Washington Middle School fifth graders, Connor Dykstra and Hunter Meabom, worked together to create a dialogue between Christopher Columbus and Ferdinand Magellan with the Toontastic app on an iPad in Deb Rein’s class. Using the app was just one part of their social studies unit on explorers, which integrated technology with English Language Arts priority standards such as finding the main idea of a text and quoting evidence needed directly from a text.
Toontastic is a free educational app used as a creative learning tool and teaches storytelling skills through playful cartoon creations. Mrs. Rein’s students used the app to create explorer characters, write the dialogue between the two or three explorers, and creating voiceovers or videos. For example, one group created a conversation between Lewis and Clark recreating what they might have said on their travels around the U.S based on what they learned from various sources in class. Another app the students used to create their stories was Puppet Pals.
“I took a summer workshop with Jason Kathman, the district’s Technology Information Specialist Coach, and he introduced us to a lot of educational apps that we could use in the classroom. He came in and modeled how to use them with the students,” said Mrs. Rein. “The students just love using technology. It really motivates them to learn. I overheard one group talking about their project, which included a conversation between Christopher Columbus and the King and Queen of England. They used their knowledge of how Columbus got to the New World and had him ask the King and Queen for money. The King was all for giving it to him, but not the Queen, their Queen was probably imagining what she could buy at the mall. The creativity that happened in terms of storytelling by using the apps to create the characters, settings and story, you just don’t see that energy and motivation without technology.”
Students also researched and wrote a paper as to why other explorers deserved a holiday (day off) like Columbus. Mrs. Rein used the app project to help assess if the students understood the key points of the explorers they were studying.
“I think using technology helped us learn more about the explorers we studied. We used the computers to research our explorers for our projects, organize our ideas that were important and later to create the App stories we wrote,” said Washington Middle School fifth grader, Kylee Schrader. “It is exciting to use these apps because they are ones that you might not have access to at home so we are learning something new on our technology too.”