Making Avatars in a Webcomic Classroom

Holyoke WorkshopComicClassroom
In the summer workshop for high school English Language Learners, we’ve been talking a lot about digital literacy and online identity, particularly about avatars. This concept of representing oneself will come back around as we move into video game design, too, and yesterday, after viewing a fascinating New York Times slideshow that features portraits of people and their avatars, I brought our students up into Bitstrips for Schools.

One of the first tasks in Bitstrips is to create an avatar for use in the site, so it ties in perfectly to what we had been discussing. And the webcomic space is very user-friendly, even for struggling writers. Today, I will give them an overview around how to create a comic in Bitstrips. But as they were working on their avatars, I kept refreshing the homepage of the site, showing how their representations of themselves were populating the “classroom.” They got a kick of that, shouting out to refresh the page.

Take a look at the class picture and you get a sense of the students I am working with this summer. (A few students were absent or are still working, which is why there are some blank spaces).

Peace (in the comic),
Kevin

Maps, Music and Me

We’ve been asked to make a map this week as part of the Making Learning Connected MOOC, and I wonder if people are struggling with the idea. I’ve started any number of maps that seemed like they might be interesting (one was a map of my childhood apartment complex; another is an ongoing attempt to map out some elements of Twitter), but I didn’t get very far. I think I have struggled with how to make the map have deeper levels, to move beyond the literal. This is not part of the assignment, but I felt myself wanting to do that more and more.

So, taking a cue from the concept that mapping can come in many forms, I wondered if I could use the metaphor of music for a way to map out my life, or at least, views on life. Music has long been part of the fabric of myself — from playing music, to writing music, to just plain loving music.

I decided to do it in comic form:
Maps, Music and Me
Peace (in the melody),
Kevin

PS — Joe created this cool playlist about mapping.

 

 

Remixing the Sunday Comics

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:
Sunday Comix Remix2

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:
A Comic Reflection about a Comic Remix

Peace (in the frames),
Kevin

 

Lego Head Toy Hack: Heads Will Roll

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:
comic1
comic2
comic3
comic4

Peace (in the hack),
Kevin

 

Making Learning Connected: The FAQ Comic Collection

Over at the Making Learning Connected MOOC (which launches this coming week!), I created a few webcomics to illustration our Frequently Asked Questions page. It was a way to have some fun, but also get information out about what participants might be wondering about. Here is the collection:
FAQ Collection
Come join the adventure by signing up (it’s free!) for the Making Learning Connected MOOC adventure this summer.

Peace (in the frames),
Kevin

 

Teach the Web: One Comic, Two Comics, Three Comics, Four

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).

Second, I took that and remixed it, adding a side panel with some commentary.

Then, Margaret took my remix, and remixed it another time.

Chad went off in another direction, remixing the content of the original comic more than the comic itself. I love the variations.

Peace (in the remixing),
Kevin

 

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 makeĀ  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),
Kevin

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