or duplicate your clip by tapping the pin icon. Tapping the + button will also allow you to add a  a transition (such as fade in/out), or a title/piece of text. Keep adding clips, photos and effects until your project is complete.

Adding music or sound effects: Tapping the audio button brings up the add audio menu The + buttons add music and effects. The microphone button allows your to record through the iPads microphone, so you can narrate the clip if you wish. You can choose to add music from the Splice library or your iPad. The Splice library has a series of sound effects, if you want to add music it would first have to be added to the iPad via iTunes.

When everything is complete tap preview to view your project. If everything is OK tap Export to finalise your project – you’ll be asked about the quality of your clip, medium is generally high enough.

For sharing your completed masterpiece you can upload your video to Youtube.  When your video has been exported from Splice (back to the Camera Roll) you can upload it to Youtube. Go to the photos folder and select your video. When your video opens click on the arrow in the top right hand corner, this will allow you to send your video to Youtube, you will be given an option in the menu. You will need to log on to our  Youtube account (ask one of  your Digital team for the details). Your video will then be viewable on the BC Youtube account and ultimately the silver screen. Remember you can embed this  Youtube video on our student portal.  Again, ask if you need details about this.

QR Codes

This week’s video blog-post explores how to create and use QR codes. Click the video below to learn more.

 

Links from the video

http://goo.gl/

http://qrcode.kaywa.com/