Archive for the ‘education’ Category

Fight Back Against Bullying with the Power Within

Friday, May 20th, 2011

Today’s the last day to donate to the Kickstarter campaign for The Power Within, an anti-bullying and anti-suicide comic by Charles “Zan” Christensen and Mark Brill, with new additional pages by Gail Simone, Phil Jiminez, Carla Speed McNeil, Dan Parent, Donna Barr and Andy Mangels. The comic was originally created for 24-Hour Comics Day last year, then self-published and sold at a few conventions, and now they’re looking to fund a much larger print run to spread the message. As of this writing, they’ve reached their goal of $3000, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t donate.

  • Pledge $10 for a copy of the book
  • Pledge $25 to receive an 11×17 print of the cover art
  • Pledge $125 for a complete collection of Northwest Press books
  • Pledge $500 or more for all of the above, plus a ticket to the 23rd Annual Lambda Literary Awards, including the cocktail reception and VIP afterparty

No one’s taken them up on the ticket offer (tickets for the awards + party are normally $150), but there’s still 3 hours left on the project and it is going to a good cause.

(via Bleeding Cool)

Polish Foreign Ministry Shocked by Chopin Bio

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

Comics are a great way to teach kids about subjects that might otherwise be a bit dry for them, so The Polish Foreign Ministry and the Polish Embassy in Berlin commissioned a graphic biography about the life of composer Frederic Chopin to make his life more accessible to German students. Unfortunately, the actual work went beyond accessible into “highly inappropriate” territory: the book is peppered with profanity and homophobic remarks (sometimes appearing together, like “f@#%ing fag-holocaust”).

The entire print run was destroyed, and disciplinary action would have been taken against the person responsible but for one little detail:

“In reality it was a mistake made by an employee at the Embassy in Berlin,” Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski told Radio Zet mid-week.

“And the one thing that I regret is that I can’t fire that person for making such a scandalous decision, because [he or she] no longer works for the Foreign Ministry.”

With circumstances such as that, I’m left wondering if it was a genuine mistake, or an act of bitter malice by a departing employee.

(via Comics Alliance)

Out and About: C2E2

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Just a heads up that Ian and I will be in Chicago for C2E2 this weekend. You’ll find us wandering around the convention center Friday–Sunday, and perhaps Ian will stop by Podcast Alley for a bit, so just ask around if you need us.

Nonfiction comic panels of interest:

Departing the Text: Teaching Inference with Graphic Novels
Friday, March 18
12:15 pm – 1:15 pm

This presentation will demonstrate why graphic novels should be included in middle and high school curriculum to build and support teaching inference, metaphor, and abstract thinking. It will also provide suggested lesson plans and classroom discussion forums using selected/recommended graphic novels.

CSC: Representing Science and Medicine in Comics
Saturday, March 19
3:30 pm – 4:30 pm

MK Czerwiec (Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine) provides a detailed summary of the growing field of “Graphic Medicine,” the inclusion of graphic narratives as text and method in medical school humanities programs. David E. Beard (University of Minnesota Duluth) explores the undertheorization of the use of the graphic literary form for the evocation and inculcation of values—specifically, values about science.

CSC: The Difficulty of Definition: Autobiographical Comics, Black Sci-Fi, Comics in the Classroom
Saturday, March 19
5:30 pm – 7:00 pm

Ji-Hyae Park (Roosevelt University) examines how Julie Doucet’s 365 and Lynda Barry’s What It Is challenge the critique of autobiographical comics as navel gazing and elitist by reframing the creation of art as an everyday experience. Jiba Molei Anderson (Illinois Institute of Art–Schaumburg) explains what “Black Sci-Fi” is. Christina Blanch (Ball State University) looks at anthropology students’ attitudes regarding comics and their use in the classroom with Y: The Last Man as the sample.

Drawing Fire: Editorial Cartooning in a Partisan Age
Sunday, March 20
12:45 pm – 1:45 pm

There was a time when the loudest and strongest voice heard above the din on any political issue was the editorial cartoon, jumping off the page in dramatic black and white. In today’s climate of vitriolic banter and self-righteous talking heads, where does the editorial cartoon fit in? A panel of internationally known editorial cartoonists discuss their genre of cartooning in today’s changing media and political landscape. They will discuss how new media is reshaping how they reach an audience. They will share some of their recent more controversial cartoons, talk about reader reaction and impact, and share some cartoons that were killed by the editor because they were too controversial to print. Listen closely. Despite the decline of newspapers, editorial cartoonists can still be heard above the din.

Grammar Isn’t Just a Word

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

Learning a language is about more than just learning what words mean what; it’s also about learning how those words work together. This is the essence of grammar, a subject that even native speakers have trouble grasping at times. Jack Krumb, a teacher of English in Scotland has started working on his own “guide to grammar,” posting it one page at a time online.

The comic is taking a very nuts-and-bolts approach to the subject, and he only started last month, so we haven’t gotten past the concept of nouns. Even so, each page is chock-full of information: a definition of morphology, concrete and abstract nouns, and count and mass nouns. For so few pages, it feels like a lot of ground has been covered, without any sense of rushing through each topic. He’s also introducing a supporting cast which includes his son, daughter, and a cute cat.

Though the art isn’t the most polished, to focus on it would be missing the point, as it gets the job done. This project looks promising, and I’ve learned so much already. Hopefully he’ll see it through to the end.

(via Comics Worth Reading)

Manifested Destiny

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Last week the popular computer game The Oregon Trail made its way to Facebook, courtesy of The Learning Company and Blue Fang Games. For those too old or young to have experienced it, The Oregon Trail was a computer game created in 1974 where the player assumed the role of a settler in 1848 traveling on the historic Oregon Trail from Independence, Missouri to Oregon City. The game was well-known among students as it seemed to be installed on every single school computer (which were usually Apples) and teachers often had students play it during computer class instead of actually teaching them anything. I suppose it had the virtue of making it so that kids learned a handful of basic computer skills with some American history on the side, but what people really remember is dying of dysentery and writing funny things on their headstones.

I’ve been playing the Facebook conversion and it’s not bad. Because this is Facebook, it’s had some of the mandatory social elements tacked on—you can use your friends as members of your party (and subsequently watch them suffer from scurvy) and you can assist friends who are playing the game by fixing their wagon or hunting for them. Hunting, by far the most popular gameplay element of the original, is no longer limited by how many bullets you have (bullets are actually unlimited), but by how much energy you have. Energy refills over real time, so you can log off and come back to a full energy bar. Because time stands still in the game when you log out, it’s actually far easier than the original computer versions. So far no one’s died of dysentery or cholera, my wagon only turned over once in a river, and I only actually lost the game once, when I failed to reach Oregon before winter came. The game stacks, so items and money earned in a previous attempt carry over when you restart in Missouri, and it’s actually easier as you level up.

There’s also a real life monetary element to the Facebook version, where you can use your real money to purchase “Trail Notes,” which are used to buy really useful items and favors in the game. However, the game is easy enough you’ll never really need these extra perks.

The Oregon Trail is one way to make westward settlement come alive for today’s youth, another recent interpretation is Nick Bertozzi’s graphic novel adaptation of the journey of Lewis and Clark. The book is set for release next week (February 15), but right now you can take a look at his overall creative process on the First Second Blog. He goes through five overall steps: writing, layout, penciling, inking, and digital manipulation. It’s really interesting to see a page go from a rough layout to a finished page, and it will be even more exciting to see the entire work when it’s released.

The Glorious Struggle

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Communism has been on a lot of people’s minds lately, though perhaps for the wrong reasons, with many people equaling socialism to communism, the better to make villains out of those who promote socialist policies by associating them with the big bogeyman of the 20th Century.

George Rigakos is also creating heroes and villains, but from the opposite side of things. He’s adapting the Communist Manifesto into a series of graphic novels from Red Quill Books, in order to teach his students political economy at Carleton University. According to him, “The original work of Marx and Engels focused on the bourgeoisie, the proletariat and their heroes – the Communists.”

The adaptation will be broken up into four parts, each focusing on a different group. The first book, “Historical Materialism” is available now in English for under $20. The books are also set for release in French, German, and Spanish.

Check out some interior art in the book trailer:

(via Bleeding Cool)

Experiments Gone Awry

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Textbooks often contain these short sections at the end of chapters where they “quiz” the student on what they’ve learned from that particular chapter; or maybe they’ll ask questions that are intended to inspire further speculation, to get the reader to apply the concepts they’ve learned into a more practical context.

Selenia is a science comic that chooses the latter tack. It follows the adventures of a girl from another planet who tires of the simplistic lessons from her own school and ends up trying to explore more “advanced” exercises, which are really more akin to magic and remind me of Harry Potter. She steals a book that guides her to our own world, and eventually into the distant past. Simple scientific and historical facts are subtly integrated into each chapter of the story…perhaps a little too subtle. Most of the intellectual heavy-lifting is meant to be done by the students, as they answer the questions posed by Selenia throughout the adventure.

By requiring that the students have a textbook on hand, Selenia displays a lack of confidence in the comics medium to teach.

Out and About: New York Comic Con 2010

Monday, September 27th, 2010

The New York Comic Con schedule is up, and while it’s a little light on events dealing specifically with nonfiction comics this year, there are a few points of interest:

Rationalizing Comics and Sequential Art in the Classroom
Friday, October 8
3:15 pm – 4:15 pm

This workshop will feature educators discussing their reasons for bringing comics/sequential art into the classroom, focusing on both reading and generating comics. Practical suggestions, along with evidence illustrating student learning, is discussed. Participants will be encouraged to bring ideas for discussion in small groups.

Extending Conversations about Graphic Novels
Friday, October 8
4:15 pm – 5:15 pm

Educators will discuss how to use graphic novels to extend learning beyond literal comprehension, including engaging in critical literacy activities. Social studies, art, and English/language arts educators will be paired to discuss how to make cross-curricular conversations and move students’ understandings beyond the classroom. Participants will engage in an activity which pushes them to think beyond the confines of the classroom walls.

Remembering Harvey Pekar
Friday, October 8
4:30 pm – 5:30 pm

After 35 years of innovating in—having virtually invented—the personal comics genre with his American Splendor series, Cleveland’s Harvey Pekar died this past July, in the middle of several projects finished and unfinished. This panel celebrates Pekar’s life and work. It includes Harvey’s editor on The Pekar Project, Jeff Newelt; artist on Harvey’s The Quitter and other works, Dean Haspiel; Peter Kuper, who not only has drawn for Harvey, but as a comics-loving kid in Cleveland, spent much time hanging out and learning from him; and Rick Parker, an artist on The Pekar Project. The panel is moderated by Danny Fingeroth, who memorably interviewed Harvey at The YIVO Institute in 2009, and wrote of Harvey’s importance in The Rough Guide to Graphic Novels. Some surprise last minute guests may appear on the panel, as well.

Comics and Graphic Novels in the Secondary English/Language Arts Classroom
Saturday, October 9
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

Educators who utilize texts in the secondary English/language arts curriculum will discuss practical ideas for including particular graphic novels in the classroom. In particular, educators will discuss how to embed graphic novels in the traditional curriculum by connecting graphic novels/comics with canonical texts and helping students create their own texts. Educators will think through criteria they can create to evaluate appropriate gns for curricular adoption.

Political Cartoonists
Saturday, October 9
5:15 pm – 6:15 pm

Join some of the best, current political cartoonists!

Unusual Manga Genres
Saturday, October 9
8:45 pm – 9:45 pm

Thanks to the importing of manga you can read veterinarian manga, salaryman manga, fishing manga, and manga about baking bread! Erin and Noah from the Ninja Consultant podcast present the absolutely most insane manga titles available in English – and a few titles which won’t be translated anytime soon.

The Sons of Liberty, a Graphic Novel: The New World of Historical Fiction
Sunday, October 10
11:00 am – 12:00 pm

The Sons of Liberty, a new graphic-novel quartet for middle grade readers and beyond tells the story of two young slaves in the wake of the Revolutionary War. History is brought to life in full color by the illustration of Marvel Comics veteran Steve Walker and Oren Kramek. Join authors Alexander Lagos and Joseph Lagos and illustrators Steve Walker and Oren Kramek in conversation about the creation of this new series.

Culinary Manga
Sunday, October 10
1:45 pm – 2:45 pm

Competitive bread baking manga Yakitate!! Japan is just the tip of the culinary manga iceberg in Japan! Join Erin and Noah of the Ninja Consultant podcast as they discuss manga about gourmet food critics (Oishinbo), pastry chef manga (Antique Bakery), and several series about wine (Drops of God, La Sommelier).

In addition, you’ll be able to see Ian (and his friends) talk about podcasting and blogging at the…podcasting and blogging panel. Check it:

A Geek’s Guide to Podcasting and Blogging
Friday, October 8
6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Room 1A17

This panel is designed to show how to start and promote your very own podcast. The world of podcasting has grown by leaps and bounds over the last five years and many people do not have a clear guide on how to podcast. This panel will walk you steps of podcasting and give advice on all aspects of having your own show.

You’ll find Ian at the Comic Timing booth (table 524) in Podcast Alley on Friday and Saturday (near the events stage), while I’ll be mostly wandering the floor and panels for those two days. We’ll both be absent on Sunday due to a prior personal engagement.

Making Genetics a Little Less Alien

Friday, September 24th, 2010

The explanation of how DNA works can be as complicated as the organisms it helps put together. And yet, because this knowledge is essential to understanding the entire field of biology, we expect students to learn all about this alphabet soup, from ATGC to XX and XY.

In The Stuff of Life: A Graphic Guide to Genetics and DNA, writer Mark Schultz and artists Zander and Kevin Cannon attempt to construct a comprehensive primer that not only explains each component and how each process works, but to make sure they come together into a  complete picture, better to ensure a true understanding of the subjects rather than a disconnected series of facts. They do this by wrapping it up in a science fiction framework, taking us to the the distant planet of Glargal. There,  the sea-cucumber-like invertebrate Squinch have fallen upon hard times; an unspecified genetic disorder is starting to affect the asexual populace, and their best scientists have been tasked with finding out why. Bloort 183, a scientist with the Royal Science Academy, believes the answer lies in the genetic diversity of Earth’s biology—but first, he must explain how it all works to His Supreme Highness Floorish 727.

The reader basically stands at the side of Floorish 727 as Bloort lays it all out, starting with the most complicated concepts first—how the molecules all come together—and eventually working his way up to the cellular level, trait inheritance, and finally practical applications of this increased genetic knowledge. It might not seem like a good idea to start with the hardest stuff first, but as Bloort explains, knowing how it works on the molecular level is essential to understanding everything that comes after. I can concur, coming from an educational background where the concept of inherited traits was introduced first, without any explanation of the underlying mechanics, and then years later did I only learn the rest, which only served to confuse me. Reading this book stitched everything together into a cohesive narrative, and I do feel I have a better grasp now.

Not that I would recommend replacing a traditional textbook with this graphic guide; the science fiction premise may cause some to take it less seriously, and the artists’ tendency to anthropomorphize the molecules in order to facilitate understanding sometimes obscures the actual chemical process—no good for those who are looking to study genetics beyond this primer. But for those who just need a solid conceptual understanding, this is a good way to go. Each step is delightfully illustrated, and when the content starts to get too heavy the writer is fully aware of the problem, having Floorish stop to summarize each section in case he (and we) missed anything.

At 142 pages (plus a glossary) The Stuff of Life may not seem long, but it’s one of the densest graphic books I’ve ever read. It treats its subject and its readers intelligently, and appropriately enough for a comic, with plenty of humor. Highly recommended.

* Note: Try to get a copy of the second edition if it exists; the first edition reprinted page 44 twice, accidentally replacing page 36.

The Stuff of Life: a graphic guide to genetics and DNA
written by Mark Schultz
illustrated by Zander Cannon and Kevin Cannon
edited by Howard Zimmerman
published by Hill and Wang (New York, 2009)
ISBN 978-0-8090-8938-3

Learning by Creating

Monday, September 20th, 2010

Even though it seems like you don’t see them in comic stores much anymore, kids do love comics—just check the graphic novel section of your local library, you’re bound to see dozens of volumes torn up from being read so much, and there might even be a child there, flipping through a manga or trade paperback collection.

Many educators recognize the power of comics to get kids reading, and nowhere it is more apparent in the goals of The Comic Book Project (a flagship program of the Center of Educational Pathways). According to their “about” page,

The Comic Book Project engages children in a creative process leading to literacy reinforcement, social awareness, and character development, then publishes and distributes their work for other children in the community to use as learning and motivational tools.

The children are walked through the comic creation process step-by-step, from brainstorming ideas (on a chosen socially-relevant theme) to writing a script and creating the artwork. All of the completed projects receive a spot in the online art gallery, while some work will be selected to appear in a district- or city-specific comic book to be printed and distributed nationwide by Dark Horse Comics.

Some of these comics are available on the website, and the themes are meant to reflect the concerns of today’s youth. Most of these deal with social situations, teaching about leadership, conflict resolution, and teamwork; another tackles environmental concerns, which is usually a hot-button topic with kids (it certainly was when I was young). Especially relevant to today’s world is the comic dealing with financial responsibility, funded by the New York State Banking Department and written and drawn by various groups of kids from New York City.

Then there is the more general topic of “I am a Superhero,” where it seems the kids were largely left to interpret what this meant for themselves. Some chose to create superheroes along more traditional lines, while others chose to think of ways one could be super without superpowers. Some of these comics were collected into city and statewide publications, and eight are available to download on the official site.

The founder of the program, Michael Bitz Ed.D, has written two books about The Comic Book Project—Manga High:
Literacy, Identity, and Coming of Age in an Urban High School
(published by Harvard Education Press) and When Commas Meet Kryptonite: Classroom Lessons from the Comic Book Project (published by Teachers College Press).