Connect the Pop: Exploring Webcomics for the Classroom

Bitstrips for Schools1 Comics Creation & Critical Thinking: From Doctor Who to Bitstrips

Peter Gutierrez, over at Connect the Pop blog (part of the School Library Journal site), has been running an interesting series of posts in which he is interviewing the folks behind some of the more popular webcomic creation sites. Gutierrez, always thoughtful, is trying to explore how comic writing is different from traditional writing, and how webcomic platforms might allow entry into writing for some students through non-traditional transliterate ways.

He began with an interview with one of the founders of Bitstrips (and I use Bitstrips for Schools fairly regularly in my classroom). Bitstrip’s Shahan Panth explains where the idea for the site came from and how it connects to literacy.

I liked this observation from Shahan:

“Making a comic is not simple. You need to figure out the visual composition of each panel, the sequencing and pacing of your story, the body language and facial expression of each character in each shot. It’s a synthesis of so many different things, and for most kids, these are elements they haven’t had to think about before. Suddenly they find themselves in the role of comic auteur, responsible for considering and communicating every detail of a story.” — Shahan Panth, Bitstrips for Schools

Gutierrez also talked with my friend, Chris Wilson, of The Graphic Classroom (where I do reviews of graphic novels through a classroom lens), and Chris talked about the balance between students writing and reading traditional (paper-bound) comics and graphic stories, and digital platforms.

“Electronic comics creation is especially helpful for students who are not artistically inclined. In such a case, the differentiation of the online comic offers those students a chance to focus more on the story, characters, setting, plot and style more than the art. Online comics do not require expensive art supplies. Assuming the technology is readily available, students can create comics electronically as a way to demonstrate learning of any particular topic. Those can easily be shared on a teacher’s website. If technology standards are part of the objective, then online comics would be the way to go. I recommend varying the approach depending on the objective, class culture, student needs and resources.” Chris Wilson, The Graphic Classroom

The next interview was with Bill Zimmerman, whose Make Beliefs Comic site is a great way to introduce students to comic creation. The site is very simple to use, and has a translator built in for multiple languages. Bill also regularly posts a “rewriteable” comic that you can adapt right off his site, and then print out.

Bill notes that comics tap into the graphic culture that permeates the world of kids.

“All educators are desperately looking for ways to encourage youngsters to read and write and have discovered that comics, with their glorious drawings and the wonderful talk balloons that help move stories along, provide a vital resource to engage young people. We live in a very graphic society where children constantly see moving, comic images – sometimes on television and movies, sometimes on computer games. Kids feel very comfortable with these comic images and are hungry for more. ” — Bill Zimmerman, Make Beliefs Comics

MakeBeliefs Civil Rights 479x500 Comics Generators and Literacy: Edtech and Nontech Insights from Bill Zimmerman

I am really enjoying Peter’s exploration of comics, and look forward the next post.

Peace (in the frames),



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