When I was in high school, I distinctly remember one project I had to complete my sophomore year of English. Summer vacation was close at hand, and we were finishing up our last unit which happened to be on Greek Mythology. For the record, I’m not a fan of Greek Mythology. I was an early Christian at that point in time, so the utterly false teaching of it all turned me off (and there is far too much drama for my taste). Looking back now, however, I can see the artistic value of it. Anyway, we were each assigned a character of Greek Mythology (mine was Atalanta) and we were to present a brief overview of the life of our characters to our classmates. One could say I was less than thrilled at the time. Instead of a dry oral account, though, my teacher had us create accounts on a website called StoryboardThat. Essentially, this website allows users to create simple comic strips of whatever their heart desires, complete with characters, backgrounds, and dialogue. Needless to say I loved every minute of it, and this project has stayed in the back of my mind ever since
Last semester in college, the opportunity for me to revisit the StoryboardThat website arose. I was enrolled in a British Literature course, and every two weeks or so my professor had us complete assignments that she called “study guides”. For each one, it was required of us to complete at least one essay question and up to two creative questions. One of my favorite creative questions she offered was to make a lesson plan for one of the readings from class. For Beowulf, I constructed a lesson plan that involved students making a 3×3 StoryboardThat panel that displayed a scene from Beowulf, but with a twist. The instructions had students adding modern language to the dialogue of the scene, making it more relevant to their world. My example that I made for the assignment is posted below. This piece of the study guide did two things for me: it reaffirmed my decision to enter into a profession of education, and it helped to see the fun role that comic strips could play in the classroom.
This week in module thirteen for my digital literacy class, I was again transported back into the world of comic strips. This time I branched out. Instead of going back to StoryboardThat (which I am very much still fond of) I decided to explore a new website, at the prompting of this article. While it listed five potential places to visit to create comic strips, I decided on Pixton. I was pleased with my decision. I not only found the interface easy to use, but I was delighted by the rich detail I was able to implement with my comic strips. My overall favorite aspect was the level of customization users have with the characters. I got to make a little comic mini me. 🙂 For fun, I created a comic strip based off of this class. Unfortunately, this is where the one drawback to Pixton makes itself known. For whatever reason, I can embed my Pixton creation into my post, but it only shows up as a link once I publish. Ah well, nothing is perfect. Follow this link to see my creation.
All of this exploration into comic strips started me thinking about the many ways to utilize it in the classroom. Comic strips are great for students because they allow for creativity, they promote critical thinking, and they integrate the use of technology into the classroom in a meaningful way. As aforementioned, two such implementations could be presentations (like with Atalanta) or literature assignments (like with Beowulf). Both of these examples have students in control of the comic strips, but what about teachers? The more I thought about it, the more I realized how awesome it would be for teachers to include comic strips into daily classroom teaching. For example, comic strips could be used to work with students for disabilities. If a teacher has a student with a reading disability, they could use comic strips for instructions on worksheets and projects. That way the student can have visuals to connect with the words on the page. This made me excited, and also reminded me how incredible technology is. I’m so looking forward to utilizing comic strips in the classroom, both for my students and myself… although maybe with literature other than Greek Mythology. 😉