Project PenPal: Peer Learning in a 21st Century Classroom

Andy Russell / 04.15.2014 /  0

With powerful new tools at their fingertips, educators today are breaking through school walls to connect classrooms to the real world and offer students perspective and context beyond their textbooks. Thanks to tools like the iPad and Google Hangouts, word problems and field trips are giving way to live video chats with NASA astronauts and collaborative online productions of Shakespeare that reinforce learning goals and have the potential to improve both transfer and student engagement. Inspired by the ingenuity of “connected classroom” teachers around the world, we set out this fall to explore how students might also benefit from connecting with other kids through shared storytelling and peer review. Today, we’re excited to share a short video about “Project PenPal”, a few takeaways we gathered from our exploration, and some tips for creating your own connected classrooms project.

At Launchpad Toys, we build creativity tools like Toontastic: School Edition that empower students of all ages to create and share content with kids around the world. Since releasing Toontastic three years ago, we’ve been amazed by the millions of creative stories students have drawn, animated, and narrated on our online network. The greatest surprise, however, has been the remarkable creativity of teachers bridging digital storytelling with math and science for students to create everything from geological reports to tutorials on fractions.

Moved by our “Toontastic Teachers”, we reached out this fall to a pair of schools (one in Ohio, the other in California) to explore an idea: what if we connected two science classrooms for students to create and peer-review animated lab reports? Might students learn from the insights, feedback, and stories of their peers just as they would a NASA astronaut? We know that it can be hard to teach concepts like “hypothesis” and “experimental design” – could we adapt Toontastic’s Story Arc (setup, conflict, climax and resolution) to scaffold students’ understanding of the scientific method and help them tell their own scientific stories (hypothesis, experiment, results and conclusion)?

Project PenPal was a success on many fronts. Students on both sides of the country took quickly to the project and became avid creators. Upon receiving feedback from their peers in Ohio, the California students took it upon themselves to create new reports from the ground up. After viewing the California students’ magnification projects, the Ohio students (who had been building robotic arms for space exploration) insisted (successfully) that their teacher extend the unit to include microscopic study of moon rocks. Their teacher, Leah LaCrosse, reported, “I cannot think of a better tool to get kids to write about science…” then added with a grin, “It takes a little bit longer, but the time that you spend pays off later.”

Whether the project truly pays off later through improved transfer will require more study, but we were happy to see students creating prolifically and clearly engaging with and responding to peer feedback. We credit two factors here – first, that the app provides a very personal and playful connection between students (voice recording, photos, drawings, etc.) and second, that it enables students of all ages to create, share, and iterate on their work quickly with minimal effort and lots of fun. Be it a poster, a comic, a movie, or a cartoon, apps like Toontastic enable today’s students to create engaging accounts of their work in a single class period, share it online, get feedback from other students 2000 miles away, and post a new iteration the next day. Content creation tools like PowerPoint have been in classrooms for decades, but few if any have offered the playful personalization or rapid iteration necessary to bridge the gap from a presentation tool to a social learning platform.

Our second question going into Project PenPal was whether Toontastic’s built-in Story Arc might help scaffold students’ understanding of the scientific method through “scientific storytelling”. Our teachers asked students to create cartoons outlining their hypothesis, experimental design, results, and conclusion – creating one scene for each section. The result was a series of videos that weren’t quite “stories”, but instead very compelling lab reports. We were encouraged by the thoroughness of the students’ presentations, but admittedly longed for a bit more of the backstory behind their investigations. For future projects we’ll explore hybrids of the two scaffolds.

Next Steps
The success of Project PenPal has inspired our team to push further on tools and frameworks for peer learning – not just in the classroom, but within our apps as well. With the help of our teachers in Ohio and California, we’ve created a toolkit for educators to connect their own classrooms and, thanks to our engineers-in-training in Ohio, we recently kicked off phase two of our exploration: prototyping constructive feedback tools for our four million playful storytellers on ToonTube to hone their creative writing skills and learn about the world around us through the stories of their peers.

If you have any questions about Project PenPal or using Toontastic in the classroom, please email us at

Special thanks to Joel Knopf, Hannah Clemmons, Leah LaCrosse, and Mike Harms for steering this project and for inspiring playful (scientific) storytellers around the world.


Teachers: Try Toontastic: School Edition for FREE!

Hannah Clemmons / 04.08.2014 /  0

Here at Launchpad Toys, we’ve been overwhelmed by the number of book trailers, science reports, and persuasive essay cartoons we’ve seen uploaded over the last few years – and the numbers just keep growing!

To help get the word out about Toontastic for Schools, we’re offering a free trial of Toontastic: School Edition to any teacher that wants to use the app in his or her classroom. Just fill out the form on and we’ll send you a promo code to try out Toontastic: School Edition on one iPad. Please share the link with friends, fellow teachers, and your instructional technologist to inspire even more learning via cartoon creation!

Sharing Toontastic at a conference or workshop?
Tell us about your session and we’ll donate a $25 iTunes Gift Card for one of your participants! Here’s what you do:

  1. Email to register a #hashtag for your event or session.
  2. Share at a conference and have participants input your #hashtag as how they heard about Toontastic: School Edition when signing up for a free promo code.
  3. We’ll donate a $25 gift card to one person who signs up to try the app with your hashtag. (Fine print: your hashtag much be used at least 20 times to qualify.)

Here’s an example! If you’re interested in trying out Toontastic: School Edition – fill out this form using #FreeTrialBlogArticle. Then, we’ll enter you to win the $25 Gift Card for this blog post – easy, huh?

As always, the whole team here at Launchpad Toys would like to offer our appreciation and thanks to teachers around the world for what they do, the cartoons they inspire kids to create, and for putting up with all our “overactive imaginations” when we were kids ; )


Saturday Morning Cartoon Contest Montage

Andy Russell / 03.10.2014 /  0

We hosted a “Saturday Morning Cartoons” contest this weekend for all you playful storytellers out there to turn off your TV, get off the couch, and create YOUR OWN cartoons.

Your stories were so amazing that our voters had trouble picking a winner, so instead we decided to honor all of our participants with a highlight montage second only to… well… the greatest montage of all time.

Well done Toontastic Nation. You make EVERY MORNING feel like Saturday Morning!


Happy Birthday Toontastic, You’re 50% Off!

Andy Russell / 02.19.2014 /  0

BLOG HappyBirthday Happy Birthday Toontastic, Youre 50% Off!Mailchimp BirthdaySale Pass Happy Birthday Toontastic, Youre 50% Off!We’re celebrating Toontastic’s third birthday with a sale on our All Access Pass. Unlock every character, setting, and feature in the app for $9.99 – that’s half off!

Don’t worry teachers, Toontastic: School Edition is also on sale for $9.99, making Volume Purchase… wait for it… $4.99!

The All Access Pass includes 50+ playsets chock full of pirates, princesses, fire breathing monsters, and rescue heroes. You’ll also unlock the Toy Camera to add photos to your cartoons, the Special FX pack to create your own Hollywood blockbusters, ProtoToys for designing animated characters, and Video Export for saving your amazing cartoons to your computer or uploading to YouTube.

To unlock the app (and every future update), simply tap the store button on the home menu (or purchase Toontastic: School Edition). We can’t wait to see how our toys spark your imaginations and inspire new stories!


Happy Valentine’s Day!

Andy Russell / 02.12.2014 /  3

From our team at Launchpad Toys to you, our 3 Million playful storytellers around the world, we wish you all a fantastic Valentine’s Day chock full of… well… chocolate!

We’re excited to announce a new update to Toontastic today for you to create and send your own animated photo-valentines with our newest Toy Camera Card. It’s FREE with the update. We can’t wait to see all the valentines you Romeo and Juliets out there create and share on ToonTube.

Happy Tooning!

- Your Friends at Launchpad Toys


Celebrate MLK Day with Toontastic!

Hannah Clemmons / 01.14.2014 /  0

BlogHistory Celebrate MLK Day with Toontastic!
We have a dream – a dream that all kids will get the opportunity to create and learn through storytelling! This week, use Toontastic’s History playset to teach students about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s impact on the world. Here are some resources to get you started:

The Dream Mission Plan
Build social studies vocabulary and comprehension with Matt Gomez’s The Dream Mission Plan. Create and share cartoons about equality and the Civil Rights Movement – plus it’s Common Core-aligned!

Export to Camera Roll
Share your own Dream Cartoons with friends and family on YouTube or Google Drive with Export to Camera Roll – brand new for All Access users!

Go “All Access”
Tell stories with Martin Luther King, Jr., draw your own ProtoToys, and Export to Camera Roll with Toontastic: All Access. Download All Access in the App Store or for 50% off through the Volume Purchase Program.

50schools Celebrate MLK Day with Toontastic!

Any questions?
As always, email me at if you have any ideas or questions about using Toontastic in the classroom!


Toontastic featured by Common Sense Media

Hannah Clemmons / 12.23.2013 /  1

A big thanks to our friends at Common Sense Media for sharing Toontastic as an essential app for your new iPad this holiday season! Watch the video above to find out “What’s ON” for kids this week.

Common Sense Media is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology.

Parents: Head over to to read reviews and discover new media to share with your kids.
Teachers: Sign up for Graphite by Common Sense Media to share and discover apps and ideas for digital curricula.


Tweet to Try Toontastic: All Access

Hannah Clemmons / 12.17.2013 /  2

BlogTweetToTry Tweet to Try Toontastic: All AccessThanks to everyone who tweeted to try Toontastic: All Access! Stay Toon’d for more from #LaunchpadEDU.

Attn: Teachers! Curious about Toontastic: All Access? We want to get Toontastic: All Access into the hands of as many educators as possible and get kids around the world creating cartoons for class. So, for a limited time only, we’re making Toontastic: All Access “Tweet to Try”.

Tweet about Toontastic using the widget below and we’ll send you a copy of Toontastic: All Access to try out in your classroom – it’s open to all educators, limit one copy per teacher while supplies last.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
What’s Toontastic: All Access?
Glad you asked! Toontastic: All Access is a full-featured version of Toontastic designed for schools that comes unlocked with all current and future characters, backgrounds, and features. Create everything from digital book trailers to animated science reports – then export and share them via ToonTube, YouTube, or iMovie : ) Best of all, it’s 50% off for schools via the Volume Purchase Program.

Learn more about using Toontastic: All Access in the classroom on #LaunchpadEDU, our community of educators using Toontastic in creative and innovative ways.

Toontastic Jr.

New App: Toontastic Jr. Kung Fu Panda

Hannah Clemmons / 12.12.2013 /  1

MailChimp KFP New App: Toontastic Jr. Kung Fu Panda
MailChimp KFPIcon New App: Toontastic Jr. Kung Fu Panda
Don’t just watch movies this holiday, CREATE YOUR OWN with our newest app: Toontastic Jr. Kung Fu Panda!

We’re proud to announce that we’ve teamed up again with our friends at DreamWorks Animation to inspire and empower a new generation of actors, directors, and animators to record, remix, and retell movies in their own voice.

MailChimp KFPvideo New App: Toontastic Jr. Kung Fu Panda

12 Classic Scenes
Pick a beginning, middle, and ending… then spark your imagination with “story starter” videos. What happens next?

MailChimp KFPTigress New App: Toontastic Jr. Kung Fu Panda
Action FX
Tap characters onscreen to animate special Kung Fu actions like Tigress’s Flying Kick!

MailChimp KFPDownload.2 New App: Toontastic Jr. Kung Fu Panda
Thank you as always for supporting creative kids around the world!


New Toontastic Feature: Video Export!

Hannah Clemmons / /  0

MailChimp VideoExport.1 New Toontastic Feature: Video Export!
MailChimp VideoExportStarWars New Toontastic Feature: Video Export!

Drumroll please…. at long last, Toontastic has Video Export!

All Access users can now save cartoons to the iPad Camera Roll and import into iMovie, share to YouTube, store them on a computer… anything you’d like. We can’t wait to see all the wacky mashups you imagine like Star Wars Uncut!

MailChimp VideoExportIcon New Toontastic Feature: Video Export!Q: What’s “All Access”?
A: Good question! Toontastic has 50+ playsets full of characters, settings, and features like the Toy Camera, ProtoToys, and Special FX. You can purchase playsets individually, or unlock everything (future sets too) with the All Access Pass in-app purchase, or with Toontastic: All Access.

Thank you for continuing to inspire us with your AMAZING stories – your cartoons make every morning here at LPT Galactic Headquarters feel like Saturday Morning!


Toontastic on Blendspace and Graphite!

Hannah Clemmons / 11.12.2013 /  0

MailChimpBlendspace Toontastic on Blendspace and Graphite!

Thanks to you, educators around the world are using #LaunchpadEDU to find and share ideas for using Toontastic in the classroom! To help spread the word even further, we’re working with more EdTech friends to share Toontastic around the web. Here are a few new lesson ideas for using Toontastic this November:

Grate(ful) Bios on Blendspace
Celebrate Thanksgiving by creating Grate(ful) Biographies on Toontastic. Check out the activity on Blendspace, an online tool for teachers to create and deliver lessons in five minutes to flip classrooms, implement project-based learning, and differentiate instruction.

Story Arc App Flow on Graphite
Looking to dive deeper into the Story Arc? Check out our Story Arc App Flow on Graphite, a free online resource from Common Sense Media for educators to discover, use, and share the best apps, games, websites, and digital curricula.

Where do YOU find inspiration?
We’re always looking for new ways to reach out to and support educators using Toontastic. Help us know where to go next by taking this quick survey so that we can better support your practice in the classroom!
ShareBlog Toontastic on Blendspace and Graphite!

Any questions?
As always, email me at if you have any ideas or questions about Toontastic for education!


Announcing: RescueTek!

Hannah Clemmons / 11.01.2013 /  2

MailchimpRescueTek Announcing: RescueTek!
MailchimpRescueTekBoxes.1 Announcing: RescueTek!
Calling all First Responders!

Do you love action figures as much as we do? Well now we’ve brought that fun to Toontastic!

Stage your own high-flying, deep-sea-diving, wave-crashing rescues – no safety wavers necessary. And if you’re lucky enough to have the new iPad Air, get ready for your closeup with panning and zooming settings.

Save the day – today!

MailchimpRescueTekChopper.1 Announcing: RescueTek!Update Toontastic to help Fin Diesel save Billy Flop, rescue rock climbers with Ali McClaw, then come back home to Rescue Rig. Get 11 new toys, 3 new settings, and dozens of 9-1-1s with the RescueTek bundle for $4.99. RescueTek unlocks automatically for “All Access” users.
button2 1 Announcing: RescueTek!

Thank you for your family’s continued support of playful storytelling. We’re excited to see your awesome rescue tales on ToonTube!