Below are links to articles on using comic books in school and to online comic book applications.

Comic Books in the Classroom (NY Times) reports on the Comic Book Project at Teachers College, Columbia University, which helps students become more interested in art and writing.

Teachers are finding it easier to teach writing, grammar and punctuation with material that students are fully invested in. And it turns out that comic books have other built-in advantages. The pairing of visual and written plotlines that they rely on appear to be especially helpful to struggling readers. No one is suggesting that comic books should substitute for traditional books or for standard reading and composition lessons. Teachers who would once have dismissed comics out of hand are learning to exploit a genre that clearly has a powerful hold on young minds. They are using what works.

Thinking outside the box, inside the panel (Valerie Strauss, Washington Post) also reports on the Comic Book Project. The project's founder, Michael Bitz,

wanted to combine his research findings -- that learning through the arts can have academic and social value for children -- with a creative approach to get kids to combine skills such as reading, writing, brainstorming and conceptualizing ideas. Creating comic books, he said, would allow them to draw on their experiences and interests.

Interview with Michael Bitz of the Comic Book Project (Christian Hill, National Association of Comics Art Educators).

Teachers are getting graphic (Greg Toppo, USA Today) is a lengthy article on those using comic books in public schools with a section on those not in favor. Those in favor feel that getting students interested in reading comics will lead to their wanting to read more serious books.

Even French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre loved comic books, Gantos says. "This is a pretty heavy thinker, but he said in his autobiography that he started off reading comic books as a child and that if it wasn't for comic books, he never would have stuck with books.

Comic Book Project proves to be effective learning tool is a news release on The Maryland Comic Book Initiative.

Comics in the Classroom is a site devoted to using comics in school and has lesson plans, news, and reviews, all pertaining to using comic books.

Read-Write-Think is a site that has an online comic creator with accompanying lesson plans for using the tools.


Tales from the Public Domain: Bound by Law? is a comic book from the Duke School of Law for teaching about copyright:

“Bound by Law translates law into plain English and abstract ideas into ‘visual metaphors.’ So the comic's heroine, Akiko, brandishes a laser gun as she fends off a cyclopean 'Rights Monster' - all the while learning copyright law basics, including the line between fair use and copyright infringement.” -Brandt Goldstein, The Wall Street Journal online

Heroes in the Classroom: Comic Books in Art Education (Jay Berkowitz and Todd Packer) is a 7-page JSTOR article (published in Art Education) that gives "background, guidelines, and a lesson plan to help you use comics and cartoons in these artistic skills of students."

For those with access, Bitz has a journal article on the Comic Book Project (see excerpt below):
Bitz, M. (2004). The Comic Book Project: Forging alternative pathways to literacy. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 47.

In this arts-based literacy initiative in urban after-school environments, children brainstormed, outlined, sketched, wrote, and designed original comic books that represented their lives as urban youth.

Many deep-rooted problems in urban areas of the United States--including crime, poverty, and poor health--correlate with illiteracy. The statistics reported by organizations such as the National Alliance for Urban Literacy Coalitions are telling. Urban citizens who cannot read sufficiently are at a clear disadvantage in life. They are more likely to be poor (see Barton & Jenkins, 1995), to be incarcerated (see Haigler, Harlow, O'Connor, & Campbell, 1994), and to have health problems (see Baker et al., 2002). Meanwhile, another body of research shows a strong correlation between arts-rich environments and children's academic performance (Burton, Horowitz, & Abeles, 1999). Of course, the jury is still out on the conundrum between the chicken and the egg: Do the arts make kids smarter, or are smart kids involved in the arts?

While the debate continues in the academic community, the fact remains that most urban schools are not "rich" in arts or anything else. Most urban schools cannot make a connection between their arts and academic programs be cause there are simply too many other issues to worry about, particularly budgets and standardized test scores. Even in an arts-oriented program, urban youth face extraordinary challenges: family situations, safety concerns, lack of affordable or appropriate instructional opportunities, and peer resentment (Oreck, Baum, & McCartney, 1999). As urban schools continue to struggle, many now look to after-school programs as the future of education in the city. The need for and development of after-school programs are on the rise, and many...

Links to online tools for making comics:
Make Beliefs Comix
Comics Sketch
Strip Generator
Strip Creator

ATPM writes on Writing Environments, Plus Two New Outliners:

This column we’ll just note the types of things I suppose should be on a list of capabilities to consider. You might call them features. We’ll list them this time, with another list of the products we’ll draw from for our examples. Then you’ll have some time to set me right, correct, and add things. Next column, we’ll redo the list, show examples, and give some discussion.

OK? It’ll be like the old ATPO days.

Where we are deviating from the ATPO model is that many of the applications we’ll look at don’t use outlining. You know, usually I’m pretty strict about what we discuss here and at drawing the line around outliners. But I’ve had many requests to address writing, and it makes such sense to. Many ATPO users are in the outliner community because they use their outliners in workflows that produce some written output. I admit I am one of those. And it just doesn’t make sense to talk about writing without starting with the actual writing process and seeing where it takes us.

This will be a good opportunity to compare and contrast various word processing, notetaking, and outlining apps. As I use Tinderbox, I'm always interested in how it compares to other applications. I'm also interested in other apps that I sometimes read (but know little) about, such as Ulysses, which its website says is "The text editor for creative writers." And I'm looking forward to seeing what features they consider useful for writing and why.

Although I can see trackback pings in my Haloscan account, trackback hasn't been showing up on my posts because using the URL as the trackback ID goes past Haloscan's character limit. I'm now trying a numerical ID system. It seems to be working for new posts I make (not the ones before today), as indicated by the test trackback you see when clicking on trackback.

For an extensive list of Web2.0 software, go to IT Redux (via the DEN Blog).

Sudeep Bansal has a good list of Essential Freeware for the PC User.

Another comprehensive list of freeware can be found at 121 Space.

Steve Froemming has a list of Academic Freeware.

And for a short list of freeware for Mac OS X, go to "Open Source Mac".

Richard McManus of the Read/Write Web has a list of lists on things web2.0.

The Economist has an excellent article "Open, but not as usual" on the strengths and limitations of open-source software.

However, it is unclear how innovative and sustainable open source can ultimately be. The open-source method has vulnerabilities that must be overcome if it is to live up to its promise. For example, it lacks ways of ensuring quality and it is still working out better ways to handle intellectual property.

But the biggest worry is that the great benefit of the open-source approach is also its great undoing. Its advantage is that anyone can contribute; the drawback is that sometimes just about anyone does. This leaves projects open to abuse, either by well-meaning dilettantes or intentional disrupters. Constant self-policing is required to ensure its quality.