Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Up In The Sky Look: It's A Bird. It's A Plane......

....No, It's Superheroes in the classroom. ." 

During May and June I had the opportunity to take The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact on Pop Culture from edX.  This has been the fourth free online class I've taken from edX. (Some courses have a fee for a verified certificate but all are free to audit. Learn more at their FAQ page)

The course was a fun way to learn from Michael and David Uslan, Dr. Christopher Robichaud, and the one and only Stan Lee (Excelsior!!)  One of the great things about this course that I thought was better than the other edX courses I took was the Facebook groups that were created to continue the discussions and share insight and resources. I learned a lot just from reading and interacting with the other people from around the world. Seeing how comics and the Superhero Genre is viewed in different places was very cool to see. I was very happy to hear that the group decided to create a new Facebook page (Comic Book Teachers) to keep the conversation going even after the official page will go offline in a few weeks. Through my class I have been able to make some great connections with many great educators like  @historycomics (blogs at Using Comics in the Classroom)  and @rwrigley (blogs at Superhero Science). Check out their blogs. They have some pretty cool stuff.

I believe the The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact on Pop Culture from edX will start up again on August 12t, 2015 so if you are interested I would definitely check them out. They are also found on Twitter:  @SmithsonianX

I learned a great deal about the History of Comics and their impact on US Culture in the 20th Century. It was fascinating going through the different time periods and seeing how comics changed as American Society changed.

Another great resource about the impact of comics and superheroes is a Documentary from PBS Superheroes: A Never Ending Battle. If you are a Netflix subscriber, you can watch the documentary there. There is a lot of great information there that ties into America coming out of The Great Depression, how World War II led to Patriotic Comics, the impact of the Cold War on society, McCarthyism and it's impact, the rise of Atomic Weapons, cultural shifts in the 1960's had on comics, and much much more.

I am a fan of comics  and now is a great time with the the numerous superhero movies that have come out and are slated to be released.  From taking  The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact on Pop Culture  I have thought about ways to incorporate comics and superheroes as possible projects for my students. This might be an option for students to share what they have learned about a concept in US History. Whether it's about our system of government, our Bill of Rights, the Progressive Era Reformers, etc.. students might have fun creating a supehero that is a champion of this concept or era.

My first attempt of students creating superheroes was when I taught science and students had to create a superhero based on characteristics of an Element on the Periodic Table. This was back in 2005 so this was one of my very earliest attempts of creative projects using technology. A lot has changed since then. Students had a lot of fun and enjoyed using some of their creativity to demonstrate what they learned about their element.

Here are some of their videos:




Zirca of Zirconium

My Final Project for The Rise of Superheroes: 

For my The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact on Pop Culture  final project we had to create an original superhero based upon a mythological figure, an alter ego for my hero, and a super villain nemesis. For my project I picked an 8th Grade US History teacher who has powers to travel through time as The Historian and using Historical Thinking Skills to save the day. It was a fun creative writing project. I want to develop this more and might be a creative project for my students to continue "the next chapter" of this comic book and let them continue his story. My project can be viewed on Google Slides at: The Historian

Resources I Used To Create My Project:
GodChecker: One of the requirements for my project was to find a mythological connection to our hero. This is a pretty comprehensive database that gives general information on various cultures gods, goddesses, and mythologies.

HeroMachine 2.5. This free website tool lets students create their very own superhero character.  This is how I created my hero and villain for my project "The Historian." This website tool is very easy to use and lots of options. It might not be suitable for real young children and as a teacher I would probably remind students to keep their heroes appropriate for school.

ComicLife: This program is a great tool to create the comic layout. It is very user friendly to use and many of my students have used this to create projects (not comic related) that are very visual. The program does cost, but I'm lucky that my district has purchased the program for student use.

As a teacher I'm always looking for ways to connect with my student's interests. For students who are like me and really enjoy comics and superhero's this might be a fun way for their creativity to shine through yet still reflect their learning of a specific concept or skill they are learning. I am always about giving student's options and creating comics or superheroes might be a great option for some of my students.

Looking For Other Resources:

Here are some resources for using comics I've collected over the past few years. Some I've used, others I've heard about but have not used directly with students. 

Strip Designer: This is an app for the iOS (for both iPhone and iPad) that costs $2.99. Lets you use pictures and has several graphic layouts, callouts, and other features worth checking out. Even if you don't use this to create comics it is a great way to create pretty awesome photo collages. 

ToonDoo: Free website tool to build your own comic strip. Have students create a 3 panel summary of a concept or term describing it in a unique way. I have given this as an option for students for a final project.

Pixton: Website to create your own comics. I have not used this site due to its cost, but might be something worth trying if you are looking for a way to create comics with students.

BitStripsForSchools: Website to create your own comics. I have not used this site due to it's cost, but it might be something worth trying if you are looking for a way to create comics with students.

Make Beliefs Comix! is a free website tool to create comics. What is cool about this site is the various language options (English, Spanish, French, German,  Italian, Portuguese, or Latin. They also have an iPad App (AdFree iPad App is $1.99).

Comic Creator -ReadWriteThink: A free website tool to create a comic strip. They also have a Comic Strip Planning Sheet that students can use to help prepare their comic as well as lesson plans for teachers on ways of using comic strips in their classroom.

WittyComics: This free website tool lets you create a three panel comic. It is limited, but might be quick way for students to create quick a comic strip.

Create Your Own Superhero (Marvel). This free website tool from Marvel lets you design your very own superhero.

Create your Own Comic (Marvel). This  free website tool from Marvel lets you design your very own comic book or comic strip.

Go Animate: This allows you to create animated videos (cartoon based) that might make for a fun resource tool for you to use. They also have a school version GoAnimateForSchools. Check out their pricing options. There is a cost with this service.

ComicBook Plus: This website has a lot of comics from the Golden and Silver Age of Comics. These books are a great Primary Source to look at some of the issues of that era and how they were dealt with in comics. Great resources if you and your students are learning about the Cold War era.
Here are some of my favorites.

DC Comics Wiki: A database of the DC Universe. Lots of information on the known and some less known DC Heroes. As a History Teacher I loved the story of Uncle Sam.  Search the database and find supeheroes that match a topic, theme, or book you are using with your students.

Marvel Comics Wiki: A database of the Marvel Universe. Lots of information of all things Marvel. Search the database and find superheroes that match a topic, theme, or book you are using with your students.

Superhero Science TedTalk: A series of TedTalk videos that explore the science behind various superpowers.

The Graphic Classroom: A list of comics that have been reviewed and categorized by grade level to help teachers and librarians for the best comic literature for students.

AnimeNews Network: Lots of news about the latest in Anime. I have many students who love Anime and I hope this resource helps me find connections to my curriculum.

How do you use comics and superhero's in your classroom? I would love to hear about it in the comments section below.

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