How I Use It
I have used Toca Builders primarily with Pre-K and kindergarten students as a tool for them to engage in open-ended creation, similar to the Minecraft building that many of them have seen their siblings work on. Students have worked individually and in small groups to create buildings and imaginary lands and I have also used the app as a way for students to express ideas and tell a story. The app is great for app-smashing because it gives students a blank "canvas" where they can use easily manipulated tools to construct places, structures, and characters that can then be used in a movie, Toontastic cartoon, or other form of digital storytelling.
I think there is a lot of potential to use this app as a tool to support storytelling and creative expression. You could invite students to use the app as a place to brainstorm ideas and settings for a story or as a place to re-create a story they have read in class in a new way. Since the app allows students to add and remove characters, it could also be a way to animate math (e.g., adding and subtracting blocks or painted areas) and it could be a great way for students to create basic models of new places or time periods that they are learning about (e.g., the triassic period or a city in Africa). Although the app does not allow students to use multiple builders at a time, I found that this encouraged students to work collaboratively and negotiate roles, which is an important part of social-emotional development for young students.
I like that the app is easy for young children to use but also complex, in that it provides six different types of builders who work in unique ways and allow for different forms of (de)construction. I think the in-app camera function is great because it makes it easy to app-smash and combine students' creations from Toca Builders with other apps. I wish it were possible for students to have usernames in the app and to know which students are working on which projects. It would also be great if you could export a panoramic view or 360 video of students' creations.