Children of all ages love comics - cartoon character strips which usually tell a story, often humourosly, and sometimes with a hidden message or two. Comic strips are often found in newspapers and magazines, and more recently, online. They can be a a way for teachers to convey a message to their students a bit differently, and in turn students can be encouraged to express their thoughts and emotions more freely. Web 2.0 technology offers teachers and students the possiblity to create online, embeddable comic strips and books easily and effectively. One such comic-creation platform is ToonDoo, which can be found on http://www.toondoo.com.
First Look into ToonDoo
After the registration process (neccasary if you want to save your work), and subsequent login with your newly created password, you will be transported onto your ToonDoo homepage. The colourful, cartoony top drop down menus will allow you to do a variety of things, mainly:
Toons Menu: to view your and other people's toons;
Books Menu: to browse through your books and those uploaded by others;
Dooers: to edit your profile;
Tools: to create comic strips and books;
Contests: to enter 'Compleetoons' and 'Toonaments' (ToonDoo style competitons)
Galleries: to view favourite creations
Etc: online help in the form of wikis, blogs and forums.
The home page is quite colourful: with clickable screenshots of the latest and most popular toons uploaded. You will be able to browse through them and get an idea of what can be done with ToonDoo. The presentation below, by Lisa Davidson (previously published on Wauchope IT Wiki), explains the basic features of the application:
Your First Comic Strip
To create your first comic strip, click the light blue Toons menu on the top left hand side of the screen. The first time round your My Toondoo page will naturally be empty. You will see some icons on the top right hand side of the screen. Click on the ToonDoo Maker icon on the top right hand side of the screen (the icon will look like 3 grey boxes, which will change colour when you hover over them with the mouse) to start your first comic strip. Your canvas will load and you will be prompted to choose a page layout first.
To start filling in your comic strip, you can do one of the following things:
1. The easiest way is obviously to use the application's pre-loaded backgrounds and cliparts. There are a good number of pre-loaded graphics however they are obviously somehow limited. To access them, click on the top menu and choose between characters, backgrounds, props, speech bubbles, etc.
2. Alternatively, you may choose to be more creative by either uploading your own pictures from your computer or from the web, or even create your own free-hand drawings. This can be done by clicking on the set of icons at the bottom right hand side of the screen. Clicking on the DoodleR button will enable you to draw free-hand backgrounds or pictures which you can fully move around the screen. The TraitR button will enable you to create characters (or avatars, if you wish) to star in your creation (either cartoony or upload your own picture for a realistic character). Finally, the ImagineR button will enable you to either import pictures from a fixed location or from the web.
Whilst working away, at the bottom of the screen, you will also notice a variety of tools which are staple of simple doodle makers and paint programs: such as clone, flip or rotate a graphic, send a picture to back/front, etc, which will help you get the effect you desire.
Saving and Sharing your ToonDoo
When you feel that your ToonDoo is ready, you can click on the ToonDoo Main Menu button on the top left hand side of the screen, and click on the save icon (a proverbial blue floppy disk!). You can decide whether your ToonDoo is going to be public, private or to be shared by amongst friends only. You can also choose to have your comic re-doable by others, i.e. let others edit it. Like any Web 2.0 widget, your ToonDoo comic can be embedded into most other websites. To view your embed code, click on the Toons Menu and scroll down to My Toondoos. Select the comic that you wish to embed or share, and click on the Embed icon (<>) to grab the code, or on the email button (envelope icon) to send by email. You can also Tweet it or upload it directly on Facebook too. Alternatevly, print it or save it onto your PC.
From a Comic to a Strip
Once you have created your first comic, you will also be able to create a complete strip, or ToonDoo Book (if you try to create a book without having a comic first, you will be told that you can't). To do so, click on the Books menu on top of the screen and then on My ToonBooks. If you already have some books saved they will show up here: if you want to create a new one, click on the Book Maker icon on the top left hand side of the screen (it should illuminate bright green upon mouse over) and you will be able to drag and drop your comics into the book.
Following other similar online applications, ToonDoo also offers users some social networking traits: the possibility to tag, comment and flag other people's comics, and also the possibility to allow others to re-do (edit) your work. It also allows you to add ToonDoo friends and communicate through private messages (called Bubble Bauble - accessible from the Etc menu). A word of advice: ToonDoo doesn't screen its entries: although there is a great number of educators using the application, it is important for teachers to check out other people's comic strips throughly before sharing with their students.
Sites to Remember:
Wauchope IT Wiki: http://wauchopeit.wikispaces.com/Toondoo