Webcomic: The Wild West Adventures of the Internet Kid

InternetKid1

Last weekend, I was reading up on Alan Levine’s move to push ahead with a Western-style DS106 course, even though the college where he was to teach it pulled out due to lack of enrollment. Lack of enrollment in the course? Do they even know Alan Levine and DS106? Their loss, but Alan is launching the course as an open invitation.

There is sure to be lots of critique of the Western genre — of violence, and gender, and more — and I hope to do as much of it as I can, if only to be part of another DS106 adventure.  I am already part of an Outlaw Brigade with Wild Toady. I was thinking about Western DS106 this past weekend and started to get inspired to do a webcomic which has come to be called The Wild West Adventures of the Internet Kid.

Really, the comic has little to do with the Wild West and more to do about technology. No surprise there, if you follow my blog and comics. Before I knew it, I had more than a handful of comics created, and so I have decided to “publish” the comics, one per day (except today, when you get one plus my cover), on Twitter via the #western106 hashtag

I also just now realized that a Tumblr site would make sense, so here it is: The Wild West Adventures of the Internet Kid tumblr site. 

My aim is to have some fun with tweaking the Western genre AND technology and writing.  Plus, I like making comics. Honestly, some of the Internet Kid storylines work better than others, but I am sending all of them into the Wild anyway. I hope you get a chuckle now and then. And if it makes you think, well, all the better.

So, here you go — the first comic of The Wild West Adventures of the Internet Kid:

InternetKid2

Peace (partners),
Kevin

Digital Access and Equity: What if THEY is all of US?

What if they is us?

I am in the midst of reading Participatory Culture in a Networked Era with the Digital Writing Month community and thoroughly enjoying the format (discussions among Ito, boyd and Jenkins) and the topics, which connect nicely to my own diving into Connected Learning.

Chapter Three of the book centers on access and equity issues (under the academic guise of “genres” — at least, in my mind) and as I was reading, this comic began to form in my mind. It’s a bit metaphorically simple: the locked door and no access to the inside from those on the outside.

But it was tagline that seemed most important to me: What if they is all of us?

What if we (us teachers, us adults, us) are the ones closing that door on different elements of our population? What if we are doing it inadvertently? What if we don’t even know the door has been closed? Who’s waiting out there, wondering?

And then, of course, the ancillary question: how do we break that door open wide so no one feels left out? Pass me that sledgehammer won’t you?

access issue

Peace (in the think),
Kevin

Comic Response: On the Issue of Poverty and Possibility

On Poverty: A Response to Daniel

My friend, Daniel, has long been part of my various online networks, and his work around youths and poverty and violence prevention have informed many a discussion. 

As he writes on his blog:

My aim is to help communities create and sustain strategies that make more and better non-school tutor/mentor programs available to inner-city youth in high-poverty neighborhoods of Chicago and other cities. I’m Daniel Bassill. I have led volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in Chicago since 1975. Learn more about me at http://www.tutormentorexchange.net/dan-bassill.

Last week, he posed a question to his social networks. Daniel asked us to respond with different kinds of media to this query:

“What Will it Take to Assure that all Youth Born or Living in High Poverty are Starting Jobs and Careers by Age 25?”

Daniel often uses mapping to show how data might inform interventions for young people. I went with a comic to respond to him. This both added another element and also restrained my response. I didn’t want to make a multi-page comic, so my three answers are in the middle.

Later, Daniel noted that I had not talked about after-school programs in my comic response, and he is right. While I think those activities are important, I find that the best way to reach the most kids is right in school itself, and I often worry about money and grants allocated for after-school programming take away from needed resources in the schools. I don’t discount the impact after-school programs can have, however.

Feel free to add your ideas to the conversation, in any media that helps you make your point.

Peace (everywhere, all the time),
Kevin

#DigiWriMo: Thread Your Voice Through This Comic

UsingVoicethread

We’re taking a project from last week’s theme of “visual” in Digital Writing Month and moving it into this week’s theme of “audio” by inviting you to collaborate in a Voicethread project.

Here’s what we have done: We asked Mahmoud Shaltout if we could use his graphic story of Writer’s Block for an audio project. He graciously said “yes” and so we now have the panels of his story in a Voicethread project. This now opens up the comic to all of us, to comment or read through his narration, or add another layer to his work.

He has even transcribed his comic into text format, if that helps you.

You can either access to the Voicethread project here, with this link, or through the embedded version down below. You will need a free Voicethread account to add voice, or text, or drawings, or video. (Voicethread has many options for interaction.) Just click on the PLUS sign at the bottom of each page, choose the kind of comment you want to make, and get started.

Come join us. Add your voice. Let’s get collaborative with Mahmoud’s comic. You are invited.

Peace (beyond the frames),
Kevin

 

 

#DigiWriMo: Time to Make the Comics

(I had written this to be posted yesterday but the horrific events in Paris stopped me in my tracks. A post about comics did not seem appropriate. Forgive me if it still isn’t time. — Kevin)

I had to take a day off on Friday for a doctor’s appointment (my eyes are good) and as we wound down our theme of visual for Digital Writing Month with two posts about comics and graphic stories, I decided to use some of my time at home to try different platforms to make different comics in between working on some other projects. This comic making coincides with some of the work that Terry Elliott is doing for Digital Writing Month around composing with various media, and his focus on comics.

First, I used Dave’s Awesome Rage Maker Comic site to present a commentary on what happens when an administrator pops into a classroom, expecting traditional writing, only to find students engaged in making comics. Yes, this has happened to me.

comics from an adminstrators view

Second, I received a wonderful letter from my friend, Susan, as part of the CLMOOC and Beyond Postcard Project. She sent more than a note. She sent along three cool, crazy characters, and one had a speech bubble asking to be put into a comic. So …. I used my Comics Head app (I have the premium app but this is link to free one) to create this one.

Susan Sends Me Creatures

Third, I went into Stripgenerator to make this comic. I find myself thinking about characters in my comics thinking of me, the writer, and what they would think. I’ve done some variations on this before. But here, I was making fun of the fact that I can’t really draw and rely instead on prefab characters from platforms and apps.

existential comic angst

How about you? Wanna try your hand at a comic? Or how about just a caption for a comic? I’ve been sharing this comic across spaces this weekend and asking folks to come up with the caption, as a sort of riff off the back page of The New Yorker.

Caption This Comic

Add your caption to the comment bin here.

Peace (in the frame)
Kevin

What’s Really Important: The Unofficial CV Activity

The “gearing up and getting ready” stage for Digital Writing Month is underway … with a sort of teaser, pre-writing activity in which we are encouraging folks to create an “unofficial CV/Resume” of what is really important. The title of the post is important: Your Story, Your Terms.

The whole idea is try to turn the act of making CV with its narrow focus on our world of work on its head … by tapping into various modes and mediums, and using those elements to better express the person you are, in your own terms.

Here’s mine, in comic form:

Kevin's Unofficial CV Comic

What will your Unofficial CV look like? Come share it within and beyond Digital Writing Month.

Peace (outside the frame),
Kevin

#4TDW Blog Carnival: Why (Digital) Comics Matter

(This post is for a blog carnival about digital writing, as part of the Virtual Conference on Digital Writing)
My Meandering Mind and MeA few years ago, I had one of those “aha” moments that forever changed my perception of young readers and writers. I had entered the local comic book store with my son, with the intention of joining something known as 24-Hour Comic Day. It is an event that challenges people to write a 24 frame comic in a 24 hour period.

My oldest son was into making comics, and I was curious. I also came armed with some ideas of my own, telling the story of my relationship with my brother in Brothers on Ice. I was expecting a few people to gather for the event.

What I witnessed, instead, was a book store that was nearly wall-to-wall writers and illustrators, sitting and standing in every place possible. And nearly all of them were young people. And many of these writers were boys, the very demographic of young learners that I often had trouble reaching as readers in my classroom.

Yet here they were, writing for hours at a time, collaborating with others, sharing work and gathering feedback. It was as if I had stumbled upon some secret writer’s society, and perhaps that what it was.

When we think of Connected Learning principles, finding your niche and interest remains front and center, and for many young people, writing comics and reading graphic novels hits that vein.

The question was, how do I bring that passion for making and writing into my classroom? And, I wondered, was there a way to fuse technology and digital literacies with comics? This seemed like it could be a natural fit, given the elements of comics as a medium of literacy, with its use of:

  • partnership between image and words
  • inferential thinking and writing with narrative gaps
  • sequential versus non-sequential storytelling
  • visual representation of ideas
  • collaboration of writer and artist

This began a journey, still unfolding, in which I first worked with students at a digital writing camp around webcomics for a few years, and then moved the concept into my classroom. Since then, making comics and its digital cousin, webcomics, have become a regular activity for my students. From writing prompts to text analysis to collaborative retelling of stories, comics are a common medium for us.  We don’t always go digital, either. Sometimes, it works best to let the young artists create off the screen. Here is one page from a class paper comic that was part of our discussions around the reading of The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg. Homer Figg comic

Still, the digital does provide for interesting possibilities. We also use webcomics for a project at the start of the year, where students explain their aspirations for the future. This Dream Scenes project is a natural fit for comics.

Dream Scenes 2015

What affordances do webcomics, with their digital nature, have over regular comics? Scott McCloud dove into this issue in great detail in his Reinventing Comics book (a follow up to his now-classic Understanding Comics tome, which is like a bible for comic lovers). Interestingly, McCloud wrote this book in 2000, just on the cusp of the real digital revolution. Still, his insights into possibilities were prescient.

Whether by choosing a path, revealing a hidden window, or zooming in on a detail, there are countless ways to interact with sequential art in a digital environment. Most important, the mere act of “reading” — moving through — digital comics should be a deeply interactive experience … Comics in a digital environment will remain a still life — but a still life we explore dynamically.” (McCloud, Reinventing Comics, page 229)

Webcomics as disruptive narrative

A few ideas about the possibilities of digital comics stand out for me:

  • One has choice to use art within a comic system or draw your own;
  • There are no limits to numbers of frames/pages;
  • Other media — hyperlinks, videos, etc. — can be embedded into webcomics;
  • Publishing and sharing is often a click of a button away — an audience is close;
  • Collaborative features are often built into webcomic sites;
  • Comments and feedback are often part of the system.

Want to examine a possibility of the webcomic world? Check out Randall Monroe’s xkcd webcomic, where Monroe regularly experiments with the possibilities of webcomics along with traditional comics. His piece — Click and Drag — is one example of how he is pushing the edges of possibilities. As the title implies, you click and move through a comic that goes on and on and on, telling a narrative outside the frame.

It doesn’t end there, though. Because Monroe has a large audience, they began to take his comic and remix it and crowdsource elements of it together. Check out the wiki page about the comic. See a map that someone built to represent the entire comic. Venture into a more zoomable remix of the comic to get a better sense of scale.

I also adhere to the notion of “write alongside students” and that includes “make comics alongside students,” as evidenced by a few comic series that I have done over the years. The most prominent was a regular comic strip about the so called “digital divide” between students and teachers that I named Boolean Squared, and which ran on the website of our regional newspaper for two years before I retired the idea.

or

If you are seeking more resources around bringing comics into your classroom, feel free to use anything I have gathered at my Comics in the Classroom website, which I share with teachers on a regular basis.

Go ahead. Start a panel. Who knows where it will bring you.

Peace (in the frames),
Kevin

PS — as I writing this piece, Edutopia put together a “Five Minute Film Festival” on the use of comics in the classroom.

Graphic Novel Review: Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales

My fifth grade son let the first book in Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales  that I brought home from the library sit around for a few weeks. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was the historical perspective, or the dense pages of graphics and text. I thought the title alone — One Dead Spy — would draw him in.

Then, he picked it up and wouldn’t put it down.

Soon, we were ordering the second book from the library — Big Bad Ironclad — and now he is clamoring for more from writer/illustrator Nathan Hale (yes, that’s his name) who writes his graphic novels with Nathan Hale (the figure from history) in the lead role, trying to stave off his execution as a spy by weaving out stories of history. It’s more lighthearted than that seems, I realize, even though Hale (the writer) chooses some pretty, eh, interesting stories to tell (the Donner Party, the start of the Civil War, etc).

But, the stories from history are alive and enriched by Hale’s use of the graphic novel medium, effectively using history as the springboard for some fascinating storytelling. Each page is rich with humor and information, and packed with drawings. These are truly novels, in graphic form.

There’s also a cool Q/A with Hale about making comics.

And Hale has started making some videos about the making of the books, which are pretty nifty.

Peace (in the tales),
Kevin