Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
(This is where I would post a yellow frowny face with some red blotch on it if I had access to my editing software)
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Is this good news or not so great information? On the one hand, if publishers are pushing kid-friendly graphic novels, they may be "building the gateway" for more mature titles to make a comeback as these readers get hooked and want more sophisticated material.
On the other hand, as has been noted in this blog and several others, we're seeing stand-alone original graphic novels for older readers take a bit of a hit as publishers move to younger audiences and marketers keep pushing the "graphic adaptation" route (which has its place but represents "one step forward, two step back" thinking, in my opinion) to teachers.
I implore you, motivated readers!: Support good graphic novels for their own merits and move beyond the "easy" work of thinking you're progressive because you're letting kids read a graphic adaptation of the Iliad. Sure, you're on the right track as far as comics integration go, but you're only at step one. Go read some great titles like Good-bye, Chunky Rice, Bone, or even Persepolis or Deogratias if you want to see some new and exciting epic journeys unfold!
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Bring in '09!
As full of comics goodness as 2008 was for me and those willing to listen to me, Spring semester and the first half of 09 look to really be buzzing with Carter-crafted graphic novel pedagogy excitement!:
1. I'll have an article on graphic novels in a journal with major circulation that should finally extend the conversation on GN's and education beyond the "phase 1" mode of defining and listing. More on that when it is available, but expect something in March in a journal that reaches almost 110,000 readers.
2. I'll be teaching my "English Lab" course again and will touch on graphic novels in the same ways as mentioned before and in asking students to consider full definitions of text, reading, literacy, and the English Language Arts as defined by NCTE.
3. I'll be offering a special topics graduate-level course entitled "Teaching the Graphic Novel" which will explore research and scholarship on teaching GN's in k-12 settings with multiple student populations. And, of course, we'll be reading great graphic novels -- standards like Maus and Persepolis -- and newer titles like La Perdida, American Widow, and The Education of Hopey Glass. We'll throw in some comics scholarship, some critical theory, and some process assignments and hopefully have a blast.
4. In that class, we'll be reading Watchmen, and I hope to be able to work with an area theatre to host a special viewing for my class and maybe even do a talk on the novel before or after the viewing. Let's hope all the red tape clears and the movie actually makes it to the box office!!
5. I'm hosting a mini-conference on "The Comics in El Paso" which I should have subtitled "Border Issues" since the folks who will be speaking, Jaime Portillo, Julian Lawler, and keynote Jai Nitz will all talk about how El Paso and Juarez influence or influenced their recent work, and one reads comics by literally crossing borders from panel to panel.
6. I have had major positive news from my publisher about my second edited collection on teaching graphic novels and will be very busy getting the manuscript prepped for an Autumn 09 debut.
7. Number 6 happened in part because my first book on the subject, Building Literacy Connections with Graphic Novels: Page by Page, Panel by Panel, continues to do well. It is in its second printing and has broken the 100,000 rank at Amazon.com several times over the past few months. That might not ever top the time I saw it in the top 15,000 titles, but that's still pretty good.
8. There's the possibility that a chapter in a book on teaching graphic novels at the college level might finally get published and also coincide nicely with the release of the Watchmen movie, and I have at least two other chapters or articles accepted on comics and pedagogy for further-down-the-road ventures, and I have three entries for the upcoming revised edition of an encyclopedia of comic art to get to the editor.
9. I'll also be continuing work on the conference front: I'll be a keynote speaker at the first-annual Graphica Conference in NYC, assuming the parties involved can get some things sorted out, and I'll be workshopping on comics and literacy elements in Missouri at the big "Write to Learn" conference.
And that's just what I know for now. I'll keep looking for new possibilities and doing scholarship/research on SANE issues 'till it drives me crazy, or 'till it tenures me. Oh, hell, who am I kidding? I'll keep at as long as I'm able, which I hope will be a long time.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Monday, December 15, 2008
"Year in Review" Stuffs Popping Up
I was glad to see Heidi at the Beat notice something about graphic novel publishing that I too had noticed after visiting the exhibitor's booths at this year's NCTE:
"Plus, if you look closely, most of the books coming out from Random House, Simon & Schuster, Hill & Wang and so on, are beginning to slide into two camps: non-fiction “teaching” comics, such as the bestselling 9/11 Report graphic novel, (which had a little-noted, low-selling sequel this year), and bestselling fiction adaptations, like Tokyopop/HarperCollins’ manga adaptation of Erin Hunter’s The Warriors, which have sold thousands and thousands of copies."
Heidi is speaking generally, of course, but her conclusion was one I reached at NCTE. There were some great exceptions. The :01 booth was chocked full of great books, and I know of many wonderful graphic novels that weren't being marketed to the ELA educators at the convention. But, if one looked at what was there and excepted the :01 excellence, one saw exactly what Heidi noticed.
Heidi goes on to say that the graphic novel tidal wave has bottomed out but not been destroyed.
I worry that companies will continue to market graphic novels that were made specifically for "teaching purposes," because those books are usually of the worst quality.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: what we need are graphic novelists being graphic novelists. Art Spiegelman has no obligation or responsibility to create comics for the middle or high school classroom. He should simply go about creating his art as he sees fit. It's up to educators to learn about the graphic novel and look at those excellent works and find the pedagogical potential in them. (caveat: Spiegelman and Mouly have been doing some excellent comics work for kids, though. But they're doing it because they want to and can do great work. I'm not suggesting comics artists shouldn't create kids or teens-centered work if they want to, just that they shouldn't feel bound to in any regard.) Teachers teach. Artists create art. Informed teachers know how to integrate art -- and everything else of relevance -- into their classrooms.
Recently I was interviewed by someone who asked me how important lexile scores were when it came to teachers using comics. I told the interviewer that if I were looking for graphic novels, and I saw some with lexile scores and pre-packaged with associated AR points or grade levels, I'd be very dubious of their quality. I'd know they were made and marketed directly to me, the teacher, playing off what marketers thought of as "flash points" to draw my attention and "make my job easier" rather than crafted with quality of material in mind. I told the interviewer, good teachers already know how to level texts.
Better for teachers to look at the sort of themes or big questions they are exploring in their classrooms and look for the high-quality comic art that can help their students further explore said themes and questions. Otherwise, what will happen is eventually folks will catch wise to the poor quality of graphic novels marketed to teachers, and the backlash against them will gain considerable ground, consequently mask marketing to teachers the idea that no comics art is worth teaching, which is the thinking that many already have anyway.
I maintain that only good comics material will have what it takes to help teachers and students build learning connections. If I were a teacher and saw a company trying to sell me graphic novels based only readability or lexile score rather than on theme, big ideas, and excellence of story-telling, I'd be wary.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
NCTE and 21st Century Skills and Help for Educators
P21 Offers Free Guidance for English Teachers: "This framework, which includes examples taken directly from proven classroom practices, represents an exciting tool for teachers and students as they move toward a 21st-century education system," said Kylene Beers, NCTE president. eSchool News, December 3, 2008
This Fair-Use Guide Offers Copyright ShelterNCTE worked with media and legal experts to develop the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education. eSchool News, December 8, 2008
NCTE Takes Stands Against Scripted Curricula and English-Only Mandates"
At the 98th NCTE Annual Convention in San Antonio, Texas, NCTE members adopted resolutions against one-size-fits-all, scripted curricula and against curricula that do not provide English language learners with the best learning opportunities. See the Resolution on Scripted Curricula and the Resolution on English-Only Instructional Policies.
Media Bombardment Is Linked to Ill Effects during Childhood:A meta-analysis of studies on the effects of media on children and adolescents has shown that the number of contact hours with the media and/or the media's content impact the health of children and adolescents. The Washington Post, December 2, 2008
So What Is 21st Century Learning, Anyhow?:
Teachers can use the NCTE Framework for 21st Century Curriculum and Assessment to gauge whether they are providing their students with 21st century learning experiences and assessing these in 21st century ways.
Partnership for 21st Century Skills Debuts:
"21st Century Skills and English Map"NCTE has joined The Partnership for 21st Century Skills to produce the "21st Century Skills and English Map," a framework for integrating 21st century skills into the K-12 English curriculum. T.H.E. Journal, November 24, 2008
Undergraduate English courses at none other than Harvard are being reconfigured:
"We are diminishing the role of chronology as the absolute, as the only organizing rubric ... to combine it with genres and with geography as equally viable ways of thinking about literature and studying literature,” says one Crimson representative.
Before craggy traditionalists start bemoaning the degradation of an Ivy League education, let us all take a moment to say "Woot! Woot!"
For more information on Free Comic Book Day, type the title into this blog's search box. It's in the upper-left corner. See it? No, over a bit. The far upper-left corner. There ya go. ;)
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Loving the ClustrMaps App, Loving my Readers
But lemme tellya, being able to see my ClustrMaps clusters makes me very happy. I can see that I have a lot of readers in the Midwest and in the Northeast, for example, and that the message of comics in education is slowly being spread in even areas of the country where progressive education sometimes has to fight tooth and nail. That's invigorating!
And I'm especially excited to be getting hits from folks in Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America!
Thanks to everyone who reads EN/SANE world! I'll keep the links, notes, news and ideas coming, and ya'll keep visiting (and telling your friends about the site as well!)
Monday, December 08, 2008
Friday, December 05, 2008
This Supergirl seems to be less eye-candy and more struggling everygirl with superpowers. Perhaps she'll bridge the gap left by The Powerpuff Girls, a television show and comics featuring three adorable elementary schoolers with an array of heroic talents. But, this series can also explore the "puberty set" of issues, something that would have been rather disconcerting to see from Blossom or Bubbles.
Here's hoping the series is a sleeper hit. It looks like the type of comic -- fun, hip, and finally audience aware -- that Supergirl has needed for years.
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Parable for Early Career Teachers
More Rumination on "Choose Your Own Adventure"
* The degree of interactivity in choose your own adventure-style text matches well with Reader Response notions of the individualistic reading experience.
* According to closure theory, comics also require readers to fill in the blanks and make decisions about what has happened between panels or off-panel.
* This isn't a weakness, nor is it without precedent. Many Greek tragedies let the heinous stuff happen off-stage, letting the scenes become as horrific as they could be in the mind's eyes of each spectator/participant.
* This higher degree of overt participation and interaction, if not control, situates choose your own adventure-type texts well into 21st century literacies and those considered Multimodal.
* The concept of alternate or simultaneous realities essentially exists in these texts, tying them to string theory and some pretty high-level physics concepts. As I reflect, I wonder if my interest in these texts, while possibly being part of the reason I became a little neurotic about decision making, also helped develop my sense for seeing multiple points of view and considering problems from different angles. I also wonder if some of the magic I found in mulling over multiple and alternate realities resurfaced as I decided on some of my favorite graphic novelists/comics writers, like Alan Moore and Warren Ellis, both of whom deal with issues of time, space, and multiple and alternate realities and dimensions in their writings.
All this from those "worthless little paperbacks" -- they had so much in common with that other "trash" reading from the get-go. Adding the sequential art element to them? Brilliant!