Graphic Novel Review: Steve Jobs (Co-Founder of Apple)

(Note from Kevin: A few years ago, I was a reviewer for The Graphic Classroom. I really enjoyed the way we look at graphic novels with a lens towards the classroom. The site got taken over by another site, and then … I guess the owner of The Graphic Classroom stopped doing what he was doing. Which is fine. But I still had some reviews “sitting in the can” so I am finally digging them out to share out here.)

Story Summary: Not to be confused with the recent bestselling biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, this comic book version of the Life of Jobs by Bluewater Comics is like a whirlwind overview of the innovator’s highs (with some token nods to the lows). STEVE JOBS aims to present Steve Jobs’s life in an accessible format, and give this comic book’s length, there is a lot about Jobs that is not told. Mostly, STEVE JOBS celebrates Steve Jobs. We don’t get much of the ways in which he treated his employees and the people around him, but we do get a good sense of the ways that Jobs changed the way we look at and interact with technology. You get the impression that Bluewater rushed this comic biography into production to ride on the coattails of Isaacson’s book, and Jobs’s passing. (I found a few proofreading errors)

Art Review: There’s nothing special about the art here, to be honest. It’s fair, but not innovative. I suppose, as a reviewer, one would hope that a comic about someone obsessed with design would be more beautiful to read. It isn’t. I did like the layered text and images behind the main scenes, particularly towards the end when we encounter a sort of “highlights reel” of his life. The art there gave the book a bit of a mash-up feel.

In the Classroom: I am sure there are plenty of students in our classrooms who want to know more about Steve Jobs and who would be put off by Isaacson’s definitive biography, given its hefty size. There are other biographies floating around, too, and this comic by Bluewater might be a nice companion piece for students interested in the ways that Jobs and Apple have transformed personal computing.

More Information:

Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: Bluewater Productions (January 10, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1450756727
ISBN-13: 978-1450756723

My Recommendation: I would recommend STEVE JOBS: CO-FOUNDER OF APPLE for its use in current events and biography of the moment, but not necessarily for the art of the comic. The writing could be stronger, and the illustrations, more interesting. But I suspect students with an interest in “all things Apple” won’t really care about those points.

Peace (in innovation),

Emoji Movie Poster: Screenface III

Screen face #tdc873
Yesterday’s Daily Create was to create an emoji movie poster. I suppose this could have gone a few ways: we could have made a poster for a movie told entirely in emoji (which I don’t think anyone did) or we could made a poster for an emoji movie (which is what I did). There are probably other options, too, but that’s the beauty of the Daily Create.

I went into Webmaker Thimble, using a Movie Poster template that walks you through all of the steps, and remixed it for a fake movie: Screenface III. What’s funny is that the emoji I used got blown up (not literally) so large that you can only see the top of its head, with odd eyes on the horizon of the page. I tried to fix it and then realized: it works better this way. Or  maybe I just got lazy and realized: good enough.

Peace (in the theater),


Internet: Data Flow

You may have already seen this but it is yet another way to get your mind around how much flow is happening in online spaces. Or, you might not be able to get your mind around it. Still, our students and what they are doing is part of this mix.

Click the image to open the interactive version (via

Peace (in the flow),


On NWP Blogtalk Radio: My Wife and Others talk Leadership

My wife is an educator and administrator at a vocational high school, and a leader at our Western Massachusetts Writing Project. Here, she took part of a discussion around leadership and professional development work during a National Writing Project’s BlogTalk Radio program. The talk centers around nurturing and supporting teachers as leaders. She joined Bruce Penniman, one of my own mentors in the WMWP, in this discussion, along with other folks.

New Education Podcasts with NWP radio on BlogTalkRadio

Take a listen:

Peace (in the talk),

Graphic Novel Review: Legends of Zita the Spacegirl

(Note from Kevin: A few years ago, I was a reviewer for The Graphic Classroom. I really enjoyed the way we look at graphic novels with a lens towards the classroom. The site got taken over by another site, and then … I guess the owner of The Graphic Classroom stopped doing what he was doing. Which is fine. But I still had some reviews “sitting in the can” so I am finally digging them out to share out here.)


Story Summary: Don’t tell my wife, but I am somewhat smitten with Zita, the spacegirl. You will be, too. In LEGENDS OF ZITA THE SPACEGIRL, writer/illustrator Ben Hatke brings us into the second adventures of the young Zita, who is fearless, brave and kind, too. And she can save the world! What’s not to like? LEGENDS OF ZITA THE SPACEGIRL picks up where the first book (Zita the Spacegirl) left off (and even provides a nice in-book play that retells that first adventure), and here, Zita is seeking to return home to Earth. Which is not easy, particularly when the galaxies are full of nutty aliens and strange accidents, and more than a few oddball obstacles standing in Zita’s way. There’s even echoes of The Prince and the Pauper here, as a robot stand-in for Zita almost completely takes over her life. Still, Zita is nothing if not determined, and resourceful, and the adventures in this story unfold at a quick pace for the intrepid heroine. And a bit of foreshadowing at the end by Hatke leaves no doubt that this is not the end of the story for Zita. That’s a good thing.

Art Review: Colorful illustrations are a hallmark in the Zita stories, and this second book does not disappoint. What I also love most are the very strange aliens characters that pepper most pages. They’re cute, but often dangerous, and yet, Zita rarely blinks in the face of it all. And speaking of Zita, Hatke has really created a smart-looking heroine whose expressions and movements are all emblematic of a great protagonist that you feel compelled to cheer for (see, I told you I was smitten).

More Information:

• Reading level: Ages 8 and up
• Paperback: 224 pages
• Publisher: First Second (September 4, 2012)
• Language: English
• ISBN-10: 1596434473
• ISBN-13: 978-1596434479
In the Classroom: There may not be any overt connections to teaching with Zita the Spacegirl, but the fact that Hatke has created a strong female protagonist in a science-fiction graphic novel is something worth celebrating, and relishing, and this fact alone should open up some space on classroom shelves for readers of both genders.

My Recommendation: I highly recommend LEGENDS OF ZITA THE SPACEGIRL for the rich storytelling, colorful illustrations, and science-fiction setting. It’s a book told with humor and adventure and it is sure to engage boy and girls readers in elementary and middle school classrooms. There is no profanity or anything objectionable in either of the Zita stories (unless you have something against Star Heart scavenger aliens, and well, who doesn’t?).

Peace (in space and beyond),

An Audio Remix: Making Learning Relevant

I’ve been exploring the Making Learning Relevant project from the Connected Learning Alliance and decided to tap into Popcorn Maker to create a remix of some of the podcasts and images they have been collecting. (Popcorn Maker by Webmaker is fun to use with different media but it is not yet a seamless experience in the editing process for me. They’ve made some nice changes lately — adding a media search component and the automatic citation element – and it does work smoother than it used to. Lots of potential for Popcorn Maker.)
Feel free to remix what I did, too.

Check out An Audio Remix: Making Learning Relevant


Peace (in the sharing),


Picture Book Review: A Home Run for Bunny

A Home Run For Bunny

In our house, it is baseball all the time these days. All three boys play ball, and the Red Sox are always on the radio (even during the dark stretches of the losing streak that finally ended yesterday). My youngest son’s book club is reading A Home Run for Bunny, by Richard Anderson.

This story, set in 1934, tells the tale of Bunny Taliaferro, an African-American athletic standout from nearby Springfield, whose American Legion team went south to play in a national tournament, only to be confronted head-on by racism. Bunny was the only black athlete on the Springfield team, and in the tournament, and his presence sparked confrontations everywhere, from the hotel that did not want him to sleep on their beds, to the practice field where people threw garbage at him, and more.

In the end, the entire team decided to go home rather than play in the tournament, after Bunny was told he would be not be allowed on the field with the white teams. It’s a powerful moment when Bunny’s teammates, although confident they could win this tournament and move to the next level, take a stand and pack up to leave in order to support their black teammate rather than play without him.

A statue of Bunny Taliaferro now stands in one of Springfield’s parks, and the governor honored him and his teammates in a recent ceremony, noting the racism that Bunny endured during this time as an athlete and the sacrifice that his team made in choosing friendship over winning. The story is written in a removed first-person narrative, allowing the reader to see the story unfold from one of the teammates, and this is effective.

Times may have changed, even if racism is still an issue, but it is important for us to remember that even before Jackie Robinson and other pioneers who broke the race barrier, there were people like Bunny Taliaferro suffering the sting and scorn of a country still driven by hatred of skin and culture. By focusing on the team’s response to such racism, writer Richard Anderson reminds us of the goodness of people, too.

Peace (please),


App Review: Adobe Voice for Digital Stories

I have to admit: the new digital storytelling app from Adobe, called Voice, is such a breeze to use that I wonder why other apps are not set up. With a clean design, clear steps and access to Creative Commons images and infographic symbols and my own pictures, Adobe Voice really raises the bar for how you can tell a story on a mobile device. I’ve been toying around with it for a few days.

Here, for example, is a book trailer that I did yesterday as my son and I finished reading Scat:

Here is one from the other day, as a promo for Making Learning Connected MOOC:

Both stories took me about 10 minutes each to make and to publish. I did not hit a single hurdle in either story. Clear commands on what to do — record your voice, add an image, choose a theme, pick a song — are easily accessible. You have to have an Adobe account to publish your story to the Web. And the story, as far as I can tell, can’t be saved natively to your mobile device, nor shared directly into YouTube or other video sharing sites. That’s too bad, but I suspect Adobe made this app free (yep, free) so that people would have to come under the Adobe umbrella.

If you are interested in Digital Storytelling, I suggest you check out Adobe Voice. For ease and design, I have not yet come across anything similar, and I can live with the drawbacks that I listed above if the trade-off is in design.

Peace (in the voice),

Webmaker Teaching Kit: Paper Circuitry Poetry

Paper Circuitry Webmaker Activity

I’ve been meaning to try my hand at another Teaching Kit via Mozilla’s Webmaker community, and a call for kits from Teach the Web this weekend finally got me going. After mulling over some possibilities, I decided that developing a kit around paper circuitry would keep the ideas and experiences from a pilot program flowing. I am leading a workshop at our Western Massachusetts Writing Project this summer on this topic (part of a Hack the Notebook Day in July), so I want to keep what I did with my students in the front of my mind as much as possible for when I work with other teachers at our writing project.

Check out the Illuminating Poetry with Paper Circuitry kit that I created this morning. Remix as needed.

Peace (in the flow of ideas),