Archive for the ‘Elizabeth Losh’ Category

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Part II: Service Learning Through Comics – Final Projects

posted: 7.10.13 by Elizabeth Losh and Jonathan Alexander

A few months ago I posted  about an innovative course that combined the upper-division writing and Service Learning requirements of the college by using comics as a means of teaching and learning. Graphic novelist Keith McCleary and Ethnic Studies professor Wayne Yang had teamed up to teach ComicCraft, a course that teaches students to create and distribute comics that investigate local and contemporary topics, such as social misperceptions of underrepresented communities. [read more]

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Teaching Science with Comics

posted: 6.10.13 by Elizabeth Losh and Jonathan Alexander

In this column, I have talked about comics pedagogy for many different academic subjects: foreign languageshistory, information literacy, and service learning.

Comics also have a history of being used in science education.  Our Understanding Rhetoric collaborators Zander Cannon and Kevin Cannon illustrated a graphic guide to genetics and DNA called The Stuff of Life with Mark Schultz.  The subject of the biological mechanisms of inheritance actually invites illustration, given the importance of visual explanations in the discipline.  From the Punnett squares of Mendel to the architecture of the double helix of Watson and Crick, visualization has been an important part of scientific discoveries in genetics.  At last year’s Comic-Con International, vendors hawked a number of science themed issues, including the “Spectra” series with its “LaserFest Superhero” that is designed to teach high school AP Physics students about topics such as “force” and “power.” [read more]

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Using Comics to Teach Foreign Languages

posted: 4.29.13 by Elizabeth Losh and Jonathan Alexander

Although composition instructors don’t always think about teaching for foreign language literacy, lessons learned from teachers of other languages can offer insights into how to foster academic literacies in–particularly insights into how cultural knowledge can foster greater understanding.

At the recent New England Modern Language Convention in Boston, a number of panels were devoted to teaching and learning with graphic novels.  Although most of the panelists focused on works published in the United States, comics that students must translate from their original languages also provided opportunities for discussing sequential art forms that combine visual and verbal messages.  [read more]

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Teaching about Writing Instructions with Comics

posted: 3.18.13 by Elizabeth Losh and Jonathan Alexander

Instructions are obviously a nearly ubiquitous part of life in our visual culture and can be found everywhere from the emergency exit of an airplane to a tube of toothpaste. Unlike writing that is organized into prose paragraphs, instructions often take the form of an ordered list that may seem to be woefully lacking in sentence variety for lovers of intricate grammatical style.  However, encouraging students in composition classes to think about writing instructions can be a useful way to discuss audience and purpose and improve students’ understanding of different rhetorical situations.

Technical writing courses often include very interesting prompts about how to write clear, effective, and economical instructions.  My former colleague at UC Irvine, computer science faculty member David Kay, was fond of assigning the task of writing instructions for how to build a particular object from building toys, such as Legos or Tinker Toys.  Peer editing groups would need to try to follow the instructions to build the intended object (such as a specific house, vehicle, or animal) without illustrations and without verbal prompting from the instructor. [read more]

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Teaching about Interactive Media with Comics

posted: 3.4.13 by Elizabeth Losh and Jonathan Alexander

Web comics have become a venue for both established artists and indie creators and can serve as a way to discuss how screens, input devices, and interactive user behavior play a role in how we consume (and produce) media.  By thinking about layouts beyond the page, veteran graphic novelist Scott McCloud has written The Right Number, in which readers can dive deep into a telescoping page, and composed an online response to an essay by Brenda Laurel, in which his audience can explore vast planes of textual real estate.

In our online sample chapter of Understanding Rhetoric, our readers are only allowed to flip pages, but many kinds of interactive experiences have become possible with comics created for ubiquitous computing devices with accelerometers and global positioning systems, such at the iPad, iPhone, or Android compatible devices.

Award-winning interactive media designer Erik Loyer has used the comic book page as a way to “play stories like instruments.” Loyer has created what he calls “opertoons” that combine comics, games, music, and touch to create new forms of digital storytelling.  I knew his iPhone app Ruben & Lullaby, which tells the story of an interracial couple’s first fight wordlessly with a jazz score.  Ruben & Lullaby was an official selection at IndieCade, where visitors could flip back and forth to demonstrate the perspectives of the two characters, shake them to make them angry, and stroke them to calm them down. [read more]

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Service Learning Through Comics

posted: 2.4.13 by Elizabeth Losh and Jonathan Alexander

Service Learning or Community-Based Learning is widely recognized as an effective form of experiential learning that promotes civic engagement, professional and scholarly preparation, and increased global awareness and understanding. Organizations like the Association of American Colleges and Universities recognize these forms of engaged education on their list of recommended “high impact educational practices”. Although popular culture often treats the reading and writing of comics as a mode of distraction or entertainment that separates comic book fans from the problems of the real world, there are many ways that working closely with comic books can promote connection to off-campus communities. [read more]

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Representing Organizations with Comic Books

posted: 12.3.12 by Elizabeth Losh and Jonathan Alexander

          Liz

Writing for community organizations is a well-regarded type of composition assignment that aims to engage student writers with issues from the real world. For example the National Council of Teachers of English has a lesson plan devoted to writing in the common genre of the brochure.  Many composition instructors who want to incorporate service learning into their classrooms have asked students to create written materials for real world organizations that might include clinics, centers, and non-profit agencies.  Writers learning to think about mastery of a collective voice rather than an individual voice have also been encouraged to compose in many genres.  Examples cover a wide range of common formats for mass communication, such as brochures, booklets, catalogs, posters, press releases, blog entries, and websites.

The comic book format is also often used as a means of public outreach by many organizations and might serve as a good potential kind of assignment for students doing public writing to tackle.  For example, Planned Parenthood created a series of comic books in the fifties and sixties called Escape from Fearto dramatize the value of birth control.  For more examples, check out the website Comics with Problems for everything from help with poison control to advocacy for segregation from the office of Alabama governor George Wallace in the pre-Civil Rights South. [read more]

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Illustrating Understanding

posted: 10.15.12 by Elizabeth Losh and Jonathan Alexander

          Liz

In other blogging venues I have written about the importance of teaching visual communication.  I’ve also discussed the obstacles facing those who try to facilitate more instructional drawing time in a culture where those on the college track are quickly trained out of seemingly unproductive “doodling.” Although finger paints may be fine for preschoolers and watercolors might be acceptable as a hobby or form of therapy for those in their golden years, the prime of life for rhetorical activity is often when hand-crafted visual communication seems most alien to our daily practices, particularly in an increasingly keyboard-driven culture.

Recently, along with an amazing roster of other media scholars, I participated in contributing to a series of “zine”-style volumes about “Critical Making” that was edited by artist Garnet Hertz.  (Hertz has achieved international fame for subversive hackerspace projects such as constructing a cockroach-controlled robot and assembling an arcade style video game about driving that actually can drive through city streets.)   In the process of joining this diverse group of critical makers, I wanted to tackle my own anxieties about what I perceive as my relatively weak drawing skills.  I also wanted to practice what I preach when it comes to working in multiple modalities.  So I created a hand-drawn and hand-lettered story about scout badges that may not be the most artful contribution to the collection, but at least it achieved my basic goal of composing a visual argument in a two-page spread.

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