Toontastic is a fantastic app that students can use to recreate a narrative. The app is extremely engaging and provides students with an opportunity to develop and refine a digital text that they can share with others. The app is fantastic for younger children as it is broken down into the key elements of a narrative (called a ‘Story Arc’): Setup, conflict, Challenge, Climax and Resolution. This allows students to clearly understand how any story is created which directly linking to text type outcomes in the English syllabus. Using this app also allows students hands-on experience with multi-modal texts- another aspect of the English syllabus.The app has music that children can use to set the scene for each element, can use voice recordings and can even give students the opportunity to draw their own characters and use them in their stories. Students can also be working in groups to develop communication and team work skills and can draw on the strengths of others to produce an excellent piece of work. It is extremely easy to use and can be used in the classroom to retell a story, can be used for students to develop a story based on something they are learning in class (cross-curriculum link) or can be used with students who may need more encouragement to be engaged in class by creating a story about a topic they are particularly interested in.
This generation of students sees a large emphasis on technology. Many children upon entering school are already familiar with technology and skills such as using a touch screen format and problem solving by navigating between different apps. Using iPads in a Kindergarten class with low SES background helped the classroom teacher to scaffold literacy learning activities and was shown to be a powerful tool for meaning making. Students were engaged in the activity and displayed sustained interest and attention working with the ipads to retell stories. Socio-dramatic play vastly enhances language development (Jones, 2012) and should be encouraged within this age group. Similarly, technology that is developmentally appropriate should be explored by students to build their literacy skills.
When introducing the iPad into the classroom, a lot of work had been done to build the student’s field knowledge. There was a clear purpose for using the iPad: for students to retell a story. Various strategies and scaffolding techniques were adopted to allow students to develop their visualising skills, organise the story, use of expression, intonation and extended statements as well as introducing grammatical features used to create a cohesive oral recount (Jones, 2012). Whilst using technology for developing literacy skills is important, it is also equally important that teachers have a strong understanding of how texts are created in order to allow students to build on their knowledge and skills.
In this article, the Play School art maker app allowed students to record their efforts so that the final product can be replayed and critiqued. This was a good opportunity for students to reflect on their learning. Other teaching ideas could include a focus on speaking and listening. Students could develop a narrative and use the ipad (with the Play School art maker) to develop speaking and listening skills. Students could work on their movies with a focus on expression, intonation and extended statements to ‘build suspense/interest’ for the audience. Students to present movies to class and teacher can ask questions of the group to encourage listening and speaking skills. Students could build on their technology skills by using imovie and given more autonomy over the use of the iPads. Fortunately, there are many different ways technology can be used to develop literacy skills in children of all ages and should be appropriately planned with specific outcomes in mind.
Jones, M. (2012), ipads and kindergarten- students literacy development, SCAN, 31(4), 31-40.