Final Reflection on the Comics Course
Through this course, I learned quite a bit despite how short it was. Even though comics are often thought of in terms of fantastic beings with all kinds of incredible powers, they haven't always involved superheros nor do they always do so today. Comics have served a useful purpose throughout history. They allow others to understand the information being shared without relying on the use of text. In its infancy, this was important because many people did not know how to read but still needed to know their culture's history. Today, even though considerably more people can read, they allow us to communicate across nationalities where the language may differ. They even provide us with a sense of social commentary, speaking to what we consider to be important about the world or our own society.
These are important ideas when thinking about how students might benefit from the use of comics in one's classroom. As teachers, we are constantly asked to evaluate our students on mastery of concepts and I see this is as a great place for the use of comics. We are often told that the student who can explain a topic clearly and concisely demonstrates understanding of that topic. This could range from historical examinations of social justice or the theme of a book being read in English class all the way to how one can use a new piece of software to accomplish some specific task. If a student can create a short comic strip about whatever topic is being taught in class, they are explaining it in a manner that is creative, fun and demonstrating their mastery of the topic.
In order to do this, students can benefit from a number of tools. First, in my class, students have already learned how to create some basic artwork with Adobe Illustrator. And, although my students tend to work with bitmap graphics more than vectors, creating comics about information they learn is one way to keep their skills with Illustrator alive and on-track. A second tool they can make use of are the panel templates and the speech bubbles we were directed to by Karen Keller. These are a great time saving resource, though some students may prefer to create their own. Finally, it is beneficial for them to have access to a good quality drawing tablet. While I do have some functional drawing tablets in my classroom, they are all quite old and many are falling apart. I am requesting the purchase of new tablets next school year but there is no guarantee we will receive them (anyone out there interested in supplying a classroom with 26 Wacom tablets?) Although I could complete the assignments for this course without a tablet, having one sure would make life easier for the students!
So, what are the next steps to using what I learned in this course with my students? Well, they already have the technical knowledge of the software, so that makes things a little easier. I would need to explain to them how comics aren't just about superheroes. Then, create a couple of short video tutorials that show various skills they need while explaining the basics of creating a comic strip. Finally, I would need some activities built around the concepts they are learning that incorporate creating their own comics. In short, it's all about having the time to bring these final pieces into place to use my newly gained knowledge in my classroom. As a fan of comics, I will definitely do my best to incorporate my new understanding of this great entertainment genre into my classes in the future!
A Short Cartoon Sequence
The second assignment for the Comics in the Classroom course involved making a 3+ panel comic strip with speech bubbles and captions. It was suggested to use our earlier character, so I got to thinking about how I could make two characters tell a very short story and be funny. So, I took the Knock Knock joke from my storyboard and expanded on it. It got me thinking about how I could express the constant barrage of students asking "what do I need to do?" or "is this what you want?" day-in-and-day-out despite explaining the steps they need to take and what I am asking for just five minutes earlier.
I chose to use three different fonts to represent, the different characters. I downloaded two comic style fonts from 656 Free Comic Fonts. The more playful font, Ashcan BB, was used to represent the student, Jimmy. I used a standard Adobe font of Footlight MT Light for the teacher as it is more structured or organized. I then chose Crashlanding BB for the title, caption and exclamation at the end. While I normally wouldn't use so many different fonts, it was done to add a sense of uniqueness to each aspect of the comic, which I think worked out really well.
I think comics are a great way to share instructions with students, they can be added to tutorials, or help students grasp concepts or techniques as we teach them. I really enjoyed making this short comic and might have to integrate more of them into my lessons as a result of this course.
Pre-production: Storyboard & Character Dev
This week we are working on creating a three+ panel storyboard about a family event or a piece of local history/folklore. After that, we are to create a basic sketch of a character. Not knowing a lot of local folklore, I think I will do mine based on the typical day in a teacher's life, with a little humor/sarcasm. The other problem I have is not having access to a decent drawing tablet. So, I the other decision I have made is that I will stick with basic, low detailed, graphics for now. However, it does allow me to explore my skills with Illustrator and gives me a great idea for a class assignment. Below is my simple storyboard and main characters: teacher and Jimmy. I created them using the following tools: Shape Tool, Shape Builder Tool, Align, Pathfinder, Pen Tool, Eye Dropper Tool, and the Stroke and Fill colors.