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Archive for June, 2010

OK, you are going to just hang with me for a minute here. I will start by saying that I am not a math teacher, so these are ideas that I think will work, not necessarily ideas I have tried. Since looking in to this whole comics in the classroom idea, I have been thinking more and more of how this can be used in any classroom, even the math classroom. I can hear a whole room full of math teachers either laughing or sighing at this very moment.

“What,” they ask. “I don’t have time to set students loose on the computers for several class periods just so they can make a comic strip. They need to be learning math.”

I admit, this is a valid argument when we look at what teachers are supposed to help student learn over the course of a year. However, we also need to look at this from another point of view and maybe ask a few questions.

  • Are the students really learning all that they are taught in the classroom?
  • Are the students engaged in the classes?
  • Do the students remember what they were taught when the dreaded state test roll around in the Spring?

I am guessing that we all have an idea of how most math teachers would answer these questions.

Having students make comics within the context of the math classroom will help students learn more, remember more, and be more engaged in what they are learning. The hard part is taking the leap and putting students to work in the computer lab. For some, this really is like jumping out of an airplane and hoping that the parachute opens. From a first look, the activity is going to look like a total waste of time. The students  aren’t going to know how to use the comic app. They are going to have to make accounts, figure out what they are going to create, and then there is the time in just making the comic. And on top of all this, students are going to want to present them.

It does seem hard to justify at times,  but the rewards are going to be worth it. Here is how I see a typical math class running while implementing the creation of comics.

  1. Teach a math concept. I am guessing that in order to justify using time to make comics, the concept should probably be one of the “biggies.” It might even be a good idea to teach several concepts and then have the students choose one to present in a comic.
  2. Have students work several problems so they understand the basics of how a problem works.
  3. Have students brainstorm ideas on how the problem might pertain to real life applications.
  4. Students will then make a comic that sets up the problem and possibly shows how it is solved. This is where the assignment could change greatly depending on the what the teachers wants. Students may be asked to make a problem for the class to solve, or they may be asked to go through the entire process of solving the problem they made.

I really think this could work. I would like to hear from math teachers. What do you think? Could this or would this be an effective use of time, and do you think this will help students learn concepts better? I would also appreciate an ideas you might have on how this activity could be made to better suit the needs of the students.

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This is a sweet little video I just watched. Not much more to say about it other than I totally agree.

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Comics are what I am into right now. The last several posts have been about comics, so today I spent some time playing with several different comic creators. I was surprised at how many there were out there that were free. As with any app, some of these may be blocked due to their social networking nature. However, I think that at least a few of these will be usable in most schools.

I only found out about Bitstrips a few days ago, but I like it. It is easy to pick up, and I think that it has a lot of options especially since it is a free program. Most other apps I have looked at are fairly limited when it comes to facial expressions and choice of clothing for characters. Bitstrips has tons of options. Of course, this site works as a social network, and because of this, there is a bunch of content that is not moderated. For those that want control, there is Bitstrips for Schools. The school version has some nice features such as total teacher control over content, but it does come with a fee. Here’s a quick comic I made this morning using the free version of Bitstrips.

Pixton is another great comic authoring tool. Pixton does not have all the options of Bitstrips, and there is a cost involved for some of the advanced features. It is also a little harder (in my opinion) than Bitsrips. I do like Pixton’s characters. If anything, Pixton is a good backup plan or choice for students to use on an assignment. It never hurts to have another tool in the bag in case one breaks (just yesterday, Bitstrips was down for maintenance).

Make Beliefs Comix is not near as flashy as some of the other comic apps, but it makes up for this in simple use. This is definitely the tool I would consider using with lower grades. It still makes nice looking comics, and there is no risk in students running across other comics that may have inappropriate material. After comics are created, they can be either emailed or printed.

Myths and Legends is a cool site. I haven’t done much on it except mess around. This site looks like it would work great for longer stories and projects. There are numerous options for characters and backgrounds including some that are animated. There is also a means for writing text at the bottom of the page or recording and uploading sounds. I think that this would be a fun one to use, but it might take a little more time for students to complete a project. Having said this, I think that the project will be stellar when completed.

I looked at several other apps that are out there, and I am sure that I missed a few. If you have run across a good app for making comics with students or used any of the above, let us know.

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I did a  little poking around this morning on the topic of comics as a teaching tool in the classroom. I did this primarily because of the sites that I have been looking at lately that have students creating their own comics. It turns out that there has been a considerable amount of time and money spent on researching comics in the classroom. The best article I found in my brief research was on the web site Comics in Education by Gene Yang which is the result of his Master’s project.

What I find funny about this whole thing is that we are now in the year 2010 and the research on this topic was seriously started in the 1940’s. People were worried that comic books were going to be the downfall of society as it was currently known. This sounds a lot like thoughts in the recent past on T.V., computers, personal music devices,etc. The truth, according to the research, is that comics are an excellent resource for the classroom.

I really like this quote from W. Sones on Yang’s website:

“The potency of the picture story is not a matter of modern theory but of anciently established truth. Before man thought in words, he felt in pictures… It’s too bad for us “literary” enthusiasts, but it’s the truth nevertheless, pictures tell any story more effectively than words.”  W. Sones (1944)

Those drawings that have been found painted in caves and on the walls of cliffs around the world were the first comics. They were stories told with pictures. They were the first means of communication beyond sounds. They were the first literature. We can read them today and still understand, to some extent, what message the ancient authors were trying to convey.

Using comics as a tool in education just makes sense. Who does not enjoy reading a comic? I think that some of the problem comes in seeing comics as a childish way to read. People who read well don’t need any pictures because they “see” the pictures in their heads.  Isn’t that what we have been told (and probably taught)? The research definitely says otherwise.

To learn more about why all teachers should consider comics in the classroom, take the time to read through the rest of Yang’s site. Another interesting research source is Comics: A multi-dimensional teaching aid in integrated skills classes.

The bottom line is that teachers need to take comics to the classroom.

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I just ran across this site on Classroom 2.0 in the video section. The video was about an initiative in Europe to use comics in the classroom as a teaching tool. The video was ok, and I will post it. However, the link was much more informative. The Edu Comic Project site has several good tools to use as well as many more links to additional resources.

One of the more interesting uses of comics in the classroom mentioned on the site is to use them for language learners. One of the hard parts of teaching a learning a second language is having a “real” place to practice the language in different settings. Comics would be a way around this. Though students my not be communicating back and forth with another speaker, they are setting up dialogues between two speakers. This has to be the next best thing to actually talking with someone. The reason I think students will like this is that the speaking will take place in a non-threatening environment. Also, the teacher can check and make sure grammar and spelling are correct.

This has really got me thinking. I think that comics could be used in most classroom settings, regardless of the subject, from low grades to high grade levels. Comics are als a great differentiation technique because students can show what they know at a particular level. Looks like I am going to have to do some more looking into this comic in the classroom thing!

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Well, our last day of school was last Friday. Actually, students were gone at 1:00 on Thursday. Like always, the year has flown by. I was sitting here thinking of all the different apps I used in the classroom over the course of the year and decided to list some of my favorites, or more important those that the students liked using the most.

Animoto was by far the favorite among students this semester. We used the app for several different projects, and towards the end of the year, when students had their choice of apps to use, a good portion of them chose Animoto to make videos.  The cool thing about the app is that it takes hardly any time to learn, and the students can produce high quality videos in a couple of class periods. It is also free. Just check out the Animoto for Education page and register. They will give you a promo code so all of your students can have their own account.

Though students only used this app for the last month of class, GoAnimate was right up there with Animoto as a favorite of students. This app allows students to make animated comic movies. Some of my students were glued to this program and, once I showed it to them, this is all they wanted to do. Honestly, I had a few students who are generally not interested in school at all produce some nicest work with this app. It was the most interest in learning that I had seen from some of my students all year.

Want to get students engaged in a conversation? Cover It Live is an excellent way to manage this. Basically, the app works as a chatroom which has a great appeal for students. However, unlike a typical chatroom, the teacher has all control over what is posted (which will make the Admin happy). There is also the option to set up quick-polls, show videos and post pictures. This will get even the quietest of students engaged in a classroom discussion.

I have written quite a bit about Wiffiti over the course of the year, but that is because it rocks! Wiffiti gets students engaged in learning mostly because they are able to use their cell phones (or mobile devices) in class. This app takes little teacher prep and can make almost any lesson or class discussion more interesting. It is one of those apps that the students will be begging to use over and over again.

SCVNGR is a cool app to use in the classroom, and the students will love it. I only used it once this year, mostly because I never put it all together again. This one does require some upfront work on the part of the teacher, but it is well worth the time. Looking at the site might scare a teacher away because many of the scavenger hunts have people running all over a particular city. This doesn’t have to be the case. The hunt I created had students pouring over a copy of text that contained the history of Shakespeare. I can honestly say that every student in the classroom was participating in the activity which does not happen very often.

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