What if Mary Poppins joined the faculty at Humboldt State? Would we soon be asking her why her students are so eager and engaged? My guess is that she might remind us, “In ev’ry job that must be done there is an element of fun …Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down … In a most delightful way …”.
One of the ways we can add a spoonful of sugar to learning is by incorporating comics (comic books, comic strips, cartoons). Cartoons purchased from Randy Glasbergen ($20 each in 2005) add both visual interest and engagement by anchoring course concepts in a whimsical way.
More simple messages can be conveyed with comic strips. I experimented with Comic Boom software ($20) and found it easy to create a sample comic strip in less than an hour.
An even faster and easier option is to use MakeBeliefsComix.com to generate a 2-4 panel comic strip. I created one in minutes! Although it’s free, the output is a URL or to the printer only (not PDF or GIF).
I noticed that Ruben Puentedura will be offering a two-day immersive study workshop at this year’s New Media Consortium conference at CSU Monterey (June 9-10) titled, Making Comics into Interactive Media: A Hands-on, Two-Day Digital Storytelling Production. Participants will be using ComicLife (comic book software for the Mac only) and Pachyderm (open source) software for production of their stories.
Comic books can be created to both offer course content and by students to tell the story themselves to illustrate their grasp of particular course concepts. I was fascinated to see that Google introduced their new browser, Chrome, by telling the product story in a graphic novel. Professors at Duke Law School created a comic book on copyright law – one of the most challenging subjects out there! Creating comics can integrate kinesthetic, visual, reading, and writing learning styles for our students. Since I’m not an artist myself and use a PC, I found Comic Book Creator 2 software ($30 download). I was surprised how exciting and easy it was to create my own graphic novel.
Isn’t this the same reaction we want from our students as they explore learning in our classes? What ideas do you have on how comics could be used for your students?
-Joan Van Duzer