At the risk of sounding too much like a fanboy – I just have to say it one more time – love Toondoo and Zoho. This is nothing new for me since I’ve been sort of an evangelist for the past couple of years now. However, they continue to surprise me with how much they pay attention to their users and how responsive they are to suggestions or comments. With regard to Toondoo, back in Dec. 2007, I included them in my end of year list of the Top 12 Web 2.0 Tools. In that post I lamented the fact that I had wanted to use Toondoo with the elementary schools kids where I run the after-school Tech Club, but that I wouldn’t do it because there was too much inappropriate content on the site – mostly lame attempts at adult humor in cartoon format. Within a day or two of that post I received an email from Toondoo telling me that they had added a safe search button at the top of each page and a personal setting that can be turned on to not show any content that has been flagged as inappropriate. I was impressed with their responsiveness, but not terribly impressed with the solutions. I would still have very little control over whether the students turned on the safe search button, except when they were right in the classroom with me. Alas, I had them complete their comic strip projects using a far inferior, but safe, comic creation tool at MakeBeliefsComix.
Then, earlier this month I included Toondoo in my post of the free web tools that I would be willing to pay for. My caveat here was that I would be willing to pay for the tool in order to use it with the youngsters if they could give me a protected environment – think of something like a Ning site which can be password protected, but where the group members could create, share, comment upon, and otherwise do everything that you can do on the regular site, but only with your fellow group members. Sort of a fully-featured gated community for young toondudes.
Lo and behold, I received an e-mail from Rajendran D. of Jambav within just a few days of making that post. TPTB at Jambav thought that was a good idea and were especially intrigued that I had even offered to pay for it. They are proposing that I be a beta tester for their new branded sites opportunity. They will provide a unique URL such as LakeSuperior.toondoo.com and allow me to host the members of my choosing. They are thinking that this service will probably sell for about $50 US per year, but they are offering it for free to me as a beta tester to use it with the students and to report back to them with suggestions and comments. This isn’t yet a totally done deal, but I’m confident that I will be able to try this out with the Tech Club when school starts up again in the fall.
Jambav is owned by Adventnet, which is a profitable software development company. Zoho is also owned by Adventnet, which gives them a potent 1-2 punch in my book. The most recent moment of Zen for me regarding Zoho tools was when I was presenting at the Tennessee Board of Regents Summer Institute last month (TBR08). I did two sessions on Zoho tools that were well attended and well received. There were many times that jaws dropped during those sessions as people saw some of the functionality that they didn’t know existed, or hadn’t taken the time to investigate. I always say that I think the Zoho suite is far advanced over Google Docs and Spreadsheets, and a few Google users confirmed what I was thinking about the power that is Zoho. I also did a session there about Toondoo, and there were so many great ideas about how to use comic strips for both student projects and for other purposes related to online courses and programs. For example, (1) make a Toonbook of frequently asked questions, (2) have students prepare a comic strip to introduce themselves at the beginning of the class, (3) instructor-created comic strip or toonbook as a topic teaser (introducing a new topic before more in-depth study), and several others.