Collaboration on a Webcomic: Hack the Web

(you might want to use the full-screen option)

This week’s suggested activity with the Teach the Web MOOC is to find collaborators and try your hand at a collaboration. I put out a call for folks to join me in a Bitstrips activity, and three fellow MOOCers (Chad, Margaret, Hayfa) jumped in. What we worked on together in a Bitstrips for Schools space that I set up was a webcomic poking fun at “How to Hack the Web.” In Bitstrips, you can start a comic, and then pass it along to someone else in the space. So, I began the first panel, and then shipped it off to Chad, and then we shipped it off to Margaret, and then we shipped it off to Hayfa. I then got the comic back and added the last two panels, and boom … it was done.

Which is not to say there weren’t some challenges. The comic got lost in Bitstrips for a spell, and I had to dig around our accounts to find it and keep it on track. I also was using Google Plus to let my partners know when the comic was coming their way, but those hurdles ended up being minor, and within two days, our collaboration was published and in the Teach the Web sharing spaces.

There are a few things I like about this kind of activity:

  • The activity forced us to think about collaboration. The past few weeks, we’ve sort of been working on our own, even if we were remixing other people’s work. Here, though, it was a real collaboration. I had to wait for my partners to find time to get my updates and work on their panel. (Yeah, I find myself impatient as a collaborator at times because projects take over my head … that’s another comic for another time.)
  • I like how we used humor to make  a point about the rate of change with technology and learning.
  • I like that we used comics for our collaboration – the visual literacy ideas. When Chad took the idea onto a “train,” I wondered where it might go, and then Margaret kept the train motif going, as did Hayfa. I suppose we could have to pursued that metaphor a bit further, but we didn’t, and maybe we didn’t have to, either.
  • I remembered that there is a “remix” option in the comic site, so any of us could go back and remix our collaborative comic and make something new. I wonder if they will give it a try …. (hint)
  • In the last panel, I wanted to make sure I credited all of us, and then I found myself putting words into the mouths of my collaborators. I know Chad well, but I don’t know Margaret or Hayfa, so I was holding back a bit because I didn’t want to offend anyone, you know?
  • We received some nice feedback in the Teach the Web community, which validated our collaboration. That’s always nice.

Peace (in the frames),

PS — I embedded a flash version of the comic above, but here is the full comic, too.
Hack the Web Comic


Fighting the Crowds at Free Comic Book Day

Free Comic Book Day Comics

Well, I have to admit: I was pretty surprised to see the line of people waiting to get into our local comic book store yesterday for Free Comic Book Day (which fell on the May the Fourth Be With You Day, too, so the geeky stars aligned). My 8 year old son and I rounded the corner, timing our visit right for when the store would open because I knew he would not want to wait, only to find a line of people stretching around the corner of the building.

By my count, there were about 170 people waiting to get in, in front of us.

This is the fourth year or so of bringing one, some or all, of my boys to Free Comic Book Day, and while it has grown each year, it was never like this. I don’t know if it is marketing by the comic book store, or the Facebook effect, or if comics are becoming even more popular than I thought, but it was pretty amazing to have to wait to even enter the store (it has an occupancy limit) as if we were waiting for a rock concert or something.

Unfortunately, the store also limited the number of comics each person could get to make their supply last longer (a line had formed behind us, too, so that made sense), and my son and I each only grabbed three titles. I used up my three for what he wanted, of course. And we bought a book (and got a free graphic novel, which was  a nice bonus touch by the store).  We got Tick, Batman, The Simpsons, Smurfs, and a few more.

What did you get?

Peace (in the frames),


Ger Yer Comics on Free Comic Day

This Saturday (May 4), it’s Free Comic Day. Find a store near you that is participating, and even better — tell your students! (use the Store Locator tool to find a store near you) It’s a day when loads of free comics (mostly samplers) are given out to celebrate the art and storytelling of comics. I usually grab a bunch for my classroom. You should, too.

Peace (in the frames),

When Trademarked Products Enter the Testing Environment

Product Placements and Testing

I wrote this comic after reading a piece at the Washington Post about the creeping (creepy) influence of trademarked products into standardized testing. The article notes that Pearson does not appear to have gotten paid for including the names and trademarks of commercial products, and its inquiry found that the products were references in the original texts used for the assessment .. yet how can we NOT wonder about the influence? We have to. Testing situations have to be above reproach when it comes to our kids.

Peace (in product-free assessments),


Book Review: The Comic Book History of Comics

It took me a few months to get through this “history of comics,” told in comic form, by Fred Va Lente and Ryan Dunlavey, but it was worth it. The Comic Book History of Comics is an insightful ride through the history of the graphic story which has its roots way back in storytelling with images, and has now pushed its way into the digital sphere (when a recent comic distribution site — ComiXology — offered to make free some old archives of Marvel comics, the rush by folks to get there caused the entire site to go down.)

What’s great about this book is how the history is told as comic story, with funny and insightful jokes scattered throughout the frames even as the ups and downs of the comic world are told. The illustrations and artwork are witty, with tons of tongue-in-cheek references to politics and pop culture, and more. (In this way, the book demonstrates the kind of storytelling power that comics are about.) Topics range from the stereotypes of early comic strip characters, to the “investigations” by the government of the moral influence of the comics, to the emergence of new forms of comics in Japan, and more.

That said, this book is probably not all that interesting to most young readers. It is pretty dense, coming across more like a textbook for a college classroom than a readable history. (That’s why it took me a few months to read.) In some ways, this history comic is for the diehard comic fan, or for that person who wants to go deeper into the impact that graphic storytelling is having on our world. You can see the influence of comics in movies, books, and popular cultural, in general. The Comic Book History of Comics does its job well, but it is not for the casual reader.

Peace (in the frames),


Comic: The Teacher of Reading is All of Us

I grabbed this from  blogger Andrew Wales, who does a wonderful job with creating graphic stories and panels that captures his views  of the world (mostly art, but also, teaching). This one is about reading, and comes from his notes after reading a book about the teaching of reading. It connects nicely with Common Core’s push that everyone is a teacher of literacy.

Peace (in reading),

Slice of Life: Teachers Who Made a Difference (in my life)

This is for Slice of Life, although the idea began over at our National Writing Project iAnthology site, we’ve been writing about teachers who made a difference in our lives. I created the following comic to remember three teachers whose philosophies and styles linger with me.

Influential Teachers

Peace (in the past),

Playing with Pixton Comics and Audio Layers

I’m reviewing the Pixton Webcomic site for some work that I am doing and want to see if the comic embeds OK here in my blog (if not, here is the direct link). I also used the interesting feature in Pixton that allows you to add sound to a comic. I used it for audio narration. I like that feature. (Hover your mouse over the text box and you will see the little flash icon for listening to sound).

Peace (on the strip),