At a time when standardized tests get a lot of attention, it’s comforting to know that there are entrepreneurs out there who believe in the power of narrative and fight to preserve students’ imaginations. Launchpad Toys, the edutech startup that aims to encourage creativity in kids, has just released results to their mini research study. The study looked at the effectiveness of their flagship storytelling app, Toontastic. Toontastic lets kids create animated stories with the goal of improving creative expression and encouraging imaginative play. Their recent study, led by Cognitive & Developmental Psychologist, Alicia Chang, measured how the Toontastic app improved young children’s storytelling through character development, language usage, and emotional expressiveness specifically.
The study observed students in a fourth-grade classroom in Menlo Park, California. A class of 20 students were split up into pairs or groups of three who used Toontastic to create stories, which you can check out here: http://toontube.launchpadtoys.com/director/Mrsyoungstudent/. Students created three different stories over three play sessions in one week.
While creativity can be a bit tricky to measure, we asked Launchpad co-founder, Andy Russell, how they break down its components to drill into whether their app is succeesful at achieving this goal. He explained that while creativity “means a whole lot of things to a whole lot of different people,” there are specific components that are measurable:
There are lots of ways to test Divergent Thinking, for example, which is one’s ability to see things not for what they are, but for what they could be (“gee that brick would make an excellent paperweight”). In the case of Toontastic, we’re doing our best to drill down and measure quantifiable metrics through qualitative measures – i.e. how many character voices does the child introduce? how many adjectives and emotions does he reference? etc. With this, we can track the complexity and progression of kids’ storytelling and offer some feedback along the way… which I think is generally a good thing.
Although an admittedly small sample size, they found that the students improved across all three measurements: Character Development, Emotional Expression, and Descriptive Language.
- Students used more characters per story over each session throughout the week.
- The number of characters used repeatedly increased over the week, which points to more complex narratives and improved character development.
- The study found that “students expressed more distinct moods and energy levels in later story sessions, adding greater complexity and depth to character and plot development over time.”
- Characters also experienced a greater range of emotional ups and downs as kids experimented with bringing real-life situations into their stories.
- Use of descriptive language increased over the three storytelling sessions, especially between the second and third days.
- They also found that “The number of characters voiced increased by session, making the students’ stories more dynamic and engaging.”