Monday, 3 October 2011

Graphic Novels in English - Digital Ideas

For the first time some English classes can now use Graphic Novels as one of the literary options. This is part of the redevelopment of the Language A and B courses. With this new change, we took the opportunity to work with Stuart McAlpine to trial some new tools that would support the students learning. The students have been looking at the book Blankets by Craig Thompson.

Digital Ideas:

We needed to use some tools which would allow students to take snippets out of the novel and to then explain the ideas and motifs that were being presented by the author. The simplest tool we discovered was Skitch. This allows students to take some pictures of the novel using the in-built camera on the macbook. Skitch is perhaps the easiest tool for students to add quick annotations to the image and then export the images back to any other program. A nice example is below.

Another idea to develop this further was getting the students to develop a simple narration that identified the motifs of snow, blankets and caves throughout several pages of the text. The technical aspects were intentional kept simple, and the students had to focus on the speaking. The basic process was to use Keynote to add several screenshots from either Skitch or PhotoBooth. Then students chose the play menu and then recorded the presentation with their commentary. The students had some simple notes to help them speak and worked in pairs. Here is a nice example from Christina Yang and Jo (copied with permission)



This was a good opportunity to work with the students, as the activities successfully transformed they way that the students learnt about the novel. Instead of putting ideas on paper and referring to the images from the novel, or perhaps using photocopies, they could annotate directly onto the pages and make specific links to elements of snow, blankets and caves that were being reinforced by the author Craig Thompson. These ideas could be saved back to their notes for revision.

The audio recordings also prompted the students to analyse the novel in more depth, than they would have otherwise. At the same time it also supported their oral presentation skills which are being assessed separately at the end of the course.

The downsides of the activity was the technical skill development. This always takes time, but I believe students have developed a simple skill set of annotating an image and developing a Keynote recording. The sharing of students work needed some refinement. In the end we shared these to the classes Google Site so they are accessible in the future. This required students to upload the video to their own Google Docs first and then fiddle with the sharing settings. They could then add the Google Video to the class page. This did end up with each students being able to watch the recordings, but the process was cumbersome.

Presentation to Staff: