(De)constructing Learning with Toontastic & MinecraftEdu

by Andy Russell
October 8, 2013

toontastic and minecrafteduEducational psychology has long recognized the impact of informal learning in child development. In fact, most educators and psychologists believe that young students learn more from other kids with shared perspectives and experiences than from adults so far removed from childhood. Whether at home, on the playground, or in the classroom, students assimilate, construct, and in-turn teach and reflect on new knowledge better in informal peer communities than more traditional “instructivist” settings.

So wouldn’t it be amazing if we could build a community for kids to swap stories and teach each other about the world around us?

Well… yes! This week, our team at Launchpad Toys is excited to announce an exciting new partnership with the teachers of MinecraftEdu and share what we believe to be a powerful model for educators and developers to co-construct social learning spaces – both inside and outside the classroom.

We call our project “Toon Academy: Minecraft.” It’s like Khan Academy, but “for kids, by kids” to create “How Toons,” teaching each other tips and tricks they’ve learned in Minecraft. Our goals are three-fold:

  1. Engage kids in self-reflection about what they’re learning through play.
    Minecraft is a remarkably open-ended tool that teachers are using to explore a broad array of curricula from Physics to Free-Market Economics. As they prep their “How Toons,” our kid-creators hone their understandings as much as they would through a science report or a five-paragraph-essay, but in a way that’s both accessible and shareable.
  2. Foster strong presentation skills.
    Throughout the app and the accompanying materials (a “Mission Plan” for the classroom and a “Toytivity” for home), we walk kids through our own tips and tricks for blending a strong presentation with a good story. From boardroom slide decks to Kickstarter videos, presentation skills are paramount in today’s creative workforce – and a great story is the foundation of a great presentation.
  3. Curate a vast library of kid-created “How Toons” freely accessible to the world.
    Until October 17, we’re hosting a contest to find the best Minecraft lessons on ToonTube. The contest is open to every Toontastic creator (download Toontastic: FREE or Toontastic: All Access) and the cartoons created can be watched online by anyone in the world.

This sounds great, but how is it relevant to the larger EdTech community?

As excited as we are about Toon Academy: Minecraft (and let’s be honest, cartoons + Minecraft = bees knees + cats pajamas), the true promise lies in its model for interdisciplinary collaboration between developers, educators, and kids. Start with a topic that students are passionate about (Minecraft), throw in a constructionist learning environment that empowers them to create and share content (Toontastic), and mix in a community of educators (MinecraftEdu) to provide teaching resources (lesson plans) and scaffold open and constructive discourse.

For years, too many developers and educators have overlooked the remarkable potential of informal learning communities beyond the classroom and outside of the (software) box. With the tools afforded us today, we finally have the opportunity to collaboratively create new learning spaces “for kids, by kids” – communities where kids can share, reflect, and teach each other about the world around us.

We hope all you developers and educators out there will join us in creating social learning communities like Toon Academy: Minecraft. In the meantime, we’ll happily settle for a few tips on avoiding creepers. 🙂

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