Google gave its Toontastic cartoon storytelling app for kids a 3D update this week, the latest effort from a Silicon Valley tech giant to offer students creative and technical learning tools.
At its core, Toontastic is a simple interactive storyboard platform. Kids can use multi-touch gestures to move characters around on the screen, assembling them into a scene. Google says it takes about a minute to create a one-minute scene, and you can add up to six scenes to each cartoon. There are lots of ways to go beyond that for older kids with larger attention spans, though, including the option to create your own characters with your real face taken from a selfie.
“It’s like a digital puppet theater,” Google explained a blog post, “but with enormous interactive 3D worlds, dozens of customizable characters, 3D drawing tools, and an idea lab with sample stories to inspire new creations.”
The free Toontastic app is available for iOS and Android, and works with tablets, smartphones, and some Chromebooks.
A 2D-version of Toontastic has actually been around since 2011, and has won praise from educators who use it in their classrooms. (Google suggests using it for book reports, science presentations, historical reenactments, or vocabulary practice). In that respect, it’s similar to Minecraft, an open-world game acquired by Microsoft that has worked its way into lesson plans and now has its own education edition.
Apple, too, has attempted to become a part of early childhood education with its Swift Playground app. Unveiled at WWDC last year, the app aims to teach kids how to code using Apple’s Swift open-source programming language.