Augmented Reality in Education – update

About 3 years ago, I wrote two posts describing Augmented Reality and exploring the potential of Augmented Reality in education and the workplace: Augmented Reality – Even Better than the Real Thing? and Bringing Augmented Reality to Life – in the classroom and the workplace.

Take a moment to re-read these posts, or, if time is short, watch this great video  which will quickly bring you up to speed on what Augmented Reality is:

As you can expect, a lot changes in three years – resources such as String, which I explored previously have morphed to embrace new concepts, while tools like Aurasma have continued to develop the quality of their experience, providing more reliability and better results than ever before. What’s more, tools like Google Cardboard are moving beyond augmented reality, and providing a completely virtual reality experience – more on this in a future post!

But back to Augmented Reality (AR) – where technology allows you to create a ‘layer’ of information over a person’s experience of the world. When you think about it, educators are the original ‘augmented reality’, providing an overlay to student’s perspectives!

Tools such as Aurasma  enable learning to be engaging in a completely new way, and this post aims at providing some ideas as to how AR can used by students to raise their expression of learning to a new level.

As I introduced in earlier blog posts, Augmented Reality apps come in two main forms: the first is where a printed trigger image initiates an interaction through the camera of the mobile device, and the second where the app uses the mobile device’s GPS capabilities to ‘layer’ digital data over the location where the user is.

It is the first type where students can really get involved in the creation of AR, as they can either create both the trigger image and the overlay, or just overlay their own creation onto an image (or item, e.g. a book cover), through using an app such as Aurasma. There are a few other apps which allow for this AR creation, one notable one being DAQRI (you can see its potential here).  However, Aurasma appears to be the most stable and currently the best on the market. Access to the Educator’s 4D DAQRI Studio appears to be currently unavailable.

Check out just some of what can be created using Aurasma in this video:

In education, creating an overlay which enriches resources is the most obvious way to use this technology. Imagine being able to embed a book trailer video directly onto the cover of a book, so that students could simply open their phone or other mobile device to the AR app, scan the cover of the book and immediately view the trailer; AR makes this totally possible. Even better if the book trailer is student created – a way to bring student voice directly into the reading experience!

Another option would be to augment a student’s artwork with a video of themselves explaining the work, or a montage of the pieces that inspired their creation – again, not only possible, but easily and quickly done.

A third option is to record a student performance, and then embed this directly onto the criteria sheet, so moderating teachers simply view the sheet through their mobile device to review the student’s singing, dancing, acting etc – what a powerful way to bring assessment to life.

With creativity and imagination, the options are endless. What about using a video to demonstrate the correct pronunciation of foreign language words for a LOTE class, and overlaying these on the flashcards, or researching the plants in the school grounds and overlaying videos with this information onto signs near those trees or plants for others to view. Bring the map of the school’s local area alive with videos of elderly residents sharing their stories of how the area has changed, or link the school choir singing the school song to the logo on your newsletter. Even better, link newsletter photos with video, so parents can experience the moment as it happened.

Younger students could create slideshows of images all beginning with a particular letter or blend and then embed these on alphabet cards, while senior students could list the properties of elements and develop an interactive periodic table..it doesn’t matter what age or stage, AR can allow students to demonstrate their own learning, and then easily share it with others, creating useful resources that other learners can benefit from also.

These are just some examples of how you could use an App such as Aurasma to bring AR into your classroom.  Aurasma is one of the easiest ways to create your own AR overlays. You can do it within the app on your mobile device, or, if you want greater flexibility, download the Aurasma Studio to create on your computer.

Augmented_realityThe steps on this PDF take you through just how you do this (click on the image or click here)

Once you have developed confidence with creating the overlay and combining it with the trigger image to create an AR experience, you can then distribute these either via email to specific users, or more broadly by creating your own ‘channel’ to which users can subscribe. Either choice is easy to set up either within the app itself, or in the online studio environment.

This field is changing all the time, so the best thing to do is just jump in and try it! Now that many students have access to mobile technology (either at home or at school or both), the implementation of AR is likely to become more common (at least more common than it was three years ago when I first wrote about it!).

If you would like to learn more, check out this Pinterest board, which has a growing range of links to different ideas, apps and information about AR – and if you bring AR into your classroom, drop us a line in the comments – we’d love to hear from you!

 

 

Ebooks revisioned with the launch of “The Boat”

The Boat is a book of short stories, authored by Nam Le, which has been extensively used in education to stimulate discussions and elicit challenges about the way Senior students (aged 15 and up) might think about concepts such as war, refugees, resilience, family, intercultural perspectives and more. Extensive teaching guides are available via AustLit & Reading Australia. As a text, it is powerful, and critics admire how Le writes with authenticity across a variety of worldviews and experiences.
To mark the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, SBS has launched an interactive graphic novel, specifically for online audiences, which brings the title story, ‘The Boat’ to a whole new audience, in a whole new way. The work, in Le’s own words,

” is strange and powerful. More importantly, it opens up new ground.”

Using a combination of illustration and movie-making techniques, the online story draws the reader in, as they scroll down at their own pace, immersed in a soundscape that engages the senses and following text that flows across the screen like the ocean the boat is traversing. Experience it here.

As a librarian, this is what I imagine ebooks truly should be. To use Puentedura‘s terms – this is not just a substitution – backlit text on an electronic page – but something that reimagines and redefines storytelling and the experience of story, taking advantage of flexibility in form and function, and drawing together word, image, animation and sound.


flickr photo shared by laura pasquini under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

While movie sound designer, Sam Petty, reflects on the challenges he experienced while creating in this new media form:

“I’ve had to break up what I do into very specific moments that relate to a particular drawing, extend the mood for as long as someone lingers and provide atmospheres that blend into one another. It’s been fascinating… and quite a technical challenge.”

it is clear to see that this style of publishing requires a whole new literacy to be taught to students. No longer just dealing with alphabetic fonts on a static page, readers must move with the text in a non-linear way – sometimes fading into dreams which feature a collage of line drawing and historical photo, then returning to the main storyline, simultaneously combining their understanding of the interplay of many different forms of expression.

Screengrab from 'The Boat' - click image to access the site.

Screengrab from ‘The Boat’ – click image to access the site.

Will there be more re-imaginings of the ebook, and even more interactive and engaging stories being shared via changing technologies? I hope so. I also hope that educators continue to deepen their definition of literacy, so that students are able to not just consume, but begin to create innovations such as this.

shape-of-text-cover-250-320

 

The shape of texts to come by Jon Callow as well as the work of Anstey and Bull are great places for teachers to begin exploring multiliteracies and the development of visual literacy. Another avenue to explore is that of graphic novels – the format which shapes The Boat – as complex, stand-alone plotlines are developed using text and sequential art. You can read more about the potential of graphic novels in the classroom in this recent ResourceLink blog post, Getting Graphic.

So please, take the time to explore ‘The Boat’ – both interactive and traditional versions. Introduce it to your students (even younger students can access the story as retold on the site); and consider how literacy has changed, is changing, and the impact this has on your practice. Share your thoughts below!

 

 

Learnings from EARCOS 2015 Teachers’ Conference

earcos_programIn March, I was honoured to be invited to present at the EARCOS 2015 Teachers’ Conference, at Sutera Harbour, Kota Kinabalu, Borneo, Malaysia. This conference hosted over 1100 delegates from international schools from the East Asia Region – including China, Malaysia, Phillippines, Myanmar, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, India and more. It was hosted in collaboration with SENIA (Special Educators Network in Asia), and with the theme of “Language for Life”, there were over 100 workshop sessions to choose from, focusing on literacy, language and learning.

The entire conference was an immense learning experience. The decision by the conference to forgo what are (largely) useless conference bags, instead donating this money to Operation Smile, a private not for profit organisation providing reconstructive surgery to children and young adults born in developing countries with facial deformities told me that this would be a conference different to any other I had attended. I was right. I learnt from keynote speakers John Wood and James Stronge, as well as from a range of presenters from the workshops I attended, from the delegates I met and spoke with, and from the experience of presenting to a truly international audience. In this blog post I will try to capture the flavour of the conference, and some of the key learnings I took away from it. I will also include access to the Storify I have compiled, which captures a range of resources from social media (mostly Twitter), which were shared by delegates and presenters throughout the conference.

Learning 1: Want to change the world? Educate children!

rtr_logo_color_mediumThe keynote speaker on the first day was the inspiring John Wood, who founded the Room to Read programme, which focuses on working in collaboration with communities and local governments across Asia and Africa to develop literacy skills and a habit of reading among primary school children, and support girls to complete secondary school with the life skills they’ll need to succeed in school and beyond. So far, Room to Read has constructed 1930 schools, established 17 534 libraries and published 1158 books in local languages, as they work with people to develop a sense of ownership and engagement with education and literacy.

Why is this inspiring? Beyond the obvious, it is inspiring because this project doesn’t focus on giving hand outs – it focuses on working with the people on the ground, so that when the ‘outsiders’ walk away, the project doesn’t just crumble; it continues on, driven by the locals who have been involved from the beginning. It also recognises that investing in children can lead to significant change – educated children become educated adults, who can work to make the changes they want for their communities.

It is ironic that in Australia, and in many other Western, 1st world countries, libraries are increasingly being underfunded and understaffed, when so much of Room to Read’s focus is on building libraries up. Why is this so? Are we satisfied with our levels of literacy, and believe that there is no further need for free and open access to information, literature and inquiry? Ironically, in the age of exploding information and multiple literacies, we are letting go of those people and places who are best placed to support us! A challenge indeed for educators and administrators!

To get an idea of the types of work Room to Read does, check out this video, and then check out the website: http://www.roomtoread.org/donotreadthis/

Learning 2: Literacy comes in many formsrobotics_posters

Programming a computer means nothing more or less than communicating to it in a language that it and the human user can both “understand.” And learning languages is one of the things children do best. Every normal child learns to talk. Why then should a child not learn to “talk” to a computer? – Seymour Papert, Mindstorms (Papert, 1980)

The work that Pana Asavavatana and Maria Peters are doing in Early Childhood at the Taipei American School in Taiwan is amazing. Using a wide variety of resources, these inspiring teachers are incorporating robotics and coding into their early childhood curriculum, in creative and engaging ways. With an emphasis on skill development, Pana and Maria emphasised that kids need to ‘unplug’ to learn computational thinking skills long before they get their hands on any type of technology – and with a range of games and activities, they have done just that. Generously sharing their planning as well as the cutest posters and resource ideas, this session brought home the fact that in today’s world, the literate child can do far more than just read and write alphabetic text.

 

Learning 3: Search is the skill of our era

google_search

Ok, so this one wasn’t really a learning so much as a confirmation of my beliefs from someone whom I have followed online for a long time. Jeff Utecht, of The Thinking Stick blog, has been someone that I have learnt from since my earliest days on the web. His work in international schools and beyond has focused on quality pedagogy enhanced by technology; rather than the other way around, and his session of Search brought home to me just how vital librarians, with enhanced skills in information literacy, are to schools and education. Librarians are some of the best qualified to teach what Jeff states is the most vital skill of our age – that of search – and in Jeff’s session, he revealed a plethora of tools and strategies that support the explicit teaching of these skills to students.

 

Learning 4: “If you can‘t explain it simply, you don‘t understand it well enough.” -Albert Einstein

rrrppp-creative-commonsIn preparing my four 90 minute presentations on Content Curation, Infosavvy Students, Makerspaces and Creative Commons, I realised that the best presentations are the ones that convey ideas simply, and which provide many practical take-aways for the participants. In researching, preparing and creating these workshops, I thought I had learnt almost everything I needed to know on these topics. However, through presenting them, responding to questions, discussing with participants and reflecting on how each session went, I learnt so much more. The experience was rewarding as it was a challenge to prepare workshops for an essentially unknown audience, from a wide range of schools in different countries, with different access to technologies and the internet. I learnt that while international schools face unique challenges to those in my Australian experience, educators the world over are united by a desire to connect, to provide access to the highest quality resources, and to instil in students not just content, but the ability to learn, solve problems and navigate a complex, information saturated world. I also learnt that international schools are at the cutting edge with their approach to contemporary learning; and that the work we do here at BCE and in ResourceLink is equally current and of the highest quality!

Below is a small selection of some of the key takeaways from the conference. For a more detailed summary, please read the Storify I created, a compilation of some of the best sharings from social media throughout the conference.

Changing Spaces, Changing Minds – Libraries and Learning Spaces as Places of the Future

Today my colleague and I were fortunate to participate in a workshop run by the passionate and inspiring Liz McGettigan, who is the Director of Digital Experiences at SOLUS. The workshop was entitled Changing Spaces, Changing Minds, and focused on  how to combine the physical with the virtual in public spaces. Although the workshop was aimed at Librarians, and investigated Liz’ and the participants’ experiences in libraries, many of the ideas and concepts could easily be adapted to apply to any learning space.

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Like many institutions, libraries are currently in a state of flux. Whereas once libraries were a fount of knowledge, and librarians the gatekeepers of information, today, everyone has the world’s information in their pocket. So how do libraries (and many would argue schools) remain creative, relevant and sustainable community spaces where rich, real and relevant learning occurs? Just like in Will Richardson’s text Why School? (a extended essay which for $3.10 is a must read for anyone involved in education), Liz challenged us to step away from negative mindsets limited by funding shortages and staff cuts, and instead to embrace a new way of thinking about libraries, which focuses on leadership and vision.

“At a time when the provision of knowledge and culture is increasingly digital and screen-based, the value and importance of high-quality physical spaces and experiences is growing, not diminishing” Roly Keating, CEO British Library.

This quote by Roly Keating set the stage for an important discussion – how to effectively combine the physical and the virtual – to find the right balance so that library is seen not as a dusty remnant of the past, but as a living incubator of ideas, learning and innovation. The clues for how to achieve this are in the strategies employed by the commercial sector – entrepreneurial vision, effective marketing and meeting user needs – indeed, Liz encouraged us to ‘shake of our modesty’ and promote the wonderful work libraries do, and to make sure everyone knows that the library they remember from their childhood is now a completely different space!

The libraries of yesterday are nothing like the centres of creation and inspiration they are today!

The libraries of yesterday are nothing like the centres of creation and inspiration they are today!

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by Super Furry Librarian
creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by The Daring Librarian

Learning Spaces(4)

Here in ResourceLink, we have been working at combining the physical space with the digital for some time. We have re-designed our physical space to create a more open, welcoming atmosphere, with more areas for groups to meet and work, inspired by the work of David Thornburg, Ewan McIntosh, Bruce Mau Design and others as you can see in this infographic I created to the right (click for a larger image):

We have played with Augmented Reality, both as a learning tool and as a way of engaging our users in our displays and resources, which we shared in this blog in the article Bringing Augmented Reality to Life – in the classroom and the workplace

A staff member viewing Rick's video explanation using an iPod touch. Students using mobile devices to view the past and the future with Augmented Reality

A staff member viewing Rick’s video explanation using an iPod touch.
Students using mobile devices to view the past and the future with Augmented Reality

We deliver a hybrid collection of resources, including physical items, digital and online resources through our online catalogue. Indeed, my colleagues and I joke that we would like our library management system to be one day ‘greater than Google!’. We use a range of different tools for information service delivery, including social curation tools such as Pinterest, Diigo and Bag the Web and social catalogues like Library Thing (click these links to see some of our collections).

The BCE Digital Library is delivered via our online library catalogue and enables students and staff at all 137 BCE schools to access ebooks and audiobooks.

The BCE Digital Library is delivered via our online library catalogue and enables students and staff at all 137 BCE schools to access ebooks and audiobooks.

Additionally, we provide access to e-books and audiobooks using the Overdrive platform, integrated within our library management system. Also included in the catalogue are bibliographic records linking to resources that include online video clips, websites and app reviews. Users may also search and access a selection of alternative providers from within the catalogue. This carefully evaluated and up to date list of alternative providers include Getty Images, Khan Academy, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Australian National Library.

In doing so, it is hoped that if no physical item is available to meet the user’s needs, there is a far greater chance that the information the user is seeking will be available via one of these alternative formats or avenues.

makeyWe have also dabbled in Makerspaces, creating kits that schools can borrow so that they can play and learn. The development of these kits was inspired by the work of Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez, and was informed by the best use of our space, and the needs of our users, which are mainly schools. You can read about these kits, and see how we put them together in these blog posts, Resourcing the Maker Movement and  Running a Maker Faire.

With a focus on learning, creating and innovating, ResourceLink also has a production room, where we create many short films working with other members of staff at Brisbane Catholic Education. One of our productions was created to introduce users to our Digital Library collection:

What’s next for ResourceLink? Inspired by Liz McGettigan’s workshop, we hope to venture more fully into the social media space, engaging with our users more regularly in the virtual world, and spending more time developing our knowledge around online learning. We aim to continue developing our content and to work towards truly being an incubator of ideas, inspiration and imagination.

 

Celebrate Australia Day – It’s Great to be an Aussie!

With the news being filled with tragic and terrible stories of terrorism and violence, it is sometimes difficult to remember that living in Australia we are truly blessed. Why not take time on Australia Day this year to reflect on all of the positive aspects of being an Australian! Use any of the resource ideas below to share with students the ‘good news’ about our young and vibrant country.

What are the facts?

Did you know that for the 3rd year in a row, Australia has been ranked the happiest of 36 industrialised nations in this OECD survey? Click the image below for a fascinating infographic which compares the Australian way of life with others.australia_day

Ideas for students:

READ a great Australian book – choose from this list, or even better, have the students create their own list – compile it on Pinterest or GoodReads and share it with the world!

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COOK a fantastic Aussie feast – we have all of the cuisines of the world to choose from, and we also have our own local delicacies – bring a plate to share, or pool your favourite Aussie recipes and create an enviable recipe book!

damper

SING (or sing along!) to a playlist of great Aussie songs; choose traditional tunes or groove to the JJJ Hottest 100 – an Australia Day tradition. Why not run your own music quiz similar to Spicks and Specks? (This Wikipedia article gives a great explanation for some of the games from the show).

waltzing

WATCH an Australian film or documentary – AustralianScreen has 1065 short clips with teachers’ notes, suitable for students of all ages. Divided into categories such as History, Film and Media, Identity and Culture and more, these clips give insight into many aspects of Australian life. Perhaps your students will be inspired to create their own great Aussie documentary?

aust_screen

TRAVEL around Australia – with the internet, you don’t have to leave the classroom to tour our amazing country. Why not plan a virtual Australian trip visiting key historic or geographic sites, or use Are we There Yet? by Alison Lester to inspire Australian travel discussions and activities.

are-we-there_cover_largeCELEBRATE!
Whatever you do, celebrate Australia Day! We have an amazing country, filled with fascinating people, nature and culture – share below in the comments how you plan to spend Australia Day in your classroom!

How to Haiku!

Presentations that work

I was recently asked to run a workshop on how to develop effective presentations. I had run this workshop last year, but of course, last year’s work needed updating, as so much changes so quickly that workshops from even last week seem out of date! Some things remain the same:

Of course, a lot of things have also changed; and one of the most important updates I made to my workshop was to introduce participants to Haiku Deck.

What is Haiku Deck?

Originally an iPad app, and now available on the web, with future plans for access on other platforms, Haiku Deck is a gorgeously simple slideshow creator, that enables the user to create presentations that easily meet all of the tips for presentations mentioned above.

The creators behind the app focus on three words: simple, beautiful and fun.

Click this image to view a simple Haiku Deck example.
Click this image to view a simple Haiku Deck example.

A ‘deck’ or presentation can be created in four easy steps, and the finished result can be shared on social media such as Twitter or Facebook, embedded on a blog, website or in a learning management system, emailed or opened in PowerPoint or Keynote for further editing (if necessary).

How to Haiku

The steps to create a deck are incredibly easy. The process described below is for the iPad app – but it is very similar using the web-based app, and extremely intuitive.

First, click the plus sign in the centre of the bottom of the screen to create a new deck.

Then, give your deck a name, and choose a theme. Don’t worry – if the theme doesn’t suit, you can always change it again at any time during the creation process.

The different themes run across the top of the iPad screen. Simply scroll through to choose your favourite.

2014-06-30_1109The deck creation process is determined by the four images you will see on the left hand side of the screen. These allow you to (from top to bottom) add text, add images, arrange your text and add notes.

Adding text is very simple, and the beauty of Haiku Deck is that it encourages you to keep the text to a minimum. Yes, they have made additions, to enable users to input dot points, or blocks of text, however the deck is most powerful when text is used sparingly.

One exception to this is using the block of text option  for quotes, which can be quite powerful when combined with the right image – see this example below:

quote eg

Choose from selected keywords, search with your own keywords or upload your own image!

Choose from selected keywords, search with your own keywords or upload your own image!

Choosing images is the fun part. Haiku deck cleverly identifies key words in the text on the slide, and automatically allows you to search a database of thousands of images using these words. You can also choose to search using your own key word, or upload your own image. The thing that really stands Haiku Deck apart from other presentation software is that if you choose a Creative Commons Licenced image (read more about this type of image here) it automatically includes the attribution on the slide – saving an enormous amount of time.

You can also choose from a range of pre-formatted charts, or choose a solid background colour (handy for those quote slides or for when you do need to include a lot of text). In addition, in the iPad app, you can purchase stock photography right from inside the app, with images costing $1.99 US.

Even if you are not wanting to create the entire slideshow in Haiku Deck this automatic attribution is powerful. Why not  create a deck of awesome pictures, complete with attribution in Haiku Deck, and then export the slides to PowerPoint or Keynote (say if you wanted to also embed movies, music or other features not currently a part of the Haiku Deck suite).

Choose to add a headline and subheading, or add dot points or a block of text.

Choose to add a headline and subheading, or add dot points or a block of text.

The third stage is to place the text. Here you have a number of options, which are useful for working around the image in order to best combine image and text. Although the options are somewhat limited (you can’t freely place text anywhere you wish on the slide, you must choose one of the set positions), this restriction actually frees the creator, as it enables the focus to be on simply word and image, and speeds the creation process.

The fourth step is optional, and is the addition of notes. You can make these notes either private, or you can publish them along with your slides, for sharing with others. This is a much valued addition to Haiku Deck, as it really enables the tool to be used for much longer or more complex presentations, and is a godsend for those of us who get nervous when speaking, and like to have a visual prompt!

When to Haiku

Haiku Deck has been designed to be used for any type of presentation, however it’s ease of use and the simplicity of the slide design lend itself particularly well to the following uses:

2014-07-01_12431. Prayer/Reflection/Meditation: when you want beautiful images and few words, nothing beats a Haiku Slide deck. Being based in Brisbane Catholic Education, many of our meetings and gatherings begin with a simple prayer or reflection; and often these are required at short notice. Even the most familiar prayer can be given new life when it is paired with amazing imagery.

2014-07-01_12422. Conference reviews: when you attend a conference, you hear many nuggets of wisdom. What better way to capture and share these, than by using Haiku Deck. When you return from the conference, and have an amazing looking presentation to share with colleagues, no one will know just how quick and easy it was to create!

There are so many other creative ways to use Haiku Deck; young students could easily create a deck for a show and tell item, use as a simple way of sharing visual instructions, create awesome looking flashcards to learn a foreign language, and then share the great holiday snaps upon return from said foreign location; the list is endless!

You can find many more exciting and wonderful applications for Haiku Deck on the Haiku Pinterest Page. Better still, share ways you have found to use this beautiful piece of technology in your classroom, library or beyond!

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Graphic: Introducing Graphic Novels to the Classroom – Resources and Inspiration

2014-06-06_1037It is undeniable that we live in a new media age. In this age, literacy requires students to be able to make meaning from information in a wide variety of formats, one of the most prevalent being visual. The Australian Curriculum identifies the important role that visual literacy plays in contributing to a student’s overall literacy level, so much so that it forms one of the four major building blocks within the Literacy Capability.

Within this context, the graphic novel is perfectly poised to provide a powerful teaching tool, which enables students to develop literacy skills. As Di Laycock identifies, graphic novels can be considered the ‘holy grail’ of literature, as they are truly multimodal texts, encompassing all five semiotic systems.

All five semiotic systems combine to convey meaning in a series of panels. Thanks to Di Laycock for generously sharing her slide.

All five semiotic systems combine to convey meaning in a series of panels. Thanks to Di Laycock for generously sharing her slide. Image: McCloud, S 1994, Understanding comics: The invisible art, HarperPerennial, New York, p. 68.

 What is a graphic novel?

Graphic novels are often seen as ‘not real literature’ or as an easy way out for readers who don’t want to engage with ‘proper’ texts; however as Will Eisner points out, reading graphic novels challenges readers in ways perhaps educators haven’t considered:

“The format of the comic book presents a montage of both word and image, and the reader is thus required to exercise both visual and verbal interpretive skills. The regimens of art (e.g. perspective, symmetry, brush stroke) and the regimens of literature (e.g. grammar, plot, syntax) become superimposed upon each other. The reading of the comic book is an act of both aesthetic perception and intellectual pursuit.” Comics and Sequential Art, p.8)

You will note that in this quote, Eisner speaks about comic books as opposed to graphic novels. The difference is defined as one of serialisation; comics and graphic novels share the same format, however a comic is generally one part of a larger sequence, with a continuity plot that extends over multiple issues, whereas a graphic novel is a complete and extended narrative (Laycock, 2014).  While we are in definition mode, let’s turn to the work of Scott McCloud whose amazing work Understanding Comics, The Invisible Art gives a terrific explanation of what distinguishes this format from others such as picture books or movies.McCloud-Comic-Definition2

This definition focuses on the fact that it is the juxtaposition of images, which have been deliberately sequenced in order to make meaning, which differentiates graphic novels or comics from other multimodal formats such as picture books or movies. Watch this fascinating Ted talk where Scott McCloud explains this in more detail:

Using graphic novels in the classroom

Di Laycock’s research has led her to work with many teachers using graphic novels in the classroom. One of the things that she has noted which may make graphic novels less appealing is a possible  lack of familiarity with this type of text. Many teachers and students simply don’t have the metalanguage required to ‘talk about’ graphic novels, and indeed, many may need explicit instruction as to how to read a panelled page.

Fortunately quite a few terrific resources exist to take both teachers and students into the world of the graphic novel. Aside from the books which give an indepth foundational understandings of this form, such as Will Eisner’s Comics and Sequential Art: Principles and Practices from the Legendary Cartoonist and Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, there are also books that focus more specifically on how to include graphic novels as part of the curriculum:

Click on this image & access this collection on Amazon to learn more.

Click on this image & access this collection I have compiled on Amazon to learn more. Teachers of Brisbane Catholic Education may borrow any of these titles from ResourceLink.

For those who like to use digital resources, generously shared graphics such as the one below also provide a fantastic introduction to the format:

Choosing graphic novels: for the library and the classroom

Another challenge for teachers and teacher librarians who want to introduce graphic novels to the curriculum is identifying which are quality texts. There is a growing number of graphic novels for sale, but evaluating these for use in teaching can be time-consuming and overwhelming for someone not familiar with the format.

Just as there are novels that you might choose for a trashy ‘summer’ read, and others which you might choose for their literary merit, so too are graphic novels published for many different reading purposes. Thankfully there are a number of resources online which assist in this area of selection. Selecting graphic novels for inclusion in a general borrowing collection for a school library is also different to selecting texts for inclusion in the curriculum. For teacher librarians looking for advice on how to develop a quality collection of graphic novels for students to borrow, I would direct you to Di Laycock’s excellent article from Synergy (PDF download).

Unfortunately at the present time there are few evaluation sites for graphic novels run by Australians for an Australian audience (if they do exist, please let me know in the comments section!). Nevertheless, there are some fantastic sites for teachers and TLs getting started – one of the best is Getting Graphic, by Canadian teacher Kym Francis. This website has an excellent introduction to using graphic novels in the classroom, as well as an extensive vocabulary page which is good for building up ‘metalanguage’ skills, as well as a page devoted to evaluation processes for choosing great graphic novels. Another fantastic source of up to date information is Comics in Education, which has a very comprehensive site, and which tweets a lot of good information for educators wanting to keep up to date in this area. Follow them at @teachingcomics on Twitter.

There are other good information sites also; some of the best are pinned on my Pinterest board about graphic novels.

Of course, no post on graphic novels would be complete without a few suggestions for fabulous titles to consider. Here at ResourceLink, we have been fortunate enough to be able to build up a small graphic novel collection, so I have had the pleasure of reading quite a few titles recently. The graphic novels below are now available to borrow by BCE staff!

Great graphic novels to investigate:

9780141014081

Click the image to access teachers’ notes on this title.

Maus is an incredibly powerful tale of two generations, and the impact of the Holocaust on both. Cutting between the father’s story of his survival as a Jew in Poland during World War II, and the son’s story of his difficult relationship with his father, as he tries to learn about his family history, Maus has themes of racism, guilt, masks, imprisonment and family. From the Puffin teaching notes:

The comic book is able to depict the events of the Holocaust in a less confrontational way than photographs or films, especially with the distancing element of the characters being depicted as animals. However, Spiegelman did meticulous research and based his drawings of Auschwitz on photographs and plans.

An array of teaching resources to support Maus in the classroom is available on the Melbourne High School website.
This graphic novel would be best suited to students in Year 11 and 12.

Click the image for a terrific review by The Book Chook.

Click the image for a terrific review by The Book Chook.

Another graphic novel which uses anthropomorphism is the recently published An Anzac Tale by Ruth Starke and Greg Holfeld. This title retells the Anzac Story from the perspective of Wally and Roy, two young larrikins who sign up for adventure and to earn some extra money for the family. An author’s note inside the front cover notes that the animal representations were chosen either for their indigenous associations with the country (kangaroos, wombats and koalas) or for their symbolic association with the country (e.g the British Lion, or the Bengal tiger of India). Terrific teaching notes are available from Working Title Press. This retelling would be suitable for middle primary students and above.

Click the image to access a great review from Meanjin

Click the image to access a great review from Meanjin

Blue tells the story of Christian, as he looks back on his youth  growing up in the fictional industrial town of Bolton. While some of the language is ‘colourful’, it is necessary to the authenticity of the story, which the author describes as a combination of Stand by Me and District 9. This graphic novel has themes of racism and immigration, which lends itself to classroom discussion, and the entire book can be accessed online at Pat Grant’s website, for further discussion on how the book translates into the digital medium. Best suited for students in Year 9 and above.

Click the image to go to Classical Comics website.

Click the image to go to Classical Comics website.

          For something completely different, Classical Comics provides graphic novel versions of many popular high school novels – and interestingly, they offer them in ‘original’, ‘plain’ and ‘quick’ text, so that readers of all abilities (and those who are time poor) can access the story more effectively. These are of beautiful quality, and well worth investigating. In addition, the titles have extensive teaching notes available. Staff of BCE can borrow packs of several of these titles which include all three text levels and teachers’ notes – Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth and Frankenstein. These are available in Australia through Book and Volume .

           So where do I start?

Like anything in teaching, it is the pedagogy that is the most vital part of the puzzle. Don’t include graphic novels in the curriculum simply because you can; include them because they are the best tool to use. A great deal of the Australian English Curriculum focuses on multimodal texts – either working with them or creating them – and so familiarity with this format is an awesome way to develop student’s skills in multiliteracies.

An example of how graphic novels might be used in a series of lessons for Year 8 is available here. These simple lesson plans have been developed by myself and our Education Officer – English, Kim Summers, as a way of introducing teachers to the possibilities in using this format in the classroom.

Start just by sharing a graphic novel with your students. Consider a graphic novel version of a text you might usually teach, or better still, deepen your teaching by using both traditional and graphic novel format. Investigate having students create a graphic novel (or part of one) as a writing task. Almost all literature strategies equally apply to graphic novels, but check out this list of easy to implement strategies for graphic novels for more ideas.

Teachers in Brisbane Catholic Education are welcome to borrow from our range of resources to support their investigation into graphic novels. For all other readers, check out our Pinterest Board of resources.

If you have used graphic novels in your library or classroom, share your experiences or advice in the comments below; we’d love to hear from you!

References:

Eisner, W. (2008). Comics and Sequential Art: Principles and Practices from the Legendary Cartoonist. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Hill, R. (Ed.). (2004). The Secret Origin of Good Readers: A Resource Book. Retrieved from http://www.night-flight.com/secretorigin/SOGR2004.pdf
Laycock, Di (2014) The Power of the Panel. Workshop presentation for English Teachers Association Queensland, 31 May 2014.
McCloud, S. (1994). Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art (Reprint edition.). New York: William Morrow Paperbacks.
Oddone, K. (2014). Graphic Novels – bring your teaching to life. Pinterest. Curated list. Retrieved June 10, 2014,
from http://www.pinterest.com/kayo287/graphic-novels-bring-your-teaching-to-life/