The World of Web-based Comics

Over at Smith Magazine (which runs a regular Six Word Memoir project and other interesting writing adventures), they have started to publish a web-based comic called Graphic Therapy that seems pretty interesting as a non-fiction comic memoir. It traces the life of a writer in the midst of, well, some confusion about life.

Then, I started browsing around their site for other comics that Smith Magazine is publishing and I realized they have some pretty neat stuff there. There is an incredible comic about the world following Hurricane Katrina called AD: After the Deluge and another one about the world of the future when a videoblogger becomes the central character of a story called Shooting War. And there is a collective comic series called Next-Door Neighbor about what we think is happening in the homes around us.

But I was looking at the After the Deluge comic and saw this interesting video of the behind the scenes creative process behind the project, which is told through the eyes of six characters in New Orleans following the disaster:

What is interesting about Web Comics is that, just like many other web applications, you can leave a comment or idea for the writer right at the site. I think this opens up so many doors for readers to become more involved with the writers, although how deeply those connections will be is something to be seen as the future unfolds.

Meanwhile, a friend and colleague of mine (Glen) has just completed a long comic that he has been doing about politics and life in the place he lives called Nota Bene (he created 100 comic strips, which is pretty great and he has used photographs altered by technology — see example) and now moves on to a new comic venture called Benny and Sid`s Your Public Service Announcements and Glenn will be doing all of the artwork himself, so I look forward to that one, too.

I love that Glen and others can find a way to publish their work in this wired world and I love that I can follow their work, wherever I am. The comic world has always been under the control, of sorts, of newspaper publishers, who decide what strips will hit our breakfast table in the mornings. Not anymore — and this is another reason why newspapers are worried sick about their future. Perhaps some of them should look to Smith Mag and Glen’s partnership with the Seattle newspaper as models.

As part of my work with the Western Massachusetts Writing Project, I am trying to show some teachers different technology tools and comics seem to be a simple, yet engaging, avenue for creativity. So I created this comic over at ToonDoo and put it on our social networking site. It took me only 10 minutes to make and share.

Peace (in frames),
Kevin

Another Insider Look at Clay Camp

Today marks the end of the four day Claymation Camp and I have to say, this has been a great group of kids to work with. Most of them have been very engaged in their movies. Yesterday, they made great progress, although only one of the movies has actually been completed. This morning, we put the pedal to the metal, so to speak, and finish up the rest before parents arrive at 11:45 am for a premiere showing of the work these past four days.

Many of you know I am loving Animoto as a way to showcase still images.

So, check this out:

More to come as the movies get completed. And you can always venture over to our Claymation Camp Weblog site, too.

Peace (in funny little creatures),
Kevin

Day in a Sentence with Illya

My good friend, Illya, is the guest host this week of Day in a Sentence, where we ask folks to boil down their day or their week into one sentence or thought and then share with the world. Illya has two possibilities for you: you can do it the traditional way at her blog site or you can follow her directions to use an application called Chinswing (which is new to me) that seems to be an audio discussion thread site.

Happy explorations!

Head to Illya’s Blog Site for Day in a Sentence.

Peace (in connections),
Kevin

A Tour of Clay

Yesterday, at our claymation camp, we started to get down to work on coming up with ideas for the movies (built around the concept of fractured fairy tales) and the students started to make their clay characters. Today will be a jam-packed day of writings scripts and filming scenes. Tomorrow is the last day (already!) and we have invited family to come in and see what we have created.

At the end of class yesterday, I filmed this:

Peace (in clay),
Kevin

Slice of Life, Weekly Challenge, Chapter 15

(This is part of a weekly feature called Slice of Life Project)

Yesterday marked the first day of the Claymation Animation Camp that I run in partnership with the Western Massachusetts Writing Project and the local vocational high school (as part of their summer enrichment program). I have 15 middle school students and they are so cool, and so eager to learn about moviemaking and technology. I am also fortunate to have a co-teacher (shout out to you, Tina) and a visiting teacher who just wants to learn more about claymation for her school (Maria).

We started off the day with a talk about animation and then launched into a morning of hands-on work with Pivot Stick Figure software, which they just eat up. I showed a few how to use MovieMaker to create titles and do some editing and we will be using it more extensively today. They were just working so hard, and being so creative, it was quite a joy to just be in the room with them. This picture shows one of my students working on a movie with the laptop hooked up to the LCD screen and I loved the image.

Here is one little movie by a boy who was one of my students this past year. The title is longer than the movie, which can be typical at this juncture, particularly with Pivot.

Meanwhile, I followed the lead of a new blogger friend, TJ Shay, who has been espousing the virtues of an animation program called Animation-Ish and he is encouraging folks to download a free version of the program and give it a try. I did. And I gave it a try. I wasn’t quite impressed on the initial look. It has a nice interface, but the software seemed very simplistic in what you can do and not all that intuitive to use, in my opinion. I did like that you can draw your own pictures and the move them around. That is cool. I’m not making a final judgment on the software, just an initial reaction. It does not seem to be worth $60, however.

Here is a quick movie that I made:

TJ suggested I try the more advanced function of the program (there are three different levels for different age and experience levels of students), which I did, and again, I did find it all that intuitive or easy for me to use. I checked out the website for more help or at least ideas, but it appears to be under construction and the one tutorial did not do much to help me out. I don’t know. My feeling with software is that if I can’t see the “wow” in it or get my hands right into the act of creation within a short period of time, I don’t see how it will engage my students, particularly if it costs me something.

Peace (in frames),
Kevin

Memoir Mondays: Fairtale(s) of New York

This is part of a project at Two Writing Teachers

When I was a kid, I would spend a week or two most summers with my grandmother who lived in New York City, just near the Hudson River. She was a little eccentric, as most kids think their grandparents are (right?), but I loved the sense of adventure that I would have with her in the Big City during my visits.

New York was so completely different from my little suburban town in Connecticut and I used to be thrilled to stand out on the balcony of her 17th floor apartment and feel as if I were standing on a cloud, just floating across the skyline. The highest I could get in my neighborhood was a big tree in the woods and the view was nothing like my grandmother’s balcony.

In 1976, during the huge Independence Day celebrations, her hi-rise apartment complex had some great events down at the in-ground community pool, where we would go just about every day during my stay. I can still smell that chlorine of the water and the wonderful freedom that I had there as my grandmother would gossip and doze on the lounge chairs while I swam, played video games and wandered around.

On that July 4, we watched from her balcony as fireworks for the Bicentennial Celebration lit up the skyline with an incredible array of lights and dazzling displays of pyrotechnics that rattled my bones and shook my teeth. It was a wonderful night.

During the days, we would wander around the city, sometimes going in cabs but more often, traveling around by bus. Sometimes, she and I would go to the Radio City Music Hall to catch a movie (I saw Pete’s Dragon there and a movie called Bite the Bullet, I remember) and we would often be late, coming in halfway through a movie and then sitting through the second showing to catch the beginning of the movie. It was stran I triedge and disorientating asarrative to piece together the n. (I am still not sure what Bite the Bullet was all about except that someone in pain had to chomp down on a bullet as they performed some kind of surgery).

I was in awe of the skyscrapers above me and wary of the dog poop that seemed to be everywhere on the sidewalks in her neighborhood (or at least, that was my perception and her constant warning: Look out for the pile). I was fearful of the grated subway vents that shook if you walked over them and in tune to the sounds of the city — the blasts of car horns and street musicians.

I had never seen so many people, of such different colors and languages, in my life.

I like to think I am a better person because of those visits to my yes weregrandmother — that my e opened to possibilities that my little town would never have presented to me. I was thinking of this the other day as the local newspaper had a series of articles about some high school students who come to my neck of the woods from New York City to get away from their troubled neighborhoods for an education that is, we are told, out of their reach where they live.

I wonder if there are reverse programs — sending rural kids into the city for a school year program — or if that just goes against the stereotypes of inner city kids lacking for something that a suburban town can provide.

Peace (in changes of scenery),
Kevin

(PS — Anyone get the reference to The Pogues in the title of my post?)

Another Writing Adventure: The Graphic Classroom

Who am I to pass up another call for writers?

I’ve been following the blog The Graphic Classroom as a way to get some ideas and reviews about graphic novels and comics. Chris, who runs the site, is a great resource, as he breaks down his reviews of books into tangible ways, including the potential use for teachers in the classroom. He pays close attention to the appropriateness of language and violence, giving teachers a critical heads-up that I always appreciated.

Not long ago, he asked if anyone else wanted to review books with him. I figured that since I already read a lot of graphic novels and since I have begun using them in the classroom (but only in a minimal way so far), it might be a nice way to delve a bit deeper. I am hoping to go deeper with graphic novels next year but I haven’t quite figured out how. Maybe reading and analyzing more novels will be helpful.

And so, here I am:

This file has been created and published by FireShot

You can read my first review of a comic called The Dreamland Chronicles over at the Graphic Classroom (and another one all ready about Radio: An Illustrated Guide, which is a look inside the production of This American Life).

Chris is still looking for other writers. There is no pay involved but he can hook you up from time to time with books to review from the publishers. And you get to be part of a community of folks who are thinking of this popular genre for kids for classroom use.

As an aside: the city where I live was home to the creators of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and they both lived here for many years during the high points of that comic and then television show and then movies, merchandise, etc. One of the men, Kevin Eastman, invested some money in our downtown and created the Words and Picture Museum. It was a fun place, with three floors dedicated to the art of the comic book. The museum only stayed open for two years, but I used to bring my little guys in there. The kids were too small to know what it was, but they liked the colors and the artwork, and the winding staircase. These days, my older son, in particular, is into comics of all genres and it would be nice to have the option of seeing comics in a museum. However, the museum is just online and it doesn’t seem to be much to talk about, in my opinion.

Peace (in art and words),
Kevin

Leadership Day 2008

This file has been created and published by FireShot

Today, Scott McLeod launches the second annual Leadership Day as a way for teachers and educational bloggers to offer some advice to administrators — principals and superintendents and others who might be wondering where this Web 2.0 and technology fits in their school. McLead notes that many administrators don’t quite understand the scope of the digital world and that we, the teachers and others, have a responsibility to help administrators understand what is happening out here.

I have a few points of advice that I would make:

  • Break Down the Walls — All too often, the technology specialist is removed from the classroom experience. It’s true that schools need someone who can troubleshoot, but teachers need someone who can come in, work with them on technology integration into the curriculum and be a partner in engaging students. This idea of a wall between the tech and the teacher is a recurring theme in conversations with teachers that I work with.
  • Let Them Play — Give teachers time to play around with new tools. It’s not wasted time. It is during this exploration process that so many teachers not only come to understand how an application might be used, but also how it might be used in unintended ways. If you shove an application at someone without time to explore, you won’t get anywhere.
  • Ask the Students — Students have a pretty decent knowledge base about technology. They just don’t know how to use it for learning. If we can make students our partners, and let them become leaders of other students, then they not only advance forward with the curriculum but also with crucial life skills in leadership and discovery.
  • Don’t Block the World — I understand the need for filters. There is a lot of junk out there. But use some judgments. If a teacher can connect with students from around the world, then open up your filters for that kind of collaboration.

I am sure others have more ideas, but those are some thoughts off the top of my head. We depend on our administrators for leadership and that means having an open mind about possibilities that have not yet become reality.

I made this quick ToonDoo to lighten things up a bit:

And this comic I created a few weeks ago for Web 2.0 Wednesday that seems appropriate, too:

If you have advice, be sure to head over to Scott’s Blog (Dangerously Irrelevant) and post a comment, or create your own blog post on the topic.

Peace (in the schools),
Kevin

Ants: An Angry Poem

Darn those pesky little ants. They’ve found our home. My only response was to write a poem about them.

Ants — A Tirade
(listen to the poem)

The ants invade
these days
in waves
and my brain is just crazed
with ways to contain them —
stop them
although, I’m afraid,
that that can of Raid is no longer part of
our chemical brigade
and while finger-crunching-kids may play
the role of the Giant,
it remains a fact that more and more ants
are coming in out of the shade
to stay
and our only hope
is to sweep the crumbs from the counter tops
away.
Be gone, ants,
or
I’ll make you pay with another of my
terrible, awful, insubstantial
tirades.

Peace (in little things),
Kevin