Creating Knowledge as Student Authors

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The use of search engines has made it easy for us all to consume knowledge as they have streamlined the process of finding valid and reliable information online. However, consuming knowledge is only half of the picture. By helping students become authors in the classroom they are learning more about the other part of the process- creating knowledge.

An engaging way to do this is by providing students with the opportunity to create and share their own comics online. This active learning experience switches their role from knowledge consumer to knowledge creator while helping them construct their own knowledge. Furthermore, students are learning how to use the 21st century skills of communication, information literacy, and creativity & innovation. Below are a few comic book creators that can be used in the classroom.

  1. Make Beliefs Comix (Free)

Make Beliefs Comix is an easy to navigate website that has made the comic creation process simple. Comics are 2-4 panels long and include backgrounds, characters, objects, talk and thought balloons, and panel prompts. One great feature about this comic book creator is the detailed artwork available for use. Editing features for objects in panels include moving, resizing, flipping, layering, and deleting.

When comics are completed they can be saved as an image file, printed, or sent by email. Since there is no login for this site comics are not saved and therefore are not accessible once the window is closed.

The Make Beliefs Comix website offers various resources to teachers including lesson plans, a list of ways to use the site in the classroom, story ideas, writing prompts, and language options. There are also pages with information about how Make Beliefs Comix may be used in ESOL/Literacy and special needs classrooms.

Make Beliefs Comix is available free online and as a free or paid app. Here is a short video tutorial.

2. Pixton 

Pixton provides many customization options to users. Students can add and customize full color characters, down to how the character’s hand is positioned and the expression on the character’s face. Preset background images can be edited by selecting the color and gradient used in the image. Speech bubbles can be a variety of shapes allow layering options and props can be added to panels.

When finished comics can be printed, saved as a file, embedded, or shared on the web. Once submitted comics can be graded using a 5 point rating system or a built in rubric. There are opportunities for students to view their classmates comics on the site, with options for providing comments. There are opportunities for self-reflection and peer reviews with the format of the site. Pixton offers lesson plans in a variety of content areas and discusses the implications of using Pixton for second language acquisition.

With the teacher accounts students do not need to create a login, and students are added to one of the teacher’s groups or classes. The teacher and school accounts allow comics to be created in a private and secure space. The teacher account is free to try and has a monthly subscription, whereas the school or district account is a one year paid subscription. There is a free account, however, there are many features like privacy and grading options not available on this type of account. Pixton is available online and as an app. Below is a Pixton video overview.

3. ToonDoo

ToonDoo offers a nice balance between customization and ease of use. Comics can use horizontal or vertical layouts of 1-4 panels. Characters are mainly cartoons that offer multiple poses per character. Students are also able to create their own characters, editing emotion, physical features, stance, and clothing. These characters can be added to their gallery and comics. There are different text options, as well as a variety of props and backgrounds. Two additional features of this cartoon creator are that uploaded images can be and drawings can be added to comics. Editing features allow students to size, clone, flip, rotate, and layer objects.

When comics are completed they can be published on the ToonDoo website for everyone to see, associated with a title, description, and tags. Other options include keeping it private or sharing via email with friends.

Much like Pixton, a free version of the website is available to those who register. This version, however does not offer the same privacy and sharing options as the paid version called ToonDoo Spaces which uses a social media network format to feature cartoons. This version only allows students and educators to create and access content, site administrators monitor and manage content, and students do not need to register with an email. A free trial is available for ToonDoo Spaces.

Have you used any of these or other comic creator sites in your classroom? I would love to hear how! Please share as a comment!

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Cloud Based Site to Organize and Share Links

Every think about how great it would be to access and share all of those great resources you have bookmarked on your computer… from anywhere?

Symbaloo is an online website and app that allows users to view, share, and access organized links on one easily accessible page. What makes it different from similar sites is its visual nature that makes it simple to navigate.

Using Symbaloo, users can organize important links on a page or “webmix”, which can then be further organized into categories by using color “markers”.  Each webmix has its own sharing link and embed code so it can be added to a website.

Here is an introduction to Symbaloo.

In addition to organizing your websites and links in one place, Symbaloo delivers benefits in the classroom.

1. Benefits to Students

Symbaloo is a great place to house links to class documents and it provides flexible viewing options (device, time, place). Furthermore, an entire project’s documents are easily included within a marker on a webmix.

For example, students in my health class created comics using ToonDoo to refuse peer pressure, and everything they needed to complete the project were under one Symbaloo marker. From the Symbaloo link they accessed:

When completing projects using Symbaloo students are using 21st century skills of information, media, and technology literacy.

Symbaloo is a great place to place for students to compile important resources of their own. By creating their own Symbaloo webmixes students are saving important resources for later use and organizing them so that they are easily found, thus practicing executive function skills.

2. Benefits to Colleagues

A benefit of being part of a professional learning network is the ability to share your knowledge while learning from your peers. Often, a disadvantage is that shared notes and photocopies are easily misplaced and the group may not meet regularly. With Symbaloo teachers are easily able to access many resources from one place and at anytime. Additionally, as new links are added the webmix is automatically updated.

Final thoughts…

Symbaloo provides so many great options in education. One improvement that could be made is ability to add multiple administrators to edit a single webmix. This would allow professional learning communities or student groups to collaborate in adding to the same webmix.

Have you used Symbaloo in your classroom? What are some of the ways you have or see yourself using this website? We’d love to hear… share your comment!

Resources:

http://www.imls.gov/about/21st_century_skills_list.aspx