Yesterday, as I was reading the newspaper on Sunday morning, I had one of those “make epiphanies” that come as a result of being part of the Making Learning Connected MOOC. I had the Sunday Comics in my hand and I began to wonder what it would be like to remix the comics. What if I cut out frames and then put them back together, creating a new narrative? I dove with with scissors and tape, but I have to admit: figuring out how to tell a story with assorted parts from other stories … that was difficult and the thinking took me quite a bit of time.
Here’s what I came up with:
And, in the spirit of the MOOC and the spirit of the comics, I decided to reflect a bit on the experience in the form of a comic:
The other day, as part of our toy hacking with the Making Learning Connected MOOC, I shared out some images from a project in which I removed the heads of some lego characters and stuck them on a small USB-powered holiday tree, creating a somewhat eerie scene.
That was fun, but I kept returning to the question of: now what? In other words, how does this act of hacking toys connect to writing? This is not just for me, playing around in the MOOC, but for grounding our work into possibilities for classroom activities through the lens of Connected Learning. As we move into the second part of this Make Cycle, we are being asked to reflect on the experience of our play/work this week. For me, that often means stepping back from the jumping and trying to frame what I have done in ways that might translate to the classroom.
What I needed here with the Lego Head tree was to take the next step, to move beyond the cool factor of the photos. I needed to tell a story, to connect the hack to literacy. Why were all those headless bodies reaching out for the tree? Why were heads in the tree? And who was that dude at the top? As I mulled over how I might use the photos to tell a story, I was trying to figure out the best way to do that, too. I realized too late (after I had returned the heads and packed up the tree) that I should have shot a video on Vine. Oh well.
I decided to use Comic Life and create a comic story about the scene. I’ve had Comic Life on computer for some time, and used to use it regularly for my Boolean Squared comic, but it has been a few years (and on a whole different computer), and the program did not work as I wanted it to (more on my week of failure tomorrow). I kept at it, and this is what I came up with:
Yesterday, I wrote about how I collaborated with three online friends to create a webcomic in Bitstrips for Schools, as part of our activity and exploration with the Teach the Web MOOC. After that post (and in that post), I called on my collaborators to consider “remixing” the comic, as that is an option within Bitstrips. We’ve been doing a lot of remixing as part of Teach the Web and so, remixing our comic seemed like a natural progression forward.
So, here is the progression of comics. First, you have the original that all four of us made together. (Note: if you are reading this in RSS, you may not see the comic. It is a flash comic browser, I invite you to venture to my blog to see the comics unfold frame by frame in the embedded flash format).
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.
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.
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.
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.