Monday, June 29, 2009

Cartoonist - Sharing Stories with Cartoons

Cartoonist is one of the tools available from Creaza, another great web space that motivates kids to tell stories, and share them with others. I love these sites because they are such fun and really encourage kids to learn at the same time. You'll recall I have shared several such sites recently, like PhotoPeach, My Story Maker, and Glogster.

The first thing I love about
Cartoonist is its interface. It really is clear and fairly intuitive. (Though In typical Book Chook fashion, I worked it out by stumbling aro ... ahem ... I mean exploring, then later discovered a great video that explains the process. If you want a faster learning curve, try the video.)

The second thing I liked about Cartoonist was the choices they give in tools you can use. Once you've signed up, and go to the Tools page, you'll see a range of different cartoon universes. There are fairy tale universes - eg Red Riding Hood, Three Billy Goats Gruff; historical universes - eg Egypt, The Post War Period; a very cute future universe; manga universe and others.

Choose a universe, and you go to your creating screen where several other tools await. In your right sidebar, there's a choice of backgrounds, characters, props etc. The toolbars above your creating screen have standard clear icons to add further details like speech bubbles, change fonts, delete. Characters' moods can be changed slightly, as can the time of day for the background you pick.

To make my Red Riding Hood cartoon, I began by choosing the background I wanted for my first frame (called a "slide"). I chose Red's house in my right sidebar, dragged it to my blank canvas mid screen, and voila! Next I clicked "characters" in the right sidebar, prompting a scrollable bar of thumbnails to appear. Being a conventional sort of Chook, I chose one of several available Mothers and one of the Red Riding Hoods, dragging them to the main canvas with my mouse. I added a basket of goodies, resisted adding an assortment of animals just because they were available, and chose my speech bubbles and text boxes. (I kept my text simple because I was making a demo, but I plan to test Cartoonist further soon to see how much text I can add.) Click the speech bubble, then click the canvas and drag it open. Adding text was a simple matter of clicking inside the bubble or text box.

Clicking on New brought up my second slide, and I repeated the process I'd followed in slide one. Different tools allowed me to change position or even flip an item.

Kids will have such fun with Cartoonist! There are all sorts of other goodies like a free-hand drawing tool, and a wonderful undo tool for when you think you've accidentally lost all your work. (!) I would encourage them just to play with it a while, then plan the story they want to create, thinking about how much they will present in dialogue, and how much as narrative. The great thing: Creaza is very forgiving and allows you to make an infinite number of changes until you're happy with your work.

Another point worthy of admiration from me is the help the Creaza people gave me after I contacted them. I wanted to be able to embed the cartoon I made for this post, but unfortunately that feature isn't available until August. Still, if you click on
this link, it will take you to my page where you can check out the demo cartoon I made. Click on the Red Riding Hood cartoon, then I suggest you press the button that looks like four arrows are trying to escape from each other to get full screen, and then hit "esc" on your keyboard to come back to normal view. Advancing slide by slide is a better option than pressing the play button if you want time to read the words.

Soon, I hope to be able to show you the next tool I'm learning - Creaza's Movie Editor. Creaza have just introduced a function where you can import your cartoon and make a little movie from it. How cool is that! And they will have a tutorial video about Movie Editor in August too.

You'll find more detailed instructions on the
Cartoonist Help page. Don't panic if a page sometimes comes up in Norwegian. I found that closing, and trying again later, brought me an English version. Blog posts have also started recently in English. I urge you to share Cartoonist with any youngster who would enjoy a fresh opportunity to express himself with words and images.

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