Below is an archive of three years of blog postings, from December 12, 2012 to October 29, 2016. These blogs contain reflections and comments about education and learning, art education, museums, MOOCs, MOOCs in museums, art, and even some politics
Comics as personal propoganda (not mine)
What do you think about this article in The New Republic about Jack T. Chick’s hateful messages? Personally, I have an extreme dislike that matches the extreme sensibility of Chick. It promotes the hate, fear and arrogance It is also representative of the sensibility of some artists who separate the meaning of their work from the actual art. Once a mark is made on a surface, it does acquire a meaning. The question then becomes whether the artist is honest enough to acknowledge it. I think that Nick Sousanis’ brilliant book “Unflattening” addresses this in its examination of the relationship between text and images.
The article about Chick in The New Republic
Quick announcement- Stan Lee’s Comic Con!
The 2016 Stan Lee’s Comic Con (formerly known as Comikaze) is happening at the LA Convention Center on Saturday and Sunday, October 29 and 30. This will be my first time, and I have heard really good things about past conventions here. If you are in the neighborhood, stop by on Sunday, 10/30 at 11:30 am in room 301 A (although that may be subject to change. I am going to me moderating a panel called Zap! Pow! You got an A! Comics in the classroom! The panelists are Peter Carlson and Johnny Parker III, experienced educators, and passionate advocates for comics. We will talk about how they use comics in classrooms, some of titles they choose, as well as learning objectives. We will talk about some general strategies that are proven to increase both children’s interest and levels in literacy, through a very wide range of narratives and content.
Come on by! This should be fun and imformative!
Madaya Mom, a powerful digital comic about the war in Syria
Madaya is a town in Syria, and besieged by Assad’s army since the summer of 2015. People cannot get in or out, and the situation is dire. Several creative thinkers at ABC used their connections in Syria to contact a mother of 5 living there. These are her powerful stories, where just surviving makes her a SuperMom. The illustrations by Croation comic artist Dalibor Talajić engage the reader and enhance the story. Bravo to this partnership!
ABC also produced a discussion guide for teachers.
Comics are an excellent way to provide stories about people that contextualizes current events. They tell deeper, meaningful stories about individuals who live in current events. We are used to see news broadcasts, documentaries, re-enactments on different screens. The radio and television provide ample opportunities and opinions of news, and newspapers can provide a level of in-depth analysis of important events. These are all excellent ways of staying informed, providing information for different kinds of news consumers that mirror the different ways people learn. It seems obvious to look at the different ways stories are told, or the same story is told, but through different voices, like in Rashomon.
They remind me of the work of Henry Jenkins and others talk about trans-media, or how narratives can be told across different media, such as movies, books, radio, and of course comic books. Different media are utilized to tell different back stories to larger narratives. Think about the different media used to describe the Star Wars Universe.
This idea of trans-media can be applied to events and issues in really cool and interesting ways, such as in comics and graphic novels. The combination of images and text create narratives that are compelling as well as personally engaging. What comics loose in special effects, they gain in their immediacy, intimacy, humanity and that they are gently non-linear, and interactive in a non-digital kind of way. Readers progress, but can always stop and revisit previous chapters or panels, reflecting on the meaning, deepening their understanding of the story. As much as I would like to say that I have discovered it, I am happier that it has been around awhile many fine writers such as Joe Sacco, Gene Luen Yang, Marjane Satrapi, and so many others (I will put a list of some of my favorite authors and stories soon).
Reflections on two recent conferences- Long Beach Comic Con and DML
I just binge watched the entire first season of Luke Cage on netflix, and, all because of the really interesting, engaging and critical discussion between Dr. Henry Jenkins of USC and journalist Jose Antonia Varga at the recent Digital Media & Learning conference held at UC Irvine. DML has always been one of my favorite conferences for educators and technologists to meet and talk about critical issues that are at heart about how technology can and is used to enhance learning and education. The combination of dynamic sessions and passionate educators always is inspiring and presents a really cool realm of possibilities created by being part of this continuum of dreamers, thinkers, and creators, investigating and celebrating the universe…., er, I digress.
It was a treat to be able to listen to Henry and Jose’s dialogue that was presented as part of their long, continuing dialogue about critical issues that face the US and the world. For this session, they started the dialogue about white privilege, then went on to address global migrations and diasporas, and the nature of illegal immigration. Some of the questions and issues that they addressed were:
- How to make migration an issue in different communities, especially the LGBT community
- Interesting to consider that goods and commodities can move around freely, but people, often the people who make these goods, cannot.
- White people can travel around the world, often without documents, and are called adventurers, while people of color are illegal.
- The critical need for white people to own up to and understand white privilege.
- The role of digital communication in facilitating the true lives and experiences of people
- “Who gets to tell the story is an important as the story getting told,” Vargas
- Diversifying entertainment (who is behind the camera)
- The need for more empathy building and honesty in popular media
- Ways that we can help undocumented students in education and society
- Educators for Fair Consideration (E4FC)- http://e4fc.org/
Then things got really interesting- they entered the realm of ways that graphic novels and comics can be used to address these issues. Jenkins discussed the nature of dreamers in society, the ones who think and dream of creating a better world for all people, and the ways that educators can help dreamers to facilitate their activities by building bridges between content and action, and that the superheroes can be used to build those bridges. Superheroes help readers look at and imagine all sorts of change- in action, theory and even sensibilities. After all, Superman is actually an undocumented resident.
Jenkins and Vargas went on to speak about the nature of diversity in comics, both the creators and the narratives, and they both looked to Luke Cage as an positive example. Not only are creators Black, the narrative highlights important Black thinkers, writers, musicians, and activists. Conversations in the barber shop where cage works bring up Oscar Peterson, Ralph Ellison, Miles Davis, Malcolm X, MLK, Walter Mosley and other greats. These names are not just dropped, they are integrated into the narrative in natural and organic ways that also contextualizes them in US society and history, showing them to be the important people they were (and are).
As usual, I left the DML with my head buzzing with ideas for education in general, and more specifically, about my dissertation- using graphic novels and comics in the classroom to teach critical issues about social justice, communal and individual identity.
As I reflected on these ideas, I began to think about the panel on diversity in comics that I participated in at the 2016 Long Beach Comic Con. I unfortunately arrived late to the session, and missed the names of the other panelists (and they all split to other events immediately after it was done. The discussion was already in progress when I did sit down, and after a few minutes, when there was a break, one of the moderators (there were 2 or 3), asked me to introduce my self, and I was genuinely surprised and pleased when I received a round of applause when I mentioned my dissertation topic. I felt that I was off to a better start.
It was a diverse panel- 3 Black men, a woman (possibly gay), and me. The moderators were a Black man, a White man, and a White woman. The discussion was rich and dynamic and pretty positive. One gentleman in the audience challenged the panel about the lack of Blacks in the industry, but said in a way that felt that he was not given the opportunities that he felt that he deserved. He also ragged about some of the creators who have succeeded, but in a way that downplayed their success. The panel pretty much agreed that we are at a time where we need to support those who can do their work, encourage it and celebrate it, even if you do not particularly like their work. It is important that if we want to create change, then we need to celebrate and support each other. One of the panelists then told his own story. He is a true comics geek and always wanted to create them. As he grew older, he found that the path was incredibly difficult, and that he may not be able to succeed. But rather then give up, he became a publisher and publishes the kids of comics that he wanted to make, primarily about the Black community (and super heroes). I really like this idea, and know of other examples where people modified their personal dreams in order to support and empower others, which also can be considered a great way to engage the community of creators and users.
All in all, it was a very positive discussion, with the participants showing great respect for each other and love of the medium!
But there was a fly here, that I’ve been reflecting and thinking about. At one point, the discussion shifted to the producers of comics and movies and the perception that many of these producers and agents are Jewish. The moderator of that moment, a Black man, leaned over to me and made a comment that can only be described as anti-Semitic. This so surprised me that I was stunned, and could not really respond, and I have been wrestling with it ever since. It seemed out of place at that point in the conversation, since we were all agreeing that in order to combat racism, sexism and hate, we need to work together and support each other. What it showed be was that people often find it difficult to let go of stereotypes, no matter who. I was disappointed, mostly in myself for not bringing up and addressing his comment at that time. But I was in shock. I also began to think that although this type of comment exists across all lines of color, race, and gender. It is the poison that corrodes our society. There are plenty of examples where people are the stereotypes, which often are pretty negative. But there are plenty examples of stereotypes of people who do good work, who reach out to collaborate to together build a better society for all. And I do believe that comics can help in this process!
At the 2016 Long Beach Comic Con
A couple of weeks ago, I spent the day at the Long Beach Comic Con, among all sorts of sapient beings in multiple sizes, colors, genders, faiths, with fur and without, in costume or not. All in all a nice a really nice confetti community having fun.
I went to sit on a panel with several other comics professional to talk about diversity in comics. It was a good mix of voices- a couple of women, African-Americans, and me, the Jewish kid. And amongst us, there were authors and artists, a publisher, and I cannot remember what a couple of my colleagues were, but they were definitely advocates of using graphic novels in classrooms to teach about social justice and diversity. My colleagues graciously welcomed me into the ongoing discussion after I appeared 15 minutes late (I could not find the room) . At a small break in their conversation, I was asked to introduce myself, which I did. After saying that I am writing my EdD dissertation on using comics and graphic novels in the classroom to help teach social justice, individual, community and social identity, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a round of applause. Actually, it was pretty cool to to get that immediate positive feedback!The panelists were interesting, knowledgable, and also creative thinkers, everyone was engaged in some really stimulating discussion. But because I was late, I did not get their names, and the participants and audience pretty much vanished immediately after the panel.
The moderators asked really interesting questions that stimulated a lot of good dialogue and more questions about diversity in the comic world. There was a discussion about the lack of diversity in the production of comics- very few writers, authors and producers are people of color, or gender. After some engaging dialogue, we decided that rather then complain about the lack of these creative, it is better to go out and do it on your own. One guy (if you are reading this, please forgive me, as I cannot remember your name) did exactly that- he opened up his own publishing house for artists/writers/stories of and by people of color.We also discussed the lack of heroes who are not white/male and what can and is being done to change that. We talked about Gene Luen Yang, the Hernandez brothers and a lot of others. Additionally, we all are fans of the independent publishers because they have more freedom to publish edgier stuff.
As an educator, I spoke about some of the benefits of using comics in classrooms, such as the development of cognitive visual-text tools that help with understanding the relationship between words and pictures. I cannot say this are new ideas, but they are novel interpretations and applications of the blend traditional learning theory with contemporary story-telling.
Can one learn from a moot question?
A while back, when I was an art student at UC Santa Cruz, I was working late in a painting studio and chatting with my classmate, Michael Blatt (now an architect, doing really cool stuff). At one point, my imagination got a hold of me and I asked Michael THE question, “If you could live in anywhere in any time period, where and when would it be?”. Michael, the curious scholar first made a point that this was a moot question. We are here, now and as far as we now know, we cannot travel in time. But then, Michael continued, this is still an interesting question and we had this really engaging conversation that touched on a lot of interesting and important ideas about values, life, history, philosophy. Now, I do not remember all of the details of the discussion, yet I still have a vivid image of the question, the initial response and then, the rich and meaningful conversation.
Museum On The Seam
I just discovered this really cool museum in Jerusalem, with important and engaging exhibitions. It is called the Museum on the Seam, and is located on a seam between Israeli and Palestinian neighborhoods.
Source: Museum On The Seam
Why arts education? An ongoing discussion
Too often, the arts are left out of any educational plan and that the arts are looked upon as a secondary or minor component of education. The importance of the the arts cannot be ignored- it is the arts that infuse meaning into a hard science. There is beauty in the sciences and math, but not everybody thinks in such terms and the arts infuse the hard sciences and math with beauty, with meaning and with the human elements. For example- look at space- Pilots and astronauts who can look out at the universe and describe it in hard scientific terms. But what about how they feel? What about the parts of being human that cannot be qualified or quantified. What would happen if an artist or poet was sent up on the next space mission. How would we explain and interpret what is seen and what is felt? Too often it is the arts that create meaning into an experience. Imagine what a poet would say when standing in the new cupola of the space station describing what they see as well as what they feel. The technical, linear and logical with the emotional, subjective and personal. Take this idea back to the classroom and have students of any age describe their experiments in terms of what they feel and what happened. Perhaps we can begin to address the human condition and shift it to a situation of thinking to a situation of feeling. Perhaps we can make it shift form hard analysis to the human feelings. This may also provide us with answers to what we actually feel.