Tag Archives: Inspiration

Review of Teaching Graphic Novels by Katie Monnin

Teaching Graphic Novels

Cover - Teaching Graphic Novels

The subtitle of Dr. Monnin’s book is, “practical strategies for the secondary ELA classroom” and I am happy to say that she has definitely placed her emphasis on “practical.”  Ready-to-use materials are the best for the weary classroom teacher looking to liven things up.  What’s great, though, is the accessible theoretical basis for how using graphic novels can and should be a seamless experience in an ELA context.  Bottom line: if you are looking for a few back-pocket activities to spice things up, they are here.  However, a systematic use of the activities and theories described herein will engage your students in ways you, your administrators, and their parents want them to be.

There is nothing technologically amazing here.  There are no links to SMART activities.  There are no gadgets.  What you get here are soundly-designed instructional activities meant to scaffold students of all literacy levels into a critical engagement with visual and print based texts.

What I love: The direct approach and accessible language.  Dr. Monnin may have fancy credentials, but she is a reader at heart and wants to help other people love reading.  This fact is evident in how simply she has designed the activities and the handouts that support them.  I am happy to see that many of the novels and artists that Dr. Monnin recommends are already in use in my classroom – in fact, this external support has encouraged me in the knowledge that I am on the right track with building parallel visual and textual literacies.

What I’d love to see made better: A purely nerdy part of me wished for easier signposting for the different activities.  Sometimes, I wasn’t sure if I was in a new section or in another part of the previous section.  I figured it out, but I had to think about it (this, I think, is not a fault of Dr. Monnin as much as it is a design issue to be discussed with the book’s publisher.

All in all, I intend to put this book into the hands of my ELA and literacy specialists at the school as soon as possible.  There are a lot of possibilities for our population in graphic novel study.  Buy it, read it, use it!


A purposeful moment of geekdom

Ok.  I am no Apple fan and I have certainly never been a Marvel fan, but take a look at the Marvel app for the iPad.

I love it.  I don’t love it because I love comics and love shiny new technology (ok…that’s a bit why I love it).  I love it because of what it can mean for how we interact with our content.

This month’s issue of Wired magazine features an article about the future of computing.  One of the things discussed is the replacement of the Graphic User Interface with a Natural User Interface…the NUI where we swish, pull, push, and drag our content around as if it were in front of us.  It doesn’t sound revolutionary when you read it like that (mostly because you are reading in your head and can’t hear anything) but, as this video demonstrates, the natural interface can be remarkable for small children and adults alike as they grab and manipulate the virtual images before them.  This ability really dissolves the barrier of the interface and makes working with content so much more beautiful and natural.

And this MIGHT even get me to buy a Marvel comic.  Might.


Sacha Chua and the Good Life

I like to find out about people whose perspectives are helpful and hopeful.  I am also particularly interested in educational professionals who seek to enrich the lives of other educators and, of course, students everywhere.  So I am delighted to have stumbled upon Sacha Chua of Toronto.  She demonstrates what is great about our age: simple, helpful, and wonderful (in the truest sense of the word – full of wonder) participation in the world.

Take a look at one of her SlideShare presentations.

A Teacher’s Guide To Web 2.0 at School

View more presentations from Sacha Chua.

I share this presentation for two reasons.  First, as a professional seeking ways to help both teachers and students find their place in the changing landscape of educational technology, I think the message of this presentation is essential.  Secondly, I like to promote people who are doing good work.  (No…we have never met and I have received no money for advertising :))

Enjoy the slideshow and check out Sacha’s page.



Being a “Fossil” is a good thing.

What is a fossil?  In my elementary science classes, I learned that a long time of sitting still, combined with heat and pressure, made regular bones, trees, and insects into fossils.  I also learned that these once mundane objects and creatures, once set free, held millions of years of valuable information for us.

In somewhat a different context, I was recently asked what I could do to aid “fossils” in the teaching profession.  Although the response I gave at the time was mostly about providing support and encouragement, after some reflection, I think that a better approach would be just like that of the scientist who comes across a petrified gem: set it free and see what it can tell us about life.

Let’s forget for a moment that actual fossils decompose when exposed to the atmosphere after millions of years in isolation.  I have an opinion about that too, but it’s beyond the scope of this entry.  Let’s assume for now that when the “fossil” is set free, the environment supports him or her so that “decomposition” doesn’t take place.

A seasoned professional can do a lot with new tools.  They may, once conversant with those tools, be able to show us all a few things.  The reason this is possible is because they know how to keep their eyes on the prize.  They know their content and they know the nature of learning.  They don’t take new technologies for granted and so they are also sensitive to the needs of students who don’t have up-to-the-minute gear.  In a word, unlike many new professionals, they know that all technologies from chalk to projectors to Google all have their place in the grand scheme of experience.  At the end of the day, that’s what we all want for our students: the experience of success.  One of the best teachers I ever had was a man who, at fifty years of age, was building web sites from scratch.  He certainly didn’t grow up with code.  Instead, he saw a new tool that would serve his purposes of teaching computer science to his students and ran with it.

In the process of thawing from a glacial neglect of technological change, some very cool things can be unearthed.  People can choose to make an enormous change in their practice with very little time spent learning about some new tools.  Three years ago, I didn’t know how to open Photoshop.  At thirty years of age, I was already “fossilized.”  However, with a little time playing and a whole lot of mistakes, I got to where I could actually use the application as a tool for enriching my practice.  Today, I am happy to say that my time spent poking around on the web and the few dollars I have spent on tutorial books have gotten me to a place where I can confidently help others out of their own petrification.

Did learning Photoshop unlock the mysteries of all technology for me?  Not at all.  What it did do for me, however, is show me that I can still learn and that, if I so desire, I can learn new tricks.  Better yet, I learned that I could apply my new tricks to old problems. No one could hope to keep pace with the rate of technological change…so why try?  Instead, the cagey professionals will survey the field and pick what works best for their purposes.

Aimee Mullins on the Power of Words and Openness to Adversity

My good friend and colleague Pamela Brierley mentioned this video to me the other day.  We were talking about teaching and the power we have as teachers to frame experiences for our students.  Ms. Mullins’ account of her discovery of the meaning of “disability” really sends home a message about the power of words.

Follow this link to TED’s presentation of her talk.