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.
Peace (in the visit),