C2E2 Wrap Up

A lot of tech and teach and not a lot of geek and Dad going on here.  Let’s see if this post can rectify that.

This past weekend was C2E2, my comicon of choice for the last few years.  I was only able to make it on Friday and Sunday this year as Spring has also become birthday party season in our household. Saturday was filled with dance classes and a swimming party.  Sunday also had a birthday party but it was conveniently located downtown making it easy to get to the con when the party was over.

For the 2nd time, I brought my daughter, now 7, who doesn’t have much interest in comics but enjoys the con nonetheless.  Like most 7 year old girls, she’s really into My Little Pony Friendship is Magic. It’s one of the few comics she’ll read (or ask my wife to read to her since she does all the voices, I’m not as good apparently).  This meant required stops at the Pony tables in Artists Alley.  Katie Cook is always fun to visit and we got a couple of nice sketches from her as well as one from artist Amy Mebberson.  We still had some trouble finding the one issue of the series we’re missing but I can probably pick it up as a reorder at my LCS later on.

She was a little disappointed that she couldn’t get into the face painting session but had fun at the Aw Yeah drawing contest and doing some Star Wars origami.  Multiple trips to Disney have made her patient while waiting in lines but I still think a 7 year old girl shouldn’t have to wait for a half hour behind a bunch of grown men to get a sketch of her favorite pony.  Would love to see more opportunities for girls next year but my daughter still had a wonderful time and will be coming back next year.

The Loot…

  • 2 Pony Sketches (Amy Mebberson and Katie Cook).  No sketches for dad this year.
  • Aw Yeah Comics #1 and #2
  • An issue of Super Pets
  • G-Man #1
  • An issue of Superman Family Adventures
  • A nice Action Cat drawing from the drawing contest by Art Baltazar
  • Scene of the Crime, a nice hardcover edition of the book that first put Brubaker, Lark, and Phillips together.
  • Chew TPBs 1-6.  A series I criminally slept on when it was first released
  • A couple issues of The Massive I missed in the store.
  • My Little Pony Friendship is Magic Micro Series #1
  • Mind MGMT Hardcover.  Got the first few issues in first printings. Hello eBay!
  • Mind MGMT 6-9 because my store stopped ordering more than a couple of copies a while ago.
  • Battle Pug.  Heard nothing but great things about this all ages book that opens with a naked (but covered) woman lying on a bed.

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Twitter in the Classroom

For the last year or so, I’ve been trying to get a group of like minded teachers together to study different ways of using social media in the classroom. We have a few Tweeters in the building so I was going to use that as the lure to bring them into the fold. Everyone was interested but we were never able to coordinate our schedules to make regular meetings work.

twitter-bird-white-on-blue

As with many of my projects, this is one I just decided to go ahead and do after waiting too long for the conditions to be just right.  From now until the end of the year, 3 teachers (2 kindergarten and 1 second grade) feature students as guest tweeters on their Twitter accounts.  Throughout the day, these students will be responsible for posting updates for their followers (parents) on what they are doing in class.  To get this set up…

  • Created new Twitter accounts for the classrooms. Some of the teachers already had accounts but were worried about parents seeing some of the comments their other Twitter friends might post on their timelines.
  • Marked the accounts as private. We wanted to restrict followers to only those approved by the teacher.  Especially at this young age, it’s important to control the flow of information and who has access to it.  All parent and staff requests will be approved.
  • Sent a letter home to parents explaining the project.  This not included the url for the Twitter feed and some other general directions to make it easier for parents at home but also the teachers at school.
  • Set up iPads with Twitter and TwitPic.  Each classroom has an iPad that is ready to Tweet and post pics.  I chose TwitPic because it seemed to be the easiest to use and let me remove our images from the public feed so only those who follow our Twitter feeds will be able to see these images.

So far the response has been good.  About half the parents in each class have already signed up to follow the feed and the students are excited about being in control of the information that goes out to their parents each day.  I’ll report back at the end of the year with some reflections but so far I’ve been happy with what we’ve done and would like to push it out to more classrooms next year.

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Making Money Doing What I Love

No, not teaching, I already make money doing that.  I’m talking about comics.  I’ll admit that after just a measly 3 pages  in print, the thought of self publishing has rattled around in my brain but I’ve been reading comics long enough to know that self publishing is a passion project with odds of succeeding financially close to that of winning the lottery.

My dad asked me at dinner a few weeks ago about the prospect and I told him as much. Thankfully, someone with actual experience with a “successful” and fairly well hyped comic has been writing about it.

Jim Zub writes Skullkickers, a comic which I have not read but have heard a lot of good things about.  It was one of the early titles to come out in the tsunami of good books Image has been publishing this year.  He writes on his blog about the realities of making money in indie comics.

The Reality of Mainstream Creator-Owned Comics

Okay, But What About Digital Comics?

It all makes sense to me but I’m still not  a fan of digital comics, especially through apps like Comixology, at the same price point as print comics.  As someone in the comments section pointed out, you don’t actually own the files you are downloading. You’re renting them If Comixology pulls them from circulation, there’s a good chance that the files will disappear from your device.  No one ever seems to consider that Comixology might just got out of business at some point in the future and with files created specifically for their own reader, you’ll be left with a bunch of great comics and no way to actually read them.

I love the idea of digital; especially as I get older and don’t have as much time to read or as much room to store my print copies. When I was 13, I would read the same issue over and over again. Now I’m lucky to get through my weekly purchases just once.  At a lower price point, digital would save space and make me feel ok about sacrificing the permanence a paper copy provides.  I get that there are costs involved in digital which drive the price up to $2.99 or $3.99 but that doesn’t mean it’s a good value.

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So this thing has been making the rounds on the Internet.  Don’t know if it’s real or not as a lot of these things are faked to drum up attention or discussion but let’s just assume it is.

I can see what the teacher is going for.  Despite what you’re read about teaching gender stereotypes (which it IS doing inadvertently) it’s a sorting lesson. I’ve done things like this in my own classroom but there are a thousand other topics he/she could have used to teach this lesson.  If my daughter had come home with this paper, here’s what would have happened…

  1. A call would have been made to her teacher and maybe the principal.  The very idea of this subject is inappropriate but to tell my daughter that the things she likes to do have to be labelled as “for boys” is despicable.
  2. The paper would be hung on the refrigerator. Maybe framed.
  3. We’d go out to Olive Garden for dinner (her choice, not mine) and maybe ice cream after.

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Mock Election Wrap Up

One of the craziest days of my school career is over.  This was not my first mock election but it was definitely the most ambitious and involved.  Everything went really well but I had no idea how much I was going to be needed to keep it running during the day.  Here’s what we did…

No Real Issues – We made a decision early on not to include real election issues in our own.  I don’t see much value in having students vote for an actual presidential candidate when most/all of them are just going to vote for whoever their parents are voting for. That’s not an election, it’s a popularity contest. It’s one of the reasons I’ll never tell my daughters (much to my oldest’s chagrin) who I vote for.  An election should be about ideas that are relevant to the voters.  So we came up with some ballot items that would impact our students lives.

  • A new mascot – We are redesigning our tiger mascot and narrowed it down to 2 design choices for the students to vote on.
  • A new spirit day – Crayon Day (wear your favorite color) or Hat Day
  • Inflatables – Every year on field day, we have 2 stations with inflatables; 1 slide and 1 obstacle course. One of our P.E. teachers did a little research and found that we had some choices that were within our price range so we let the students pick which designs we would have at the end of the year this year.

I think this was a good decision and maybe some day when adults can have some civil discourse on something as simple as choosing the leader of the free world, we’ll reincorporate it back into our own elections but for now, I think that’s a world our students don’t need to be a part of.

Election Committee – We had nine 4th grade students make up our election committee.  They worked after school and during lunch/recess to create everything.  One student created our online registration form and electronic ballots using Google Docs’ forms function.  These worked really well.  We were able to create a series of multiple choice questions on the ballots and restrict them to a single answer.  Getting the final results for our election took a total of 2 minutes the next morning as Google Docs graphed all the answers out for us in 2 clicks of the mouse.

Voting Booths – Our librarian, who was one of 2 other teachers to co-plan the election with me, called the Lake County Election office and managed to get them to lend us some heavy duty cardboard voting booths.  The kids loved them.  It made the experience a little more authentic for them, especially if they were lucky enough to have gone to the polling place with their parents before school.  The booths were a little on the tall side so we borrowed some mats from the P.E. teachers for our younger students to stand on while they voted.  The mats also created a nice barrier to keep waiting students back far enough so that they couldn’t see what the person in front of them was voting for.

 

Inside each voting booth was an iPad on a keyboard stand and a piece of paper with pictures of each ballot item.  Google Docs doesn’t let us put images next to the questions so the paper was needed as a reference for students who hadn’t made up their minds or couldn’t remember the names of the things they were voting for.  The keyboard was used only as a stand. We could have used picture frame stands but the space bar made it easy to wake up the iPads that had gone to sleep between classes.

The Schedule – We scheduled classes in 15 minute blocks to vote.  Though they couldn’t be there all the time, most of the day, we had members of the election committee coming down to help out in shifts of 2.  1 member would check in voters by rubber stamping their voter registration cards while the other would help students who were having trouble with the ballot.  This system worked very well and the committee were amazing.

Stickers! – Unlike regular voting in Lake County this year, we gave out stickers to everyone who voted.  Our principal bought them for around $6.00 a roll and we have a few thousand left over. I hope they’re still sticky in 4 years.

I’ve been using Google Docs at home for the last few years now but it was a lot of fun to see how quickly my students took to it and how much they were able to get done collaboratively online.  I don’t think we could have done this project 4 years ago to the degree we did this year. I’m hoping more of our teachers will find the value in it that we did during the last couple of weeks.

I’m already planning for 2016.

 

 

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Mock Elections

I’m sure most of the elementary schools across the country are holding some sort of mock election in 2 weeks and my school is no exception. I’m teaming up with our librarian and CIS to put ours together. We’re off to a late start as some of our plans were foiled before we could get started but we’ve regrouped and I think come up with some interesting stuff. Here are some bullet points for what we have planned.

  • An election committee made up of a small group of 4th grade students.  These guys will be running the show as much as possible. They’re going to write all our press releases, design all the posters, make some videos to be show in class, and design the registration forms and ballots.
  • Registration. Students will be required to register to vote and will receive a voter registration card.  Registration will be done electronically from school or home.
  • Electronic voting.  We’re going to be using Google Docs (forms) and iPads for our ballots.  We’ve already borrowed 6 cardboard voting booths from the county election offices and we’ll set up iPads in each one for students to use to vote.  Our student election team will hopefully be on hand all day to assist in the process and help our younger students vote.
  • We’ll also be modifying the ballot for our kindergarten students who don’t have an interest in some of the items on the ballot.

To avoid the kinds of discussions that can quickly become awkward in this day and age, we will not be voting on actual political candidates.  Instead we’ll be deciding the following issues…

  • A new logo for our mascot
  • A theme for a new spirit day
  • A choice of inflatables for field day

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Catching Up

Late summer/early fall is always a hard time to work on those extra side projects (like this) that I enjoy but don’t pay the bills.  It’s not until early to mid October that things finally settle down a bit and I can get back to experimenting and philosophizing.  So what’s been going on?

  • Finished up my third session of Summer Wonders with a comic book class.  I was really looking forward to this one but it didn’t quite go as planned.  There was a lot of enthusiasm on the students’ part in the beginning but I think that waned pretty quickly when they realized how much writing was involved. It was difficult to get many of them to focus on writing a good story. There were some gems and I might try a retooled version of it again next year if there’s still interest.
  • Started my 13th (?) year teaching elementary school technology.  We’ve got some big plans this year with a mock election and hopefully some student presentations at SIT and TECH 2013 as well as the usual crazy stuff I try to convince my coworkers to try throughout the year.
  • LCCRC Presentation.  Along with 3 of my coworkers, I presented at the Lake County Curriculum Resource Council meeting in October.  It was a slightly expanded and retooled version of our ICE presentations on using iPads as creative tools from last year and I think it went well. The idea of presenting never held much interest for me until recently but now I’d rather present to a group of interested listeners than sit and listen all day long.
  • It turned in 2 of the 3 scripts I owe Grahaven Comics and found an amazing artist to work on one of them.  Don’t know when those will be published but I still owe one more which is due in December and won’t be published until December 2013.
  • My wife got a job and we bought a new couch.

Looking forward to sharing some new project ideas in the coming weeks.

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