As I have mentioned, I am going to be following Digital Writing Month, and I am creating a series of webcomics to go along with it. I don’t expect to meet the 50,000 words. But I hope to do some exploration and tinkering and playing around with mediums.
Here is a comic that I created yesterday:
But then, I thought about the idea of using a webcomic platform to create a comic in a comic, in a comic. It was sparked by the thought that code might be text in this kind of challenge.
I never did try National Novel Writing Month. Thought about it … but never did it. Now, an offshoot is Digital Writing Month in which folks are encouraged to compose 50,000 words of digital words over the month of November. (Words, I hope, meaning text, image, video and multimedia … and comics). I might try it … or maybe I already do it? In either case, I hope to add some webcomics about the month to the mix every now and then.
Bill Zimmerman, whose Make Beliefs Comix site is a great place for students to begin to learn how to make web comics, has just put out a book called Laptop Letters. Zimmerman, whose aim is always to strengthen literacy, has assembled many of his comic-based writing prompts into one collection for parents as a way to encourage them to write to their own children. This is a great idea worth considering, as a parent and as a teacher connecting with parents.
And the book is offered up as a free ebook, too, from Zimmerman (although I think it might be even more valuable as a real, paper book where you could use the prompts and visuals a little easier.) Throughout the book, Zimmerman (with illustrator Tom Bloom) offers advice for how to write letters from parents to children, on themes of memories and experiences and shared hopes and dreams. There is a certain spiritual element to some of the prompts, but mostly, they are centered around sending forth a message of caring and compassion and thoughtfulness.
What’s fascinating is how Zimmerman is trying to frame the letters from a technology standpoint, noting that parents should find ways to reach their children through communication means that the children will read. In the introduction, he notes that while some bemoan the lack of traditional letter writing, many of us (adults and children) now use email and text messaging throughout the day, and why not use that medium to send words of love and support and wisdom to our kids?
I was wondering what my older boys would say if I started writing them stories via their cell phones. Would I be invading their space? Would they write back? We certainly have our struggles with our oldest son around communication. I guess I am not sure what the impact would be if I used some of the prompts here. And while Zimmerman notes that the power of these laptop letters is in the sharing of words and wisdom that last as family memories, there is such a temporary effect with text messages. Nothing gets saved beyond a moment of time. It had me wondering if texting is the medium for these literacy moments.
Still, one can’t argue that any suggestions for strengthening the bonds between parents and kids, particularly during this age where technology seems to cut off some of those interactions, is a good idea and one worth advocating. Zimmerman has provided a path for those kind of connections in Laptop Letters with some wonderful prompts to consider and starting points from which to begin.
Here is the entire collection of my Walking the Web comic that explored the history of the World Wide Web, from start to finish.
You can also view it as an entire series on a single blog page over at the National Writing Project’s Digital Is site.
Peace (in the history),
And so, it ends. Sort of. The boys in my comic — Walking the Web — have made it back home. I wanted to reference the movie, Looper (and if you know the movie, you know how this last comic could have gone), but could not bring myself to go that far. So, I do have the boys meeting themselves, and left it at that. But it made sense to have the soundtrack of Timbuk 3 running in your head as the series comes to an end. (Depending on your interpretation of the lyrics, that could be good or bad.)
Peace (on the web),
PS — I have one more comic to run tomorrow. It’s not technically part of the series, and yet … it is.
One of the items on my teaching/technology bucket list was to use Skype as way for my students to interact with published authors. But, for whatever reason, I had never gotten around to it. Luckily, graphic novelist Stephen McCranie reached out to me as part of my online network (via The Nerdy Book Club), and as part of his own journey to bring comic art into classrooms and work with young people, he visited my sixth grade class yesterday afternoon. McCranie writes and illustrates the wonderful Mal and Chad series, which is about a boy trying to fit in with peers even though he is brilliant, and Mal (the boy) has a talking dog (Chad) as his best friend and companion. The two graphic novels that McCranie has published so far (a third is on the way) are perfect for the elementary school age, capturing both the imagination of the age and the difficulties of fitting in without losing our own sense of identity. Oh, yeah, plus there is a lot of adventure and humor in Mal and Chad.
During his visit to my classroom, McCranie did a few important things: he talked about the development of story and character in partnership with the use of art, and he explained how important those two elements are in a graphic novel. He also discussed comic art as he drew in front of us. We were all pretty much mesmerized as we watched characters and ideas to come to life on the screen, even as McCranie chatted and answered a barrage of questions from my students (some more on topic than others). He created this character — Ninja Cat — with suggestions from the audience. He also nicely sent me a PDF of the work that he did with my class, so that I can distribute that out to them this morning. That was nice touch!
As my students got ready for the bus to go home, they were still buzzing with energy, and both of my Mal and Chad books were “borrowed” for the night. I also reminded them, after McCranie talked about how he used to publish his comics on the web (which how he got noticed by publisher), that we have our classroom Blog site and it is open for any and all of them to create and publish their own comics. I’m hoping a few take me up on that offer.
Now that this Skype experiment is over, I admit that I am hungry for more. Time to jump into the Skype for Education site and see who is out there, and how I can bring more of the world into my classroom. I feel like this is one of those areas that I could easily (with some scheduling and organizing) make happen and as a result, extend out my students’ sense of the world and their place in it.
If you spend enough time reading articles or watching interviews with the folks behind the major sites in the Web’s history (most of which lines data ghost towns), you realize that one phrase keeps popping up in the mouths of the site leaders, and often, it spells the beginning of the end of the site. (Are you there, Friendster? AOL? Yahoo? MySpace? And will you survive, Facebook?) The boys in my comic — Walking the Web — notice it, too.
I won’t claim to know all that much about programming but clearly, the Ruby on Rails suite of web developer tools has opened a lot of doors for interactive web-based ideas. So, it made sense to introduce a personified Ruby to the boys in my comic, Walking the Web, as they explore the history of the Web.
Peace (on the rails),