INTE 6710 ~ Creative Designs for Instructional Materials Project 2: Graphic Novel Handout Design Document Ryan McClintock
March 1 8, 2 012
1. Significant Purpose Recently my mother shared a story with the family about her favorite gift she received growing up. “It was a set of Encyclopedias. I loved looking things up and learning,” she said, to which my 17-‐year-‐old niece responded, “Wow, everything I need is on my phone.” Hearing this, I could only think that the short exchange between my mother and niece exemplified how much has changed as a result of what many call a Digital Revolution. Society is becoming increasingly networked and information is more readily available.
Education, although changing, lags behind the rate at which society is changing. While there may be many reasons for this gap between society and schools, one of the main reasons may be that educators need to recognize, accept, and adapt to the needs of a new generation of students; a generation that is connected, sophisticated, and, I think, inherently hungry to demonstrate their ability to innovate and influence. Many progressive educators are currently working to adapt by transforming their instruction to meet the needs of their students. Part of this transformation involves networking and collaborating with colleagues and fellow educators. Reflecting with colleagues will improve so many lessons, labs, and activities and will result in the creation of many deeper project (or problem)-‐based learning (PBL) opportunities for students. A PBL curriculum encourages students to work together as they investigate open-‐ended type questions that cover content and introduces them to important skills along the way. They learn to utilize their resources to access information while teachers circulate and help guide them through their work. True cross-‐curricular sharing and collaboration is required to create well-‐ designed projects. Image what a team made up of English, History, Science, and Math teachers could create when they work together to address students’ needs by designing a project that will involve content and skills from each of their respective areas of expertise. Students will engage in these projects and remember their work for years to come. Many teachers work collaboratively as they seek to improve their instruction. Occasionally several will create a project or problem that spans more than one curricular area. Creating and implementing an overarching PBL program, however, involves much more than several teachers working together because they recognize the benefits of such collaboration. To effect a building-‐wide program requires more structure and examples.
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This project will create a graphic-‐novel depicting the major steps involved in successful cross-‐ curricular PBL programs. The handout will depict several teachers working together to create a project, all the while they will be describing their ideas and individual contributions. This handout will help teachers learn the nuances of PBL by breaking the process into a series of steps and examples, thus addressing any misconceptions regarding PBL and highlighting the advantages of such an approach. Teachers at Castle View High School will recognize their building is appropriately setup to encourage a PBL-‐approach to learning. Our current culture of collaboration and Professional Learning Communities is primed to handle a more organized push to create rigorous and relevant learning opportunities for our students. This handout will catalyze their efforts to create more cross-‐curricular PBL, which is becoming more and more important as schools and educators seek methods to engage our students in an ever-‐changing, technologically-‐infused, networked society.
“Designing your curriculum around project-‐based learning is a dynamic way of engaging learners and of cultivating their powers of imagination, creativity and inquiry.” -‐ Sir Ken Robinson
2. A Picture of the Future
Recent efforts in education have resulted in the creation and utilization of Professional Learning Communities, PLCs, which often include teachers from several content areas. The PLC movement is centered on collaboration and reflection, which often results in teachers talking about what they do and how they can improve. Most PLC work encourages the creation and implementation of cross-‐curricular material, though on a small scale. A PBL-‐centered program takes this work to the next level as students make connections between several disciplines and thus engage more and engage and take more control of their learning. Castle View High School is organized into four academies for students to choose from. These academies contain teachers from each content area who meet twice a week to discuss their efforts to increase academic rigor and relevance, through their relationships with students. Implementing a building-‐wide PBL effort will work well at several levels. Firstly, academies will be able to distinguish themselves from each other via PLB. Our Biotech and Health Sciences (BHS) academy will design projects that center on the major goals of the science-‐based academy. Our Leadership and Global Communications (LGC) academy can focus on their sociological design. The other two academies will similarly focus their PBL efforts on the defining aspects of their academies.
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Secondly, teachers will realize the power of a more inquiry-‐based approach to learning where students are able to manage their work in ways that are more engaging and effective than traditional lecture-‐ type approaches. Thirdly, students will engage in memorable work that advances their intellectual contributions beyond the walls of a single classroom. Students, therefore, will more than likely retain the skills and content involved in their projects well beyond their high school days. Teachers will be the audience for this particular handout. Here’s what they should be able to do after reviewing the handout: • • Form (join) a cross-‐curricular PLB team of teachers Execute a PBL project o o o o o • Get an idea Design the project Tune the project Do the project Exhibit the project
Reflect on their efforts at introducing PBL
Academy PLCs will be expected to create and execute a minimum of one PBL experience per nine-‐week term to measure the usefulness of both the handout and the approach for Castle View students.
I think a graphic novel handout is an effective medium for instructing readers on designing PBL for their students. What follows are the major design values I took into consideration when creating this handout. This graphic handout was designed to be brief, concrete, yet effective in introducing and instructing readers how to think and implement PBL into a course. “Using concreteness as a foundation for abstraction is not just good for mathematical instruction; it is a basic principle of understanding. Novices crave concreteness …. Concrete ideas are easier to remember,” according to Heath & Heath (2007, p. 106) regarding how to make a difficult or abstract idea easier to understand and recall. Along these lines I structured this handout by creating short lists of the most important portions of PBL for students and of how teachers can approach PBL to create amazing projects. Portions of Medina (2008) material on short-‐term memory, specifically on repetition, influenced the organization of this handout.
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Similar to the style of McCloud (2006), I decided to include a narrating character to instruct readers about PBL. I thought this style would best engage the readers and give the handout a personal tone. This idea allowed me to include frames that were describing or exemplifying some of the narrator’s points that had slightly different looks and feels (colors, texture, positioning, etc.) so it was obvious to readers that the content was one “layer” deeper than the narrator slides. Handout flow was designed so readers are mostly tracking left to right, though some panels and frames are slightly larger than others. I used McCloud’s six panel to panel transitions (mainly Moment to Moment, Action to Action, and Subject to Subject) when designing the flow of my handout. I chose to not include each and every single detail about PBL planning in this handout. Medina (2008, p. 105) alludes to our brain’s ability to fill in the gap of details when recalling the effect of writing vowels with a stroke victim. A handout containing too many details may overwhelm readers and dissuade them from reading for comprehension (as referenced by one of my reviewers in the next section).
I continued to include many of the lessons I’ve learned from Reynolds (2009) regarding font selection, emphasis, and spacing. With respect to font selection, Pixton has a limited selection and uses proprietary fonts, but I was still able to choose a font that appeared similar to Futura and Rockwell as described by Reynolds (2009, p. 44). I positioned text and images in ways to avoid clutter (Reynolds, p. 38), which often resulted in more than one panel for a specific thought and guided readers to the next panel. I choose a color scheme that I think was easy to read on both a screen and paper.
McCloud (2006) served as the best model and example for my handout. The visual examples that he connected with his text and instruction provided me a template of sorts for my handout. I thought his use of a “narrator” worked well and therefore incorporated the same idea for my PBL handout.
Formative Evaluation Response
I asked the following questions of two of my peers: 1. I changed some of the design details of the thought bubbles throughout the handout. Which aspects did you enjoy the most? I asked this question to help identify which type of Pixton thought bubble was the most attractive and effective for the handout. Some of the choices were more rounded, some were boxy, and others were star-‐like in appearance. I also framed the bubbles with thicker lines for a few to help draw the reader’s attention to the content and wanted to know if this was an effective strategy. Here are the responses from my reviewers:
Personally, I neither liked nor disliked the changing up of the bubbles. In the Design the Project area on page 2 (it is a panel with three bubbles in one panel …
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such that the conversation was building off of each other), you used all three styles. That did strike me as odd, but it wasn’t overly distracting. However, in hindsight, I think that I would stick to one style. One thing that I did find bothersome was the extremely large size of the font in the thought bubbles. While it was purposeful, I found that to be very distracting… I would suggest bringing the font size down a notch on the very large ones.
I personally preferred the thought bubbles with the thinner outline, though in the first read-‐through I didn’t notice that they changed at all. I’d say, unless you’re trying to emphasize a point, keep them consistent. You can use the darker outline on important thoughts/words then whatever other consistent design for the rest. Though I’m not sure if it’s worth your time to go back and reformat them to make them all the same at this point, since as I said, I didn’t even notice at first. I decreased the font size on the larger font panels and reduced the number of callout bubble styles. I also reformatted the outline of several of the bubbles to a more consistent thickness.
2. What should I improve with respect to the flow of the handout? I asked this to ascertain whether or not the size and shape of the frames were easy to follow and if it was obvious to the reader when the content shifted to a new idea. I purposefully kept this question rather general so as to encourage my reviewers to provide a large amount of feedback regarding the overall readability and flow of instruction. Here are the responses from my reviewers:
Overall, I thought the flow was fine. You covered a bit of why do PBL, the history of it, the steps, the outcomes, and how to do it. My only flow comment would be that it seems to just end abruptly after the instructor leaps and jumps with joy. I’d suggest maybe decreasing the number of panels showing his joy and putting in one more summary panel.
I did have a specific question about the first page, 5th row, second panel (the bubble over the chalkboard, “…and how we know how to do good PBL.” I’m not sure why this is here… It seems out of place.
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On page 2, in the “Design the Project” description, I don’t understand the wording in the last panel under that section. Is there a word missing around the words “the phase”?
I thought it flowed really well and told a great little story. Obviously it would be nice if you could have all three parts merged, but that’s a limitation of the tool. One other thing I noticed that I liked, but might use slightly differently is your use of emphasis on certain words. I like that it gives cadence to the text as if you’re actually hearing someone speak, but when I look back over it at a glance, my eye is drawn to those words thinking they’re the important takeaway points, but they don’t always seem to be. Perhaps you could use more selection about the words that are larger/bold so they align with key words/phrases. I changed the reference to “this phase” as described by the first reviewer. I also reviewed each callout bubble and either changed or deleted any emphasized text to draw attention to terms specific to the content being discussed rather than the speaking cadence.
3. I was learning Pixton as I constructed this handout and consequently ran into a few technical issues (e.g., length of comic). What issues did you run into and do you have any advise for my Pixton comic? I tried several different strategies when constructing this handout, from hand drawings, taking pictures of my colleagues working together, to Pixton. I chose Pixton because of its supply of characters and background props. I did not anticipate a restriction on the length of a comic to fourteen strips. This required me to create a total of three comics to contain my material. I asked this question in anticipation of one or more of my reviewers also using Pixton as their tool. I figured they might have some practical advise for using Pixton. Here are my reviewers’ comments: See above. Really, the only thing was the super large font size. Oh, I did notice one panel (was of the chalkboard/screen) that had a completely different font all together. Would be nice if you could make it one file instead of three, but I suspect the size was limited.
Nice job learning a new tool as you went. The only thing that really stuck out in my mind was your sample of student work. When you mention that students did a painting on plywood to house their video I’m really intrigued and want to see
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it, because I’m not quite sure what you mean. I’m assuming the accompanying image is a screen shot of their animation. If you have a picture of the display that would be nice to see. As soon as I can find a version of Acrobat Pro I plan to export each of the three handout parts as pdf files and condense them to one file. Until then I’ll have to simply provide either three links to the parts or three pdf files. To address the “painting on plywood” issue, I removed that description. What I think could be done once a “multiple file” pdf is created is add web links to each of the hi-‐lighted examples for readers to review in detail.
4. With this handout I try to condense the process of Project-‐Based Learning, PBL, into a few “doable” steps. How can my approach be improved to make the understanding of PBL and subsequent implementation easier and more attractive to teachers? There are several aspects of proper PBL implementation that many teachers simply do not know about or practice (for whatever reason). I asked this question because I wanted to know if the number of steps I condensed the process into were understandable or if I bit off more than I can chew by doing this. Here are my reviewers’ comments: You might want to consider adding one more descriptive panel for each of the How to Do PBL steps? I’m conflicted, as you cover plenty, yet I wonder if more could go in here. I leave that up to your judgment, as I think it’s really a very good length. If you give to much, it won’t get read, if you give too little, you leave them hanging. I do think you did a nice job of summarizing the tons of information that’s out there.
I think you did a really nice job breaking this down to make it a much more approachable topic. I’m not sure if teachers at your school have a good amount of prep time to do all the planning that you propose, but that might be a perceived barrier to them. I bet there are some great PBL project resources and examples somewhere on the web, giving them a link to something like that might make PBL a little more accessible.
The second reviewer mentions additional PBL resources, which reinforces my desire to add web links to example sites and sites that continue to describe the PBL process.
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5. How can I make this handout more interesting to read and more effective at conveying my message to teachers? This was a sort of “anything else?” type of question that would allow my reviewers to mention errors in grammar and spelling, font size, and any other general design aspects that my first four questions missed asking about. Here are my reviewers’ comments: I would say ditto to my answer above. Overall, I think you did a very nice job. I did find a couple of errors: • 1st page, 5th row, 1st column: “student” should be plural • 1t page, near the bottom: “Today, teachers around the world are…” I’d suggest using either college or university in your text, but not both. Although the two words have different meanings, I think that for most people, the two words are synonymous in that they indicate higher education after high school. • 2nd page: “This inspires a level of commitment… than is fuelled by…”. Although fueled can be spelled with one L or two, it looks funny in this font with two Ls. I’d suggest spelling with only one L, as I think it’s more common (judgment call on your part though) the period should be contained within the closing quotation mark. • 3rd page: “Sorry, Good PBL get’s me excited” “get’s” should be “gets” • 3rd page, last panel: “I hope this has inspired you to bing PBL into…” bing should be bring. Also, “…tips and to to engage and challenge our students.” Do you mean “your” students instead of “our”?
I actually think you did an exceptional job of making this interesting to read. I especially like the last few frames where your character does a cartwheel. I think it does a good job of practicing what you teach when you tell them they should show enthusiasm for a project. I feel like this project could be particularly impactful if you do manage to print a few copies. That could get around the multiple sections issue and grab the teacher’s attention a bit.
Each of the errors described by the first reviewer have been fixed.
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Heath, C., & Heath, D. (2008). Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Die and Others Survive. New York: Random House. McCloud, S. (2006). Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Magna and Graphic Novels. New York: Harper.
Medina, J. (2008). Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School. Seattle, WA: Pear Press. Patton, A. (2012) Work that matters: The teacher’s guilde to project-‐based learning. Retrieved from http://www.innovationunit.org/our-‐services/projects/learning-‐futures-‐increasing-‐meaningful-‐student-‐ engagement Reynolds, G. (2009). Presentation Zen Design: Simple Design Principles and Techniques to Enhance Your Presentations. Berkeley, CA: New Riders.