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← Comics belong in the classroom

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Zeige Revision 5 erzeugt am 05/25/2018 von Brian Greene.

  1. When I was in the fifth grade,
  2. I bought an issue
    of "DC Comics Presents #57"
  3. off of a spinner rack
    at my local bookstore,
  4. and that comic book changed my life.
  5. The combination of words and pictures
    did something inside my head
  6. that had never been done before,
  7. and I immediately fell in love
    with the medium of comics.
  8. I became a voracious comic book reader,
  9. but I never brought them to school.
  10. Instinctively, I knew that comic books
    didn't belong in the classroom.
  11. My parents definitely were not fans,
  12. and I was certain that my teachers
    wouldn't be either.
  13. After all, they never used them to teach,
  14. comic books and graphic novels were never
    allowed during silent sustained reading,
  15. and they were never sold
    at our annual book fair.
  16. Even so, I kept reading comics,
  17. and I even started making them.
  18. Eventually I became
    a published cartoonist,
  19. writing and drawing
    comic books for a living.
  20. I also became a high school teacher.

  21. This is where I taught:
  22. Bishop O'Dowd High School
    in Oakland, California.
  23. I taught a little bit of math
    and a little bit of art,
  24. but mostly computer science,
  25. and I was there for 17 years.
  26. When I was a brand new teacher,
  27. I tried bringing comic books
    into my classroom.
  28. I remember telling my students
    on the first day of every class
  29. that I was also a cartoonist.
  30. It wasn't so much that I was planning
    to teach them with comics,
  31. it was more that I was hoping comics
    would make them think that I was cool.
  32. (Laughter)

  33. I was wrong.

  34. This was the '90s,
  35. so comic books didn't have
    the cultural cachet that they do today.
  36. My students didn't think I was cool.
    They thought I was kind of a dork.
  37. And even worse,
    when stuff got hard in my class,
  38. they would use comic books
    as a way of distracting me.
  39. They would raise their hands
    and ask me questions like,
  40. "Mr. Yang, who do you think
    would win in a fight,
  41. Superman or the Hulk?"
  42. (Laughter)

  43. I very quickly realized I had to keep
    my teaching and my cartooning separate.

  44. It seemed like my instincts
    in fifth grade were correct.
  45. Comic books didn't belong
    in the classroom.
  46. But again, I was wrong.

  47. A few years into my teaching career,
  48. I learned firsthand
    the educational potential of comics.
  49. One semester, I was asked to sub
    for this Algebra 2 class.
  50. I was asked to long-term sub it,
    and I said yes, but there was a problem.
  51. At the time, I was also
    the school's educational technologist,
  52. which meant every couple of weeks
  53. I had to miss one or two periods
    of this Algebra 2 class
  54. because I was in another classroom
    helping another teacher
  55. with a computer-related activity.
  56. For these Algebra 2 students,
    that was terrible.
  57. I mean, having a long-term
    sub is bad enough,
  58. but having a sub for your sub?
    That's the worst.
  59. In an effort to provide some sort
    of consistency for my students,
  60. I began videotaping
    myself giving lectures.
  61. I'd then give these videos to my sub
    to play for my students.
  62. I tried to make these videos
    as engaging as possible.
  63. I even included
    these little special effects.
  64. For instance, after I finished
    a problem on the board,
  65. I'd clap my hands,
  66. and the board would magically erase.
  67. (Laughter)

  68. I thought it was pretty awesome.

  69. I was pretty certain
    that my students would love it,
  70. but I was wrong.
  71. (Laughter)

  72. These video lectures were a disaster.

  73. I had students coming up to me
    and saying things like,
  74. "Mr. Yang, we thought
    you were boring in person,
  75. but on video, you are just unbearable."
  76. (Laughter)

  77. So as a desperate second attempt,
    I began drawing these lectures as comics.

  78. I'd do these very quickly
    with very little planning.
  79. I'd just take a sharpie,
    draw one panel after the other,
  80. figuring out what I wanted
    to say as I went.
  81. These comics lectures would come out
  82. to anywhere between
    four and six pages long,
  83. I'd xerox these, give them to my sub
    to hand to my students.
  84. And much to my surprise,
  85. these comics lectures were a hit.
  86. My students would ask me
    to make these for them
  87. even when I could be there in person.
  88. It was like they liked cartoon me
    more than actual me.
  89. (Laughter)

  90. This surprised me, because my students
    are part of a generation

  91. that was raised on screens,
  92. so I thought for sure they would like
    learning from a screen
  93. better than learning from a page.
  94. But when I talked to my students
  95. about why they liked
    these comics lectures so much,
  96. I began to understand
    the educational potential of comics.
  97. First, unlike their math textbooks,
  98. these comics lectures taught visually.
  99. Our students grow up in a visual culture,
  100. so they're used to taking in
    information that way.
  101. But unlike other visual narratives,
  102. like film or television
    or animation or video,
  103. comics are what I call permanent.
  104. In a comic, past, present and future
    all sit side by side on the same page.
  105. This means that the rate
    of information flow
  106. is firmly in the hands of the reader.
  107. When my students didn't understand
    something in my comics lecture,
  108. they could just reread that passage
    as quickly or as slowly as they needed.
  109. It was like I was giving them
    a remote control over the information.
  110. The same was not true
    of my video lectures,
  111. and it wasn't even true
    of my in-person lectures.
  112. When I speak, I deliver the information
    as quickly or slowly as I want.
  113. So for certain students
    and certain kinds of information,
  114. these two aspects of the comics medium,
    its visual nature and its permanence,
  115. make it an incredibly powerful
    educational tool.
  116. When I was teaching this Algebra 2 class,

  117. I was also working on my master's
    in education at Cal State East Bay.
  118. And I was so intrigued by this experience
    that I had with these comics lectures
  119. that I decided to focus
    my final master's project on comics.
  120. I wanted to figure out
    why American educators
  121. have historically been so reluctant
    to use comic books in their classrooms.
  122. Here's what I discovered.
  123. Comic books first became
    a mass medium in the 1940s,

  124. with millions of copies
    selling every month,
  125. and educators back then took notice.
  126. A lot of innovative teachers began
    bringing comics into their classrooms
  127. to experiment.
  128. In 1944, the "Journal
    of Educational Sociology"
  129. even devoted an entire issue
    to this topic.
  130. Things seemed to be progressing.
  131. Teachers were starting
    to figure things out.
  132. But then along comes this guy.
  133. This is child psychologist
    Dr. Fredric Wertham,
  134. and in 1954, he wrote a book
    called "Seduction of the Innocent,"
  135. where he argues that comic books
    cause juvenile delinquency.
  136. (Laughter)

  137. He was wrong.

  138. Now, Dr. Wertham was actually
    a pretty decent guy.
  139. He spent most of his career
    working with juvenile delinquents,
  140. and in his work he noticed
    that most of his clients read comic books.
  141. What Dr. Wertham failed to realize
    was in the 1940s and '50s,
  142. almost every kid in America
    read comic books.
  143. Dr. Wertham does a pretty
    dubious job of proving his case,

  144. but his book does inspire
    the Senate of the United States
  145. to hold a series of hearings
  146. to see if in fact comic books
    caused juvenile delinquency.
  147. These hearings lasted
    for almost two months.
  148. They ended inconclusively,
    but not before doing tremendous damage
  149. to the reputation of comic books
    in the eyes of the American public.
  150. After this, respectable American
    educators all backed away,

  151. and they stayed away for decades.
  152. It wasn't until the 1970s
  153. that a few brave souls
    started making their way back in.
  154. And it really wasn't
    until pretty recently,
  155. maybe the last decade or so,
  156. that comics have seen
    more widespread acceptance
  157. among American educators.
  158. Comic books and graphic novels
    are now finally making their way

  159. back into American classrooms
  160. and this is even happening
    at Bishop O'Dowd, where I used to teach.
  161. Mr. Smith, one of my former colleagues,
  162. uses Scott McCloud's
    "Understanding Comics"
  163. in his literature and film class,
    because that book gives his students
  164. the language with which to discuss
    the relationship between words and images.
  165. Mr. Burns assigns a comics essay
    to his students every year.
  166. By asking his students
    to process a prose novel using images,
  167. Mr. Burns asks them to think deeply
  168. not just about the story
  169. but also about how that story is told.
  170. And Ms. Murrock uses
    my own "American Born Chinese"
  171. with her English 1 students.
  172. For her, graphic novels
  173. are a great way of fulfilling
    a Common Core Standard.
  174. The Standard states that students
    ought to be able to analyze
  175. how visual elements contribute
    to the meaning, tone and beauty of a text.
  176. Over in the library, Ms. Counts
    has built a pretty impressive

  177. graphic novel collection
    for Bishop O'Dowd.
  178. Now, Ms. Counts and all
    of her librarian colleagues
  179. have really been at the forefront
    of comics advocacy,
  180. really since the early '80s,
    when a school library journal article
  181. stated that the mere presence
    of graphic novels in the library
  182. increased usage by about 80 percent
  183. and increased the circulation
    of noncomics material
  184. by about 30 percent.
  185. Inspired by this renewed interest
    from American educators,

  186. American cartoonists are now producing
    more explicitly educational content
  187. for the K-12 market than ever before.
  188. A lot of this is directed
    at language arts,
  189. but more and more comics
    and graphic novels
  190. are starting to tackle
    math and science topics.
  191. STEM comics graphics novels
    really are like this uncharted territory,
  192. ready to be explored.
  193. America is finally waking up to the fact

  194. that comic books
    do not cause juvenile delinquency.
  195. (Laughter)

  196. That they really do belong
    in every educator's toolkit.

  197. There's no good reason
    to keep comic books and graphic novels
  198. out of K-12 education.
  199. They teach visually,
  200. they give our students
    that remote control.
  201. The educational potential is there
  202. just waiting to be tapped
  203. by creative people like you.
  204. Thank you.

  205. (Applause)